As you are inclined to do on Hogmanay, I was looking back at the year. 2018 was far from a great year but there were some fantastic moments. Here, in no particular order, are six of mine.
Gabriel in the Commons
— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) September 13, 2018
One of my favourite moments was seeing young Gabriel Hames in the chamber of the House of Commons. Earlier, his mum, Jo Swinson, had taken part in the debate on proxy voting. A few weeks’ earlier, Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis reneged on a pairing arrangement with her on a key Brexit vote that the Government won by a handful of votes.
Jo’s speech was very candid about the realities of working with a young baby:
She also spoke about some of the appalling comments she got on Twitter after that, including the criticism that she had gone to the Trump demo for 45 minutes but couldn’t manage to vote in Parliament, something which would have meant hanging around for 5 hours.
Jo talked about the intricacies of establishing breastfeeding and how you need to concentrate on it during the early days. Her voice cracked with emotion as she talked about the difficulties she had establishing breastfeeding with her first son. I actually cried too as I remembered what it was like to be syringing expressed milk into my baby, 19 years on. She got there, though, with all the support that she needed.
She was also open about the realities of expressing milk several times a day. I think it’s fantastic that she posted a picture of her breast pump on Instagram the other day.
She talked about the need to have proper breastfeeding and expressing facilities for all nursing babies who work on the Parliamentary estate, recognising it was easier for her as she had her own office and control over her diary.
The People’s Vote March
It was an amazing atmosphere. Not far off three quarters of a million people peacefully and with great humour, coming together to make their point.
And there’s young Gabriel again.
Another highlight was the fringe meeting we held at Conference, trying to inject some kindness and warmth into a horrible atmosphere which developed in the media surrounding rights of transgender people.
Barely a week goes by without some ill-informed attack on trans people or the charities supporting them. However, in an hour in Brighton, Emma Ritch from the Scottish feminist organisation Engender and James Morton from the Scottish Transgender Alliance talked about how the atmosphere was so much better in Scotland and how feminist and LGBT organisations worked together in an inclusive way. The meeting loved the concept of “radical kindness” which underpinned their dialogue. You can read all about the meeting here.
Sarah Brown from LGBT+ Lib Dems was there to outline the current battleground – the ill-informed, scapegoating, fear-mongering in the media and Sal Brinton emphasised the party’s commitment to transgender rights. Sal talked about meeting a young actor who was trans early in her career and being horrified by the discrimination they faced.
Emma spoke about how a comparatively well-funded voluntary sector and a Government determined to make sure services were trans-inclusive helped. She said that there had been some difficult conversations and questions, but that what she called the “institutional kindness” of the Scottish Transgender Alliance had done so much to foster knowledge and understanding. She said that “radical kindness” was a key element in bringing people together.
James talked about the proposed reforms to the GRA and how they would make the process much easier for transgender people to amend their birth certificates. He pointed out that a statutory declaration was a very serious legal document and the penalty for making a false one is two years in prison.
Another day, another march. This time in Edinburgh. And London. And Belfast. And Cardiff. People from all over the country came together in an artistic display to mark 100 years of women getting the vote.
— Caron Lindsay (@caronmlindsay) June 10, 2018
Paddy at the Glee Club
I really haven’t yet got my head round the fact that Paddy has gone. The devastating news came through just before Christmas and so many wonderful tributes were paid to a such a vital, dynamic, compelling, compassionate leader. We all miss him so much.
— Nick Barlow (@nickjbarlow) December 22, 2018
The last time many of us saw him was at the Glee Club at Conference. It had been his tradition to tell a joke that, if truth be told, wasn’t that funny, but its telling was guaranteed to be hilarious. From the moment he was spotted at the back of the Glee Club, to him being cheered on to the stage as hundreds of people scream “Paddy, Paddy, Paddy” and then demand “We want the joke.” Then the bit where he suggested he could tell a different joke because we must be fed up with that one. Then the theatrics as he delivered the joke with impeccable style.
It was our way of telling him we loved him without being embarrassing. And we did love him.
Winning concessions in the immigration debate at Conference
Back in March I almost spontaneously combusted on the train to Spring Conference after reading the consultation paper on immigration. Anything that used the word robust before humane was not worthy of being Lib Dem policy. I was furious. And that fury fuelled me through the Summer when the actual policy was published and was no better.
Thankfully, after a lot of work by Lib Dems for Seekers of Sanctuary and others, the eventual policy passed by Conference was much better. It’s still not where I would want it to be, but it’s better.
The one amendment the leadership contested was passed anyway. Here’s Holly Matthies explaining why spouses should have recourse to public funds if they need it.
So those are a few of my best bits of 2018. What were yours?
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings