UK Government must act swiftly on Hong Kong

This new law crushes what was left of the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.

It destroys Hong Kong as we know it.

The UK government must now act swiftly to uphold the promises we made during the Handover.

The people of Hong Kong must immediately be given the right to live in the UK, with a pathway to citizenship. It is not good enough for this offer to only apply to BNO status holders and their dependents, as the Government have so far suggested. This leaves behind many young Hong Kongers who have been at the centre of the calls for democracy.

This new law destroys Hong Kong as we know it.

The UK government must now pass our Bill to give BNO status holders the right to live in Britain permanently & open the scheme to those born after 1997. https://t.co/uT2z0sCq5n#StandWithHongKong ⬇️https://t.co/WxMbVbhHB8

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) June 30, 2020

The Government need to go further. All Hong Kongers must have their rights and freedoms protected, regardless of BNO status.

Liberal Democrats are urging the UK government to ensure that no one is left behind.

It is time to step up and stand with Hong Kong.

Immigration Bill: Our fight to prevent another Windrush Scandal

Today, Priti Patel is pushing her damaging Immigration Bill through the House of Commons.

We need a fair immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect.

By ending EU free movement, the Conservatives would both make it harder for doctors and nurses to come to work in the NHS and charge them thousands of pounds in fees for the privilege.

They would make it virtually impossible to recruit social care workers from overseas. And they would hurt employers across the UK, just as they are working to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Meanwhile, they are doing nothing to dismantle the Hostile Environment, which has caused people who have every right to live in the UK to be wrongly denied healthcare, made homeless, detained and even deported as the appalling Windrush Scandal showed.

We need a fair immigration system that everyone can have confidence in and that treats everyone with dignity and respect.

So Liberal Democrats are opposing the Tories’ destructive plans and arguing instead for fair, effective and compassionate fixes to the system.

We have tabled a package of amendments to the Immigration Bill that would:

We are opposing the Conservatives’ destructive immigration plans and arguing instead for fair, effective and compassionate fixes to the system.

  • Require the Government to implement the recommendations of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review in full before ending free movement, including a full review of all Hostile Environment policies.
  • Repeal the Right to Rent scheme, part of the Hostile Environment under which landlords face up to five years in prison for renting to someone without the necessary immigration status, and which has been proven in court to cause racial discrimination.
  • Give EU citizens living in the UK before Brexit the automatic right to remain and require the Government to provide them with physical proof of their rights.
  • Repeal the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act, which enables the Home Office to collect and process personal information from other public bodies such as schools, the NHS and the police – for the purposes of immigration enforcement without individuals knowing about it.
  • Lift the ban on asylum seekers working if they have been waiting for the Home Office to decide their claim for more than three months.

We are also supporting cross-party amendments that would:

We owe it to the victims of the Windrush Scandal to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.

  • End indefinite detention, which is inhumane, expensive and unnecessary.
  • Protect the rights of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family members in the UK.
  • Reduce the fee for registering a child as a British citizen from £1,012 to the actual cost of processing the application.
  • Give visa extensions to all the foreign nationals working in health and social care during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Exempt people coming to work in the NHS and social care from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge.

We owe it to the victims of the Windrush Scandal to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.

That’s why, as Priti Patel pushes ahead with her disastrous plans to end free movement, Liberal Democrats are fighting to end the Hostile Environment and fix the broken immigration system.

Armed Forces Day

Every year, I spend this day thinking about my dad who fought in Burma during the Second World War.

Each and every one of us has a connection to the Armed Forces – even if you don’t have a family member who served in the past, or who serves now, I can safely say that you will have benefited from the Forces’ commitment to our safety.

Just an example from my own constituency during the pandemic: it was the Armed Forces who facilitated effective mobile testing units across the Highlands. I will always be grateful to them for taking care of my local community and the people I represent during these frightful times.

If Coronavirus had not happened I would have spent this week preparing for the second reading of my bill to ringfence NHS spending for veteran mental health services.

As my party’s Defence spokesperson, I have tried to ensure that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) do their upmost to support the wellbeing of serving personnel and veterans.

If Coronavirus had not interrupted the parliamentary schedule this year, I would have spent this week preparing for the second reading of my bill to ringfence NHS spending for veteran mental health services.

Between April 2017 and January 2019, the Care Quality Commission rated two out of four MoD mental health centres as inadequate or needing improvement between. There were at least 50% shortfalls in both uniformed and civilian psychiatrist posts in 2017-18. For anyone that is interested about the scale of the funding issue, I would point them towards this Defence Committee report.

Given everything that our Armed Forces have done to support us during the pandemic, I think we are more united than ever as a country in recognising their value. Making sure the MoD is providing the best support possible for serving personnel, veterans, and their families is a big part of saying thank you. It is not enough to salute them today. We must act.

But sometimes, identifying the best course of action can be difficult. This brings me to Black Lives Matter.

The movement continues to teach me a lot – and sometimes what it has to teach me is uncomfortable! – but I am grateful, nonetheless. One of the most important lessons for me is that listening is everything.

We have no hope in hell of determining what the ‘right action’ is if we don’t listen!

With this in mind, I asked the MoD for a breakdown on the number of reported complaints of racist incidents in the Armed Forces between 2015 and 2020.

On the 23rd of June they got back to me. They said they couldn’t give me that data. Johnny Mercer, the relevant Minister, said in his reply that the Department was “working to improve its data capture of all unacceptable behaviour”.

It is blindingly obvious to me that in order to tackle racism in the Armed Forces, and to support BAME personnel, the MoD must be better at actually understanding how racism functions within its ranks. If the MoD does not capture this data, what does that say about how well it is listening to complainants? What does it say about how they are trying to make things better? If they haven’t got all the evidence at their fingertips to inform their strategy to tackle racism going forward, then there is clearly an awful long way to go.

We need to understand the impact that Coronavirus has had, and is having, on the Armed Forces

I note that in May 2020, Help for Heroes conducted a study of veterans, service personnel and their families about the impact of Coronavirus on their mental health – they identified a 50% increase in those saying they are not managing their mental health well compared to before the pandemic. A month after Help For Heroes published this data, the Government announced that they would launch a “new study to understand the effect of coronavirus” on the UK’s veteran community.

We need these studies. We need to understand the impact that Coronavirus has had, and is having, on the Armed Forces – whether they are currently serving or are veterans. For that reason, I welcome the Government’s action on this wholeheartedly.

But it does beg the question: if the MoD are able to set up a study on the impact of COVID-19 as quickly as they have, can they not do the same for incidents of racism?

The Black Lives Matter movement is a constant reminder that racism remains an emergency to be addressed. Unless the MoD starts getting this data in order and using it to inform its strategy to tackle racism going forward, then I fear for what that says to our Armed Forces and anyone who wants to join up. I am not saying the MoD has no ears – it has made huge strides in making the Armed Forces a diverse and welcoming vocation opportunity, but it isn’t able to tell me how many reported incidents or racism it has had in the last five years.

So, what’s my ask on Armed Forces Day? It’s that we go above and beyond to support all personnel, serving or not, in their ability to access specific and tailored mental health support; it’s that we treat racism amongst the ranks as an emergency; and that it’s a Force that listens. A Force that listens and then acts based on the evidence.

A Force that truly values everyone that serves it.

Community Champions Hall of Fame

We’ve been inspired by some of the tremendous efforts that our party activists have taken over the past few months.

Coronavirus has hit communities hard across the country. Early on in the lockdown, as a party we decided to turn our traditional campaigning army into a non-political community taskforce, with the aim of helping the most vulnerable during this difficult time.

The response was fantastic. Find out more about the winners of our Community Champions competition, and how they helped in their communities, with this webcast.

Pride Inside!

Lockdown may mean that we can’t march this Pride, but at London Lib Dems we’re still determined to celebrate and get together for #PrideInside.

On27 June– the day that would have been the day of London Pride –please join us for our very ownPride Inside – open to Lib Dem members across the country.

We will be hosting apanel discussion at 2PMon the topic of the fight for equality in the ’20s. For this panel, we will be joined by a stellar group of panellists including Baroness Lynne Featherstone, Baroness Liz Barker, Helen Belcher, and Josh Babarinde.

RSVP for the panel ➜

In the evening we will be hosting aLondon Pride Inside Quiz at 7PM. We’ll be joined by Lib Dems from across the country, with a series of guest-rounds. You can play either as an individual or as a team.

RSVP for the quiz ➜

“Where are you really from?” & other racial slights

It’s been a month since the murder of George Floyd. His death has sparked a global conversation about the discrimination faced by black people every day.

Other times, you struggle to find words to explain the deep hurt, so you stay silent.

Black women have had to deal with both gender and racial discrimination all their lives. To us, the current discussion is nothing new; it is our everyday experience, often only discussed when amongst your black friends. These forums are where we talk about the constant policing and judgement of everything from our hair, our clothes, our body and of course, the tone of our voice. Dealing with microaggressions (covert, subtle slights which demean, belittle and ridicule marginalised groups) is normal for us. The list is endless; from being mistaken for another black woman at work and at Party Conference, to being told “you’re pretty… for a dark-skinned woman” or that you should stand for election in a posh area because “you speak quite well”.

These everyday slights are hard to call out, they are more difficult to discuss with the perpetrators who often take offense, immediately becoming dismissive of your hurt. Other times, you struggle to find words to explain the deep hurt, so you stay silent.

While it’s impossible to identify every microaggression, I want to give five examples of the most common I encounter.

1. No, where are you really from?

Last year I was racially attacked by two white men on a train who asked where I was from. They clearly disapproved when I replied “London”. The situation very quickly led to them unleashing a torrent of abuse, including insults on my intelligence and taking it in turn to guess which part of Africa I actually belonged to. On this occasion, I fought back only because other, non-black people spoke up in my defence and protected me. This support also gave me the courage to report the crime. The two men were later charged.

As a black person, questions about your background are common. There are no limits to when or where you could be asked this question; usually by strangers, at work, out partying, walking the streets, on public transport and so on.

When people interrogate you on your heritage, the implicit message is that you don’t belong, you’re not British, you’ll always be an outsider. Probing my background leaves me and many like me feeling like an “other” in a country we were born and raised in.

2. Can I touch your hair?

Touching someone’s hair, while not as traumatic as being called a racial slur, can be equally unsettling and dehumanising.

Black hair is beautiful, so I can appreciate it when people tell me they love my hair. But what I don’t appreciate is people who seem obsessed with examining my hair or even touching it without permission. Black people have mastered the art of ducking when a hand randomly makes its way towards your hair. I’ve had people grab my afro on public transport, I’ve had my braids pulled in the middle of a date by a stranger walking past our table, I’ve had people question whether I wash my hair and if so how often. People have even been offended when I didn’t allow them to touch my hair.

To say you don’t see colour means you don’t see the discrimination and oppression faced by marginalised groups.

The need to touch my hair unsolicited is not only an invasion of my personal space but a deeply patronising act. It leaves black women feeling like animals in a zoo; there to be gazed upon, analysed, and studied in a way not too dissimilar to the treatment of Sarah Baartman, a black woman who was exhibited at freak show attractions across Europe in the 19th-century.

3. You’re so sassy/there’s no need to get aggressive

The angry black woman trope is an all too familiar narrative women like me have had to deal with most of our lives. When I speak my mind, often with the same passion and intensity as my white counterparts I’m labelled “sassy”, “aggressive” even “threatening”.

Why say sassy instead of passionate? Why aggressive instead of direct? And why threatening over authoritative?

This narrative tends to only be used to dismiss a black woman’s experience of being treated differently to others and to mask the mistreatment of black women, usually in the workplace. This is what I call gaslighting 101. Labelling black women as aggressive can have a major effect on black women’s mental health. And how could it not be when you spend every day navigating an environment that mistreats you, whilst trying your best not to come across as angry

4. I don’t see colour

This is normally something said with the best of intentions to show that someone isn’t racist. However, it can be damaging. To say you don’t see colour means you don’t see the discrimination and oppression faced by marginalised groups. Microinvalidations like this also diminish and belittle the racist experiences faced by black people. If none of us saw race how could we combat racism

5. Are you sure that’s what happened?

When someone tells you they experienced something racist, believe them. Don’t question them; instead, listen with sincerity and a genuine desire to understand.

So often when a black person describes a racist experience they are met with: “are you sure that’s what happened? and “I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that”. These are all ways of invalidating and denying someone’s lived experience. When someone tells you they experienced something racist, believe them. Don’t question them; instead, listen with sincerity and a genuine desire to understand.

Whilst these microaggressions may seem insignificant, having to constantly deal with them is exhausting. Over time, these everyday slights take their toll on your mental wellbeing. Often people are unaware that they have even said anything offensive which is why educating yourself is so important. Before you say something, think about the impact it could have on someone else. If you are called out, don’t be defensive, use the opportunity to learn so you can do better in the future. And if you’re not black, remember it’s not the job of black people to educate you, you need to do the work yourself.

Cllr Julia Ogiehor, Muswell Hill Ward and Opposition Crime, the Community and Equalities Spokesperson; Chair of Haringey Lib Dems

One Month Since George Floyd

George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis a month ago today.

Seeing his last few moments and hearing his final words broadcast across the globe has sparked a renewed revulsion at continuing racial injustice and focused attention on the Black Lives Matter movement.

For those of us who do not have to confront racism and discrimination every day in anything we do it has been a long overdue wake up call that we still have work to do to wipe out inequality in this country.

It’s on all of us to make sure we turn this moment into lasting change – not only raising awareness but taking swift action

We must make sure we turn this moment into lasting change. It is time to raise awareness, to pursue swift, effective action to end racial injustice.

The government has announced it will hold a review into race inequality. But that is not enough. We need action. We need a Race Equality Strategy for the whole of the United Kingdom – a strategy that does not avoid injustice, but tackles it head on, and defeats it.

We must build a fairer, more equal society. To do that Liberal Democrats will have to take the fight into every area of our society. As we learn more and the campaign grows so too will our policies and the list of actions we need – we defeat racial injustice wherever it lurks in modern Britain.

Ending Suspicion-less Stop and Search

On too many occasions stop and search seems to mean being black is enough to suspect someone of being a criminal.

Based on the latest Home Office figures, a black person is 47 times more likely to be stopped and searched under Section 60 than a white person.

Suspicion-less stop and search not only doesn’t work, but the disproportionate impact of these laws undermines police officers’ relationships with the communities they serve – the very relationships needed to prevent crime. The Liberal Democrats have introduced a Bill to scrap this flawed, unjust law.

Action for BAME communities being hit hardest by COVID-19

The disproportionate effect that the coronavirus pandemic is having on BAME communities had shone a stark spotlight on racial injustices in Britain today.

The Government must act urgently to address this disproportionate impact on BAME communities, and to solve the deep-seated inequalities and injustices they face.

It is appalling that the Conservatives’ discriminatory Hostile Environment policies and their refusal to suspend the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rule are preventing migrants and other BAME people from accessing the healthcare they need during this pandemic. We have been pushing since the start of the pandemic to get the government to change course on this issue, and provide greater clarity on steps they are taking to support those most vulnerable.

Campaigning to end the Hostile Environment

The Windrush Scandal demonstrated how shamefully people who have every right to live in the UK – disproportionately people from BAME communities – are treated under the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment.

Discriminatory government policies wrongly deny people access to NHS treatment, housing and other services.

Innocent people have been made homeless, detained and even deported. The police share personal data with the Home Office, deterring victims and witnesses from coming forward. This has to stop.

The Windrush Scandal should have put an end to the Hostile Environment once and for all. It hasn’t. Liberal Democrats will work night and day until we change it.

How to nominate a candidate for Leader

To stand for leader, candidates have to secure a nomination from an MP, as well as 200 members, from at least 20 local parties.

Any member can nominate a candidate and who you’ve nominated isn’t made public.

If you’d like to nominate a candidate, here’s what to do:

1: Request your nomination code

If you’d like to nominate a candidate, you’ll need your nomination code. This code is unique to you – so please keep it safe.

You have to fill in this online form to request it:

Request your code

You need to know the email the party has on file for you. There are a few ways you can find out about what that is:

  • Check the bottom of every email from HQ, you’ll find the email and your membership number there.
  • check there
  • Contact your local party – who can check on the system for you
  • Email elections@libdems.org.ukand we’ll be happy to confirm for you

2: Read your email

Once you’ve submitted the nomination form, we’ll automatically check the details we have on file for you and if what you’ve provided matches the membership database, you’ll get an email with your nomination code.

The email will come from Greg Foster – Lib Dems, using the email address elections@liberal.democrat

In that email, there’ll be a link to a second online form, where you’ll actually be able to nominate a candidate.

If you don’t get an email within an hour of submitting the form, drop an email to elections@libdems.org.uk or call 0207 022 0988 and we’ll be able to issue your code by email or phone.

We’ll also give you the URL for the nomination form.

3: Submit your nomination

Once you have your nomination code and the link to the nomination form, you simply need to enter your nomination code and pick the candidate you want to nominate.

When you’ve submitted the form, you’ll get an email confirming who you nominated.

You can only nominate one candidate – and the first candidate you nominate will be the one we accept, so please choose carefully!

4: See how your candidate is doing

We’ll be posting how many nominations each candidate has at 5pm each day here: www.libdems.org.uk/leadership – so you can see how many people have nominated your chosen candidate.

Extend the Brexit transition period

It’s been four years since the EU referendum and the UK has left the EU.

Liberal Democrats are passionately pro-European and while this is a hard pill to swallow for many of us, the issues now at hand are not about Leave or Remain.

It is unthinkable that the government would rush through a half-heated deal, or worse get no deal at all.

At a time when the UK could face the biggest economic crisis in hundreds of years, it is unthinkable that the government would rush through a half-heated deal, or worse get no deal at all.

Food shortages, medicine shortages, and an unprecedented hit to jobs and livelihoods: that is what the UK is facing if we crash out of the EU without a deal.

That’s why today, on the anniversary of the EU Referendum, we are calling on the government to ensure the UK does not crash out of the transition period without a deal.

It is vital the government extend the transition period. With a week to go for them to do so, there is still time.

Whilst the PM opposes extending the transition period, he must at least be honest about what this means for our country.

Whilst the prime minister continues to oppose extending the transition period, he must at least be honest about what this means for our country.

Liberal Democrats are also urging Boris Johnson to provide assessments as to the impact of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year, and to ensure Parliament has proper scrutiny over the decision.

The government must put the national interest first.

We are urging Boris Johnson to provide assessments as to the impact of crashing out of the European Union without a deal, and to ensure Parliament has proper scrutiny over the decision.https://t.co/wrXUwtqGAa

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) June 23, 2020

Windrush Day 2020

Seventy-two years ago today, HMS Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. Its arrival marked a significant moment in British History. Many of the passengers on-board came from the Caribbean, by invitation, to support the reconstruction of our country. Their hard work and skills would later bolster the economy, fill labour shortages and help establish our National Health Service.

These brave men and women arrived on our shores hopeful, but they were not met with open arms

I came to Britain from Trinidad in 1960 when I was 10 years old and saw first-hand the sacrifices, hardships and challenges faced by the people who responded to that invitation. Those brave men and women arrived on our shores hopeful, but they were not met with open arms. Many encountered racism, discrimination, and rejection. Yet, they persevered. Children like myself also often had to face adversity and hostility on a daily basis, at school and on the streets. Some of those children are now embroiled and caught up in the Windrush Scandal. They are being asked after 50 years of being in Britain, to prove they have a right to live in this country, a place they have spent all their lives and call home. I too could have so easily been one of these victims had I not arrived here on my own passport.

The Windrush Scandal openly exposed deep-rooted failings in the Home Office and laid bare the injustices faced by the people who helped to make Britain the success it is today. This was recently portrayed so emotionally in the BBC drama ‘Sitting in Limbo’.

But the scandal isn’t over. Many people are still dealing with the consequences of lost jobs, home evictions and wrongful deportations. And although it’s been a year since the Windrush Compensation Scheme was launched, only a handful people out of over a thousand applicants have received payments. This is shameful and simply unacceptable.

The scandal isn’t over. Many people are still dealing with the consequences of lost jobs, home evictions and wrongful deportations

The last few weeks have once again exposed deep-seated racial inequalities. The disproportionate number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people dying in this pandemic and the killing of George Floyd, are a sharp reminder of the systemic and institutional discrimination in our society today.

I am the Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, charged with commissioning a Windrush Monument to celebrate the major contribution the Windrush Generation has made to Britain. This will be unveiled to commemorate Windrush in 2022.

Meanwhile on this Windrush Day, we honour the outstanding economic, social, and cultural influence of the Windrush Generation. As we honour their legacy, let us also vow to never become complacent in standing up to bigotry, hate and injustice. Let us strengthen our commitment to build a new Britain that is fair and just for everyone, without exception. What a wonderful legacy that would be for our children and future generations.

Baroness Floella Benjamin, DBE is Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee