• Feb 24, 2021:
    • 10 reasons the world needs liberals
      25 years ago our former leader Paddy Ashdown laid out the stakes for Britain's position in the world: Britain's role as the bulwark against tyranny in two wars this century was not a product of isolationism. It was the natural response of a nation used to engaging in the world and certain about its role as a European power. 25 years on, Paddy's vision is more important than ever. Our liberal values are under threat across the world. As proud liberals, it is our duty to stand against the scourges of warfare, authoritarianism, and inequality. Here are 10 reasons why the world needs liberals: 1. Defending human rights In recent months we have seen more and more evidence of the genocide unfolding in western China. There is a genocide taking place in Xinjiang The Chinese Government has tried to cover up this terrible violation of human rights. They have even threatened sanctions over Liberal Democrat proposals to pull out of the Beijing Winter Olympics if human rights abuses against the Uyghurs do not stop. But the world now knows the truth: there is a genocide taking place in Xinjiang. We are tragically seeing the impact China's authoritarian regime is having on human rights, as we did with China's suppression of free speech protesters in Hong Kong. As liberals, we continue to call on the UK Government to take a firm stand on the Uyghur genocide, including by implementing Magnitsky sanctions, and marshal the international community to defend human rights. 2. Demanding real climate action The pandemic focuses our attention on other serious global problems - above all else, the climate emergency. Liberal Democrats have a strong record of environmental protection in Britain. We know that our natural environment is precious, and that it is our responsibility to protect it. Liberals understand that the scale of the climate crisis demands we mobilise the international community behind this struggle. The internationalism that is central to our identity as liberals is exactly what we need to tackle this global crisis. 3. Championing democracy The sad fact is that in recent years democracy on the world stage has taken a beating. In recent years democracy across the world has taken a beating This has not been helped by the terrible impact of Donald Trump, who embraced strongmen leaders and abandoned traditional American values. But we have also seen democratic rule under threat recently in countries like Myanmar. Liberals champion the democratic right of all individuals, and as such we play a vital role in creating a fairer, more equal world. We need to see more action, not just words, from the government too. 4. Tackling the challenges of tomorrow We also need a strong, liberal voice when it comes to the big issues around technology and data. Today a handful of global companies exert a huge amount of influence on our daily lives through their domination of digital communications and social media. While Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple have unlocked fantastic opportunities for people, they have also raised serious concerns about data privacy, tax and competition, and harmful content like disinformation and hate speech. There must be a liberal voice in this ongoing debate: we embrace technological change but we ask the necessary, hard questions to protect the rights of the individual. 5. Rebuilding alliances and cooperation Many across the world (myself included!) breathed a sigh of relief when Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump last November. But some of Trump's actions have wrought serious damage to important international alliances. From castigating NATO partners, to dismissing the UN, and pulling out of the Paris climate accords, Trump tried to attack the foundations of international cooperation so important to maintaining world peace. We have to strengthen those alliances. As liberals, we are proud internationalists. We believe in Britain being an active and proud partner in the global community - and using our platform to argue for a fairer, more peaceful world. 6. Promoting equality In too many countries being LGBT+ or a woman means you do not have equal opportunity or basic human rights. Liberalism means standing up for the rights of every individual. Sadly, in too many countries today, being LGBT+ or a woman means you do not have equal opportunity or basic human rights. As liberals, we fight their corner. Liberal Democrats led the charge for same-sex marriage in the UK, and we continue to campaign on a range of issues to tackle gender inequality. We lead by example. But we also push the UK Government to use its international platform to stand up for these basic values of fairness and equality. 7. Opposing creeping authoritarianism Let's be absolutely clear about this: Vladimir Putin is an undemocratic, dangerous figure. Under his rule, Russian actors have sewn disinformation during the 2016 US election, attempted to assassinate a dissident living in the UK, and staged a shadowy war of expansion in Ukraine. On top of this, Putin and his cronies have jailed political opponents in Russia itself. Putin symbolises the creeping rise of authoritarianism across the world. He and other so-called strongmen are trampling over individual rights and freedom of speech in order to protect their power. This tide of authoritarianism must be met by a strong, firm, and united liberal opposition that values the rule of law and individual rights. 8. Working with our European partners For millions across Britain today, Brexit still feels painful. The Brexit debate was about more than our constitutional or trade arrangements. It was a debate over identity. Over who we are as a country. Liberal Democrats were unapologetic about what we stood for: pro-European, compassionate, internationalist. Although we lost that debate in 2019, we will continue to fight for a close relationship with our European neighbours. The UK and its people share fundamental values of liberalism, democracy and respect for the rule of law with our European neighbours and allies; the European Union is our natural home and the UK's rightful place should be at the heart of the EU. 9. Bringing compassion to the world Perhaps the most important role of liberals in the world today is to speak up for those with the least power. Liberals speak up for those with the least power The UK has a proud history of offering sanctuary to those forced to flee their homes, and providing aid to those who need it most. It's our responsibility - our duty - to show compassion to people who, through no fault of their own, are trapped in desperate situations. Liberal Democrats have a long record of fighting to secure safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees. We enshrined in law a commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid, and are fighting to protect that commitment against Conservative cuts. 10. Welcoming the benefits of immigration People from all over the world bring enormous benefits to our economy, our communities and our culture. We don't just recognise the benefits of immigration; we celebrate them. In contrast to the hostile policies and rhetoric that have broken our immigration system and shattered public trust, Liberal Democrats will always argue for fair, effective policies that treat everyone with dignity and respect. It's why we're campaigning to scrap the Hostile Environment, end indefinite detention and lift the ban on asylum seekers working. And it's why we'll always welcome people to work, study or join their families in the UK for the skills and contributions that they bring. D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
  • Feb 22, 2021:
    • Boris Johnson must put those hit hardest first
      Millions of people across the country have made untold sacrifices in the past year. Boris Johnson must not squander the months of sacrifice by millions of people and businesses across the country People have been isolated from their families, hundreds of thousands of businesses have been shuttered and our precious freedoms have been curtailed. As we begin to recover the Prime Minister must put people hit hardest by this pandemic first: the most vulnerable people in our communities, small businesses and the self-employed. As we begin to recover the Prime Minister must put people hit hardest by this pandemic first. That's why I called on Boris Johnson to prioritise giving everyone with a learning disability their first jab. pic.twitter.com/xVjefRJxHo - Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) February 22, 2021 It is deeply concerning that the Prime Minister has failed to set out plans for a functioning test, trace and isolate system - particularly a failure to support people enough to stay at home if they are asked to self-isolate. This time, the Prime Minister must not squander the months of sacrifice by millions of people and businesses across the country, as he did so recklessly last year. D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
  • Feb 18, 2021:
    • Our fight to support carers
      During this pandemic, carers have stepped up in very difficult circumstances to look after elderly, disabled and vulnerable people. Carer's Allowance is just £67 a week. It's just not nearly enough. Unpaid carers in particular are doing a remarkable and important job looking after our loved ones. But many carers are facing extreme financial hardship. 900,000 full-time unpaid carers rely on Carer's Allowance - but at just £67.25 a week, it's just not nearly enough. It is the lowest benefit of its kind - another example of how carers are too often an afterthought for many politicians. Many unpaid carers have been struggling for months, often relying on foodbanks to feed themselves and the people they care for. That's why back in November, we called on the Government to raise Carer's Allowance by £1,000 a year, the same as the uplift in Universal Credit. Three weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister to support unpaid carers by increasing the Carer's Allowance by £20 a week. He didn't do so. When he's found millions to hand out to Conservative Party cronies in contracts, why can't he do a little more to help unpaid carers? #PMQs pic.twitter.com/hdsI4iAu1K - Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) November 25, 2020 Most carers are simply exhausted during coronavirus. Most haven't had a single break since the pandemic began. But we must go further - the pressures of coronavirus has placed enormous strain on carers. A recent survey by Carers UK found that 81% of carers are spending more time on their caring responsibilities during the pandemic, mainly because the needs of the person they are caring for have increased or because the local care services they rely on have been reduced or closed. Most carers are simply exhausted. Most haven't had a single break since the pandemic started. The Government must provide funding to councils so they can offer every unpaid carer the support they need to take a weekly break The brutal combination of lockdowns, shielding requirements and reduced support services have made the pandemic especially tough. Another survey by Carers UK found that 64% of carers have not been able to take any breaks from their caring role during the pandemic. 74% said they feel exhausted and worn out as a result of caring during Covid, and 44% said they are reaching breaking point. We must do far more to support our wonderful carers. So we launched a new campaign, calling on the Government to give carers a break by providing immediate emergency funding to councils so they can offer every unpaid carer the support services they need to take a weekly break. The Liberal Democrats will stand up for carers and lead the way to a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic. D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
    • What is LGBT+ History Month and Why Does it matter?
      Just like with Black History Month (October) or Disability History Month (which runs from November into December), it's typically filled with events (check ours out here) and discussion. LGBT+ History Month reminds us of the progress we've made, but also warns us about the injustices that we have only recently escaped - and injustices that are still with us. Back in 2005 when LGBT+ History Month was first introduced in the UK, things were quite different. Section 28, which "prohibited the promotion of homosexuality" by public authorities, had only been off the statue books for two years in England; there was no same sex marriage (and civil partnerships only came into effect in December 2005); and the life blood donation ban for men who have sex with men was in full effect. In 2021, things are different in lots of respects (see the Plus and Stonewall timelines of changes). But we still have ongoing challenges, and the wounds of the past - which are in living memory! - are still with us and shape our community and perspectives. LGBT+ people deserve better than to be written out of our cultural memory. To be without their stories is an affront to their dignity, and does nothing to help us tackle the biases and stigmas that still pervade in our society today. Stories do matter - whether they're represented in fiction or non-fiction. This year we've experienced the huge cultural impact of Russell T Davies' 'It's A Sin', which has been hugely impactful for many LGBT+ people. This has been true for people who lived through the period as well as those who didn't. These stories do really matter: they personalise and they humanise. LGBT+ people deserve better than to be written out of our cultural memory. To be without their stories is an affront to their dignity, and does nothing to help us tackle the biases and stigmas that still pervade in our society today. In the UK we might focus primarily on the decriminalisation of sex between men (1967), the introduction and scrapping of Section 28 (1988-2003 in England/2000 in Scotland) and same sex marriage (2013).But there are stories from right across the world for us to explore and understand. Same sex sexual activity is still illegal in at least 72 countries. Of those, 11 have the death penalty as a possible punishment. And at least 15 countries criminalise the free expression of one's gender identity (with many more than 15 proving a hostile environment to trans people) (See Human Dignity Trust for more). Throughout February we'll be writing and talking much more about LGBT+ History - from darknesses that we cannot let be repeated to iconic figures and their work to make the world a more just and equal place. LGBT+ people infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Their stories are not monolithic, or constrained to a few niche areas. LGBT+ people exist and always have existed throughout our societies. Their stories matter and they deserve to be told. --- Learn more about LGBT+ Lib Dems at lgbt.libdems.org.uk or get in touch at [email protected]. You can join as a member here, and support our fighting fund for LGBT+ candidates here. D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
  • Feb 15, 2021:
    • We must give carers a break
      During this pandemic, millions of people have stepped up heroically to look after elderly, disabled and vulnerable people. Most carers are simply exhausted during coronavirus. Most haven't had a single break since the pandemic began. A recent survey by Carers UK found that 81% of carers are spending more time on their caring responsibilities during the pandemic, mainly because the needs of the person they are caring for have increased or because the local care services they rely on have been reduced or closed. But now most carers are simply exhausted. Most haven't had a single break since the pandemic started. The Government must provide funding to councils so they can offer every unpaid carer the support they need to take a weekly break The brutal combination of lockdowns, shielding requirements and reduced support services have made the pandemic especially tough. The survey by Carers UK found that 64% of carers have not been able to take any breaks from their caring role during the pandemic. 74% said they feel exhausted and worn out as a result of caring during Covid, and 44% said they are reaching breaking point. We must do far more to support our wonderful carers. So Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to give carers a break by providing immediate emergency funding to councils so they can offer every unpaid carer the support services they need to take a weekly break. The Liberal Democrats will stand up for carers and lead the way to a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic. D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
    • Chinese New Year: Year of the Ox
      For all of us, 2020 was a difficult year; some of us touched by death and many by loss of income, wellbeing and self-worth. So much has changed, and yet not changed. Those of us with memories of SARS watched in concern at the British Government late and botched efforts to tackle COVID. We saw COVID-related hate crime spike as Chinese people were shunned, and verbally and physically assaulted. Internet memes depicting Chinese people as sources of COVID were widely shared. The ox symbolises strength, determination and hard work. Certainly, qualities needed to rebuild our communities, our economies, our families and ourselves. Many people appear numbed to news that would have horrified us 12 months back - over 100,000 deaths, job losses, business closures and billions of pounds spent on PPE half of which were awarded dubiously. We cannot carry on as before and we must change the trajectory that has shaped growth and prosperity over the last 200 years since the Industrial Revolution. Fundamental changes are needed from the way we govern to the way our economy works, the way we consume and the impact of technology on our lives, our jobs and our societies. We have also watched with concern the situation in Hong Kong but continue to call for a more balanced response and an evidenced-based Chinese foreign policy within the Liberal Democrats. We are sad that Paddy Ashdown was not able to witness the first Hong Kong citizens use rights he called for decades ago to allow BNO passport holders the right to live in Britain. So, will things get better in 2021? The ox symbolises strength, determination and hard work. Certainly, qualities needed to rebuild our communities, our economies, our families and ourselves. Many Liberal Democrats have been actively helping others through the difficulties of the pandemic. We can bring a message of hope, that by working together we can reshape our society, economic and governance systems. We can create prosperity, fairness and justice. Wishing everybody a fulfilling, prosperous and safe Year of the Ox. D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
  • Feb 12, 2021:
    • The Weekly Whip
      Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come. For up to date information from the Lib Dem Whips Office, follow us on Twitter: @LibDemWhips Weekly Whip w/c 8th February Monday 8th February Two Urgent Questions were accepted on Monday morning. The first concerned the situation in Yemen, where the US recently declared that they would end support for the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, including relevant arms sales. Layla Moran questioned the Minister on the UK's continued sales of arms to Saudi Arabia. The @LibDems have long called for the UK to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia in response to their consistent targeting of civilians in Yemen. After the US paused their sale of arms, I asked the Government if they would do the same. This was their response to a simple question 👇 pic.twitter.com/2Z2wUFQbM2 - Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) February 8, 2021 The second UQ related to the EU's decision to ban shellfish exports from the UK. Tim Farron questioned the Secretary of State on what he will do to compensate those who will lose out on this business. Alistair Carmichael called for his resignation following claims that he privately admitted that the EU were right to impose the ban. Fishermen in the Cumbrian village of Flookburgh and across our country have been banned from selling live shellfish into Europe after the Government failed to negotiate market access for them. Our fishermen have been betrayed and sold down the river - they must be compensated. pic.twitter.com/3tiT2mi9RY - Tim Farron (@timfarron) February 8, 2021 Alistair Carmichael said George Eustice was unfit to resolve the problems being faced by fishermenhttps://t.co/V6WW2UgXng - The Herald (@heraldscotland) February 9, 2021 The main business of the day was the Second Reading of the Armed Forces Bill, a rollover Bill every 5 years which is required to ensure the continued running of the United Kingdom's Armed Forces. The only difference this time around is that the government have decided to put the Armed Forces Covenant into written law, rather than it being an unspoken understanding. This is a welcome move but the Lib Dems are concerned that the scope of the Covenant is not wide enough for our veterans as it only covers health, housing, and education. Jamie Stone briefly spoke in the debate. 👍🏻 Thank you @Jamie4North for supporting enshrining the Armed Forces Covenant into law during the #ArmedForcesBill debate. Grateful to you for supporting @poppyscotland's suggestion that the Bill should be expanded beyond councils to include both the UK Govt and @scotgov. - Ross Thomson (@RossThomson_Abz) February 9, 2021 Tuesday 9th February Tuesday started with a Covid-19 update from the Secretary of State for Health during which Munira questioned Matt Hancock on border measures. How many deaths could have been prevented from introducing stricter border measures sooner? asks Lib Dem Munira Wilson, who accuses ministers of being "consistently slow" Matt Hancock says "we've had significant measures at the border throughout"https://t.co/IloVXMxViE pic.twitter.com/gm3urZcKzo - BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) February 9, 2021 The main business for the day included the continuation of the debate over trade and genocide. Many MPs and Peers in Parliament have been insistent that the government should not trade with countries who commit genocide. Despite the cross-party and cross-House support for this measure, the government have been keen to remove any such provision from the Trade Bill. Due to time constraints, neither Sarah Olney nor Layla Moran were called to speak in the very short debate, but Lib Dems voted to ensure more Parliamentary Scrutiny over future trade agreements and to prevent the UK from trading with countries who have committed genocide. The British public have the right to be represented in the negotiation of new trade deals and that means Parliament having its say. It is outrageous that the Government has refused, once again, to back Parliamentary scrutiny in today's #TradeBill - Sarah Olney (@sarahjolney1) February 9, 2021 Today the Govt used outrageous procedural manoeuvres to avoid any straight vote on the Genocide Amendment and avoid defeat, in a flagrant attempt to deny MPs from having their democratic say. If they were confident in their arguments, why do that? THREAD👇1/5 - Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) February 9, 2021 Click through to read the whole thread Following this business, Sarah Olney, along with MPs from all different parties, supported the adjournment debate from Caroline Lucas on the UK's climate emergency plans. It was a real pleasure to speak in last night's debate on the #CEEBill🌍 We see too much stovepiping between govt depts on both the climate & the environment, and so to bring it all together as a clear set of objectives is a real strength and why @LibDems are in favour of it. pic.twitter.com/77pgv7sHJa - Sarah Olney (@sarahjolney1) February 10, 2021 Wednesday 10th February This week at PMQs, Layla Moran had a question for the Prime Minister regarding long-Covid. Up to 400,000 people are living with long Covid right now, and for many that means being unable to work. In PMQs I called on Boris Johnson to recognise it as an occupational disease and compensate our frontline heroes unable to work. This must be tackled now, not later. 👇 pic.twitter.com/WouvkpPzXD - Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) February 10, 2021 Following this, the Secretary of State for Housing made a statement on the cladding scandal, noting that leaseholders who live in a building with 18+ levels would not be subject to remediation costs, but those who did not meet that threshold would be subject to a loan scheme to cover the cost. Daisy Cooper has spearheaded the Lib Dem response to the cladding scandal and made it clear that leaseholders should not be footing the bill for these unexpected costs. On the #claddingscandal @LibDems are clear: leaseholders should not have to pay a penny to remove dangerous cladding or carry the cost of other fire safety defects that have occurred through no fault of their own. #EndOurCladdingScandal pic.twitter.com/YSwSzWKsgD - Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) February 10, 2021 Thursday 11th February The final day of business before recess was unusual due to the fact that the Commons passed an emergency Bill in one day. Before this, Wera Hobhouse attended weekly business questions with the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Lateral flow testing is NOT widely available for nurseries in Bath. Why has Westminster been prioritised when early care providers have been asked to stay open throughout lockdown? One rule for this Government and another for everyday families... pic.twitter.com/8LeALh05Lk - Wera Hobhouse MP 🔶 (@Wera_Hobhouse) February 11, 2021 Earlier than expected, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care came to the House to give a statement about the proposed changes to NHS structures. Munira Wilson was quick to notice the lack of guarantees to fix social care. Today was an opportunity for the Govt to make good on their promise to reform social care. Yet again, they've kicked it into the long grass. I urged @MattHancock to begin cross-party talks as soon as possible to find a solution. These cannot wait any longer. pic.twitter.com/9wqxmLRE08 - Munira Wilson MP (@munirawilson) February 11, 2021 This fast-track legislation emerged because the current Attorney General is pregnant and, according to the law, unable to take any maternity leave due to her position. Clearly this is an ugly showcase of our male-dominated world, but Wera, Christine, and Wendy spoke to and welcomed the Bill that the government have brought forward today. The Bill does not go far enough to deal with similar issues, but the Minister assured the House that more legislation will come forward shortly on this topic and that this legislation was just a stopgap so the Attorney General can take her leave. Maternity leave for Cabinet Minister doesn't quite bring Parliament into the 21st century, but it's at least a step towards the end of the 20th century. Our parliament needs to be an accessible and modern workplace if we expect it to reflect the country we represent. pic.twitter.com/H9AhpgFY2k - Wendy Chamberlain MP (@wendychambLD) February 12, 2021 The opposition agreed to pass the Bill without any votes, but, we'll be keeping our eye out for more developments here. What next? Nothing! The House has risen for recess, but we will be back on Monday 22nd February to deal with the Fire Safety Bill and the CHIS Bill. We also expect a statement from the PM on the roadmap out of lockdown. D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
    • We must stand against China's crackdown on the BBC
      Silencing the BBC shows that the Chinese government has no intention on stopping its human rights abuses. The Chinese government's BBC ban, in response to their reporting on the Uyghur genocide and other abuses, marks their latest move in an unacceptable crackdown on fundamental freedoms. We've already seen the consequences of this in Hong Kong. The Chinese Government's BBC ban, in response to their reporting on the Uyghur genocide and other abuses, marks their latest move in an unacceptable crackdown on fundamental freedoms. We've already seen the consequences of this in Hong Kong. THREAD👇(1/3) - Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) February 11, 2021 The role of media outlets such as the BBC is crucial to ensuring high-quality reporting of events around the world. What is happening to the Uyghurs in Xinjiang is a genocide, and silencing the BBC for reporting on it shows that the Chinese government has no intention on stopping its appalling human rights abuses. We urge the UK Government to stand up for the BBC and work together with our international allies to stand up for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in China and across the globe. We can't allow the genocide in Xinjiang to continue. D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
    • Chinese New Year
      This year we welcome The Year of the Ox - an animal known for its strength, diligence and hardworking nature. These are positive values to which we should all aspire to live our lives by. The New Year is usually a time of large family get-togethers. This year however, intimate, virtual celebrations will be the norm. I know the adjustment won't be easy but let us keep doing our part to suppress this virus. This year we welcome The Year of the Ox - an animal known for its strength, diligence and hardworking nature. These are positive values to which we should all aspire to live our lives by. As we welcome the New Year, we must also honour the immeasurable contributions of British Chinese communities to our country. Thank you to the generations who have helped build our country and made it the success it is today. Let us also recognise the hard work and sacrifice of those working on the frontline, the dedication of those looking after their families and the commitment of those supporting their local communities. Celebrations like this remind us of what makes Britain unique; the diversity of our nation, the rich mosaic of people, cultures and backgrounds who all come together to carry forward the work of making this a country we can be proud of. So, to everyone celebrating, I wish you happiness and good health in 2021. Xin Nian Kuai Le! D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
  • Feb 11, 2021:
    • The best way to meet the big challenges of our time
      Our values work best Tackling the coronavirus epidemic, and minimising the tragic loss of life, is primarily a public health issue. But there's also a consistent political lesson from it too. The approaches that work best use international cooperation. Viruses don't stop at borders, and scientific cooperation and vaccine supply chains work best when they don't either. The approaches that work best involve giving power and responsibility to those on the front line. That's why localised public health services in Germany have done so much better than our centralised track and trace fiasco. It would have worked far better to trust councils and their existing expertise at local track and tracing for environmental health work. The approaches that work best involve a generous society, one that supports those who most need help during such tough times. As with internationalism and devolution, such generosity of spirit and of government lies at the heart of liberalism and Liberal Democracy. Our party's challenge is to become a more effective political force for those values which are so needed to overcome the big challenges of our time. Improving how we work That is why both implementing the Thornhill Election Review and the other reforms I have talked about in previous reports is so important. Dorothy Thornhill has reported directly to members on how we are doing at implementing the review. She concludes, "I believe the review has been recognised, that the process of making changes has started, and that the path to success is starting to emerge". With brief exceptions, for a decade now we have been in single digits in the opinion polls. That shows how the challenges we need to overcome are long-term ones. The good news is we've recovered before. There's a common trigger in previous recoveries: winning elections, whether Parliamentary by-elections or (especially now that such contests are rarer) the big rounds of May elections. It was a stunning performance in the May 2019 elections, remember, that propelled us to those great European results and a polling surge. That's why we've made a big switch of resources to investing in a hugely increased grassroots campaign support operation. Many thanks to colleagues in state parties, regional parties and ALDC who have cooperated so positively in making similar and coordinated efforts. Frustratingly, we have only had the very occasional council by-election since all that work started being put in place. This May's elections are a great opportunity for us with general elections in Scotland and Wales and two rounds of local elections rolled into one, including for many Mayors. It is an opportunity that the Conservatives in Westminster are cynically trying to stifle by insisting on both holding elections and also trying to ban much campaigning. If it's not safe for people to go campaigning, it's not democratic to hold an election. It should only be dictators who try to hold votes without letting the opposition campaign properly. Our advice on what campaigning can be safely, responsibly and legally done is kept updated at libdems.org.uk/covid19. Training, resources and bulk-buy deals for paid-for delivery and digital advertising are all being made available by Lib Dem HQ and ALDC. To make sure you always get the latest information on them, please ensure that the key campaigners in your area are on the party's special campaign news email list. It's never been more important to innovate in our campaigning, which is why the new Campaign Innovation Fund has been launched to fund measurable experiments so that we learn better what does and does not work. As well as getting our campaigning right, we are continuing to fix things behind the scenes, and have had two Steering Group meetings so far this year ahead of a one of our day-long Board strategy sessions at the end of February. You'll see some of the outcome of our work coming to spring conference, including in the Board report and in business and constitutional motions. Spring conference registration is open and I look forward to the discussions, debates and votes. You can always also get in touch directly with any questions. At that Board strategy session we'll be looking at how our political and organisational plans fit together into one coherent overall plan. A plan that we can use for guiding the work of the federal party and one that members and supporters across the party can use to understand what we're doing, why, and how they can contribute to it. I'll report back on the plan in more detail next time. Other Steering Group work this month has included examining how the party manages risk, with a proper risk register and risk management system now in place, along with appropriate oversight of the changes being made at HQ, including ensuring we continue to provide the right pastoral care support to staff and members. Our February Board will also be looking at both the complaints process and the work of the Federal Appeals Panel, meeting with its new chair. As well as getting in touch with myself directly, you can always also find details of the Board and Steering Group members up on the party website and reports from federal committees appear regularly in the AdLib section. I look forward to hearing from you. D. Vasmer on behalf of Shrewsbury & Atcham Liberal Democrats Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY