Lib Dem Peers split on Lord Lester vote

This week, the House of Lords debated a recommendation from the Committee for Privileges and Conduct which recommended that Lord Lester of Herne Hill should be suspended from the House until 2022. The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards made this ruling about a complaint of sexual harassment against Lord Lester: Applying the test of […]

This week, the House of Lords debated a recommendation from the Committee for Privileges and Conduct which recommended that Lord Lester of Herne Hill should be suspended from the House until 2022. The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards made this ruling about a complaint of sexual harassment against Lord Lester:

Applying the test of the balance of probabilities I find the complaint upheld, on the basis of the strong and cogent evidence of the complainant and her witnesses. I have carefully considered the challenges to this evidence, but do not find that those challenges undermine the strength of the evidence to any significant degree.

Lord Lester also admitted a further breach of the Lords’ Code as outlined in the Commissioner’s report which is annexed to the Committee report.

At a late stage in the investigation I was informed that Lord Lester had told another Member of the House, who knows the complainant, that it was she who had made the complaint against him. The Member confirmed that this had happened (Appendix AB) [reference is to a document that has not been published].

This was a breach of the confidentiality requirement in the Guide to the Code (paragraph 130), and I therefore asked Lord Lester to respond to the evidence of a breach of confidentiality. He replied:<
“As regards the allegation that I named the complainant to [another Member] this is correct. I spoke briefly and privately to the Member. I apologise. I am not responsible for what occurred thereafter.”

Since the report has been published, the complainant, campaigner Jasvinder Sanghera has waived her right to anonymity. That was her decision to do so. It was not acceptable for Lord Lester to identify her to anyone during the investigation.

On Thursday, the Lords voted to send the recommendation back to the Committee for further consideration. 18 Lib Dem peers voted in that debate, 13 in favour of sending the recommendation back, 5 in favour of accepting it.

There are things that really worry me, reading the Lords debate. Regrettably, some of our peers chose to try to discredit the woman making the complaint. This led Ms Sanghera to say in today’s Sunday Times (£) that she felt a bit like Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who so bravely faced a Senate Committee to describe her experience of being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“I watched Kavanaugh, and I felt for that woman [Christine Blasey Ford] . . . watching them try to discredit her. That’s exactly how I felt watching that House of Lords debate. I knew they were going to vote in his [Lord Lester’s] favour.”

I get that people in our Lords group have worked with Lord Lester for a long time. I can understand that they might find it hard to believe that he could behave in that way. The line for me comes when they actively try to discredit the complainant. That is not a good look.

For all the complaints about the process, nobody seems to have pointed out how bizarre it is to have the outcome of a disciplinary process voted on by colleagues of the person being investigated.

Our peers Kishwer Falkner and Meral Ece both spoke in favour of accepting the Committee’s recommendations.

Meral said:

I urge that, if this motion is not supported today, we do not send out a message that women are not to be believed or that, because they delayed coming forward, somehow they—or the process we have chosen and used, the commissioner we voted for—should be criticised. We thought it was fine—why would we vote for this? With respect to many of the noble and learned Lords here, why did they never before flag up that this was not fit for purpose? Why did we not hear about that? I am sure we should have. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps we need better procedures. More cases may well come forward. I have huge respect for my noble friend Lord McNally, but I just heard that he had never heard a whisper before.

In the #MeToo movement, it takes one brave person to come forward. I have already heard rumours of others. Other women—it is usually women—think “I can come forward too now”, because there is a precedent. It was the same with the child abuse scandals. It took decades before those who were abused terribly as children had the courage to come forward. I am sure that is the case with many women as well. I am sure there will be other women—I am not speaking here about the noble Lord, Lord Lester. It has happened with MPs. We must not judge that women who come forward years or even decades later are somehow not telling the truth. Mentioning their age is irrelevant. It could be anybody. I admire what the noble Lord, Lord Lester, has done over the years; we all admire him. But I saw this written somewhere and I thought it very apt: human rights have been enshrined in laws, but we must begin at home. How do we treat people who are not powerful, who do not have powerful friends or friends sitting in your Lordships’ House who can speak and advocate on their behalf? We must begin at home and remember why human rights have been enshrined in our laws. It is to protect the little person as well.

After the debate, she told the Guardian how angry she was at its outcome:

Hussein-Ece said the debate seemed an attempt by Lester’s friends to force a vote on a Thursday afternoon, when many peers had left London.

“It was pretty awful. I just couldn’t believe how it was unfolding,” she said. “The debate was all about how unfair it was to Lord Lester, and how he was a great friend of all of them. It was the establishment, the old boys’ network, coming together to look after their own.”

I just wish there was as much desire and political will to get justice for the women who are victims of abuse as there was to protect men who have been found on the balance of probabilities by independent investigators to have behaved wrongly.

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

Sunday morning interviews open thread

This morning, politicians are lining up to talk to the Sunday political programmes – but those in favour of a People’s Vote don’t seem to have been invited to the party. There is no serious non Conservative psychodrama opposition to the PM’s deal and nobody saying that there is an alternative – we can be […]

This morning, politicians are lining up to talk to the Sunday political programmes – but those in favour of a People’s Vote don’t seem to have been invited to the party.

There is no serious non Conservative psychodrama opposition to the PM’s deal and nobody saying that there is an alternative – we can be given the chance to accept or reject the deal so that the Government isn’t marking its own homework.

You would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition would have something important to say. Unfortunately, he poured cold water on the idea of a People’s Vote and said that he he didn’t know how he would vote in it. At the risk of sounding a bit too on message, we really do ned to demand better.

I may be annoyed with our Vince on various internal matters at the moment, but he is very clear that Liberal Democrats want a People’s Vote as a means of securing an Exit from Brexit. He knows that staying in the EU is in the national interest.  He should be invited on to make that case. I have no doubt that our people will have done all they can to get him on. You have to ask why he isn’t.

I am disappointed that Sophy Ridge is not pointing out to May that her Deal is effectively a Blind Brexit that pushes a lot of the important stuff, like our future trading relationship, into the very long grass, after we have left. This is why we need the option to stay in so that we can make a choice between continuing the trading relationship we have that has brought us prosperity, or whether we take a leap in the dark.

The CBI has been brought out to support the deal on the grounds of certainty for business. If we go for this deal, we don’t know what terms business will face in two years time. If we have a People’s Vote, and choose to stay in, we have as much certainty as it is possible to have about continuity of current arrangements within 6 months.

The sensible opposition to the Brexit deal is not being given an airing.

Tom Brake commented on Corbyn’s dismal performance:

People can see what a mess the Brexit Deal is and it beggars belief that the Labour leadership continue to not want to give people a say on it.

Liberal Democrats have led the campaign for a vote on the deal since the referendum and will keep up the fight for an Exit from Brexit, but it is now time for Corbyn and the Labour frontbench to stop playing games and back a People’s Vote.

And now we have Marr with Tom Newton Dunn, Kwasi Kwarteng and Polly Toynbee reviewing the papers.

 

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

Observations of an ex pat: The re-United Kingdom

Britain is a United Kingdom again. After more than two years of divisive vitriolic debate it has emerged upon the sunny upland plain of total agreement. Soon the British public will be treated to the sight of former bitter enemies Boris Johnson, Vince Cable and Jacob Rees-Mogg joining hands to skip gaily into the Commons […]

Britain is a United Kingdom again. After more than two years of divisive vitriolic debate it has emerged upon the sunny upland plain of total agreement.

Soon the British public will be treated to the sight of former bitter enemies Boris Johnson, Vince Cable and Jacob Rees-Mogg joining hands to skip gaily into the Commons division lobby. Nigel Farage and Bob Geldof may soon embrace on the banks of the Thames.

Fathers and sons who have scowled at each other for two years will again smile across the breakfast table. Mothers and daughters will cheerfully gossip over a steaming cuppa and the pubs will enjoy a booming trade as stalled friendships are renewed over a pint—or two.

Prime Minister Theresa May has succeeded in uniting the British people against the common enemy—Herself.

Brexiteers and Remainers who only yesterday were at each other’s throats have turned as one to sink the political axe firmly into the back of their prime minister and her draft Brexit deal with the EU.

 It took less than 24 hours for Dominic Raab– the man Mrs May placed in charge of Brexit negotiations—to resign. He refused to allow his name to be associated with the agreement. He was preceded by the junior minister for Northern Ireland, Shailesh Vara. At least nine other cabinet ministers are known to oppose the deal and it is quite possible that there could be more resignations before I finish this piece.

Wait, here comes another one, the resignation of Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has just popped up on my screen. The prime minister will need a political miracle to win parliamentary approval for her deal. Voting against her will be the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, her some time allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, a fistful of former cabinet ministers and a large number of disgruntled backbench Tory MPs.

Mrs May is on record as saying : “Leave means leave” and “no deal is better than a bad deal.” In the eyes of both Remainers and Brexiteers the deal the prime minister has struck results in leave means remain without any say in the construction of Europe’s rules and regulations. This a worst deal rather than a mere bad deal and the prospect of much vaunted global trade deals to replace commerce with Europe has flown out the window.

Here are the bones: Divorce bill of £39 billion; transition period of 21 months to give businesses a steep downhill slope exit rather than a cliff edge; transition may be extended if jointly agreed; a trade deal to be hammered out during the transition period; EU citizens currently In the UK can remain and work and bring their relatives; Brits in Europe can do the same but uncertain about whether they can cross borders; the rulings of the European Court of Justice have the force of law during the transition period, including new judgments; the transition period can be extended indefinitely but Britain would have to pay for the privilege and fishing rights remain unresolved.

Then there is sticky problem of Ireland which has bedevilled these negotiations as it has British history for centuries. Both sides were keen to avoid a north-south hard border which could spark a return to “The Troubles.” The result is that during the transition period—or extended transition period—all of the UK will remain in the customs Union. Northern Ireland will remain in it afterwards with additional ties to Europe. Furthermore, an agreement on ending the customs union will be a joint decision between the EU and UK. Britain cannot unilaterally decide to leave the customs union. Its future will be decided by Brussels.

This result was inevitable.  The Brexiteers entered these negotiations without a clear goal, divided and with an exaggerated sense of their importance. Britain is paying the price and will remain divided.

* Tom Arms is a Wandsworth Lib Dem and produces and presents the podcast www.lookaheadnews.com

Vince: People’s Vote is now probable

Well, it’s been quite a day. I don’t work Thursdays, so under normal circumstances, I would have been glued to the telly and social media bringing you a blow by blow account of everything as it happened. As luck would have it, I was at a housing conference. It was excellent, I learned loads, I […]

Well, it’s been quite a day.

I don’t work Thursdays, so under normal circumstances, I would have been glued to the telly and social media bringing you a blow by blow account of everything as it happened.

As luck would have it, I was at a housing conference. It was excellent, I learned loads, I met lovely people and I wouldn’t have missed it for any political drama, even without the excellent scones, jam and cream at the afternoon tea break.

I will admit to the occasional glance at Twitter to see the drama unfold. Looks like my crystal ball was a bit wonky the other day when I said that ministers wouldn’t create a fuss to cling on to power. However, the way that Amber Rudd and Nicky Morgan have been shoring Theresa May up today makes me worry that some Tory Remainers are folding as they have done fairly regularly for the last 30 years or so. Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston are still flying the People’s Vote flag, though.

I was on a cold station platform when May held her press conference. I spent the journey home glued to Twitter. No, she wasn’t resigning, she was just spouting the same Brexity rubbish and clinging to her deal that only she really loves.

There is no way her deal is in anything like the national interest. David Lidington couldn’t say it would make us better off. We would end up abiding by rules we had no way in making. I think those rules are generally ok to be honest, but it’s better if we have some deal of ownership of them.

Not only that but a Sky News poll became the second major tv poll in a week to show a majority of support for remaining in the EU. 54% would choose Remain, while 55% want a People’s Vote.

The party hastily organised a rally for an exit from Brexit in Parliament Square tonight. Vince told the assembled crowd that a People’s Vote had moved from possible to probable. Here he is:

Earlier in the day, Christine Jardine talked about how the Liberal Democrats had led the way on campaigning for the People’s Vote and how it was now the only way out of this mess.

And we do have to get out of this mess. I was struck by a tweet today. If we allow Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to botch this up, it really could be a matter of life and death for some:

That was in response to a friend of mine who needs insulin to survive. Every day.

Nobody should be put in a position where they have to worry about whether they are going to be able to get their life sustaining drugs.

We really need to demand better than a Brexit secretary who resigns over a deal he negotiated and a Prime Minister who knows that she doesn’t have the votes in the Commons to carry it through but comes out with the same old rubbish regardless.

The next few weeks are critical for a People’s Vote. There’s a big anti Brexit Lib Dem action day in Scotland on Saturday, which is quite handy in the circumstances.

I shall leave you for the moment with our Press Office being on point again:

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

The rest of us can learn from what the Welsh are doing with education….

Two recent press releases have caught my eye. As PPC for North Devon, a rural economy where, on average, schools get £300 less per pupil than in the rest of England, I am keen on education reform. Key to that is ensuring good teaching and supporting our teachers. So I was pleased to see that […]

Two recent press releases have caught my eye. As PPC for North Devon, a rural economy where, on average, schools get £300 less per pupil than in the rest of England, I am keen on education reform. Key to that is ensuring good teaching and supporting our teachers.

So I was pleased to see that Welsh Lib Dem Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced the single biggest investment in Wales’ teachers since devolution. This is through a groundbreaking £24m package to help teachers deliver Wales’ new curriculum. Kirsty says,

This major investment shows how highly we value teachers’ professional learning. It is an investment in excellence and we are aiming for nothing less than a wholesale reform of how teachers learn; a process that starts from the moment they begin initial teacher education and goes right the way through their career.

The National Approach to Professional Learning (NAPL) will focus on flexible ways of learning that don’t disrupt the school day. A much more accessible blend of learning will be available through Wales’ regions and universities. This will encompass learning outside the classroom, online learning, classroom learning and coaching.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented,

This announcement is yet another example of the transformational reforms the Welsh Lib Dems are implementing in our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to creating a Wales where every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential and determine their own destiny. This funding will help us realise this vision.

Not only are the Welsh investing in teachers, but they are also protecting rural schools.  Kirsty Williams introduced a new, stronger code last week which includes a presumption against the closure of rural schools. This is part of a wider Rural Education Plan which also includes a Small and Rural Schools Grant.

Young people attending rural schools, whether in Wales or elsewhere in the UK, deserve the same level of education and support that learners in more urban areas receive. These rural schools are the heart of community life, with facilities often shared with the rest of the community. For example, when touring Chulmleigh Academy, North Devon, recently I was shown the new library and gym, both of which are used by the wider community as well.

Well done to the Welsh Lib Dems in leading the fight to champion rural education, and to support teachers more fully. Schools need more funding, not less, and our rural schools deserve better.

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

The Core Vote

Through the feeds of politics-internet I haven’t been able to escape the BMG research on the UK’s political clans (find out yours here). If you’ve managed to escape the discussion there’s more information in The Independent (and a more in depth report here), but basically it splits people into ten values and identity groups and […]

Through the feeds of politics-internet I haven’t been able to escape the BMG research on the UK’s political clans (find out yours here). If you’ve managed to escape the discussion there’s more information in The Independent (and a more in depth report here), but basically it splits people into ten values and identity groups and then analyses how each vote, essentially highlighting how fractured the current alignments are and how little the current party system reflects these clans.

For liberals of all stripes, the initial findings can be disheartening. People with explicitly authoritarian beliefs make up the largest part of the electorate at 38 percent. Those who might broadly be termed liberal are a much smaller group.

It’s not scientific, but the smattering of polls in various Lib Dem online discussion forums suggest that roughly two thirds of our members are ‘Orange Bookers’ (OBs). This is a group who favour market solutions but are broadly in favour of redistribution and government intervention when the evidence supports it. They’re supportive of free trade, free movement of people and are optimistic about multiculturalism. Another third are ‘Global Green Community’ (GGC). BMG define these as those with a more interventionist view on the economy, but with liberal and environmentalist stances on social issues. They want government to pursue an ethical foreign policy, and have little interest in the nation-state, preferring a civic interpretation of Britishness. After that we have a small smattering of members who fall into one or two other camps.

Alas, Lib Dem support can’t be counted upon in these two groups. We don’t poll overwhelmingly well with any clan but we do best with the Orange Bookers, taking 17 percent of their support at the 2017 GE (the remainder split almost evenly between the Tories and Labour). When we look to our other liberal core things look rather grim; a staggering 83 percent of GGCs voted Labour, with our party taking just 9 percent. If I had to describe them in columnist terms I’d call them the youthquake demographic, with their hearts having been stolen by Corbyn and his merry band of Labourites. While unfortunately BMG don’t cover voting patterns prior to the 2015 GE, it seems likely we did pick up a lot more of these voters prior to the Coalition.

But that doesn’t mean we need to despair. If we want to pursue a core-vote strategy it makes sense to maximise our Orange Booker vote. As BMG notes, between the 2015 and 2017 elections “the Lib Dems were able to retain the support of one “core” clan (Orange Bookers) that now proves vital to their electoral survival and revival”. So if we are going to find a group that will reliably stick with up between elections, it makes sense to start with the OBs. Socially liberal, pro-EU and currently described as the type most likely to call us “a wasted vote”, they’re politically homeless, under-served and we should be hoping to poll as well with them as Corbyn does with the GGC. That means we need to be burnishing our pro-business policies, keep fighting for a second referendum, and be prepared to stick up for immigration.

That’s not to overlook the need to expand our reach elsewhere; OBs are just 8 percent of the population. The GGC and ‘Modern Working Life’ groups also have rather liberal attitudes, and while it’s hard to see how we can dislodge the former from Labour in the near future, developing policies that address hip-pocket issues may be the key to gaining support from the latter.

There was some recent polling done for the London Mayoral which found that whenever the Lib Dems were in the news, regardless of what the story was, we started to poll better. There’s a whole group of people out there who wholeheartedly agree with us and we should be doing whatever we can to make sure they know that.

* Aria Babu lives in London and is on the Board of Liberal Reform.

Settling Disputes

The block over which the government are now stumbling is called ‘dispute resolution‘. There is substantial disagreement between the negotiators of the United Kingdom and of the European Union. On the one hand, the EU has proposed that the European Court of Justice should be the final arbiter in the construction of the withdrawal agreement […]

The block over which the government are now stumbling is called ‘dispute resolution‘. There is substantial disagreement between the negotiators of the United Kingdom and of the European Union.

On the one hand, the EU has proposed that the European Court of Justice should be the final arbiter in the construction of the withdrawal agreement and any future problems, because it says that the agreement will embody many provisions of EU law: the CJEU has declared itself to be the only binding interpretative authority of EU law.

On the other hand, the United Kingdom has argued that it is unacceptable that the appeal body, the final resolution body, should be a court whose judges are drawn only from the continuing EU member states. That is the nub of the matter.

Of course, the issue is bedevilled by the irrational demonisation of the European Court of Justice, first by those who campaigned to leave the EU and later by the Prime Minister, who has lost no opportunity to declare that leaving the jurisdiction of the CJEU is one of her red lines. I have never understood how that court could have been painted in such scarlet colours. In the first place, its function has never been to lay down draconian law which binds us all in servitude, but to interpret law which, even if it starts with the Council of Ministers or the Commission, has been subjected to a democratic process in the European Parliament. The United Kingdom has, since joining the EU, had full representation in these three bodies.

Secondly, we have always provided a distinguished judge to sit on the court. Sir Konrad Schiemann, the former United Kingdom-nominated judge of the court between 2004 and 2012, said in evidence to the Lords EU Committee that,
“in the Luxembourg court the tradition is that you lose your nationality the moment you join the court, which makes no distinction between judges of one nationality and another. … The tradition was that you were not there to plug the point of view of your national Government. That was not your job. Your job was to try to decide the law in the light of the general European interest”.

That, indeed, is the way in which the Court of Justice has operated: it is not a court of competing national judges.

Thirdly, the United Kingdom has, through the power of its legal advisers and advocates, been very successful in the European Court of Justice. The European Commission does not bring cases that it does not expect to win. Of the 63 cases the Commission brought against the United Kingdom that resulted in rulings between 2012 and 2016, the UK submitted a defence in only 30 of those 68 and conceded the rest. In the cases the United Kingdom defended, its success rate was 53%. Its overall success rate of all cases in the period 2003-16 was 25%, the highest of any of the 28 member states. Penalties have never been imposed on the United Kingdom by the Court of Justice for failing to abide by its judgments. In other words, our Governments have always accepted its judgments, even in the cases that we have lost.

Is there not room for creative thinking? The institution of the European Court of Justice exists. Its physical building and its administration exist. The United Kingdom has played its full part in its procedures, has been part of its development and has been successful both in the judicial sphere and in advocacy before it. Would it not be sensible to create a special chamber of the European Court of Justice for dealing with disputes arising out of the special circumstances of our leaving the EU? We are not leaving the continent of Europe. The judges of that special chamber could comprise an equal number of members of the continuing court and members or former members of our Supreme Court, together with an eminent president from a neutral jurisdiction. This is the important point: since the Special Chamber would be a part of the Court of Justice, it could meet the European Union’s requirement that only that court can interpret provisions of EU law where that this necessary. At the same time, there would be participation from the United Kingdom.

This special chamber would be of particular advantage if disputes arose in respect of the future agreements: the elusive trade deal, agreements concerning our participation in existing EU programmes, the security stuff, the European arrest warrant, Interpol, data protection, family matters and in those areas where the Government wish to continue to participate and co-operate in other fields. It could also be a forum for pursuing individual rights, those of European Union citizens in the United Kingdom and United Kingdom citizens in the European state. We would not want European citizens in the United Kingdom to have remedies solely in the courts of this country if that meant that our citizens abroad in Europe would have remedies only from a European court.

I cannot help comparing the present impasse to the successful negotiations over Hong Kong, where the innovative principle of “one nation, two systems” was developed, and the Court of Final Appeal, which replaced the Privy Council, introduced non-permanent judges to supplement its Bench. Judges from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand play a part in assisting the Bench in the Hong Kong court.

Would the Government’s aversion to the European Court of Justice, fuelled by the empty and ill-informed rhetoric of the Brexiters, stand in the way of such a solution? The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox’s idea of a stand alone arbitration panel has been rejected by the EU negotiators. If as I fervently do not hope, the Brexit project has to lumber on, my solution at least provides greater protection for our poor unfortunate citizenry.

* Martin Thomas is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and the party's Shadow Attorney General

Has the PM Really Completed a Brexit Deal?

On hearing that a technical deal had been done for Brexit Jacob Rees-Mogg said that “it is a failure of the government’s negotiation position, it is a failure to deliver on Brexit…” The news is that the technical deal has been done and the document is over 200 pages long. It is reported that there […]

On hearing that a technical deal had been done for Brexit Jacob Rees-Mogg said that “it is a failure of the government’s negotiation position, it is a failure to deliver on Brexit…”

The news is that the technical deal has been done and the document is over 200 pages long. It is reported that there will be a meeting on Wednesday (14th March 2018) at 2:00 pm with the Cabinet to discuss the proposed technical deal and at the same time ambassadors of the 27 EU countries will also get copies of the deal. It is being speculated that the government will stay in the customs union while they are in the transition period (from 31st March 2019 to the end of 2020).

The Brexit farce continues, quite poignant especially as we near the Christmas pantomime season. Regardless of the deal, does Theresa May have the votes to pass it through parliament and is there likely now to be another general election next year as a result of failing to secure a Brexit agreement and the government spending millions getting ready for a no-deal.

Timing to get the deal agreed is now against the government. They have very little time to sign a Brexit agreement.  It will be interesting to see how many Cabinet ministers (if any) resign after the cabinet meeting. Theresa May has left herself with little room to manoeuvre to get any Brexit deal through parliament or with the EU.

To win the vote she needs 326 MPs to vote for it (currently, there are 650 MPs in Parliament). There are 150 Tory ministers and other MPs working in government who will be obliged to vote for the deal (unless they resign after the details are known). Tory Members like Rees-Mogg and Boris have support in the party, and they can call on about 50 Tory members.  There are currently 317 Tory MPs.

The issue with the Irish border is not clear. The two proposed options (discussed by Tory MPs) are a likely technological solution as used between Canada and the USA (which was extremely expensive, and its use is minimal) or the preferred trusted supplier. Depending on the proposed solution the Democratic Unionist Party can proffer ten votes.

The SNP has 35 MPs who like the Lib Dems 12 MPs will not vote for Brexit.

The Labour party has 257 MPs and are split on their support on Brexit. Only last week Jeremy Corbyn gave an interview to a German newspaper where he stated that Brexit could not be stopped. This comment is not in line with the official Labour Party policy. The Labour party will try to vote against any deal especially if the proposed agreement does not satisfy their six tests.

Although Corbyn would likely vote for the deal as he always wanted to leave Europe, the possibility of bringing the government down followed by a general election that labour has a chance of winning may push him to reject any Brexit deal put forward.

If the 50 Tory MPs do not vote with their government and labour, hold out hope for an election the proposed Brexit deal will not pass through parliament. That will allow MPs to either call for a people’s vote;  ask to revoke Article 50 or have another general election because we will be at an impasse that may trigger a constitutional crisis.

From the start, this whole process has been poorly managed and a mess. Nearing the end, it is still badly managed and an even bigger mess.

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

How bullying ruined my teenage years and cast a long shadow on my whole life

I first wrote this eight years ago, and I share it every year during Anti-Bullying Week. I could write something else, but it took some emotional energy to write the first time and I’m not really up for putting myself through that again.  Let’s not put up with anyone being treated like this, whether at school, in […]

I first wrote this eight years ago, and I share it every year during Anti-Bullying Week. I could write something else, but it took some emotional energy to write the first time and I’m not really up for putting myself through that again. 

Let’s not put up with anyone being treated like this, whether at school, in the workplace or within politics. It’s important that anyone in any sort of leadership role in any organisation has the skills to recognise and intervene to stop bullying and support those affected by it. It casts a very long shadow and destroys lives. Its costs are massive in terms of wellbeing. Also, if you are bothered about the money and the economy, happier people are more productive.  It’s entirely preventable and we should do all we can to eradicate it.

I’ve been procrastinating like anything to avoid writing this post because although I know the events I’m going to describe took place a long time ago, they cast a long shadow. Their stranglehold on my life is long gone, but the memories are not. I might have teased my sister for posting something inane on my Facebook wall a while ago when she has important work she needs to do, but how would I know if I hadn’t similarly been wasting time.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a very long time, but now is probably the right time. When Stephen wrote so movingly about how his experiences of homophobic bullying had almost led him to the brink of suicide, I thought about telling my story too. His account of standing on the breakwater as a 17 year old brought vividly to my mind those dark occasions I’d stood far above the sea and contemplated jumping as a young teenager myself. I wasn’t bullied for homophobic reasons. In fact, it was made very clear to me that no man, woman or even beast would ever find me attractive.

The bullying started in earnest when I went to secondary school. I was in a very dark place as a 12 year old. This isn’t the right place to explain why but when I experienced those feelings again in later life, the doctor called it Depression. To add to that, we’d moved so I was far away from the emotional bedrocks my wonderful grannies provided. I was vulnerable, alone and, let’s be honest, not very likeable. I certainly didn’t like myself much anyway.

During the first three years of high school, I was primarily known by two names, neither of which had been given to me by my parents. In English one day in first year, we were taking it in turns to read out a scene from a play. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what it was but as fate would have it, the line I had to read was “I want a yak.” Quick as a flash, the boy in front of me yelled out “I always thought you were one……” Cue the entire class, including the teacher, to collapse in laughter. That spread like wildfire, and before long it became my name to the entire pupil body.

If we’d had Google images then, I might have discovered pretty quickly that yaks are really kind of cute, but I never really saw it that way at the time and I really don’t think that the name was an affectionate one.

The other name came from the fact that, yes, I do have weird eyes. For that reason, people would hiss like a cat when they saw me coming, and spit out “Cat’s Eyes” as I passed.

I’m sure that doesn’t sound like much, but when you hear one or other of those things round every corner every day, you do feel less than human.

I became adept at varying my route to and from school to try to avoid the bullies who were there to pull my hair, or steal my stuff or point, or laugh, or kick or trip me up. They liked to mix it up a bit so I never really knew what I was walking into. I know it’s all quite low level, but it wore me down. I lived in perpetual fear and carrying that around everywhere was exhausting.

And then there was the damage or loss to property. One day I’d hung a light blue jacket on the back of my seat. By the end of the lesson, it was covered in dark ink splodges. Despite the girl behind’s fingers being covered in ink, the school could do nothing because nobody had seen her do it.

It seemed at times like most of the teachers turned a blind eye to what was going on. Sometimes, it even felt like they were joining in. I remember lining up at the end of a class one day and one person called me a name. The teacher then repeated that name at me, legitimising what the bully had said, giving them a real boost and making me feel like there really was nobody who thought I was any good whatsoever.

I dealt with it by escaping into a bit of a dream world, from which some of my friends today would say I am yet to fully emerge, given my potential for being utterly scatty and unobservant. I had to wake up every morning though – and the first sensation was always fear induced nausea, before I even opened my eyes, as I wondered what new blow this day would bring. It was like a battle was going on inside me – most of me felt that I was completely worthless and deserved all I got, while there was a tiny seed of entirely irrational optimism which kept me going and ultimately held me back from a messy end on the rocks.

Things changed a bit in third year. I made some really good friends. If it hadn’t been for Karen, Diana, Angie and two Morags, I probably would have sunk into an irretrievable despair. Sure, people still did the Yak and Cat’s Eyes things round a fair few corners, but it became more bearable when I had people who affectionately thought I was a bit mad but put up with me anyway.

The long term effects, though , stayed with me for a good 15 years. I wonder if things would have been different if I’d had better support at school. If there had been intervention to both deal with the bullies and give me the therapy I needed to develop healthier coping strategies. As it is, I do feel that my confidence was affected to the extent that my future career prospects were adversely affected. I’m 43 years old, and, to be honest, although I’ve worked for a long time, I’ve not had a proper career.

As it turned out, it wasn’t until a severe bout of Depression in my late 20s that I was given the help and therapy I needed to come to terms with the effects of the bullying.

To anyone going through this today, I’d say that first of all, have hope. I couldn’t have predicted when I was 13 that 30 years later, I’d have a happy life, with the best son ever and a long  marriage to a good and loving man and a lot of longstanding, truly fabulous friends.  Seek out the help that’s available, that I never had. There’s a whole list available here on the Anti-Bullying Alliance website if you can’t get support from teachers or family.

I really want the Coalition to get to grips with this issue, to come up with a strategy which ensures that children don’t suffer from violence and harassment which robs them not just of their school days but their future wellbeing and potential too. That’s why things like Anti-Bullying Week are so important.

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

Liberal Democrats must lead in a new vision for Europe

Jo Johnson’s resignation underlines yet again the disaster that is Brexit. But the repeated call for a second referendum puts a high level of responsibility on the Remain camp to flesh out details and consequences. The Liberal Democrats, as the only party campaigning unequivocally for Britain’s membership of the European Union, must take a lead. […]

Jo Johnson’s resignation underlines yet again the disaster that is Brexit.

But the repeated call for a second referendum puts a high level of responsibility on the Remain camp to flesh out details and consequences.

The Liberal Democrats, as the only party campaigning unequivocally for Britain’s membership of the European Union, must take a lead.

A second referendum would mark only the beginning of a momentum which must look far beyond the headlines and slogans of 2018.

Let us speculate, therefore, that there is a second vote and we win.

Then what?

Could Remain celebrations really light up Britain’s streets with political leaders mouthing off sound bites about healing divisions and the rest, while half the country feels cheated.

How can anyone think that will work?

Can a new government really tear up Article 50 and, tail between its legs, keep Britain in the European Union as if nothing has happened?

That will not do the business either.

There is one way out. But to take it on board we must accept that Brexit is symptomatic of a wider challenge. It accompanies an overall questioning of the European Project seen through the rise of the populist right, increased separatist demands and rebellion among the east and central European countries.

Brexit is the strand which has been put to the vote and the EU lost.

Any forward-looking institution would have reacted by looking publicly into what had gone wrong and how problems should be addressed. It would have allowed a formal debate on reform, ensuring that the discussion would be in the arc of our lives, just as the Brexit debate now is.

What is this region? What are our values?  What do the four principles want to achieve? How can the EU be made more democratic? How to tackle corruption. Etc.

This has not happened, at least not in a way that has crossed my Twitter feed. Whether from Johnson, Merkel, Macron or Juncker, all we have had are isolated ideas. There is no formal structure through which we can feel involved.

It is here that Liberal Democrats must take a lead by designing a European vision that is accessible and those skeptical of the EU can begin to accept. It would include abig vision regional picture together with detail of the type of reform needed.

There needs, for example, to be full discussion on shutting down the EU Parliament in Strasbourg. Why do MEPs and staff shuttle between Brussels and Strasbourg costing tax-payers tens of millions a year.

Euro-aficionados say the French would never allow it.  Fine, let France argue its case. Let others argue theirs.

Second, give the European parliament more power by, say, allowing it to introduce legislation.

I will be told that won’t work: Even suggesting it shows the little I know about how the EU operates. My critics may be right, but that would be my own ignorance together with tens of millions of others.

Why is it so difficult to grasp how this regional democratic institution operates? Why not make it easier?

The Liberal Democrats are best placed to explain and sell the next stage of the European Project.

I would love nothing more than to go into a second referendum with every voter holding a bright yellow primer knowing that there is one political party that has done the hard, detailed work and has the ambition to pull Britain out of the mess into which the Tories and Labour have dragged her.

* Humphrey Hawksley is an author and journalist, specializing in international affairs, and on the executive of the Hammersmith and Fulham Party