The fight against eating disorders

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and like so many other mental illnesses, people with an eating disorder do not get the help they need and deserve.

I’ve been fighting for months for better treatment for people with eating disorders by calling for earlier intervention, better training for doctors and new standardised waiting times.

Over one million people, including both men and women, in the UK suffer from an eating disorder. To them we say: You are not alone. We must do better at providing you with the treatment and support you need earlier”.

The tragedy of eating disorders is that they are preventable. This morning, I made a speech, as a part of #EDAW2019 to call for earlier intervention, improved training and to #DumpTheScales in diagnosis. @HopeVirgo@BEAT

See the full speech here:

— Wera Hobhouse MP (@Wera_Hobhouse) February 27, 2019

People who suffer from eating disorders are often ashamed to share their story, living in the shadows and having many years of their lives taken away from them because access to treatment is poor.

One of the brave people who did want to share her story with us, is Hope:

“The difficulty with eating disorders is that there is a huge lack of understanding around the complexities of them. This cuts across society as a whole and we don’t fully comprehend the impact that simple procedures or statements have on those struggling. Living with anorexia is like living with your best friend and worst enemy in your head all at the same time.”

Dr Elizabeth McNaught, now an NHS doctor but once an anorexia patient says:

I will be forever grateful for the dedication and expertise of the health professionals who treated me in my emergency admission to a General Hospital, subsequent six months in an in-patient unit and years in community care. Looking back on that time I realise how fortunate I was. After my first visit to a GP it was only a matter of days before I had an appointment with CAMHS. And after my hospital discharge it was only a matter of weeks before an inpatient place was available – and that was in a unit only minutes away from my home.”

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a penny in the pound on income tax to direct additional investment in mental health so people like Hope, Elizabeth and many others get the help they need and deserve. Will you join our campaign?

Knife ASBOs won’t protect our children

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Our country is in the grip of an epidemic of serious violence. Barely a day goes by without news of another fatal stabbing on our streets. Far too many of the victims are children.

Knife ASBOs will criminalise young people and put them in prison on pointless short-term sentences

The Liberal Democrats are clear about the solution. More community police officers, and a proper public health approach that brings together the police, youth services, schools and the NHS. Only a united effort like this can turn young people away from gangs and violence.

But the Tories’ response is to effectively reintroduce the ASBO. They want ‘Knife Crime Prevention Orders’ to impose on children as young as 12 – even if they haven’t committed a crime. Breach of an order could mean a prison sentence of up to 2 years.

Labour’s ASBOs didn’t work to tackle anti-social behaviour, and these new knife ASBOs won’t work either. They will criminalise young people and put them in prison on pointless short-term sentences. It’s yet more waste of valuable police time and resources.

Brian Paddick has led the opposition to these orders in the House of Lords. The Liberal Democrat peers voted against them on Tuesday night, and we’d have won if only Labour had joined us. But they didn’t. Just 17 of the 186 Labour peers turned up to vote.

The Liberal Democrats demand better for the victims of knife crime and their families. We will continue to oppose these counterproductive proposals when they come before the Commons. We demand a real solution to the shocking rise of serious violence.

A role for supporters

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

At Spring Conference at York we will be debating the role of supporters of the party.

This follows the extensive consultation we had in the Autumn. You will remember that we had two consultation sessions at Brighton (you can find the consultation document here), after which the Federal Board arranged for a series of further consultation sessions around the country, as well as member webinars and an online survey.

Many thanks to the thousands of you who asked questions and also responded to the survey. At these sessions we promised that members would have the final say on the details of a registered supporter scheme, and we will vote on them on Saturday afternoon at Conference.

You can find the Business Motion setting out the arrangements starting on Page 42, with constitutional amendments starting on Page 46, of the Conference Agenda.

Most of you told us that you liked the idea of registered supporters, and understood that the idea of attracting people who might not want to join the party straight away, but who were valuable campaigners, both online and in person, was something we should focus on.

The Federal Board has been applying these principles to our Exit from Brexit campaign, and in a few short months 250,000 people have supported the campaign, many donating to the party.

The proposals say that we should look at giving registered supporters some rights – not as many as members: members should always have an increased level of rights.

These include allowing registered supporters the right to vote for a potential leader of the party (but not to nominate a candidate for Leader: that remains with members only).

It also proposes allowing non-MPs to stand for Leader, broadening our base. These latter proposals require changes to the Constitution, so will be voted on separately requiring a 2/3 majority.

So where have these proposals come from?

We know that our sister parties The Liberal Party of Canada and En Marche in France changed the face of their politics by energising supporters who rapidly became members, activists and campaigners over a very short space of time resulting in brilliant campaigns.

Both parties won victories at their elections with their larger teams.

We Liberal Democrats had over 4 million voters at the last General Election and we are sustaining our membership of around 100,000. But there is a big gap between those numbers.

A registered supporter scheme can draw people in larger numbers than directly to our membership to help transform what we are doing locally and nationally.

Our business motion sets out the practical arrangements for supporters and members.

We remain the one mainstream party whose members have a much greater say in running the party, whether making policy, setting party strategy, selecting your candidates locally and running the party through extensive elections to party committees, and that will not change.

When I travel round the country I hear many of you ask how we can mobilise those who vote for us to help win local and parliamentary elections.

Our sister parties have found that a registered supporter scheme does just that.

Miranda Roberts, our Chair of the Federal People Development Committee has written a more detailed guide to how the scheme will work which you can find below. I hope that this answers any questions that you may have:

Read the guide

Not everyone agrees with the idea of supporters having a say in the leadership elections, and others have concerns about allowing non-MPs to stand for leader, but many do think it will help attract supporters.

Given how many of you have said you do like the idea of the registered supporter scheme I hope you will let your voice be heard in the debate too: I believe that encouraging these new campaigners to get involved will help to transform our party and give us the fighting power we need to transform national politics.

I look forward to hearing the debate in York!

The Leader – vol 4

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Brexit latest

I have always believed that in the game of bluff around Brexit, No Deal wouldn’t happen since rational behaviour would prevail. Either Parliament would vote through Theresa May’s proposal (which can’t be dignified with the word “deal”; negotiations haven’t started yet) or, following a new referendum, we would finish up still inside the EU.

I still believe these are the two likely outcomes.

The sense that Brexit is an unholy mess cooked up to solve party political problems is widespread

But I have been struck by how much No Deal talk has now entered the national vocabulary. There is a whiff of fear, especially in business. I have spoken to all the main business groups including those representing the main sectors of the economy. Key take-aways from the conversations were that many firms are desperately worried. Even if they don’t believe No Deal will happen, some of their customer and suppliers do. A large amount of potential investment is quietly leaking out of the country; heavy costs are being incurred and contracts lost; and very few businesses are remotely prepared.

When I worked in a large multinational company, my colleagues there had a rather low view of politicians. But the Brexit saga has turned suspicion into outright contempt. The sense that Brexit is an unholy mess cooked up to solve party political problems is widespread. The events of the last few days must have hardened that feeling.

First there are the machinations in the Labour Party.

Corbyn has grudgingly been persuaded to sign up to a People’s Vote to prevent further defections

Jeremy Corbyn has been strongly opposed to a People’s Vote and committed to ‘Deliver Brexit’. He has now grudgingly been persuaded to prevent further defections, to sign up (sort of) to a People’s Vote with an option to remain. I have yet to find anyone who believes a word of it. We all assume that the Labour Party will whip, when the time comes, for a People’s Vote, while quietly knowing that a substantial number of their MPs will vote with the government. None of the rebels will be subject to any of Corbyn’s ‘purges’.

And this week we have had Theresa May agreeing, in effect, to a three month postponement of Brexit but with no indication of a plan to break the deadlock.

It is for this reason that the most likely route to a People’s Vote remains the one which currently seems most improbable: that the government eventually recognises that there are better odds on winning a referendum than getting the deal through parliament. The government does not want to concede, but it may yet have to.

The businesses I have been talking to say that this three month delay is, if anything, more worse than useless: prolonging the uncertainty over ‘no deal’. I noticed that my successor Greg Clark and his ministerial team were amongst those threatening to resign unless Theresa May backed down from a ‘No Deal’. They seem to have been persuaded she has. Maybe I am missing something here.

In other news

The other, related, political shock was the foundation of the breakaway group of independents, or TIG.

They have undoubtedly made a splash and captured some media attention. There is a public mood of wanting ‘something new’ and an alternative to the discredited binary system we have at present. The MPs showed courage by breaking away and my instincts are that we in the Liberal Democrats should work with them if we can.

We have a lot to bring to the table: organisation; infrastructure; a strong, and growing, local government base.

Early contacts with TIG suggest positive vibes

It is too early to talk about formal association but the first-past-the-post system imposes its own brutal logic. Hanging together or hanging separately. Early contacts suggest positive vibes.

This week’s news from the Indian subcontinent managed to penetrate the Brexit haze which surrounds our domestic agenda. It brought me up short as I have close links with India; my Indian in-laws are in the firing line if war heats up. The events are eerily familiar to those I described futuristically in my novel Open Arms is now unfolding in real time. The novel explores ways in which that conflict plays out in multi-cultural Britain.

And finally

It is difficult to find time to read amidst the political drama. I am still enjoying the excellent work of one of my favourite authors Simon Sebag Monte Fiore: biographer (Stalin; Catherine The Great); novelist (One Night in Winter) ; Historian (Jerusalem; The Romanovs). Written in History is a compilation of around 200 letters “which changed the world” from the Pharaohs to the present day. There are some remarkable love letters from Henry VIII, Bonaparte, Stalin, Nelson and James I (to his male lover the Duke of Buckingham); letters about war; moving letters of goodbye (Walter Raleigh’s before his execution is a classic).

And I am immensely privileged this week to be able to present “My music” at the Wigmore Hall with the orchestra of St Johns. Mostly Bach and Mozart. Having had a turn on Desert Island Discs ten years ago, and another on a similar programme on Radio 3, this programme represents a trilogy of talk and music programmes, featuring my favourite classical music. This will be a rare treat away from the political fray.

Have your say on Lib Dem policy

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

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Supporter scheme

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Following extensive consultation within the party, the Federal Board asked the Federal People Development Committee to develop a formal scheme for registered supporters.

This is in keeping with the Party’s agreed strategy to create a political and social movement and forms part of proposals to open up our structures which are being debated at Spring Conference in York.

More than 10,000 people have so far expressed interest in joining a supporter scheme. There are thousands more who already support our campaigns in different ways.

With this new scheme, we have the potential to significantly increase the number and diversity of people involved in our party, and to overtake the Conservatives as the second largest political force in the country.

Purpose of a registered supporters scheme

  • To engage more people in our Liberal Democrat activities
  • To make our campaigns (both in seats and on issues) more successful
  • To raise more money from a wider group of people
  • To create a stepping-stone towards membership of the Party


Registered supporters will have regular contact with the Federal Party about news and campaigns and invitations from local parties to events and campaigning activities. Local parties will have access to their details to contact them, just as with members.

Supporters will be able to attend conferences in a non-voting capacity and will be consulted on campaign issues and policy ideas (separate from member consultations).

If approved at the Spring conference in York, they will also be eligible to vote for the leader of the party, subject to further requirements and protections.

Members will continue to be the only ones to decide party policy and governance, vote at conference, serve on party committees and as party officers, select party candidates and stand for election to Parliament, devolved bodies and local councils.


In line with our membership rules, becoming a registered supporter is open to anyone regardless of age, provided they declare that they are in sympathy with our philosophy.

There is no charge to join and a streamlined procedure will remove anyone found acting in ways incompatible with our beliefs.

Many of our best seats have longstanding volunteers who are members of other parties, voting tactically for us.

For this reason, the supporter scheme will be open to members of other parties, to help them take the first step towards realising they should be Liberal Democrats.

In any vote for party leader, a separate party selection register will be created for supporters. This will include additional protections, such as extra identity tests to prevent entryism and to remove members of other parties from voting.

Further information

The Federal People Development Committee – the body responsible for our membership, diversity and training – has developed these rules after careful consideration. A detailed explanation of our thinking is available below and is recommended reading for those who would like to know more.

You can read the full briefing here:

You can also download the briefing here.

British Politics is Changing

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

We have been calling for a realignment of politics for decades. I have welcomed the courageous move by 11 Members of Parliament to sit as independents. We now must seize the moment and maximise this opportunity to reshape British politics.

Those MPs who have defected to the newly formed “Independent Group” come from different political traditions to our own. We should respect them for being honest about the fact that their former parties no longer articulate their values. Thankfully, our party, is different and still articulates the values that we have always held. In the politics of Brexit, we agree on a lot and have a shared desire to see a People’s Vote. We shall cooperate in achieving that.

However, I want us to be open to the possibility of a shared agenda beyond the immediate Brexit debate. We will not agree on everything and where we do not agree we should not be afraid to say so. We can, however, concentrate on what unites us and how we can work together issue by issue to bring about change. I hope to work closely with The Independent Group in Parliament.

Politics, of course, is not just what happens in Westminster. As leader of this party I value enormously the work done by our parliamentarians in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Brussels and our thousands of hard working and effective councillors. We all, I believe want to seize the opportunities this moment presents to build a broad movement for change in the country and seek to maximise political representation to advance the values we share.

Together, we will need to decide how we engage with any new political force. Under our present electoral system that will mean in some cases people in different parts of the country having to take difficult decisions to avoid damaging electoral contests. However, that is clearly a matter for local parties in consultation with HQ to decide working within our established structures, while keeping our eye on the bigger electoral prize.

The overriding lesson of the week is that British politics is changing. That is good news for the country, good news for liberal, open values and good news for our party.

People seeking asylum should have the right to work

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Today I’m supporting a Private Members’ bill to give people seeking asylum the right to work.

For me this is about the pride of we can all get from work – it’s not just what we do, often it can define who we are.

As it stands, people seeking asylum who make it to Britain are only allowed to work after twelve months after submitting their claim for asylum and only if they can fill a job on the government’s very narrow shortage occupation list (like ballet dancer, or nuclear waste decomissioner).

Forced to live off a government stipend of £5.39 per day, people seeking asylum are frequently forced into poverty, homelessness, and destitution.

It’s nigh on impossible for them to settle in their communities. They are denied any disposable income that they can use for travel, to go to events, or to study. They are unable to properly integrate with their local area and can’t get to know their neighbours.

Most have gone from victims in one country to virtual prisoners in another.

This is not how it should be. Everyone deserves the right to work, to put food on the table.

We must demand better than the current indignity our asylum system inflicts on vulnerable people. That’s why I am campaigning an end the injustice caused by asylum seekers not being able to work.

The change we’re requesting is so small as far as government policy is concerned – we’re asking for the UK to catch up with the rest of the western world – but the difference it would make to asylum seekers would be transformative.

We’re denying ourselves the skills of some incredibly ambitious and talented people – doctors, engineers, mechanics, teachers, business managers, hairdressers, and gardeners.

Everyone has something to give to others and if offered the platform would step up and add new energy to their communities.

We’re fighting for young people

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The numbers don’t lie. 2019 presents the biggest set of local elections for the Lib Dems in several years. Many of those candidates will be under the age of 26. That’s where we come in.

I’m Charlie, campaigns officer for the Young Liberals – the party’s youth and student wing. We want to see more young people getting elected – and that’s why today we launched Young and Winning 2019.

Young and Winning is a variety of support programmes for young candidates. These include:

  • financial donations
  • action days with young activists
  • coaching sessions with candidates who have experience winning at a young age.

Last year’s programme was a great success – nearly every candidate saw an increase in vote share. Many won their seats, while others came within just 10 votes.

Are you under the age of 26 and standing in the local elections this year? Apply now by filling out the form linked below – it won’t take long:

We can only do what we can thanks to the continued generosity of party members, young or otherwise. Help us support as many young candidates as possible – donate to our fighting fund now:

It’s no secret that on so many issues, local and national governments are letting my generation down – butthe Young Liberals demand better. The best way to heal the generational divide is to elect more young people at every level. Support our efforts – help us elect talented young candidates this May.