ICYMI: Jo tears into Theresa May for claiming credit for shared parental leave

Jo Swinson was on stellar form in the Commons this week. In her latest procrastination statement, the Prime Minister tried to claim credit for shared parental leave. As we know, it was Jo who, as a Business Minister, delivered that against the wailing opposition of the Conservatives. So she naturally took exception to the PM’s […]

Jo Swinson was on stellar form in the Commons this week. In her latest procrastination statement, the Prime Minister tried to claim credit for shared parental leave.

As we know, it was Jo who, as a Business Minister, delivered that against the wailing opposition of the Conservatives. So she naturally took exception to the PM’s claim.

And afterwards, with the help of some excellent gifs, she took to Twitter to rip the Tories to shreds on workers’ rights. She highlighted the times in the coalition when we fought against them. And there was a touch of humility as she said that we might not always have got it right, but we sure as hell battled every day. Here’s are the highlights:

This is my favourite:

I like unrestrained, confident Jo telling it like it is.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Changes to electoral law passed this week will help disabled candidates

An order passed by the House of Lords this week will mean that expenses reasonably attributable to a candidates’ disability will no longer count towards their election expenses. The Minister, Lord Young of Cookham, told the Lords: Examples of such expenses include, but are not limited to, British Sign Language interpretation for hearing-impaired candidates, the […]

An order passed by the House of Lords this week will mean that expenses reasonably attributable to a candidates’ disability will no longer count towards their election expenses.

The Minister, Lord Young of Cookham, told the Lords:

Examples of such expenses include, but are not limited to, British Sign Language interpretation for hearing-impaired candidates, the transcription of campaign material into braille for visually impaired candidates and specialist equipment. This order will also exclude expenses funded from grants provided through the Government’s interim EnAble Fund for Elected Office from electoral spending limits. This £250,000 interim fund will support disabled candidates and help cover disability-related expenses that people might face when seeking elected office, such as those I have listed

Our John Shipley welcomed the proposal:

I thank the Minister for explaining this order and I want to record that I agree with it. It is entirely appropriate that any disability-related expenses in elections should be exempt from spending limits, on principle. That is because it helps disabled candidates to stand for election on equal terms with others. I noted the Minister’s comments about some objections that may have been raised on some of the details—but none is more important than the overall principle of equality of opportunity.

This order is in force now for the May elections.

But it isn’t any use to disabled candidates unless we actually help them with the costs of getting elected. 

If the Government is serious about getting more disabled people into elected office, they are going to have do put more than £250,000 into it. There are thousands of Council seats up for grabs. That £250k is not going to go very far. If you had one disabled candidate per parliamentary constituency, all 650 of them, and you consider that  BSL interpretation can cost £130 for half a day, you can see the problem. The previous Access to Elected Office fund at £2.5 million wasn’t enough.

If we are truly serious about making our Parliament more diverse, we need to put the cash in to help people to stand.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Tony Greaves writes…”There really is no Planet B” Scenes from the Schools 4 Climate action demo

Fantastic atmosphere in Parliament Square today as some thousands of mainly school students gathered to protest against what is happening to our climate and our planet. This was one of the most extraordinary demonstrations I have witnessed. There was none of the usual organisation, attempts at order and regimentation, agenda of speeches and actions. No […]

Fantastic atmosphere in Parliament Square today as some thousands of mainly school students gathered to protest against what is happening to our climate and our planet. This was one of the most extraordinary demonstrations I have witnessed.

There was none of the usual organisation, attempts at order and regimentation, agenda of speeches and actions. No stewards and precious few police, who were clearly taken unawares by the scale of the protest and were standing around looking a rather lost at how to cope with quite a big disruption with no organisers to talk to! People just turned up, often in school groups, and did their own thing as they felt fit.

Some just stood about with their placards. Some sat in a circle, chanted or sang or made impromptu speeches – at first on the grass, later on in the road. Some stood in the streets or marched off down Whitehall or towards Westminster Bridge. Parliament Square was completely blocked, partly by the young demonstrators but also – by a curious bit of serendipity – by the black cabs whose drivers were staging another protest against being kicked out of London bus lanes.

For once, the young people were being allowed to stand on the plinths of statues and hang placards on Mr Churchill and his friends. One glorious incident happened when a big red open-top tourist sightseeing bus, blocked on the corner of Bridge Street and the Square, was commandeered by a group of young people waving their placards and leading the chants. What any tourists thought about it, I know not!

There were remarkably few mainstream politicians around which was a pity. Someone said they had seen a Miliband (presumably Ed) but the only people I saw were Jo Swinson and Siobhan Benita mixing and chatting with the throng. The whole event reminded me a bit of the late 1960s (I chatted to a visiting couple from San Francisco who had come down to Westminster expecting anti-Brexit protests!) and we reminisced about anti-Vietnam demos and slogans from that time).

And the home-made posters and slogans, many scrawled on brown cardboard! Last Wednesday in the Lords I asked the Government to guarantee that no-one would be punished who had made a conscious personal decision to cut school today to demand a future for themselves and all their generation. I got a typical Tory stuffed-shirt “these people should be in class” response. But if anyone does suffer retribution I’d like to know.

Today was a wonderful, peaceful, disruptive but completely positive manifestation. Well done to everyone who took part. Let’s make sure the powers that be take note. And that the young people do not lose hope, or their anger, or their determination to do everything to sort out the complete mess that their elders (but not betters) have made of their planet. In the words of my favourite placard from today, there really is “no planet B”.

Shamima Begum: The approval of the right wing press should not be part of what happens next

I read the interview with Shamima Begum in today’s Times (£) with mixed emotions. I have There is no doubt that she has made some utterly horrendous decisions in her young life which will take a lot to unravel. My instinctive reaction, though, is that rehabilitation must be at the heart of what happens next. […]

I read the interview with Shamima Begum in today’s Times (£) with mixed emotions. I have There is no doubt that she has made some utterly horrendous decisions in her young life which will take a lot to unravel. My instinctive reaction, though, is that rehabilitation must be at the heart of what happens next.

She is a British citizen. So is her soon-to-be-born baby. She cannot be denied access to this country. If she does make it back here, there will have to specialist intervention and risk assessment but the overarching aim should be to get her to a place where she can be re-integrated into society. That is not going to be easy for her, but nor should it be excessively punitive either.

She says some things in her interview that are undeniably hard to read. And even worse to listen to. But I guess you have to remember that in the last 3 months, she has lost two young children for want of decent health care. It’s early stages in the grieving process. You can maybe see where the denial and defiance comes from. We can only imagine the pain that lies beneath it.

As I write, her family’s lawyer is making the point on Channel 4 News that she is in a camp with 36000 others, some of whom remain ISIS supporters. If she were to speak out against ISIS to the press, she could find herself in even more danger.

We also have to remember that her own mother died a year before she left this country. How might that loss have rendered her more susceptible to targeted radicalisation? A huge amount of work needs to be done by her and others to combat the effects of that, but we should give her access to the programs can achieve that.

One thing that we shouldn’t do, though, is allow the approval of the right wing press to have any part in this. We should do what is right in terms of the law, human rights and due process. We have to take into account her age and vulnerability and circumstances at the time she made the extremely poor decision to travel to Syria.

We need to deal with this sensitively and thoughtfully. I liked Michael Segalov’s article in the Guardian. He concluded:

But to try to help her must be better than leaving this teenager to languish in a camp, to quite possibly witness her third child die. If rehabilitation proves impossible, at least back in Britain she can live under supervision and be kept from doing further harm – to herself or to others. And should, one day soon, Begum be in a position to rejoin British society proper, who could be better placed to warn other vulnerable children of the dangerous reality of online grooming, of radicalisation by extremists and the acts that led her to commit?

 

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Check out the York Spring Conference agenda – and two important deadlines

My Conference agenda arrived this morning. I know I can see it all online, but I like that I can write all over the paper copy and highlight things. It’s old-fashioned but it’s kind of like sitting down with a cup of tea and the Radio Times at Christmas and ticking off what you want […]

My Conference agenda arrived this morning. I know I can see it all online, but I like that I can write all over the paper copy and highlight things. It’s old-fashioned but it’s kind of like sitting down with a cup of tea and the Radio Times at Christmas and ticking off what you want to watch.

The agenda has details of all the debates, speeches and almost all the fringe events and exhibitors so you can at least try and plan out your weekend.

You might also want to know that Alistair Carmichael is having a whisky tasting on the Saturday night from 9:30-11:00 pm which is not advertised in the Directory. These are amazing events. Not only do you get seriously good and tastefully chosen whisky, but you get Alistair’s inimitable and very funny commentary on each whisky’s origins and manufacture. If you fancy it, email me on caron@libdemvoice.org and I’ll tell you how to try to get a place – but you will have to be quick. Tickets are like gold dust.

I have already paid for mine. I can’t go to the one at Scottish Conference next weekend because I am on vicious antibiotics  which tolerate no alcohol whatsoever and am likely to stay on them for another week. That, by the way, is why I have been unusually quiet this last week or so.  Anyway, there was no way I was going to miss the York one.

In the agenda you will find details of all the motions to be debated. There is no doubt you will find some that you agree with, some you think are daft and some that you reckon could be improved with a bit of tinkering. For those in the latter category, you might want to submit an amendment. If you have never done this before and want to get some help, you can still get drafting advice from Federal Conference Committee as long as you put in your request by 1pm next Monday, February 18th.

Once you have finalised your text, you have until 1pm on Monday 4th March to find 10 like minded souls to sign up to it and then submit it.

You might also want to think about putting in an emergency motion on a topic that has com up since the motion deadline on 9th January.

So whether you do it online or by leafing through the paper copy, take some time this weekend to go through the motions and think about how you could improve them.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Being a PPC – managing demands

One common interview question, which we used when hiring our Organiser and is used in many jobs, is that of prioritisation: you have lots of demands on your time and are faced with a long list of tasks, which do you do first? Prioritisation seems to be an ever-present task as PPC. There is only […]

One common interview question, which we used when hiring our Organiser and is used in many jobs, is that of prioritisation: you have lots of demands on your time and are faced with a long list of tasks, which do you do first?

Prioritisation seems to be an ever-present task as PPC. There is only one of you but 1001 things that need doing. Help?!

Yesterday I went through three sets of my list – the first version which I had written the night before on how I would get things done the next day as the asks seemed insurmountable; the second version made at coffee time before rushing out the door to a meeting, of the things that still needed doing and ranking which was most important; and then a third version, a yet-again-revised list of things that had to be absolutely done that day, with a new list of what could be left for the next day.

There is never enough time. Prioritisation is key, with an emphasis on delegating what others can do. I am more and more saying to those around me,  “I am going to concentrate on what I am meant to be doing as PPC.” But in the real world, it never works out that way.

Ideally, I’d like to see more of a structure around PPCs – in target and non-target seats. This is one reason I am keen on the Candidate’s Compact, which is now used much more widely. It sets out what the PPC’s role is and what the Local Party’s supporting role should be. There are clear responsibilities for both, and this can be referenced when conflicts arise.

I think managing demands, which is the title of this piece, goes hand-in-hand with managing expectations. A PPC is a real person, not a super-human. Yes, we should manage the demands placed on us and use our time wisely, but part of that is also saying ‘no, that is not my job as PPC.’

Easier said than done. For those of you applying to be approved as PPCs, be prepared for a roller-coaster ride with all the thrills of the highs and lows. It is a true life experience like none other.

* Kirsten Johnson is the PPC for North Devon and Day Editor of Lib Dem Voice.

Just About Managing (JAM)

Nick Clegg referred to such a group as “alarm clock Britain – the bleary-eyed grafters struggling to raise families, while getting out to work, with little money left over to pay for luxuries.” Resolution Foundation thinks tank suggest there are six million working-age households on low to middle incomes spread across the country. Such households […]

Nick Clegg referred to such a group as “alarm clock Britain – the bleary-eyed grafters struggling to raise families, while getting out to work, with little money left over to pay for luxuries.”

Resolution Foundation thinks tank suggest there are six million working-age households on low to middle incomes spread across the country. Such households will have at least one person in work, but they are not always low-income families. They may, for example, have an annual income of £50,000 but have a large family to support with high housing cost and very little disposable income at the end of the month.

Although most of the income for JAM families comes from work, it is, in many cases, topped up by welfare support. Two-thirds of all families receiving children tax credit are JAM families. Home ownership for people in this group fell from 59 per cent to 26 per cent last year pushing many of them into long term rental tenancy. The reason for this fall was that they were using 25 per cent of their income for housing over a decade where we had little or no income growth. The cap on benefits has also adversely affected housing benefits up to £100 a week. Since 2010 housing benefits have not risen in line with private rents and current benefits will remain frozen at 2016 levels until 2020. On top of all this is the increases in living costs and the very low if any pay rises – to stay as they are JAM families have to find hundreds of pounds extra for rents.

Many families like these fall back on payday loans and credit card and end up trapping themselves in loans they effectively can’t pay off.

The prime minister has talked about helping such families, but Gingerbread was critical of governments efforts as they don’t address obstacles for single families like childcare, training and flexible working. The plight of JAM families is further exasperated with local authorities continuing to cut services to adult social care and children services.

There is some hope. Although, households have been squeezed between high prices and weak wage growth with low inflation and slow but upward movement in wages householders, in general, are likely to see an improvement in their wallets (for a while).

However, Bank of England governor Mark Carney has again warned against a no deal Brexit he says “A no-deal would be an economic shock for this country”. He further warns about the slow down of the Chinese economy and the impact of tariff increases by the USA against China – both of which may have an overall impact of 2 per cent fall for the world economy.

There is little sign of relief for JAM families either from this government’s austerity policies, its Brexit position or possibly from the emerging global economic situation. I can’t help but think that we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world and thousands of families in this country are just getting by – the priorities for this government must change to better support families just about managing.

 

* Tahir Maher is the Wednesday editor and a member of the LDV editorial team

Kirsty Williams – the only Liberal Democrat delivering in government

In Wales we have the only Liberal Democrat Minister in the United Kingdom, delivering Welsh Liberal Democrat policies on education for our children and young people. Kirsty is now in her third year as the Education Minister. Since May 2016, she has forged ahead with innovative programmes to enhance education and learning for children and […]

In Wales we have the only Liberal Democrat Minister in the United Kingdom, delivering Welsh Liberal Democrat policies on education for our children and young people. Kirsty is now in her third year as the Education Minister. Since May 2016, she has forged ahead with innovative programmes to enhance education and learning for children and young people in Wales, embedded in the Liberal value of opportunity for all. As Kirsty says, it is no coincidence that the Welsh word for a ladder is the same as it is for school – “Ysgol”.

  • So a quick gallop of just some of the things the Party has done over the last two and a half years:
    Expanded and enhanced the Welsh Pupil Premium, or Pupil Development Grant. This policy has been supporting pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds for most of this decade and has been taken further in government;
  • Delivered the most progressive student finance policy in the UK, that is unique in Europe. Students are supported with living costs and receive the equivalent of the national living wage. Support for part-time and postgraduate learners has been increased and figures released last month showed these applications have increased;
  • Made progress on reducing infant class sizes through a £36million fund. Schools are benefitting from more classrooms, teachers and teaching assistants. This was a key campaign priority at the last election, and now it is being implemented in government;
  • Published Wales’ first-ever plan to support rural schools. This includes a presumption against the closure of schools, and £2.5million per year grant scheme, and steps to make better use of technology;
  • Announced record investment in Wales’ teaching workforce, and developed financial incentives to attract graduates into teaching;
  • Taken steps to increase the focus on the mental health of children and young people. A pilot project is linking schools with specialist mental health support, and work is ongoing to develop a ‘whole school’ approach to mental health. As Kirsty has said, this is the foundation of successful education experience.

Recently she became the first Minister in our National Assembly to use British Sign Language in the Chamber – a language that will be encouraged to be taught in the new transformational curriculum that Kirsty is in the process of introducing! A curriculum, by the way, that is the first ever made-in-Wales approach. It’s also a curriculum that will reform sex and relationships education, making it inclusive, LGBT+ friendly and fit for the future.

We’ve also been able to avoid the worst of the Conservatives’ education policy in England. From very early in her term Kirsty was clear that grammar schools would not be introduced on her watch. Wales is not going down the divisive path that the Conservatives are pushing in England.

These are liberal values and liberal policies being implemented in government. Kirsty continues to make Liberal Democrats proud of her work in improving the educational outcomes for our children and young people in Wales.

 

* Donna Lalek is a bank worker and Liberal Democrat Community Councillor from Flintshire. She is a qualified Barrister and RE Teacher. Donna last year stood in the Alyn and Deeside Welsh Assembly Bi-Election. She is the Vice Chair of Flintshire Liberal Democrats and has recently become the Training Officer for the Welsh Liberal Democrats CCC.

The clock is ticking down to March 29th and Parliament is far from a resolution

Remain-inclined MPs refuse to contemplate May’s hard Brexit. The hard-line Tory Right are fearful of a backstop, keeping trading links and protecting pesky inconveniences like workers’ rights and basic health and safety standards. Nobody is willing to compromise. Including us. This is no bad thing. We are passionately and proudly open, internationalist and outward-looking. We […]

Remain-inclined MPs refuse to contemplate May’s hard Brexit. The hard-line Tory Right are fearful of a backstop, keeping trading links and protecting pesky inconveniences like workers’ rights and basic health and safety standards.

Nobody is willing to compromise. Including us. This is no bad thing. We are passionately and proudly open, internationalist and outward-looking. We cherish long-held cooperation with the rest of the world on trade, innovation, fighting climate change and much more. Many of us celebrate free movement. Above all, we value our place as leaders on the global stage.

We should continue to fight for a People’s Vote on this nebulous and measly-mouthed withdrawal deal.

However, with less than fifty days to go, a referendum on the deal is far from guaranteed. Only a maximum of 150 MPs currently backs a public vote. Moreover, even if the Labour leadership grew a backbone and supported our option, there’s a problem. The notorious lack of party discipline in Labour could still endanger the cause. It will be an uphill struggle.

Why? Because a People’s Vote would not be feasible after 29th March. Tusk has already said we must accept that a new referendum won’t happen. From this it is clear that the EU would not let us rejoin, bearing in mind the constant U-turning of the past two years.

All of which is to say, what should our policy be if Brexit does sadly go ahead? Surely, we wouldn’t want to risk becoming the ghost of the SNP, harking after a horse that’s already bolted?

Some will say we should be focusing solely on delivering a referendum and not contemplating any alternatives yet. That is entirely valid, but we still need a policy in place, a course of action ready if Brexit happens. The parliamentary maths mean we do need to look to the future and in my view the possibility of a Plan B.

My preference for a Plan B is a Common Market 2.0 deal, keeping us at the heart of this European community. We must protect our leading role in pan-European projects like Erasmus, Europol and so on. We must protect the border-free trade with our neighbours. Because only by working with our neighbours do we lead on the global stage.

Let’s fight for a People’s Vote. However, if Brexit goes ahead, how do we move forward? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

* Thomas Shakespeare is a Lib Dem activist and a member of Liberal Youth

For richer, for poorer

For Valentine’s day, Lib Dem Immigrants is showcasing some canine (and feline) couples, with a serious message. Many people who’ve not had cause to find out the hard way don’t realise that mixed-nationality couples can be forbidden from living together in the UK if they don’t earn enough. We want to raise awareness of this, […]

For Valentine’s day, Lib Dem Immigrants is showcasing some canine (and feline) couples, with a serious message. Many people who’ve not had cause to find out the hard way don’t realise that mixed-nationality couples can be forbidden from living together in the UK if they don’t earn enough. We want to raise awareness of this, and we’re proud that Lib Dem policy is to oppose it. If you’re married to a British person, you should be allowed to live with them. No means-testing. For richer, for poorer. 🐾

Lina is a Dachshund from Munich, Germany; Jamie is an English Bulldog from Croydon. Jamie worries about whether Brexit will mean Lina can’t come and live with him.

Kuniko is a Shiba Inu from Kyoto, Japan. Gary is a Jack Russell Terrier from Bolton. Gary’s income is just enough for Kuniko to be allowed here — but not enough for their puppies too. They don’t know what they should do.

Malcolm is an Old English Sheepdog from Hexham; Brigitte is a Bichon Frise from Toulouse, France. Brigitte is looking forward to the country life, but first she needs to find out what paperwork she’ll need, and the Home Office isn’t answering her questions.

Maryam is a Persian cat from Isfahan, Iran. Tom is a Yorkshire Terrier from Leeds. Maryam expects to get a good job in the UK — but the Home Office won’t count that as income while she’s still in Iran. The stress is affecting both of them.

Rick is an English Bulldog from Solihull; Ernesto is a chihuahua from Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico. Unfortunately Rick lost his job as a security guard, and his benefits don’t come to enough for Ernesto to join him.

Rachel is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from Southampton; Dietrich is a Bernese Mountain Dog from Bern, Switzerland. Dietrich is trying to sort out Settled Status but that needs an Android smartphone and his big paws aren’t good with phones.

Shirley is a Bearded Collie from Durham; Jane is a Shih Tzu from Shenzhen, China. Same-sex marriages aren’t recognized in China; Shirley and Jane wonder if this will affect their rights in the UK.

Morag is a West Highland Terrier from Ardnamurchan, and Paweł is a Pomeranian from Gdańsk in Pomerania, Poland. Morag hopes that Paweł won’t experience the abuse that many Poles in the UK have had.

Rhys is a Collie from near Aberystwyth; no-one is quite sure where Ziggy is from, but Rhys loves them anyway.

* Liberal Democrat Immigrants exists to represent those members of the Liberal Democrats who have chosen to come to live in the UK from elsewhere. It also seeks to represent the interests of immigrants to the UK in general and to highlight those issues that disproportionately affect immigrants.