Why I joined the Liberal Democrats

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

I’m often asked why I first joined the Liberal Democrats and I have often answered with the word ‘Brexit’. But whilst it was true that devastating result of the EU Referendum in 2016 was the catalyst for me joining the party, it really encompasses many wider issues that I wish to make a stand against.

“What have immigrants ever done for us?” this question was posed directly to me, in a heated discussion shortly before the Brexit vote. As a British Born Chinese daughter of HK Chinese immigrant parents, this was beyond devastating. In the glow of London 2012 I had assumed, naively, that the value of our diverse British culture was obvious to all, that we had turned a corner on how we view race and immigration in this country. The Brexit vote has shown us this is not the case.

As the parent of mixed race children I could no longer assume that getting called ‘ching chong Chinaman’, with eyes pulled up in slits wouldn’t be their future childhood experience in the same way it was my almost daily one in the past.

I stand with the LibDems and fight on behalf of my children and all British people who believe as do I that our society is enriched, not endangered by immigration.

“No one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” is the end of the preamble of the LibDem Constitution and is at the core of why I believe LibDem values are my values.

Being a Chinese woman can come with certain expectations on how to behave: docile, subservient, respectful of elders, men, superiors and a myriad of what is ‘expected’ behavior. Or in short: conformity. Chinese culture is not always synonymous with the rights of the individual.

This party fundamentally respects the rights of an individual to be who they wish to be and not what society believes they should be. This is worthy of fighting for daily.

Tomi Banwo – My First Ever Party Conference

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

On Tuesday 18th September 2018, I attended for the first time a party conference in Brighton with the Liberal Democrats. This is all thanks to an initiative set by the Patchwork Foundation which encourages and funds young Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), politically-minded people to attend party conferences and encourages them to be engaged in political affairs.

It was amazing to see women in such a high position making an impact.

Nine of us were given the opportunity to meet Baroness Liz Barker at a masterclass where she spoke about her political journey and encouraged us as minorities to get involved in politics and make our voices heard. This masterclass was inspiring and as a Black Woman it was amazing to see women in such a high position making an impact.

Immediately after the class, we were given a tour of the auditorium by Naomi Farhi who explained the importance of each fringe group. This gave us the opportunity to meet and speak with the party members. I particularly enjoyed speaking to the Young Liberals – it was amazing to see young people having such an evident role in a political party as we seem to be ignored by the Conservative and Labour parties.

The highlight of the whole conference for me was seeing Sir Vince Cable’s leader’s speech from the second row…. he spoke with passion and a clear plan for the future.

They told us about the fantastic work they have done and the plans they have for the future. This investment in young political minds was further explored in one of the fringe events, specifically aimed at young people who want to pursue a career in politics. We heard from the young councillors how they got involved in politics. This was very insightful for me, as I want to work in politics and I am beginning a Politics and International Relations degree in the next few days.

The highlight of the whole conference for me was seeing Sir Vince Cable’s leader’s speech from the second row. This was in contrast to last year’s where I was watching his speech on television. It is funny how life changes. He spoke with passion and a clear plan for the future. Many of his points resonated with me as a young voter.

All in all, I had a wonderful experience and fantastic day – which showed me that these events and political positions are in my reach. I will definitely be more involved in politics in the future.

Sal Speaks: September 2018

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Party Conference is over, and we have left Brighton after an excellent four days. Over the Conference we have listened, spoken, debated matters fiercely, and voted on party policy.

Over 300 members attended Conference for the first time, and many of them made their first speech in debates on the stage too, making excellent contributions. The Exhibition and Fringes were brilliant too.

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I want to thank Geoff Payne and the Federal Conference Committee, and the staff and our volunteer stewards for all their hard work to make Conference the success that it has been.

You will be aware of Vince Cable’s proposals to open the party to a supporter category, as well as expand the nominations for future leaders, amongst other plans. You can find his consultation here and you should have also received an email from him with a link to an online survey. Your Federal People Development Committee had already started to see views on a supporter category, and both Vince and they held consultation sessions at Conference.

These proposals will come to the members in due course to debate and vote on. In the meantime, as Chair of the Federal Board, I have asked for a number of consultation sessions to take place around the country before the survey closes on 14 October. We will also run some member webinars so you can ask any questions you may have. Do look out for emails in the next few days letting you know where they are.

In the short period since Conference, the UK has been thrown into total confusion after Theresa May’s aggressive approach to the Salzburg informal summit. We have a bare month for the UK to agree its proposal in Cabinet, before presenting it to Parliament and then to the European Union and its 27 other states. Our clear position on needing an Exit from Brexit makes us the only major party who has consistently recognised that the UK is better in the EU and that it is now vital that we have a People’s Vote on the final deal. A major march is planned for 20 October and we want the largest Lib Dem presence ever on a march that is predicted to have a million marchers. Please be there – you can sign up here.

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In my speech at Conference I asked all members to help in our local election campaigns getting under way in England. We are winning many seats in by-elections, and had a net gain of 75 seats in this year’s local elections: Lib Dems are winning well and repeatedly. But next year we need 9,000 candidates, and our candidates need your help: our candidates do best with a great team behind them! Next year’s elections are key – and we need your help from now on, not just in the last month. Please ask locally how you can help – or ask the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors.

We are fighting Brexit, fighting for our local communities, and standing up for injustice everywhere. Thank you for all you are doing to help our party and our country.

Desperate displays of deluded defiance will only end in disaster

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The more Theresa May tries to sound defiant, the more desperate she seems.

After her weak and rattled statement in Salzburg yesterday, Number 10 had little choice but to send her out for a second take today. But this latest attempt to cast herself as a leader who brooks no compromise is utterly unconvincing.

So too is her confected anger at the European Council for dismissing her Chequers proposal. European leaders made clear that it would be a non-starter long before the Prime Minister corralled her Cabinet into signing up to it. And her own back benchers have declared that it would be dead on arrival in Parliament anyway.

Chequers isn’t the great hope that Theresa May pretends. It’s unworkable.

Chequers isn’t the great hope for a smooth and successful Brexit that Theresa May pretends. It’s unworkable; it says nothing about the services sector that makes up 80% of Britain’s economy; and it’s been rejected by both the European Union and the hard Brexit Tories.

So much for making a success of Brexit.

Theresa May’s decision, a year and a half ago, to trigger Article 50 set the UK careering towards the cliff edge. In the 18 months since, she has wrestled over the steering wheel with the likes of Boris Johnson, David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg. They’ve swerved the country this way and that, but the direction of travel remains unchanged. We are rapidly running out of road.

And in today’s speech, with her tacit acceptance of a no deal Brexit, the Prime Minister effectively ripped off the steering wheel. We are now heading straight for the worst possible outcome – crashing out of the EU with no deal for what comes next – and we have little means of changing direction.

The only option now is to slam on the brakes.

By her own admission, Theresa May’s negotiations have failed spectacularly.

By her own admission, Theresa May’s negotiations have failed spectacularly. She clearly hasn’t made the progress she expected when she triggered Article 50. So instead of blaming others and feigning indignance, how about a little humility? Instead of pushing ahead with a strategy that patently isn’t working, how about listening to those of us who’ve been warning her all along?

The Prime Minister should extend the Article 50 period until she can put whatever deal she finally gets – or her lack of a deal – to the British people, alongside the option of remaining in the EU. Given the mess we now find ourselves in, only a plan endorsed by the public can have the credibility and legitimacy to work.

That’s the only way to prevent us plummeting off the cliff. Desperate displays of deluded defiance will only end in disaster.

Conference – Monday Highlights

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Gina Miller’s Speech

Gina Miller delivered an impassioned speech on the need to continue with a unified fight against Brexit.

Let’s be clear, in the debate we had in 2016 about Europe, there was scant idealism. Lies were told.

Miller called on people to put the national interest ahead of political divisions:

“Even though I am now politically independent, I am here to cheer you on, and to walk side by side with you all as Liberal Democrats seeking to stop the decay in our democracy, to stop the politics of division, to unite rather than to divide, to offer hope and to recognise that we must defend liberal values founded on equality of opportunity, tolerance, respect and humanity.

Above all things, humanity.”

The Liberal Democrats are proud to have fought Brexit since the referendum, and we will continue to fight for an exit from Brexit.

Jane Dodds’ Speech

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds took to the stage today.

We demand a Wales free from discrimination and bigotry.

Dodds took aim at divisive identity politics running rife across Wales:

“Too much of our politics attempts to divide our identities, as if having more than one identity is a betrayal of all of them.”

More broadly, the Welsh Lib Dem Leader called for new reforms across the NHS, and developing a new green economy in the UK.

There is huge potential to build an innovative green economy that provides clean, affordable and reliable energy for generations to come. However, the UK Government neglected this fact yet again and cancelled the Swansea Tidal Lagoon project.”

An Affordable, Secure Home for All

Today Lib Dem conference re-affirmed our party’s long-standing commitment to build 300,000 homes a year over the next decade.

This Tory government’s housing policies have directly led to homelessness reaching record levels and further increased social, financial and inter-generational inequalities.

Under Liberal Democrat plans, local authorities will have the power to decide on the availability of Right to Buy in their areas – and Right to Buy receipts are to be reinvested in social housing. This ensures we build the houses this country needs.

Conference adopts plans to abolish business rates

Many of the areas around the country that voted for Brexit feel they have been left behind.

Today at conference, Liberal Democrats have voted for a comprehensive plan for replacing the broken business rates system.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: “Business rates were a badly designed policy to begin with and have become an unacceptable drag on our economy.

They are a tax on productive investment at a time of chronically weak productivity growth, and a burden on high streets struggling to adapt to the rise of online retail.”

Ending Plastic Pollution

The problem with plastics is not only on our shores. It is a problem that impacts the environment, communities and wildlife across the globe

Conference has demanded the Government initiate negotiations within the UN for a legally binding international treaty on plastics.

Tim Farron said “The problem with plastics is not only on our shores. It is a problem that impacts the environment, communities and wildlife across the globe.”

The Liberal Democrats continue to fight for a cleaner, greener Britain. That’s why we’re focused on taking practical steps today to address real threats to our environment.

Keep updated with all the motions

To stay up to date with all the news from Autumn Conference 2018, follow the news here.

Conference – Sunday Highlights

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Jo Swinson’s Speech

In her keynote speech Jo Swinson declared that the Liberal Democrats are the only party who will put people at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

When society demanded better, it was liberals who delivered. The Fourth Industrial Revolution gives us the same opportunity, and Conference – we must deliver again.

The Deputy Leader explored how the fundamental basis of the social contract has been broken in the U.K. People are struggling to make ends meet while the rich and powerful play by a different set of rules.

On the topic of Brexit, she had a clear message for Jeremy Corbyn: “grow a backbone, stand up for the millions of people who voted for you and help us stop Brexit.”

As for the SNP, the MP from East Dunbartonshire had this to say “The reality is that Scottish nationalists have a one-track mind. While the country edges closer to the precipice, they’re manoeuvring to turn Brexit into the breakup of the UK.”

But there is hope. Swinson explained how the revolutionary technological impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution could be harnessed with true liberal leadership.

Sal Brinton’s Speech

The President of the Liberal Democrats addressed Conference with a rallying cry to keep fighting Brexit:

“A year ago at Conference in Bournemouth I urged you to hold firm for our demand for a vote on the final Brexit deal, and that as a party we would still fight for our place in the EU because we knew – and still know – that it is best for Britain, and also best for the European Union.”

Looking ahead, the President asked members to think to local elections next year and to retain an open mind towards Vince Cable’s party reform proposals, building off the amazing local election results from earlier this year.

Check out Sal Brinton speaking on Brexit here:

Vince Cable Q&A

The Leader of the Liberal Democrats took questions from members this afternoon in the main auditorium. The topics were wide-ranging, but one interesting question cropped up – are the Liberal Democrats being too nice?

Find out below:

Facebook Live

We were live with Tom Brake, Christine Jardine and Ed Davey today on Facebook. The videos are now posted on the Liberal Democrat Facebook page. Check them out here.

Tomorrow we will have Facebook Live interviews with Jamie Stone at 9:30am, Vince Cable at 2:15pm and Layla Moran at 3pm.

Be sure to check out all our livestreams, including speeches from the auditorium.

Ending Discrimination in Mental Health

Conference passed a motion today to end discrimination based on mental health.

A key part of the motion calls on the Government to reform mental health laws so the ‘mental disorder’ test for involuntary detention and treatment is replaced with a ‘mental capacity’ test, so that a person cannot be involuntarily detained or treated unless they lack capacity.

Added to this, Conference reiterated its support for the Liberal Democrat policy of ensuring that mental health services are fully funded and given parity of esteem with physical health services, so that people can be given care without unnecessarily having to be detained.

An End to ‘Hostile Environment’ Immigration Policies

Conference also passed a motion calling for fairer immigration policies.

The Liberal Democrats will fix our broken immigration system and make sure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

The motion calls for an end to the hostile policies made by the Home Office under the Conservative Government and the wrongful blaming of immigrants for problems such as the housing crisis, low wages and the lack of social cohesion in too many communities.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said “We will scrap Theresa May’s damaging net migration target and hostile environment. We’ll strip the discredited Home Office of responsibility for visas and asylum. We’ll end indefinite detention and invest the money saved in community-based alternatives, lower visa fees, and a bigger, reformed Border Force.

With these ambitious, radical policies, the Liberal Democrats will fix our broken immigration system and make sure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

Keep updated with all the motions

To stay up to date with all the news from Autumn Conference 2018, follow the news here.

Conference – Saturday Highlights

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Tom Brake’s Speech

The Liberal Democrat (anti-Brexit) Spokesperson set out a vision for the UK staying in the EU with a real Brexit dividend of getting out of this madness. He also had a few words for some of the individuals responsible for this continued mess:

On Boris Johnson:

“If that is our PM’s vision of No Deal Brexit Britain, what is the Brexit Britain vision of the man widely tipped to be the future leader of the Tory party, Boris – punishment-beatings, Road to Mandalay, prosecco – Johnson?

We don’t know. Because he is a man of many words, but no Brexit plan. All mouth and no trousers. A charlatan who spent more time currying favour with Steve Bannon and sucking up to Donald Trump than he did reading his Ministerial briefs.”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

Are you leader or a mouse? Can you give a clear statement on where Labour stands on Brexit or, as with your position on anti-antisemitism, do you need a 500 word addendum to qualify it?”

On Jacob Rees-Mogg

His Brexit vision of borders and security checks chimes with his social vision taking Britain back to the 1920s.”

On where we go from here

Tom brake ended his speech with a call to arms for those unsatisfied with the current political status quo:

Layla Moran’s Speech

We must scrap Ofsted. Where a school is struggling, an inspection system should support that school to improve, not punish it.

The Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education gave an impassioned speech on ending cuts to crucial youth services, pledging more money for special needs education and ending the toxic “exam culture” that damages both teachers and students.

Layla Moran called for a forward thinking education policy – declaring that “whatever their background, we demand better for every single child.”

The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon also attacked Government plans to expand grammar schools, despite them failing to improve social mobility. “What a waste of money.”

Decriminalising Abortion

We believe that everyone, regardless of gender, has the human right to make independent decisions over their reproductive health

Our members voted on a motion to update our abortion policies in the UK – including decriminalising abortion completely, investing in reproductive health services and establishing safe zones around abortion clinics.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said “It is terrible that abortion is still treated as a criminal issue. No longer. Reproductive healthcare must be treated as a health issue.

“That is why the Liberal Democrats have backed these proposals today. We believe that everyone, regardless of gender, has the human right to make independent decisions over their reproductive health without interference or harassment.”

Righting the Wrongs of the Windrush Scandal

We must make these British people feel British. Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to right this wrong.

Our members passed a motion demanding the restoration of rights to the Windrush Generation.The motion demands an end to the damaging Hostile Environment policy started under May’s leadership of the Home Office.

Member of the Liberal Democrat Federal Board and civil rights campaigner Pauline Pearce said: “We must make these British people feel British. Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to right this wrong and stand shoulder to shoulder with the Windrush generation who have such a powerful impact in our country.”

The motion also calls for measures to ensure there is a fair process that would prevent future outrages, and for compensation for any victims of the Windrush scandal who have been affected by deportation, detention or the loss of their rights in the UK.

Protecting Animal Welfare

This morning conference also passed a motion calling on the Government to pay full regard to animal welfare, with a range of measures to improve the treatment of animals.

The motion commits the Lib Dems towards the phasing out of animal experiments that cause extreme suffering, to reduce deformities in pedigree pets, make horse racing safer and ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

Find out more

Read more about all the policy motions being debated here.

Lib Dems stand up for civil liberties

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The Liberal Democrats are opposing Government proposals to:

  • criminalise “reckless” speech,
  • make it a crime just to travel to certain places,
  • criminalise what you read on the internet,
  • give police more power to hold innocent people’s DNA, and
  • allow officers to detain people at airports without suspicion.

None of these new laws are necessary to combat terrorism. Instead, they pose a serious threat to the civil liberties of innocent people.

This Bill does little to fight terrorism, and a lot to destroy our freedoms.

The Bill has drawn criticism from Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, which said it “strikes the wrong balance between security and liberty”, and the human rights group Liberty, which warns that it “poses several significant threats to civil liberties and human rights”.

Liberal Democrat MPs voted “No” on Third Reading of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening. They were joined only by Caroline Lucas, while Labour voted with the Conservatives to pass the Bill by 376 votes to 10.

Ed Davey, the party’s Home Affairs spokesperson, said:

The Liberal Democrats are determined to combat terrorism and support action that will keep Britain safe. But the Government has failed to provide evidence that most of these new laws will help in the fight against terrorists. This Bill does little to fight terrorism, and a lot to destroy our freedoms.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We’re standing up for civil liberties and calling for a real, evidence-based response to the threat of terrorism that actually makes us safer.”

Giving Everyone a Stake

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The party expects these reforms to raise an additional £15 billion per year, though this is likely to grow as the rate of wealth passed down increases in the coming years.

Liberal Democrat members will debate and vote on the proposals at the party’s Autumn Conference in Brighton next week.

Proposals include:

  • Overhauling inheritance tax – taxing recipients progressively on all large gifts received at the same rates as income from employment, above a generous tax-free lifetime allowance, instead of the current system of levying tax on the value of an estate left behind
  • Taxing capital gains and dividends – equalising the tax treatment of wealth and work by taxing capital gains and dividends through the income tax system
  • Reforming pension tax relief – introducing a flat rate of relief on pension contributions, thus rebalancing relief towards lower earners; and limiting the tax-free lump sum the wealthiest can withdraw from their pension pots
  • Lifelong learning and a “Citizens Wealth Fund” – using the revenues from wealth taxation to invest in public services, fund an ambitious programme of lifelong learning to prepare workers for the future economy, and establish an independent Citizens Wealth Fund to invest on behalf of the country

Download the full proposal here.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:

“While the Conservatives talk about burning injustices, Liberal Democrats take them seriously. That is why my first major speech as leader was on inequality, in particular the widening inequalities of wealth and opportunity between the generations that risk tearing up the social contract.

“The bold proposals we have set out today represent a serious and informed response to this challenge. They follow closely on the work of the Resolution Foundation and the IPPR, which have reached similar conclusions on the policies needed to address Britain’s deep economic divides.

“While it is increasingly clear that taxes will have to rise if we are to afford the crucial public services and investment we all rely on, hard-pressed workers should not be the only ones paying up. It is time to put Britain’s wealth to work.”

It’s time to put Britain’s wealth to work.

Baroness Kramer, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson said:

“Everyone wants better opportunities for their children and grandchildren. But while this used to be taken for granted, belief in intergenerational mobility is fading fast.

“The proposals we are setting out today are a serious step towards redressing the economic imbalances between the generations, which is vital to achieving that goal.

“To put the nation’s wealth to work, we would establish an independent Citizens Wealth Fund – drawing on the successful experience of countries such as Canada and Norway – and launch an ambitious programme of lifelong learning to prepare workers for the future economy.”