MSPs reject Assisted Suicide Bill – read two compelling speeches from Lib Dems McArthur and McInnes

I was sad that Holyrood rejected the Assisted Suicide Bill yesterday, but I was heartened by the fact that support for such a measure is growing and I think the debate will continue.

It was also good to see that it was conducted in such a respectful and sensitive fashion.

I thought you might like to see the two speeches our MSPs made, one on each side of the argument from Alison McInnes and Liam McArthur. Both were brilliant, thoughtful and liberal. If I had been persuadable, Alison’s speech might have done it.

Alison McInnes:

I come to this debate as a liberal and

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Introducing Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform

New members have been asking about Lib Dem organisations that they can join.  You are welcome to submit similar items on behalf of other organisations.

Giving the individual voter greater choice and voice – devolving democratic power to the individual and away from institutions – is integral to making the UK a truly liberal and democratic country.

So I’m urging new – and existing – party members to join Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (LDER) and help us campaign to make this essential change a reality.

Take a look at our historic Parliament, supposedly the model for others to follow. Of its two houses, the Lords is totally appointed and expressly undemocratic.

The Commons is elected in a way, which distorts the democratic will of the people; and freezes millions out of any say in the result. For many people in ‘safe’ seats, voting is an exercise in futility.

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Just when we thought we didn’t have to worry about David Ward’s tweets any more…

Delightful!

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Opinion: Goodbye Salisbury Convention, hello UK constitutional convention

This Government is illegitimate.  We should resist it by all legal means possible.

Apparently, according to Sir Malcolm Bruce, all politicians lie at some point.  I don’t accept this is a good thing, but we should not have been surprised when the Prime Minister came out with this little gem on the day of the Queen’s Speech:

“We have a mandate from the British people.”

No Dave, you do not.

The idea of an electoral mandate is a simple one which I teach my A level Politics students.  You win a majority in the House of Commons, you claim the people have backed you, you get on with the job.

This is not democracy though.  Democracy, which I have also teach my students, means “people power.”  The idea fails for David Cameron on two levels:

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In Full: Lord Jim Wallace responds to the Queen’s Speech

Jim Wallace, Liberal Democrat Leader in the Lords, responded to the Queen’s Speech with a gentle and highly noble jibe at Danny Finkelstein and was pretty robust in saying that if the Tories, elected on barely a third of the vote, tried to push through reactionary legislation, the Lords had every right to scrutinise it robustly.  Here is his speech in full:

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In full: Nick Clegg responds to the Queen’s Speech

The Liberal Democrats worked hard to ensure that the coalition government’s agenda had a clear thread of liberalism running through it – from the priority we gave to mental health and the green agenda, to creating the pupil premium and protecting our civil liberties.

So it is dispiriting – if pretty unsurprising – to see how quickly, instead of building on those achievements, the new Conservative Government is turning its back on that liberal stance.

The human rights we hold dear, our right to privacy in an online age, our future as an open-minded, outward-looking country, are all hanging in the balance again because of the measures announced today.

It is clear, too, that the previous Government’s commitment to fairness is also weakened.

There was little in today’s speech to help the poorest and the most vulnerable; not enough to improve social care; and no plan to build the Garden cities and 300,000 new homes a year our young people need for the future.

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Rennie and Mark Williams and Kirsty Williams react to “unbridled Conservatism” of Queen’s Speech

Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrat leaders Willie Rennie and Kirsty Williams have reacted to this morning’s Queen’s Speech.

Willie Rennie was unimpressed by the government’s legislative programme. He accused the Conservatives of threatening the economy and punishing the poor.

The UK Government’s programme is unbridled conservatism in action.

The Conservative agenda will undermine our rights, threaten our recovery and punish the poor and vulnerable.

Today’s Queen’s speech demonstrates the need for a liberal voice at the heart of British politics.

The Tories are continuing their campaign of fear with plans for a Snooper’s Charter, threats to our human rights and an attack on benefits.

Policies such as increasing the tax threshold and a focus on childcare and improving mental health services simply wouldn’t be on the agenda without the Liberal Democrats.

It shows why you need the Liberal Democrats to stand up for civil liberties. We will continue to fight for a stronger economy and a fairer society, which creates opportunity for all.

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We need to be impatient to end the scourge of rough sleeping

Rough sleeper by BlodeuweddThere occasionally comes a time when it is important to state an aspiration. To rise above the detail and say what a particular situation should be, then work out a roadmap to get there. To do so risks criticism for being simplistic and naïve – but so be it.

That is where I find myself with people who are sleeping rough, including in tents.

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Opinion: We need votes at 16 for the EU referendum

I’ve recently become increasingly aware of some of the comments passed by the Tories and UKIP regarding the minimum voting age on the upcoming EU Referendum, which seems likely to be set at 18. They’re quite worrying to say the least.

John Redwood, Conservative MP for Wokingham, accused 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds of not being interested in voting and critics of trying to hijack the referendum by suggesting that they should receive suffrage, whilst numerous UKIP politicians have argued that we have been close to “brainwashed” through the education system by the Liberal Democrats in particular.

Speaking as a young person, I feel that these comments are hugely belittling and insulting. I would have hoped that the active participation of young people in last year’s debate in the run-up to the Scottish Referendum would have proved that we are more than capable of fairly assessing political situations and choosing for ourselves what will be best for our own future.

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Baroness Susan Kramer writes…Why I’m backing Elaine Bagshaw for Tower Hamlets Mayor

Susan Kramer with Elaine Bagshaw and teamLike most of you I don’t “do miserable” and I’ve been itching to start the fight back.  Local Government has always been Lib Dem territory because we believe in communities and remain aghast at how badly so many are served by their local governments.  So when I got a chance to support Elaine Bagshaw in launching her campaign for Mayor of Tower Hamlets I jumped at it.  Of all the places that need effective local Government focussed on people, listening to people and functioning with integrity, Tower Hamlets must be near the top of the list.  As Elaine says, it’s a largely deprived community in the shadow of the extra-ordinary wealth of the City of London.

Elaine has lived in the area for years so she knows Tower Hamlets’ issues like the back of her hand.  But what I also love is that Elaine is part of the new generation who will now take over our party.  I don’t mean just new as in young, though that is true of many, but also the flood of new members of all ages who are joining with such a sense of purpose and with a vision of the future.  Old warhorses like me can provide the back-up but one silver lining of a bad defeat is that a natural passing of the baton takes place.  And goodness those folk did turn out at Elaine’s launch, at least 50 of them, all ready to spend the day on the doorsteps.

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Norman Lamb MP writes: I want us to lead the way in Parliament to allow assisted dying

For many years, I opposed attempts to legalise assisted dying.  I had concerns, shared by many, that the risk to the most vulnerable individuals outweighed the benefits.  Equally, I respect those with deeply held religious concerns.
 
But my views have been challenged in recent years. As an MP and in my role in the last Parliament as a health minister, I have spoken to many terminally ill patients, and the families of those who suffered slow deaths in great pain.
 
So many of them were convinced, when someone is suffering intolerably, and when they are reaching the end of their life, they should be allowed to end their suffering with dignity, and with the support of those closest to them.
 
These testimonies have forced me to think again. Would I want the right to decide for myself, when faced with terminal illness, when I wished to die? And would I want it for loved ones? The answer is unequivocally, yes. 
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Introducing ALDES

ALDES logo

New members have been asking about Lib Dem organisations that they can join.  You are welcome to submit similar items on behalf of other organisations.

Most politicians make positive noises about supporting science and engineering in the UK but, as far as we know, the Liberal Democrats are the only party that mentions it in their constitution. Paragraph 3 reads:

“We will promote scientific research and innovation and will harness technological change to human advantage.”

The Association of Liberal Democrat Engineers and Scientists (Aldes) is the group for party members who wish to debate, learn and campaign on policy matters in this area. We were founded over 20 years ago in 1991 and have contributed to the party since in numerous ways:

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Opinion: Issues for the promised party governance review

Before the election we were promised a review of how the party operates, and if the Federal Executive is doing its job properly then we should be hearing at some point in June how each of us can contribute to that process.  Here is a little bit of my input as to where we can go from here.

Firstly we need to commission the development of a registered voting system for the Conference app that can be used for all internal elections.  The BBC and ITV have managed to develop such apps for voting in their competitions and shows and registering the vote to an individual shouldn’t be that difficult.

Secondly, all committees should be elected on the basis of one member one vote.  The idea that vested interests such as parliamentarians, councillors or specified organisations can have places reserved at the top tables in a party that prides itself on every member having the same say is nonsense.  Our elected representatives should be answerable to the party that secured their election, not stacking its committees to make it answerable to them.
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The Liberal Democrat Voice Queen’s Speech

Liberal Democrats are unlikely to find anything that makes them happy in today’s Queen’s Speech. In fact, many of the measures to be announced will make us cringe with horror.

We thought we’d ask people to contribute their ideas for a Bill they would introduce with a sentence to explain why if they wanted. Do add your own in the comments.

The Leadership candidates

Tim Farron:

I would like a new Great Reform Act – voting reform for  the House of Commons, the House of Lords and local government.

Norman Lamb:

Assisted Dying Bill

Once and for all we should confront the messy compromise that every year denies terminally ill patients, suffering great pain, the right to choose the way they end their life – in dignity and with the support of their loved ones – without travelling to another country.

Suzanne Fletcher

My Government will treat those seeking sanctuary in our country as asylum seekers with dignity, respect and justice.

As a start to this we will this year :

put an end to the disgraceful waste of lives and waste of money in indefinitely detaining people for immigration purposes.

Will further allow those seeking sanctuary in the UK who have been here for more than 6 months to work, allowing them to retain their dignity as well as save the taxpayer money.

Will replace the degrading Azure Card with cash payments giving asylum seekers the freedom to buy essentials for living at the cheapest price.

Duncan Stott

Garden Cities and Urban Extensions Bill – To tackle the housing crisis, we to identify the best sites for a major new housebuilding programme and provide new mechanisms to release this land for sustainable, affordable development.

Andy Myles

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Nick Clegg to respond to Queen’s Speech on behalf of the Liberal Democrats

Outgoing leader Nick Clegg will lead for the party in responding to the Queen’s Speech. This must feel quite strange for him. It’s the first Queen’s Speech in 5 years that he hasn’t had a hand in shaping. All the Tory policies he kicked into touch will be in there bringing every decent liberal out in hives.

Even if they do end up delaying the repeal of the Human Rights Act, there are bound to be all manner of civil liberties infringements, future welfare reform and ineffective housing plans to deal with.

Nick says:

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Last chance to convince MSPs on Assisted Suicide Bill

From the Facebook page of my friend Anne, reproduced with her permission:

My mother was riddled with cancer, according to the Coroner, when she planned her successful suicide in 1972 at the age of 54. She waited for her first grandchild to be safely born, chose a day my brother and doctor wife were visiting so that my father wouldn’t find her, left notes around the house re unfinished business (including knitting for her grandson), went to a spare bedroom and took sleeping tablets writing a note as she fell asleep. It was the only way she could make sure the family didn’t watch her die a slow and painful death.

Under the new legislation, she could have met her grandson and we could have said our goodbyes. I have waited over forty years for this – please don’t make me wait any more.

Tomorrow the Scottish Parliament debates the Assisted Suicide Bill. This Bill would give terminally ill people the right to receive assistance in ending their lives within a very tightly regulated procedure as set out (from the My Life, My Death, My Choice” website) below:

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Opinion: Towards a Strategic Narrative

What good luck to experience an event which illustrates the complete futility of a course of behaviour. Could our party be more lucky? Yet many still ascribe the defeat to the SNP , the media, whatever; despite the decline happening across the period of this parliament.

Our defeat is due to the lack of a strategic narrative The regular voter prefers a party with a clear programme which they stick to. They have been offered a party which explains its position only in relation to other parties and with unconnected policies diluted by the compromises of coalition. …

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Opinion: Left or right? Which way lies the Future of the Liberal Democrats?

This is my first article for Lib Dem Voice – I’ve often been on the site,  and finally decided I’d try and write for it!

It was a night of tragedies for the Liberal Democrats.

Sitting in my student accommodation, I was watching my first election being old enough to vote, with horror. Vince Cable, Charles Kennedy, Danny Alexander – bastions of British liberalism fell, one by one. As I’m sure we’re all aware, the party lost over 85% of its representation in parliament, having just eight seats midday on the 8th May. Nick Clegg’s resignation speech later that day really resonated with me – the flame of liberalism in this country was still flickering, but far dimmer than it was 24 hours earlier.

The party now stands on the precipice – without the right leadership, and policies, we risk being cast into the oblivion of obscurity along with the other minor parties. Elections within majoritarian systems such as the UK cannot be fought from the centre-ground – the First Past the Post voting system does not allow such parties to thrive, aside from being the recipient of protest votes.

This is why, we must, ironically do as we told the voters during the campaign – look left, look right. The party must shift one way or the other – doing nothing is out of the question. It must find an identity.

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Alison McInnes finds yet another Police Scotland civil liberties infringement

Police Scotland have been caught uploading custody shots of people who may not ever even be convicted or have even been charged to the national police database and then searching it using facial recognition technology. Over 600,000 photos of almost 335,000 people are involved.

The facial recognition technology can be used to cross-reference images of suspects from crime scenes with images of individuals kept on the database. However, experts have also raised concerns the system could be abused.

There is currently no framework to stipulate the circumstances in which the technology should be used – meaning it could be used to identify people from football matches or political protests. Fishing expeditions such as these could lead to potential wrongful accusations.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes found this out through Freedom of Information requests. She said:

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Opinion: Demonisation of the rich is killing progressive politics

“Demonisation is the ideological backbone of an unequal society.” wrote left-wing commentator Owen Jones in his 2011 book “Chavs: the demonisation of the working class”. He was right but, at the same time,  summed up much that’s wrong with progressive politics in the UK.

Demonisation works both ways. It is easy – and entirely incorrect – to demonise the poor as chavs, crooks, benefit cheats and scroungers. As people who could be high-paid bankers and successful business-people if only they knuckled down and worked a bit harder.

But it’s also simple – and wrong – to demonise the wealthy and portray them as people who, almost to a man and woman, are happy to see the poor crushed underfoot if it boosts their bank balance by a few pounds. Yes, there are rich people happy to see their fellow citizens suffer if it further enriches them. There are people on middle and low incomes like that too. The demonisation of the rich may well have contributed to Labour losing the General Election – at least if we’re to believe the Labour leadership contenders now proclaiming aspiration as so important.

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Jo Swinson writes….Why I’m backing Tim for leader

The Liberal Democrats have always felt like a family, and none more so than with the rallying round after the crushing election results this month.  As the results unfolded, the texts and tweets began to arrive.  I had to read them in small batches over the next few days: it’s often the words of kindness that bring the raw emotions to the surface the most.

On one level, the pain I felt was deeply personal – Duncan and I both lost our seats after 12 years of campaigning and service to our communities.  Compounding this was the shared anguish of watching liberal giants like Vince and Simon defeated; transfixed by the TV in a sort of stunned post-count vigil with my campaign manager Katy Gordon as the new political reality dawned.

By Friday morning, I was reunited with Duncan and Andrew, whose excited “Mummy, mummy!” was the best possible antidote to the haze of sleep-deprived sadness.  I turned on the radio to hear Nick’s resignation speech – taking responsibility with dignity, and reinforcing the need for our liberal values more than ever – and that was when the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. 

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Opinion: What the Liberal Democrats can learn about democracy from the people of Ireland

I cannot be alone amongst Liberal Democrats, after the general election result we have just been through, in questioning the collected wisdom of the UK electorate.

Fortunately, as an Irishman, my faith in the collective wisdom of the people has been dramatically restored by the result of the equal marriage referendum in Ireland, as my people lustily endorsed equality, and cast off the comfort of bigotry to which it is easy to resort in times of economic strife.

But, just as Ireland becoming the first country on earth to enshrine this type of equality into the law by popular vote will, I hope, act as a beacon for other states around Europe and the world to follow a similar path, I hope that the Liberal Democrats also manage to learn the lessons from Ireland’s result.

Of course, the Liberal Democrats have much of which to be proud in these matters, being the driving force behind the introduction of marriage equality in the UK.

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Opinion: The Betting Industry and Animal Welfare

The proliferation of betting shops in our high streets and the associated issue of the amounts gambled on high stakes gaming machines have been the subject of intense political debate recently.

The welfare of animals in the betting industry, I am thinking in particular of racehorses, receives a lot less interest.

I have always been a very strong supporter of the rights of animals, but having developed a keen interest in horseracing a few years ago, I started to examine much more closely the treatment of the non-human participants in what is a multi-billion pound industry.

Horseracing is an international sport, with the top competitors going long distances to chase big prizes.

Two of the big welfare issues are the use of the whip and races that involve jumping over obstacles.

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A new milestone on #libdemfightback

LibDemFightback 14000

And welcome to you all.

Do read Caron’s guide to the party here and Jennie’s reading list here.

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Opinion: Why should someone from Maputo get to vote in the EU referendum when someone from Mons doesn’t?

When we vote in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU,  it is important to understand that we will deciding on our citizenship. Currently, all holders of full UK passports are legally defined as EU citizens and if we leave, we will collectively be renouncing this citizenship and many of the associated rights, even if we manage to negotiate a Norway-style relationship within the wider European Economic Area.

The government’s decision on who will have the franchise in the referendum should be viewed in this context.

All Irish and Commonwealth nationals living legally in the UK will get a vote. The Guardian tells us there are 3.4 million people from 47 countries in this category which is certainly enough to influence the result. They include EU nationals from Cyprus and Malta by virtue of their countries’ Commonwealth membership.

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Introducing ALTER

ALTER logoNew members have been asking about Lib Dem organisations that they can join.  You are welcome to submit similar items on behalf of other organisations.

Do you think we should tax wealth rather than work? That regressive taxes like Council Tax should be replaced with a progressive tax on landowners instead? Do you agree with the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ Mirrlees Review that “the economic case for taxing land itself is very strong”?

If so, have you considered joining ALTER?

Last week, new member Simon Gilbert wrote a piece in which he described himself as a Georgist and declared his support for the land tax. Feeling like we had discovered one of our own, ALTER contacted the LDV team, asking them to introduce us to Simon.

The LDV team not only passed our message to Simon, (who has since joined us) but also invited us to introduce ourselves more widely to the LDV readership. So this is a short piece to introduce who we are, what we stand for, what we’re trying to achieve, and why you may wish to join us!

ALTER – Action for Land Tax and Economic Reform

ALTER is an Associated Organisation within the Lib Dems that focuses on economic reform, with particular focus on the land value tax. The land value tax is a long time Liberal policy, the one that led to the showdown between Lloyd George and the Tory House of Lords with the People’s Budget in 1909. On our website there is a selection of articles that explain the benefits.

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Opinion: Northern Ireland and marriage equality

On Friday the people of Ireland voted on marriage equality in their referendum. The results on Saturday showed that 1,201,607 people voted Yes/Tá to 734,300 voting No/Níl making the result 62.1% to 37.9% in favour. Only one of the 43 constituencies, Roscommon – South Leitrim, voted no but only by a margin of 1,029 votes and barely nibbled into the overall trend of the votes that were being announced. The other forty-two constituencies had all by either a small (only 33 votes in Donegal South West) to a large (27,959 in Dublin South) margin voted yes. Overall 1,201,607 people voted Yes/Tá to 734,300 voting No/Níl 62.1% to 37.9%.

But the other question is where does that leave Northern Ireland, which is now the largest region of the British Isles that does not have equal marriage in any shape or form allowing people of the same-sex to marry?

Firstly if we look at the Northern Ireland Act 1998 it recognises that the people of Northern Ireland can identify as British or Irish or both. This is key now to moving forward. Then from the same piece of legislation we also note that:

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Video: Simon Hughes endorses Tim Farron’s leadership bid

It’s Simon, so it’s not going to be brief, but here is a party legend saying why he thinks Tim should be leader:

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Lamb and Farron launch Liberal Democrat campaign to save the Human Rights Act

Both leadership candidates have joined forces to launch the Liberal Democrat campaign to save the Human Rights Act from destruction. This is yet another of these things that the Tories would have quite happily done at any point in the last five years but were prevented from doing so because of the Liberal Democrats. Way back in January 2010, I wrote of my horror at Cameron’s comments in an Andrew Marr interview:

“The moment a burglar steps over your threshold……they leave their human rights outside”

I mean, what cheap, populist rubbbish. If you take his words to their logical conclusion, they could be taken as an incitement to virtually anything.

Now, burglary is horrible. I have friends whose house has been done over twice in the last few years and I’ve seen how traumatised they were. I’m not suggesting it’s soemthing that shoud go unpunished. Let’s get that clear before I get any “you’re soft on crime” thrown at me.

However if a burglar “leaves his human rights outside” what is Cameron giving licence to? Kicking them where it hurts? Bopping them over the head with a frying pan? Stabbing them? Calling your mates over to give them a good hiding?

I mean, if these people have no right to be treated as human beings, where do you stop?

I found it quite scary to hear such nonsense coming from somebody who thinks he’s going to be Prime Minister in a few months.

It doesn’t make me feel particularly safe to hear Cameron talk like this. I can only see an approach on his lines leading to more dead people, householders and burglars. I don’t really think we need to change the law.

Whatever differences our leadership candidates have, they are both totally committed to preserving the Human Rights Act which has:

  • Stopped the state spying on us, supported peaceful protest and protected soldiers.
  • Helped rape victims, defended domestic violence victims and guarded against slavery.
  • Supported those in care, shielded press freedom and provided answers for grieving families.
  • Preserved our right to a fair trial, prevented indiscriminate stop-and-search and protected minorities.
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Why calling for HQ staff to be sacked is unacceptable and will not be tolerated on LDV

There have been a few snarky comments directed at me on various places on the internet because we don’t allow comments on this site which abuse members of HQ staff. We can’t always catch them all, so if you see any, please let us know by emailing voice@libdemvoice.org.

I’ve also had a few very nasty emails calling me all sorts of names because of this policy from people who should know better. I mean, imagine if yours or your partner’s or your mum’s head was being called for on some random website. I doubt you would like it that much.

And bear in mind that you might think you have the right to inflict your opinions about individuals on the rest of the world, but they can’t answer back. That’s hardly a fair situation.

This evening, one member of staff posted this on their Facebook page. Some of you reading this will have seen it but if you are going to comment, please don’t mention their name. I did obviously get their permission before I posted it on here but it doesn’t need to be personalised.

What has been particularly unpleasant is the sight of senior Liberal Democrat figures pretty much suggesting that a particular individual should be pretty much deported.

How would you feel if that were you. Anyway, read how it actually makes real human beings feel.  They are hurting just as much as the rest of us with the added fear of potentially losing their jobs and we have a duty of care towards them as towards any other part of the Lib Dem family:

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMichael BG 28th May - 12:35pm
    It would be necessary to change the rules about who can be voted to committees if both one member, one vote and no “reserved places”...
  • User AvatarHelen Tedcastle 28th May - 12:33pm
    For me, Alison McInnes MSP has it about right. She offers a coherent argument from a Liberal Democrat perspective and from her position as a...
  • User AvatarDavid Cooper 28th May - 12:14pm
    Dear Simon, This numerology gets us nowhere. Democracy maintained by cultural factors, not the arithmetic and vote share. According to the figures you use to...
  • User Avatarpeter tyzack 28th May - 12:09pm
    funny how people so determinedly claim their own biased perspective as being 'the truth'.. There's none so blind..
  • User AvatarR Rossim 28th May - 12:00pm
    "Mandate from the people", IMHO that is just an outright lie. I didn't hear anyone say it in 2010, I might have missed it, but...
  • User Avatarpeter tyzack 28th May - 11:59am
    it saddens me that individuals, who clearly get their opinions from the two-party conspiracy which control the UK press, still want to scapegoat Nick. We...
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