Sal Speaks: August 2018

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

It may be mid-August but the bad news about Brexit is increasing by the day! Senior Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg continue to peddle their populist nonsense, against the facts: the pound dropping against the Euro; international organisations moving their EU HQ out of Britain; and even the Governor of the Bank of England confirming Brexit will not be good for the economy. Only Vince Cable and the Lib Dems remain totally committed to an Exit from Brexit, and giving the people a Final Say on the deal, with more regions that voted leave now changing their minds.

We Liberal Democrats have a key role to get the positive message about staying in the EU out there. Thank you if you and your local party have already taken part in our summer anti-Brexit campaign! If you haven’t started, or want to talk to more people, please get out there now. Every local party can access more resources for their campaign here, so just get out there and campaign!

Europe_March_2018_13.JPGI suspect that there will be much discussion about Brexit at Federal Conference in Brighton as well as an exciting agenda of debates, fringes, exhibition and training. You can find out what’s going on in the main hall hereand what fringes are on here.

If you haven’t booked yet, please do so now. You can register for conference here. If you are booking for your first ever conference, then please also sign up for my President’s Webinar for first time attendees at the end of August. That’ll be your opportunity to ask any question (no matter how daft you think it is!). We’ll email all first time attendees in the next few days so you can sign up.

We will be debating the revised discipline process review at Conference. After the debate and reference back from Spring Conference, we have taken note of the concerns raised, and there is much more information available on how the process will work. We are also talking to those who had concerns, we will have a webinar before Conference, and there will be Lib Dem Voice articles to explain what is now being proposed. Please read the details here! These are big changes to the discipine process, making it independent of senior people in the party, as well as streamlining and speeding up the system, both of which many of you asked for.

Your Federal Board remains committed to delivering John Alderdice’s Review into race equality in the party, and we are asking you to vote on a new Vice President to champion race equality, as well as the Racial Diversity Campaign to help us deliver training, mentoring and support for our BAME members, helping them to achieve elected office as councillors, assembly members and members of parliament.

We have published the recommendations of the 2017 General Election Review, commissioned by the Federal Board and Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee. Your Federal Committees are learning from both the general recommendations and those for a snap general election, and acting on them. It is also good to see what went well and where we have learned and changed things after the 2015 Review.

sal_fawcett_society.jpgLast month I joined Lib Dem Women and the Campaign for Gender Balance at the Fawcett Society and 50:50 Parliament day in Westminster.

Myself and other Lib Dem speakers were able to talk positively about what we are doing to get more women elected, including women from the other three underrepresented groups (LGBT, BAME and disabled).

Women like Lucy Salek, our brilliant candidate in Lewisham East, are leading the way.

Have a good rest of summer, and I look forward to seeing you in Brighton.

Bigots are not welcome in the Liberal Democrats

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The last ten days have seen major stories of racism in both of Britain’s major parties.

What is happening in the Labour party – and Boris Johnson’s comments this week – are frightening to many Jewish and Muslim people living in Britain.

This is a reflection of the way the politics of identity dominates politics today and attracts comments, sometimes critical or offensive, about particular groups.

I expressed this concern 2 decades ago in two pamphlets for the think tank, Demos. I would stress now, as then, that liberals view people as individuals, rather than through the prism of their race, religion or sexuality.

The lazy use of group stereotypes should be unacceptable to us all. But we must not be blind to the fact that these issues affect our party as well.

The Liberal Democrats have always been at the forefront of the fight for equality, and we have a record on these issues of which we’re very proud.

But sadly, the truth is that a very small minority of our own members do hold some views that are fundamentally incompatible with our values.

Our party’s constitution is clear:

We reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

As a liberal, I respect people’s rights to hold different views to my own, but my message to everyone is that racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, sexism, transphobia and bigotry are not welcome, and not tolerated, in the Liberal Democrats.

If the last week’s events have disturbed you, as they have me, then here are a few practical things we can do about it together:

  • Stand up to prejudice – if you witness any of the issues listed above in this party, please, call it out. You will not find yourself alone – and you will always find allies in our members. You can also report these issues here: libdems.org.uk/complaints-compliments
  • Ask someone from an under-represented group to join the party. We are a stronger political force if we look like the Britain we seek to represent. You can ask someone from an under-represented group to join here: libdems.org.uk/ask-to-join
  • If you know someone who would make a fantastic candidate – and is from an under-represented group, encourage them to stand for election. They can start that process here: libdems.org.uk/become-a-candidate

Our party must be a place where every person regardless of gender, religion, race or sexuality is treated fairly.

The Alderdice report I shared with you earlier this year made it clear that we still have much work to do to change the culture of our own party on diversity.

I promise we will not shy away from this issue, no matter how tough it gets.

The 2017 General Election Review

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

If you submit this form, the Liberal Democrats, locally and nationally, may use the information submitted, including your political views, to further our objectives, share it with our elected representatives and contact you in future using any of the means provided. Some contacts may be automated. You may opt out of some or all contacts or exercise your other legal rights by contacting us. Further details are in our Privacy Policy at www.libdems.org.uk/privacy

Why conscience led me to leave the Conservatives

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

I say no – conscience comes before one’s own ambitions and equality, tolerance & justice are far more important that one’s own career path. The future of our great United Kingdom and our future generations is far more important than anything else in my view and worth fighting for every step of the way.

Politics surely should be about policies and not personal attacks – what a shame it hasn’t remained that way? What I did not realise is that this was just the beginning of a long and rocky ride over the coming months where I saw a real lurch to the right, in the words of the former Tory MP Stephen Phillips QC the party has started to mould itself into ‘UKIp-Lite’.

This lurch to the right began to be visible to me during the EU Referendum campaign. Having been instrumental in setting up ‘British Indians for In’ with the now Employment Minister Alok Sharma MP, I travelled up and down the country talking to the British Indian Community about the benefits of remaining in the EU.

Currently the only political leader and party outlining the inconsistencies in the Brexit argument are the Liberal Democrats & Sir Vince Cable – everyone else seems to have vanished & with them their ‘remain’ arguments too. That for me is still not the issue (even though some would say it remarkable how ‘remain’ politicians are now silent) – the issues are the by-products of the referendum vote for example a rise in hate crime in London and across the country.

Ethnic minority communities in particular the youth in these communities have been subjected to abuse which has divided our strong and united country. This has in my view been brought about by this constant lurch to the right by the Government.

This surely cannot be correct? Would we like our children or family members being treated differently just because they have a different accent? It is unfortunately where we currently are in our country. Whilst over 17 million people voted to leave the EU, over 16 million voted to stay.

The real challenge is finding a suitable way to represent all people and be an inclusive country for all regardless of background, ethnicity or religion. There is evidently still time to acquire an exit from Brexit as it is apparent there is growing support for a vote on the final deal.

Having made many lifelong friends in the Conservative Party who do genuinely want to see a brighter future for all, it seems truly a shame that some have shifted the entire political discourse and agenda. We are looking to develop our trade with nations like India but do not seem to be bothered how Indians in the UK feel about their role in the UK and their place within British society. Stopping Indian students from studying here, stopping Indian restaurants from bringing specialist chefs over for their restaurants, making it harder for families to be reunited due to stringent visa rules on Indian nationals.

How possibly can you on one hand look to want to develop trade between nations such as India but not welcome Indians to the UK. It really is hypocritical – maybe we should wake up and smell the coffee?

All of this shows a clear unwillingness to engage with ethnic communities at grass root levels and understand what it is they want to see in a post Brexit UK.

As a British Indian who has been involved in community issues for many years and as the son of refugees who came to the UK in the 1970’s due to the expulsion of Ugandan Asians by Idi Amin, I cannot see how such heartless actions can be carried out. It could have been my family 40 odd years ago!

After much deliberation I came to the conclusion social justice, equality and positive race relations are at the heart of my rationale and currently there is only one party that is looking to try and promote such an agenda and that is the Liberal Democrat Party.

Kishan Devani FRSA was the Deputy Chairman of the London Conservative Party from 2014 to 2016, a 2015 Parliamentary Candidate for the Conservatives & a 2016 London Assembly Candidate for the Conservatives.

Kishan Devani FRSA is now a Treasurer’s Envoy for the Liberal Democrat Party, Vice-President of the Liberal Democrats Campaign for Race Equality & Vice-Chairman of the Liberal Democrats in Business.

The Conservatives’ “hostile environment” is a playground for traffickers

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Theresa May once called modern slavery “the great human rights issue of our time”, and she was right. The very idea that human beings are held in bondage in the UK today – forced to pick fruit and wash cars, to work on construction sites and in nail bars – is sickening.

In 2015, the Coalition Government passed a Modern Slavery Act to make it easier to identify victims and bring traffickers to justice, and prosecutions have increased as a result. But now, many of Theresa May’s own policies are undermining efforts to tackle it.

The “hostile environment” approach she introduced as Home Secretary is making it harder for victims to come forward, whether to report crimes or seek medical help. In 2016, for example, she created a new offence of “illegal working”, which traffickers now use to keep victims in fear of prosecution if they speak up.

Meanwhile, Conservative cuts to the Border Force, as well as to police forces across the country, have left fewer officers on the frontline in the fight against trafficking. That simply isn’t good enough. The “great human rights issue of our time” can’t be tackled on the cheap.

Perhaps the biggest threat to efforts to combat modern slavery, though, is the Government’s pursuit of a hard Brexit. As the European Commission, the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee and respected security experts have all made clear, this puts at risk the vital cross-border institutions and co-operation that we rely on to fight organised crime and human trafficking.

Thanks to British leadership, human trafficking has become one of Europol’s top priorities. Even if we remain a member of the agency – and we must – Brexit will strip us of that leadership role. At the same time, the Prime Minister is sticking to her “red lines” that may cost us both the European Arrest Warrant and EU intelligence-sharing arrangements that have helped to put traffickers behind bars.

I know that Theresa May cares about tackling modern slavery, and the Modern Slavery Act stands as one of her greatest achievements. So I’m calling on her to protect that achievement, abandon the harmful policies that threaten it, and work to end slavery for good.

Why I left the Conservative party

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

I first became involved with party politics when I was 18. I was studying an undergraduate degree in Politics and Religious Studies (later refined to straight Politics) at Cardiff University. Like most first years, I had planned to join at least one society and throw myself into student life at the University. I knew I wanted to join a political society, and for me what was then Cardiff Conservative Future seemed like the perfect option.

I have always considered myself to be a Liberal

I have always considered myself to be a Liberal, and at the time this seemed very compatible with what the Conservative Party had to offer. It was 2014, a little over a year after the Coalition Government, led by David Cameron, had successfully passed legislation to allow for equal marriage in the UK. With UKIP firmly on the rise over the issue of our continued EU membership, the Party’s membership primarily consisted of other Liberal-minded people. Until last night, I’d spent approximately 4 years in the Conservative Party, and in that time a lot has changed.

As we know, UKIP’s support has plummeted, and the vast majority of its membership has moved to their former political home. For many, this meant a return to the Conservative Party. While I do not have an issue with a party being a broad-church per-se, I could see that this shift had brought a very toxic atmosphere to the Party.

An obsession has evolved within the Conservatives of branding anyone to the left of Mogg or Johnson a traitor.

An obsession has evolved with branding anyone to the left of Mogg or Johnson a ‘traitor,’ and a determination to phase out the ‘wets’ of the Party completely. During my last few months in the Party, I got told to join the Lib Dems (which I have now done), Labour and even Plaid Cymru, all because I did not agree with this increasingly more right-wing outlook of the Membership.

The fact that I am seeing members of one of the governing party in the United Kingdom endorse the troubling agendas of Salvini and Trump is chilling. This is no longer something that I am able to associate myself with.

At a local level, I have seen the way friends have been treated at the hands of fellow party members and even elected officers. It is a toxic environment. The local party that I joined was fun, friendly and welcoming. Things are different now.

The local Liberal Democrat party that I joined was fun, friendly and welcoming.

While this is more an issue with the Membership than the Parliamentary Party, I believe we are beginning to see a shift there which would make myself (along with many other liberal members) feel uncomfortable. We are hearing reports of Steve Bannon engaging in meetings with the likes of Boris Johnson over issues such as Brexit. Steve Bannon is dangerous. He has branded Tommy Robinson (founder of the extremist EDL) a ‘good man’ and suggested that racists should wear their label as a ‘badge of honour.’

This is no longer the Party I joined. This no longer represents me or my values, and while some have suggested sticking it out and acting as a voice from the center, I know that I cannot ever love politics in the way that I did being surrounded by the toxicity I’m seeing right now.

We must give people the choice as to whether they want to continue with this vision of Brexit, or Exit from Brexit and remain and aid to reform the European Union from within

There is also the issue of Brexit. With No Deal looking increasingly more likely, I believe now more than ever it is important to fight for a Final Say on the Brexit deal. I believe that what was perhaps voted for at the Referendum versus the reality of a ‘No Deal Brexit’ are two very different things. We must give people the choice as to whether they want to continue with this vision of Brexit, or exit from Brexit and remain and aid to reform the European Union from within.

Therefore, last night, I finally took the plunge and joined the Liberal Democrats. This was not a decision that I made lightly, I have been thinking about it for a couple of months. It’s also incredibly scary, I never thought about what it would be like to defect from one political party to another. However, I knew joining a party that truly represented the Liberal values that I have always been so passionate about would be the right step.

I can honestly say that, even within the space of 12 hours, I can already tell that this has been a great decision. Since posting my tweet announcing that I had officially become a Member of the Liberal Democrats the response has been overwhelming. I have received so many tweets and DMs welcoming me into the party, I’ve had local Members contacting me and adding me into Facebook groups so that I am able to stay up to date with events. It has honestly been a task keeping up with and responding to all the notifications I am receiving, it is beyond any welcome I could have imagined receiving.

Since announcing that I had officially become a Member of the Liberal Democrats the response has been overwhelming

I know some will be reading this, having the same dilemma as me. You may, like me, be on the liberal wing of the Conservative Party, feeling pushed out by the Right and the general toxicity within the Party right now. You may be feeling uncertain about moving parties, wondering whether you will be welcomed or able to build the friendships again that you may have done in your old party. If you are feeling like this, and no longer feel the Conservative Party is for you, I would 100% urge you to take the plunge and leave. I feel such a huge relief having made this decision, and I am confident that you will too!

Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The new Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality aims to make the Liberal Democrats a truly multiracial party – to become a leading political force for race equality and integration.

The Alderdice review into race equality within the party made for uncomfortable reading. It concluded that the party was not integrated at any level – and that too many of our local parties were overwhelmingly white in multiracial communities.

That is why I am asking you to join the new Campaign for Race Equality today. Let’s change this party, so we can better change our country:

Join today

LDCRE intends to change the party’s lack of diversity.

We have already begun consulting members on political issues.

We have been working with the Parliamentary Party and the party headquarters to bring together a coordinated campaign that will pursue important national race issues, alongside identifying and encouraging campaigning on issues at a local level.

This campaign needs active support from across the party, in every community, and there is room for every party member to contribute.

Let’s work together to create change.

Head to the website, ldcre.org.uk, and if you are not already a member please join Lib Dem CRE today and get involved.

Join today

Party Conference Dates in 2019

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The dates and locations for Spring and Autumn conference 2019 have been announced.

Spring conference – York Barbican – 16-17th March 2019

Autumn Conference – Bournemouth International Centre – 14-17th September 2019

Conference is where our party makes decisions on our future direction.

You can participate in thought-provoking debates, meet like-minded people, make party policy, hear from experts on a range of topics at our fringe events and learn new skills at our training sessions.

But before that, we Autumn Conference 2018 is coming up in less than two months!

Register for your place at our Autumn 2018 conference here

Future Leaders at ALDC Kickstart

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Last year I attended ALDC (the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigns) Kickstart weekend as part of their Future Leaders scheme.

15 or so young people in the party are offered individual mentorship to help them get to where they want to be in the party – whether that is an MP, a Councillor, or something else.

And then they attend their choice of wider training sessions on campaigning alongside the other attenders of Kickstart. There are huge range of courses – such as on how to find volunteers, how to use data for your campaigning, and social media masterclass. The courses are also divided up into beginners, intermediate and advanced so you can go to the course that’s best pitched to you.

Our Future Leaders cohort was divided up into groups depending on how they wanted to be a future leader. I said I wanted to work for the party.

Having said this, I sat one-to-one with one of the trainers and discussed my current job, my previous experiences working for the Liberal Democrats, the different jobs the party offers, and what else I should be looking at doing to build up my CV.

Over the rest of the weekend – I was introduced to many brilliant people, especially brilliant women, and learned about their party roles.

I sat down with party staff in the bar one evening and talked through where I wanted to be – and got yet more advice.

Thanks to this advice and the networking I got to do at Kickstart, six months later I have a job in the membership team in Lib Dem HQ.

And this year I return to Kickstart as a trainer.

Not enough people know about the fantastic training the party runs. I’ve been very lucky to benefit from a run of great weekend training courses. Future Leaders, being at Kickstart, means that it is also attended by the best campaigners in the party and that there are so many people to speak to about advice for your future.

Now I work for the party – I know that we are always on the lookout for talent, and so often it’s a case of there being more opportunities for the people we have come across. Standing up, being present, being clear that you are ready to stand for office or you want a job or whatever it is – this is how to get what you want.

Future Leaders is a perfect opportunity to get noticed, to attend some of the best training in the party for free, and to build relationships with key campaigners.

Apply to be a Future Leader at the next weekend here: https://www.aldc.org/2018/06/could-you-be-a-future-leader-2/

Or apply to Kickstart here: https://www.aldc.org/events/

Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

It’s wise to choose for a private member’s bill a discrete topic to address a problem which has been identified and can be relatively easily solved – and which the Government might be prepared to see implemented. But sometimes the concern to take forward a cause overtakes wisdom – thus my Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill which finished making its way through the Lords on 3rd July and has been taken up in the Commons by Tim Farron.

Most cultures recognise the importance of family, for day to day support, practical and emotional, as well as at significant dates in the calendar. We do in the UK, but there is a shortfall. Recently a number of parliamentarians heard from two teenagers who know what it’s like to be separated from their family: pain, stress, worry about the safety of loved ones.

My Bill will reunite more refugee families.

Maya and Khalil represented the many young refugees whose stories are hard to hear without emotion. Like almost every other refugee I’ve met, people who have often survived the most extreme experiences, they talked about how keen they are to get an education and how they are determined to contribute to society: model citizens, who have contended with everything that being a refugee means, and separated from family too.

My Bill will help more refugee families to be reunited. Under the current rules, adult refugees are only allowed to bring their partners and children under 18 to join them in the UK. This can present the invidious choice of leaving some family members behind, or putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers and traffickers.

Siblings aren’t allowed. Take a young man who has lost the whole of his family in war, apart from a brother of 16. He could reach the UK and be recognised as requiring refugee protection, but wouldn’t be able to sponsor his brother to join him.

The Bill will also allow refugee children in the UK to sponsor their closest family to join them. The UK is almost alone within Europe in not allowing child refugees to be joined by family members. Despite accepting that it is not safe for these children to return home, the Government prevents them from being with their parents, forcing them to grow up in a new country without the support of their family.

I believe my Bill goes with the grain of current public opinion – as demonstrated by the outrage over the treatment of the Windrush generation. Government ministers warn of a “pull factor” and of children being sent to the UK so that their families can follow. But when you listen to refugees and hear about the dangers they face on the way… well, frankly I’ve never bought that argument.

When I was waiting to go into the chamber for the last stage of the Bill in the Lords, I commented to a doorkeeper that it’s quite an emotional moment when you say, “My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass”. “When will it get through the Commons?” he asked. “It won’t. The Government opposes it”, I explained. “Oh, what a shame.” “Yes, but it’s all part of a campaign. I’m not the only person calling for this.”

We’re still fighting for the Bill in the Commons – it is scheduled for its second reading on 26th October.

The points made in debates on the Bill, and in other debates, have added up to a loud, clear call on the Government to amend the UK’s rules to allow more refugee families to be reunited; to better reflect the reality for families separated by war and persecution; and to accept that families belong together.

Baroness Sally Hamwee is a Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Home Affairs in the House of Lords.