Upskirting to be made a sexual offense

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Over a year ago, I started work on making ‘upskirting’, the practice of photographs up a person’s skirt without their consent, a specific criminal offence.

I’m absolutely delighted that this bill has just been passed by MPs in the House of Commons.

This bill will protect everyone who chooses to wear a skirt in a public place and give them an option of recourse.

For those who do not know, this bill started as my Private Members’ Bill, but despite widespread support, it was single-handedly blocked by Tory MP Christopher Chope in June this year.

This led to a national outcry against this injustice and the government decided to adopt my bill and make ‘upskirting’ – taking photographs up the skirt of a person without their consent – a specific crime.

Now the bill will go to the House of Lords to be debated and then hopefully will pass, receive Royal Assent and become the law.

upskirting_bill.PNG

Thank you to everyone that been part of raising awareness of this issue and lobbying their MP. Achievements like this are why I am proud to be an MP.

Frequently Asked Questions: Party Reforms

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

Vince Cable’s speech: Building a Liberal Democrat Movement

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

We returned this week from Parliament’s long summer recess.

I used the break to give some thought as to the role my party should be playing in the British political system.

The country is bitterly divided over Brexit and the politics of the main parties leaves millions of voters, broadly those in the ‘centre ground’, feeling ignored while they get on with their internal civil wars.

Little attention is being paid to some of the big long-term challenges

And little attention is being paid to some of the big long-term challenges around climate change, an ageing population, new technologies and stagnant productivity.

To be sure, the sense of political malaise is not unique to the UK. Ever since the global financial crisis, frustration over the failure of market economies to deliver rising living standards, and a sense of unfair rewards, has fed the politics of extremism. Parties in the liberal and social democratic traditions have struggled.

Liberal democracy itself is under threat notably in the USA, in Eastern Europe and perhaps here. Authoritarians and extremists of both right and left are on the march and are coordinating their tactics and propaganda: an Illiberal International.

The problem is obviously not the same everywhere and in some countries – France, Canada, Ireland – there are encouraging counter-currents and we need to learn from them.

But in Britain there is the additional problem of a first-past-the-post voting system which entrenches the position of the two established major parties.

This system has worked after a fashion when politicians aimed for common ground. But when, as now, the main parties are driven by their party fringes, politics becomes dangerously polarised.

And when democracy also seems unable to deliver, the frustration opens up a space for various forms of ugly populism. The summer of 2018 offered us verbal attacks on Muslims and Jews as the staple of political debate. And, of course, wall to wall Brexit.

It is a worrying picture. So, as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, I have naturally asked myself how I, and my party, can help protect, and develop liberal democracy in Britain, at a time when it is in grave danger. Perhaps the gravest since the 1930s.

I see two big steps we need to take:

First, I want to bring values back into our politics providing a rallying point for those who are committed to defend liberal democracy; challenge extremes of inequality and barriers to opportunity; uphold our civil liberties; maintain an open, outward looking country and protect our environment.

My colleagues and I have sought over the last year to demonstrate how we can put those values into action in respect of the economy and tax policy, the housing crisis, schooling, the new data technologies, the governance of companies, and much else.

And it reassuring to know that these instincts are shared not by a few in this country but by many. In fact, recent research indicates that about 40% of voters share the essential values of the Liberal Democrats.

Secondly and crucially to making those things happen, I want to work with our party – its governing board, and the membership – to transform the way we work with people so that we engage more actively with the millions of voters who currently share our values but feel disenfranchised.

We start from a low base after the disappointing 2015 and 2017 elections. These in turn stem from the political damage done in the years of Coalition – which was good for the country but bad for the party – and from the relentless squeeze on third parties in the current ‘first past the post’ system.

But undaunted we have battled on.

In the year since I took over the leadership we have made impressive strides to restore our position in local government – with the best results for fifteen years – and better ones are anticipated next year.

Despite the limited opportunities offered in Parliament and in the conventional media, we are registering improvements in our overall rating and I am confident that, if we continue on the present trajectory, we will make definite progress in numbers of seats.

I want us to do better than ‘steady as she goes’ slow growth.

But I came into the leadership just over a year ago with great ambitions for the party. I want us to do better than ‘steady as she goes’ slow growth. And given the unhappy state of the country’s politics it would be unforgivable simply to sit tight and hope for gradual improvement.

That requires us to remake ourselves in the public mind.

We must realise the party’s ambition to build our core support, by opening our arms to that huge swathe of the electorate which shares our values. We must invite people in.

I see our Party as the vehicle for giving voters real influence every day as part of a new movement.

Let me say a little about what I mean.

We must make it easier to get on board

One example we should look positively at is that of the Canadian Liberals who rose from being a distant third party to becoming the party of government, in one leap.

Even within the outdated first past the post system, their party engineered a massive increase in their public recognition and participation by turning themselves into a broadly based ‘movement’ which then became the basis for general election campaigning.

Of course, Canada is not Britain and although their political system is closer to ours than – say – France, we cannot simply adopt a ‘copy and paste’ approach.

What I’m setting out today is a starting point for that endeavour, and it is one on which every Liberal Democrat member will have their say.

I see essentially three steps to reforming the party:

The first is to widen membership with a new class of ‘supporters’ who pay nothing to sign up to the party’s values. They should enjoy a range of entitlements, including the right to vote in leadership and to shape the party’s campaigning online.

The Lib Dems already have an army of voluntary helpers and deliverers, as well as 200,000 online supporters over and above our 100,000 members, who loosely identify with us and campaign with us but currently have no say.

The Party is already consulting with its members on opening up a supporter scheme, starting at conference next weekend. There are necessarily tricky issues balancing the entitlements of members and supporters.

Like many Leaders before me, I may be asking the party’s structures to go further and faster than their natural pace – and there will be a dialogue about how best to make such a scheme work.

Whatever rights our new supporters gain, we as a party aim to be in constant conversation with them, engaging them in campaigns and urging them to begin campaigns of their own.

Now groups like More United, 38 Degrees, Avaaz and Change.org, have shown us how these regular conversations can happen, how we can engage hundreds of thousands of people online.

What I want is for our party to do that, and to offer our movement a political arm within Parliament. So, it is not just a protest group on the outside banging at the door, but a mass movement with a voice on the inside – our parliamentary party.

Liberals pioneered this model at a local level as community politics in the latter half of the twentieth century; now I want us to use the power of technology to pioneer it online in our national political system too.

I appreciate that we are not the first party to have sought to adapt in this way. The Five Star Movement, now in government in Italy, started like this. The Labour Party’s Momentum movement has been highly successful in mobilising and engaging young people.

We are a centre-ground, pro-European, liberal and social democratic party, welcoming like-minded supporters.

But the way in which the revolutionary left hijacked the Labour Party, and used Momentum for its own purposes, is a salutary warning. And the Tories are being taken over by extremists even with a narrow, exclusive, membership base.

We have to be careful but we cannot be afraid of opening windows lest a few flies get in. In any case, the Liberal Democrats are different.

We are not a socialist party concerned with extreme-left entryism, or a right-wing party trying to keep extreme right-wingers out.

We are a centre-ground, pro-European, liberal and social democratic party, welcoming like-minded supporters.

This will be a Movement for Moderates!

Second, and in the same spirit, the party should in my view be more open to new members or converts from other parties playing an active role as candidates. At present we have a delay of up to 12 months before a new member can apply to become a parliamentary candidate. This leaves people frustrated – at the moment of their greatest political enthusiasm, we erect an arbitrary barrier to their progress. If they are good enough, and can get approved, they should be able to stand for Parliament on a Liberal Democrat ticket and to do so without delay.

In addition, there are over 9,000 council seats to contest next year, so I want to make it easy for those who share our values to stand as candidates at that level too.

A third step is open up the party leadership to a wider field than MPs by allowing party members to put themselves forward. There would, of course, be an approval and shortlisting process, run by the party, to make sure that anyone putting themselves forward shared the essential values of the party and had the political capability for the job.

I am lucky to have excellent parliamentary colleagues, any one of whom could lead the party in future – and I believe none of them has anything to fear from a big, open field in which to compete.

The truth is that there are many talented people with proven leadership ability – in the professions, the armed forces, the voluntary sector and business – and who share our values but who have not pursued a parliamentary career.

I have served in Parliament for two decades, been a candidate ten times, a winner five times and am proud to represent my constituents.

But I can understand why many others are deterred from trying to follow suit. And the present parliament, where large numbers – perhaps a majority of MPs – are voting on Brexit against their own judgement and their assessment of the national interest is not exactly a good advertisement. The fact is that our current parliamentary system is severely damaged, if not broken, and a forward-looking party has to look outside as well as inside.

My intention therefore is to ensure that the next Leader is chosen from the widest possible pool of talent and to put him or her at the helm of a far bigger, more open, movement than any previous leader has been.

I recognise the potential difficulties of resourcing a leader from outside the Commons, and of having someone who is not based on the doorstep of the Westminster media. But we should not let operational matters and long-held constitutional traditions constrain our thinking and our choices.

Instead, I want to work with the party through the coming consultation to ensure we have solutions to the problems people raise.

We have to engage in party realignment

We also have to recognise that – despite our best efforts – the Liberal Democrats may not be the only centre-force in British politics in the coming years. It’s the worst kept secret in Westminster that political disquiet in the two big parties is provoking some people to consider the formation of a new party of the centre ground, or several.

This requires us to demand better than the usual tribalism…of ourselves and of our partners.

The biggest challenge will arise if a significant number of Labour or Conservative MPs leave or are forced out of their parties.

It is patently clear from the open contempt shown for many Labour MPs by Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left supporters that a schism is likely. Some Conservatives are in a similar position. Meanwhile, there is a smattering of business people around talking in hushed tones about a new party.

I have met with some of these people to argue the case that it’s easier in our electoral system to work with existing party structures, and with people who have a set of shared values, than to try to compete. We hang together or we hang separately.

There is a danger in becoming like the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian where the Judean People’s Front refuses to work with the People’s Front of Judea for the most petty of reasons.

But this is not a Monty Python sketch, it is the future of our country.

History will not forgive anyone whose pride causes them to turn away the hand of friendship when we should be building a credible popular movement of the centre.

we in the Liberal Democrats are open to working together with those who share our values.

That means we in the Liberal Democrats are open to working together with those who share our values.

But by opening up our party, I hope to convince those who agitate for a new force that there is already a strong movement for open, centrist, and internationalist politics: it is the Liberal Democrats.

My invitation is for them to join us in a party where we are ready to work with people of similar values, even where we don’t agree on everything. Join us in a force which already has a foothold in the first past the post system, a nationwide organisation, and an army of hundreds of thousands of foot soldiers mobilised against Brexit.

By drawing in a broad range of supporters, encouraging new voices to stand for political office, and re-imagining the leadership of our party, the Liberal Democrats can become a voice for millions of British voters working together in a positive political movement.

To conclude, I am determined to lead the Liberal Democrats through this, turning us into a genuinely remade, new force.

From the fourth party in the House of Commons, to the first party in the minds of the country

From the fourth party in the House of Commons, to the first party in the minds of the country – and a contender once again for government.

But in calling for such change in political thinking and practice I am aware that the question will be asked as to whether this is my ‘last hurrah’.

I do not wish to emulate Gladstone who kept going into his mid-80s nor any wish to outlast Robert Mugabe.

Yet I still have four clear objectives, which I intend to see through:

I want to ensure we remain the leading voice against Brexit, demanding a People’s Vote

I want to ready the party for any general election emerging out of the Brexit chaos and lead us through it

I want to lead it to further local election success in May, rebuilding the local government base on which both community politics and parliamentary advances are founded

And – crucially to the others – I want to begin the process of transforming the Liberal Democrats from an old-style political party into a new, open movement.

That means reports of my imminent departure are wide of the mark and now is certainly not the time for an internal election. There is serious work for our party to do.

To that end, once Brexit is resolved or stopped – which may well take a long time – and if the new rules are agreed, that will be the time to conduct a leadership contest under the new rules.

You could be the leaders of tomorrow.

I invite all those who believe in a big centre-ground, liberal movement in British politics to join us.

You could be the leaders of tomorrow.

Whoever is chosen in the future will lead not a small party, but a big movement.

And the Liberal Democrats will offer a force for good. A Movement for Moderates, battling against Brexit, and standing up for fairness and opportunity against power and privilege in our country.

So I invite all the millions of liberal, centre-ground voters out there who share those values, and who want to change our politics, to sign up on our website today. So that we can fight for liberal values together.

We will defend liberal values together, with all the zeal and intensity of those who would have taken Britain down a different path.

This is a battle we must wage for the good of the country, and it is am determined we will win.

Letting fees to be left behind!

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Letting fees are an unfair cost pushed onto tenants by greedy landlords.

Today a bill to abolish letting fees achieved third reading in the House of Commons and I spoke in favour of the bill

The leading cause of homelessness is the ending of a private rented sector tenancy. Whilst rental costs continue to spiral, people are becoming trapped: they cannot afford their rent and they cannot afford to move somewhere more affordable as a result of the myriad of administrative fees.

Tenant fees are often unreasonable, they lack transparency and make the upfront costs of moving extortionate. Why should we punish people for moving home?

The average cost of lettings fees are £200 but sometimes are upwards of £700, and set at the discretion of the landlord, meaning that there is no way for renters to prevent their landlord demanding the highest payment without recourse.

The private rented sector is incredibly transient, especially for young people who are often forced to move house every year as their rent increases, and then are hit by this additional fee.

And yet, the legislation the government has introduced is open to abuse – as landlords and lettings agency can simply introduce new fees under a different name. The government introduced their own amendments in response to this concern, but these amendments are vague and leave it to the landlord or letting agents’ discretion as to what constitutes a “reasonable cost”. This falls short of closing this loophole and does not protect renters.

However, fighting for renters’ rights and against the angry opposition of letting agents, we have fought to get the bill where it is today.

Once the bill becomes law, renters will be protected from unfair letting fees that make moving home more of a challenge. No longer will the stress on high costs loom over them.

What’s more, they can rest assure that the Liberal Democrats are working hard to help solve the housing crisis.

The bill will now enter the House of Lords where the drive to ban letting fees first began with Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Grender.

Ed Davey: The immigration system is broken. Here’s how we’ll fix it

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

In an interview with The Guardian, I set out our ambitious plan to fix the UK’s broken immigration system, end the Conservatives’ hostile environment and celebrate the positive impact immigration has had on the United Kingdom.

Our policy paper, A Fair Deal for Everyone: Prosperity and Dignity in Migration, will be debated this month in Brighton. It calls for a new right to work for refugees and asylum seekers, major reform of the Home Office – giving control of work permit policy to the Business Department and student visa policy to the Education Department, policies to make family reunification easier and scrapping the net migration target.

Here’s a brief extract from the Guardian article:

“Ahead of its conference in Brighton this September, Davey said the party would propose a plan ‘a million miles away from a hostile environment, a million miles away from targets’. …taking away immigration policy from the Home Office’s remit, dividing the brief between departments.

“At the moment, the home secretary is under pressure the whole time from the tabloid media and certain parts of politics to stop immigration at all costs,” Davey said.

“It permeates the whole administration of visas, of asylum applications. It creates perverse incentives, bad morale and a massive deskilling of people doing the work. The politics has changed the organisation dramatically.”

You can read the Guardian’s full article here.

Which Lib Dems have made the biggest difference to you?

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Over the weekend, member Ruby Chow started a thread on Twitter asking Lib Dems who the top ten most important people in the party were to them.

What followed was a thread full of love for Lib Dems across the country who have encouraged, supported or inspired others.

Some members named MPs and Lords that inspired them the most:

— Anthony Faircloud #FBPE (@AJ_Fairclough) September 2, 2018

Even showing appreciation for previous leaders:

— Cllr Sarah Cheung Johnson #FBPE (@scjlibdem) September 3, 2018

— Rachel Lewis (@Rachel_J_Lewis) September 2, 2018

Members found it difficult to keep their list under 10 people:

— Dr Marjorie Bark (@marjorie_bark) September 3, 2018

— Alex Hegenbarth (@mAlexHegenbarth) September 2, 2018

Many enjoyed meeting members through campaigning on the streets spreading Lib Dem love wherever they went.

— Edward (@EdwardKrishan) September 2, 2018

— Ruby Chow (@doublereds) September 1, 2018

Praise didn’t stop there and members discussed those who have guided them through their Lib Dems paths and passages.

— Marie Goldman (@mariecgoldman) September 3, 2018

It was so lovely to see our members received bucketloads of praise for their noble and often unsung actions. If you have a list of your own, add it here:

— Ruby Chow (@doublereds) September 1, 2018

Taxing Land, Not Investment

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The report – “Taxing Land, Not Investment” – calls for the abolition of business rates and its replacement with a tax on land values, the Commercial Landowner Levy (CLL). The levy would remove buildings and machinery from calculations and tax only the land value of commercial sites, boosting investment and cutting taxes for businesses in nine out of ten English local authorities.

This ground-breaking research was led by founder of the Lib Dem Business and Entrepreneurs Network (LDBEN) Andrew Dixon, in response to mounting concerns about the negative impact of business rates on struggling high streets and the wider economy.

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Business rates should be abolished and replaced by a Commercial Landowner Levy based on the value of the land only
  • The levy should be paid by owners rather than tenants
  • Non-residential stamp duty should be scrapped to improve the efficiency of the commercial property market
  • Commercial land should be taxed regardless of whether the buildings above it are occupied; the tax should also apply to unused and derelict commercial land

The report also finds:

  • The CLL would mean lower taxes for businesses in 92% of English local authorities. In places like Oldham, Blackburn, West Bromwich, Barrow, Middlesbrough and 92 other local authorities, average taxes would be cut by over 25%, and in some cases by as much as 46%
  • The manufacturing and technology sectors would be the most significant beneficiaries of the CLL, receiving tax cuts of over 20%. Retailers in struggling areas would also receive a boost.
  • The CLL would represent a tax cut initially, but is likely to be at least revenue-neutral in the long-term. Redistribution between local authorities would be adjusted to ensure no change in local funding.
  • By taxing landowners rather than businesses, half a million SMEs would be spared the bureaucratic burden of property taxation. With less plots of land than individual businesses, the CLL would save councils both time and money

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

The full report can be found here.

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.

“Many of the areas around the country that voted for Brexit feel they have been left behind. In place of policies the Brexiters offer only rhetoric. Great swathes of the country demand better, and this policy offers change to the manufacturing industry and the small towns passed over by economic growth.”

Chris Richards, Head of Business Environment Policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation said:

“This report is a strong addition to the debate on the future of business rates and property taxation, which despite many reviews is not an issue that has gone away.

“Manufacturing as a sector with high capital intensity is perversely affected by business rates, as investments in productivity boosting plant and machinery are included in tax calculations – for some manufacturers making significant investments this is enough to put them off making that investment in the UK.

“Innovative solutions will be needed to remove this challenge while ensuring stability from a future tax regime, and today’s report is an important contribution to finding a solution.”

Philip Salter, Founder and Director of The Entrepreneur’s Network, said:

“Business rates are a tax on investment, adding to Britain’s productivity woes. Introducing a Commercial Landowner Levy would remove a key disincentive to investment and reduce administration costs for thousands of business owners. This is exactly the sort of policy entrepreneurs need to thrive.”

Founder of the Liberal Democrat Business and Entrepreneurs Network Andrew Dixon said:

“By only taxing land and not the productive capital above it, this reform would remove a major disincentive to investment, boosting productivity and contributing to a necessary revival in UK industry. While separate action is needed to ensure online retailers pay their fair share of corporation tax, our proposals would offer a lifeline to struggling high streets.


“I am delighted to support this initiative which I believe would boost business and enterprise across the UK, and I am grateful to members of the Liberal Democrats Business & Entrepreneurs Network for their valuable contributions to this important research”

The Government must stop murky games and release no-deal analysis

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The Government have refused to guarantee that MPs will see the full impact analysis of a no-deal Brexit before the final vote on departure from the EU.

The Government are clearly losing the plot.

Refusing to show MPs the full damage a no-deal Brexit would inflict on our country makes a mockery of the discredited mantra ‘Taking Back Control’.

The Government must stop these murky games and pledge to release this analysis.

There’s no denying a no-deal would be a disaster, but the Chequers proposal would be equally bad. No one should kid themselves that there is a good deal.

The Government are clearly losing the plot.

In the same breath they talk up trade with Africa and claim that a no-Deal Brexit with our largest trading partner, the EU, would not be a catastrophe.

This week, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation warned that it is “not realistic” to believe the UK can start trading under WTO rules the day after Brexit in March.

Without WTO rules, just imagine the true scale of the crisis facing the country

The damage for businesses and families unveiled in the Conservative Government’s no-deal Brexit papers are clear to see.

But the Government’s assertions were based on falling back on WTO rules and now even the WTO have warned there is no certainty the UK can follow these immediately.

Without WTO rules, just imagine the true scale of the crisis facing the country now because of Theresa May’s incompetent Government.

No matter what the deal, Brexit will be a disaster.

The people must have the chance to reject this Brexit mess with a final say on the deal, including the option to remain in the EU.

Queens Head roadworks & closure in October

David Walker in West Felton

In some welcome news, there are going to be some more substantial roadworks at the Queens Head / Rednal Mile junction in October. Welcome because this junction has been shocking for ages and was particularly dangerous earlier in the year. I have been pressing for a more permanent fix than the usual patching and surface dressing for months.


Full details of the closure can be seen here: https://roadworks.org/?tm=107994753

The roadworks will involve some disruption as the road will be closed for a day. The remainder will be done under traffic lights.

Road closure with diversion

18th – 19th of October 2018

Traffic lights

20th – 23rd of October 2018

This troublesome junction has been a problem for ages, with many fudged repairs and a growing pothole as a result. The pothole covers most of the junction still, as much of the original road surface layers are still missing. The most recent repair of the deepest part of the pothole was the best by far. However, the junction needs plaining – where the top layers are removed and relaid.

plaining of the A5 during the construction of Nescliffe services
Plaining off the A5 during the construction of Nescliffe services when I was setting out the slip roads.

Hopefully, these repairs will put this problem junction to bed for some considerable time to come. However, with the poor record of the previous contractor and with the ongoing £5m/year cuts to roads I will be holding my breath for now.

Queens Head roadworks

Road Closure: Main Street, Queens Head (from the public house to south east of the junction for Queens Head junction to Heath House junction) and 100m approx on Queens Head junction to Heath House junction (from the junction of Main Street).

Start Date: 15th October 2018

End Date: 23rd October 2018

Purpose: Carriageway resurfacing under a road closure from 18/10/18-19/10/18 and 3 way traffic lights from 20/10/18-23/10/18

If anybody has any queries about this closure they can call Customer Services on 0345 6789006, or contact the Street Works Team on streetworks@shropshire.gov.uk.

See also my previous post and video:

Growing traffic & pothole problems vs £5m cuts in roads T

The word is that the £5m cuts will now for 3 consecutive years and not the 2 that I previously reported.

All set to knock on your first door?

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