The Weekly Whip

Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come.

For up to date information from the Lib Dem Whips Office, follow us on Twitter: @LibDemWhips

Weekly Whip w/c 14th September

Monday 14th September

Monday’s news was heavily dominated by the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill. MPs from across the House had already raised serious concerns last week when it was noted by a government official that the Bill would break international law in a “specific and limited way”.

Sir Ed Davey made his Commons debut as new Leader of the Party by criticising Johnson during Second Reading of the Bill. He was joined by colleagues who have rightly claimed that it diminishes our position on the world stage and it is against the national interest.

“What message does this send to China, Russia, Iran? What credibility will Britain have in urging other countries to uphold international law if our great Parliament votes for this bill?”

“From the Prime Minister’s promise that he had an ‘oven ready deal’, to his promise that he wanted a ‘global Britain’, this Bill breaks those promises made to Leave voters.” – @EdwardJDavey#InternalMarketBillpic.twitter.com/J3Y2qeZa0p

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) September 14, 2020

Tuesday 15th September

Munira Wilson, Lib Dem Health Spokesperson, has been keeping the pressure on Matt Hancock since the pandemic first began. Months later, nothing has changed. This week, after constituents across the country have been raising the issue of testing with their MPs, Munira gave special attention her area of Twickenham where some constituents have had to use postcodes in Aberdeen in order to get a local test.

“[Some] have been advised that if they put an Aberdeen postcode into the system, they can get a test in Twickenham. And they have succeeded,” says Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says people should “not game the system”https://t.co/HsEitzkAKhpic.twitter.com/HjhpYFEnXH

— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 15, 2020

Wednesday 16th September

At Prime Minister’s Questions this week, Ed Davey, Alistair Carmichael, and Wera Hobhouse all put questions to the Prime Minister.

Ed focused on the adverse effects of Coronavirus measures on those with disabilities, Alistair highlighted the inconsistencies from the government on how international law may be broken, and Wera secured a meeting with the Health Department on how to limit the impact of the PM’s new obesity strategy on those with eating disorders.

“As a father of a disabled child… I’ve seen legal advice that suggests his government broke international law in how the Coronavirus Act reduced the rights of disabled people,” says Lib Dem Ed Davey

The PM says he is not aware of that allegation#PMQShttps://t.co/SpraU8oMMupic.twitter.com/uxgeqISRdE

— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 16, 2020

Our second PMQ was from @amcarmichaelMP.

The mixed messages are comparable to a comedy show, not a competent government. pic.twitter.com/qMpZp49EKc

— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) September 16, 2020

In our third PMQ today, @Wera_Hobhouse secured a commitment to a meeting with the government about the adverse effects of their new obesity strategy on those with eating disorders. pic.twitter.com/SGzx3t3aoE

— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) September 16, 2020

Thursday 17th September

Thursday’s proceedings are usually reserved for Backbench Business Debates, an opportunity for MPs to discuss issues that would not find its way to the Chamber via the Government.

This week, Lib Dem MPs were outspoken in both debates as they were on the Coronavirus furlough scheme and the lack of support for freelancers and the self-employed. Continued pressure from across the House and The Group for Gaps in Support APPG, led by Lib Dem Jamie Stone, secured these debates, and gave an opportunity for Sarah Olney, Wendy Chamberlain, Munira Wilson, and Christine Jardine, to raise specific cases of their constituents who have fell through the net.

Today, Lib Dem MPs spoke during the debate on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, raising the concerns of constituents across the country.

We supported the Scheme, but why stop it now? We’re heading into more uncertainty and people need continued financial support. pic.twitter.com/k3vb4vdLxy

— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) September 17, 2020

Next week will see important votes on the Internal Markets Bill.

Standing up to the Government on their broken Brexit plans

Let me be clear about this: I am passionately pro-European.

I am proud that we stood by our pro-EU values throughout the Brexit process, giving voice to the millions of Remainers who didn’t see themselves included in the future that Boris Johnson was trying to build.

I could not have predicted the almighty shambles that we are seeing now with Brexit.

As Liberal Democrats, we took our argument to the streets and to the halls of Parliament. We didn’t fudge the issue or let the Conservatives off the hook.

Sadly, after Johnson’s General Election success, it became clear that Brexit was happening.

But I could not have predicted the almighty shambles that we are seeing now.

Tory MPs who were told in December that they had to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement are now being told they have to vote against it.

They are being told to break international law.

The UK cannot expect other countries, like China and Russia, to respect international treaties if we don’t do the same when it comes to the Withdrawal Agreement

The @LibDems will always be a pro-European party. The PM promised a good deal – now he is asking MPs to vote to break the law and risk a no deal. We will vote against the Internal Market Bill. https://t.co/09MLcWwDt3

— Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) September 16, 2020

It used to be that the rule of law was a non-partisan issue. Yet here we have a Government willing to abandon the legal obligations of the Withdrawal Agreement because of Boris Johnson’s failed approach to EU negotiations.

The Internal Market Bill is a reckless, dangerous ploy from a Government that cannot get its act together.

Abandoning the Withdrawal Agreement also makes No Deal more likely. The British people deserve better than this uncertainty.

People across the country are trying their hardest to follow the rules during coronavirus. Meanwhile the Conservatives are trying to break the rules of their own Brexit deal with the Internal Market Bill.

So although we acknowledge that Brexit may be coming, Liberal Democrats will not be silent.

We are going to call out the Conservatives when they try to go back on their promises and ignore the rule of law.

We will do everything we can to stop a disastrous No Deal Brexit, or a rushed deal that would endanger British jobs and vital supplies during this health emergency.

The Internal Market Bill is a reckless, dangerous ploy from a Government that cannot get its act together. The British people deserve better.

All the motions you can vote on at Autumn Conference

Our first ever full online conference is set to be one of our biggest ever. I’m so proud that we’ve been able to keep costs low for members to attend, plus no cost of travel, accommodation, or buying all your meals out.

With a more accessible, affordable, and flexible conference, more members than ever will be able to have their say and vote on some of the fantastic policy motions coming up at Autumn Conference.

If you haven’t yet, you can book your place at conference here.

Book your place!

Here’s a run down of the motions we’re going to be debating:

F5: Improve Mental Health Support for Health and Care Staff

This motion recognises the long term psychological scars that many health and care staff have from treating patients during the COVID-19. It calls for:

  • A guarantee of universal, high quality mental health support for all health and care staff
  • A COVID-19 phone support hotline for health and care staff
  • The removal of the use of the Bradford Factor – a formula used to discourage short, frequent, unplanned absences
  • Health and social care workers to have access to reflective practice groups

Read the full motion here

F7: Nature of Public Debate during COVID-19

Less than half the public trust the UK government to provide them with accurate public health information, which is devastating in the midst of a global pandemic. Much of this distrust comes from the elitist defence of double standards, such as the Prime Minister’s defence of his chief advisor, Dominic Cummings, who broke lockdown.

This motion calls for:

  • An independent enquiry of the government’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Requiring the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority to provide regular proactive comment on the government’s presentation of official statistics during crises
  • Parliamentary scrutiny to be intensified during crises

Read the full motion here

F8: Universal Basic Income

The COVID-19 pandemic has, up to the start of June 2020, led to over 600,000 job losses and a drop of almost half in job vacancies. This motion argues that Universal Basic Income will be the best way to provide people with a guarantee of income security and thereby more flexibility and control over their careers and lives post-pandemic. It calls for:

  • Liberal Democrats to campaign for a Universal Basic Income, paid to all long-term UK residents
  • This income to be streamlined and integrated with other necessary income support mechanisms including pensions and student living cost support
  • Liberal Democrats to continue campaigning for strong and accessible targeted income support mechanisms, including but not limited to effective housing and disability support payments

Read the full motion here

This year we’re taking Conference 100% online!

If you’ve never been to Conference before, find out why this is a great chance to get involved 👇https://t.co/ZWDnSVwWIT

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) September 14, 2020

F11: The Creation of a Federal United Kingdom

This motion recognises that the future cohesion and existence of the United Kingdom is threatened by a sense of alienation amongst many of our citizens which has fuelled Brexit and the growth of nationalism.

The constitution of the United Kingdom is not fit for the needs of a 21st century liberal democracy, and this motion calls for:

  • A Declaration that the United Kingdom is a federal union that exists by the consent of the people of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • The creation of powerful institutions to encourage and enable co-operation between the governments and parliaments of the various parts of the United Kingdom
  • Early measures to implement the Federal Declaration including creating a Declaration of Rights as a foundation document of a Federal United Kingdom which includes a new, modern, inclusive definition of citizenship

Read the full motion here

F12: The COVID-19 Pandemic

To ensure a timely and relevant debate on the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a spot reserved at conference to debate a motion on the pandemic that has not yet been chosen.

Once the motion is chosen, it will be available to view here.

F18: Racial Justice Cannot Wait

The Black Lives Matter protests around the world, most recently sparked by the killing of George Floyd, have highlighted the failings within the UK. BAME people are over-represented throughout the criminal justice system, including being more likely to be stopped and searched, and being more likely to be sentenced to prison once convicted of a crime.

It is unacceptable that, in the 21st century, people are discriminated against on the basis of their race and the party reaffirms its commitment to combat racism. This motion calls on the government to:

  • Repealing Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which allows police officers to stop and search people without suspicion
  • Scrap Conservative plans to require voters to bring identification with them to vote, which would present a significant barrier to democratic engagement for already marginalised groups, including BAME communities
  • Implementing in full the recommendations of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, without further delay

Read the full motion here

F19: Save the BBC

This motion states that the BBC has played a uniquely invaluable role in educating the public on the coronavirus pandemic, and that the broadcaster has a vital and unique place in the UK’s media landscape, with a mission to inform, educate and entertain across television, radio and online.

Dismantling the BBC was not in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto and the government has no mandate to attack the broadcaster. This motion calls for:

  • The Conservative government to protect the BBC as an independent, universally available, properly resourced public service broadcaster, and to rule out moving the BBC to a subscription model.
  • The BBC’s workforce and output at all levels and across all nations and regions to be more diverse and reflective of the country it serves.

Read the full motion here

Lib Dem conference is going virtual for the first time ever this month!

We’ve got a jam-packed 4 day agenda, with something for everyone. Register today > https://t.co/qlzZcO1067pic.twitter.com/omqgz9lOko

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) September 3, 2020

F21: A Green Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the economy recovers from the impact of COVID-19, there is an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild with a real focus on the climate emergency: green growth, creating new green jobs and cutting emissions.

With reaffirmed pledges to Cut emissions by 75 per cent by 2030, and achieve net zero emissions by 2045 at the very latest, this motion calls for:

  • Ensuring that support packages for businesses recovering from the impacts of lockdown include, where appropriate, legally binding commitments to reduce emissions
  • Working as closely as possible with the EU in tackling the climate emergency, including joining the EU Emission Trading Scheme and fulfilling the UK’s climate commitments jointly with the EU
  • Ensuring that a large proportion of new jobs created are ‘green jobs’ and ensure those who are unemployed due to COVID-19 are helped to reskill to fill them

Read the full motion here

F23: Europe

To ensure a timely and relevant debate on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, there is a spot reserved at conference to debate a motion on Europe that has not yet been chosen.

Once the motion is chosen, it will be available to view here.

F31: Hong Kong’s Future

In the last 18 months, up to two million people, across different socio-economic backgrounds, have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, calling for democratic reforms. This motion recognises that the UK has a moral and legal duty to ensure that democracy, the rule of law and human rights are upheld in Hong Kong. It calls on the government to:

  • Expand their proposals so that all Hong Kongers are given a pathway to citizenship in the UK, regardless of whether or not they have BNO status
  • Enact Magnitsky legislation and encourage mutual action from other countries to hold Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible to account in the event of any gross breaches of human rights in Hong Kong

Read the full motion here

F32: Supporting Trans and Non-Binary People Within the Liberal Democrats

This motion notes that the UK government has shelved proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act despite 70% of respondents to the government’s consultation being in favour of self-definition. With recognition that people should be free to define their gender as they choose, and have that choice respected, this motion calls for:

  • Liberal Democrat HQ and all venues for federal and regional conferences to have at least one gender-neutral toilet facility
  • Conference passes to include preferred pronouns for all attendees, with all attendees permitted to specify their preferred pronouns at the time of registration or to opt not to have pronouns shown on their pass
  • Presenters, chairs and stewards at party events and training sessions to be given guidance on avoiding unnecessarily gendered language

Read the full motion here

Rosh Hashanah

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Tonight, Jewish communities in the UK and around the world will mark Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year.

The Jewish High Holidays are a time of deep contemplation and self-reflection. They are an opportunity for all of us to look back on the past year as we set new goals for the future.

This year has been particularly challenging; we have all had to adjust to new ways of living, whilst grappling with economic uncertainty.

For religious communities, the past year has also been difficult as so many customs and traditions have either been adapted or suspended altogether. However, as a new year begins, let us all enter it with hope and expectation.

I am thrilled that this is my first Rosh Hashanah message as Leader of the Liberal Democrats. I am proud to lead a party that stands for equality, justice and fairness. Under my leadership, our party efforts to uproot anti-Semitism will be strenthened because there is no more important task than building a world free from all hate and bigotry.

Finally, I wish everyone celebrating a healthy and happy Rosh Hashanah and a year filled with joy and immeasurable peace.

Shanah Tovah Umetukah!

Champing at the bit

I’m honoured to have been elected by my fellow MPs as Deputy Leader and I’m champing at the bit to get started.

Whilst Ed is touring the country listening to and reconnecting with voters, it’s going to be my role to help build a campaigning machine that will get us winning again at every level.

It’s going to be my role to help build a campaigning machine that will get us winning again at every level.

We won my seat, St Albans, in December – a seat we had never held before.

That result didn’t happen overnight. It took three and a half years of graft. The good news is, what we did in St Albans can be replicated all over the country.

I’m determined to use the three and a half years before the next General Election, to ensure we elect as many Liberal Democrats as possible, at every level.

What we did in St Albans can be replicated all over the country.

It’s so important we do that; because we’re second to the Tories in 82 seats and getting rid of Boris Johnson can’t happen without us winning significant numbers of seats next time.

And let’s not beat around the bush here: Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are not fit to run the country.

We must be a lighting rod for the millions of people across the UK who share our values

They’re attacking the independence of our judges. They’re brazenly stating that they want to break the law. They’re destroying our international reputation.

And at the next General Election, we must be a lighting rod for the millions of people across the UK who share our values, so we can build a greener, fairer and more caring society.

I can’t do this alone. Please help me build an army of activists and a powerful campaigning machine by donating today.

Taking Care of the Party Finances and Planning for the Future

Our Remit

The Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) is responsible for the budget and finances of the Federal Party and overseeing the administration of the Party. A key element of its role is oversight of compliance with external regulatory bodies.

Guest Appearance by Geoff Payne (Chair of the Federal Conference Committee)

For this month’s meeting we were joined by the Chair of the Federal Conference Committee (FCC), Geoff Payne, who provided an update on preparations for our upcoming virtual conference. Getting this event right, especially in these financially pressured times, is a real point of focus for FCC, FFRC, and the Party. We were impressed and thankful to our FCC colleagues for the hard work that has clearly gone in and we hope to see as many members as possible at the event. Our target (and that of the FCC) is to try break-even and we need your help to do this so please do sign up at https://www.libdems.org.uk/autumn-conference!

Keeping a Handle on Compliance

An update from our operations team highlighted the considerable amount of compliance activity generated by last year’s elections on top of the normal end of year accounts. The challenges to both staff and volunteers of dealing with this even without the impact of ‘lock-down’ cannot be overstated. A healthy discussion took place on the need for support and mentorship to maintain our performance and limit any risks to the Party of sanctions by regulators. However, our compliance team cannot do this alone. They need the assistance of the many local party treasurers around the country who continue to fulfill the requirements of this important role. Thank you to all our treasurers and election agents!

Financial Report

Our finance team report monthly on the finances of the Federal Party in terms of income, expenditure, and performance against budget. Membership income is a key part of the Party finances and the membership team report on this monthly as well. The situation with Covid-19 has been particularly challenging for us as a Party (and continues to be so). Our grateful thanks to the members who continue to support us financially. ‘Every little helps’! We are currently working to a revised budget which requires us to continually monitor all expenditure extremely carefully.

Budget and Budget Priorities

At this point in the year, we are setting parameters for the 2021 budget and a key part of the financial update was in considering the priorities for the budget. Next year sees the Holyrood Elections in Scotland and Senedd Elections in Wales at the same time as the local elections in England, so this is a critical year for the Party in terms of supporting our campaign activity.

Next month, at an extended meeting, we will be scrutinizing the budget proposals ahead of submission to the Federal Board.

Fundraising

As usual, Mike German the Party Treasurer gave an update on his activities and that of the fundraising team. Mike and the team are operating in particularly challenging times now and we know that he will be grateful for your financial support during his ‘spot’ at conference.

Preparing for elections

Last week we officially welcomed our newest member – Director of Strategy, Research and Messaging Mimi Turner.

Mimi provided for us her perspective on the Party’s strategic and campaigning position, as well as an initial summary of what we might do differently in future. There is much to be done but we are excited by the steps the Party is taking to get more Liberal Democrats elected and our newly elected Leader’s listening tour.

We had a lively discussion on how to make sure our principles are informing a message which is relevant and attractive to voters – those who already support us and those who might come to do so.

We also heard a detailed update from the Scottish Party on their plans for the 2021 Scottish General Election. That election is a State Party matter, but as we continue to improve our internal communications and make our resource allocation more efficient, it is with great thanks that the Committee received the briefing.

The future of the Union is at stake in 2021 and electing Liberal Democrats may prove vital in saving it – supporting the Scottish Paty’s efforts will be one of our top priorities going into the year.

Across a packed meeting, we also found time to confirm Baroness Suttie (Alison) as the Chair of the Joint Candidates Sub-Committee (JCSC). JCSC leads the national coordination of our capacity to field outstanding candidates in elections across the country.

We also heard an update on door knocking and its appropriateness in the COVID-19 era – with appropriate precautions and in relatively safe areas only, we will be back out speaking to the public – and continued to scrutinise our approach to target seats.

Next month we meet again but in the meantime we hope to see as many of you as possible at the Virtual Conference.

The Government must be stopped from breaking international law.

Liberal Democrat MPs have put forward measures to the Internal Market Bill that will remove controversial clauses that breach the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Respecting the rule of law is fundamental to any self-respecting Government.

The clauses in question allow the UK to unilaterally scrap “exit summary” forms for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and to apply UK state aid rules in Northern Ireland – contrary to what was agreed with the EU. A third clause seeks to protect the above changes from being considered unlawful.

In essence, the Government is trying to break the Withdrawal Agreement and putting the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland at risk.

Instead of ensuring the smooth running of the UK internal market, the Conservatives have sowed tensions between Westminster and the devolved administrations – and have even gone as far as breaking an internationally binding treaty.

Respecting the rule of law is fundamental to any self-respecting Government. This sends the wrong message to the British public at a time when obeying the rules is critical on the Covid front.

The Government should be prioritising securing the best possible deal to protect our economy rather than posturing and blackmailing the EU by threatening to renege on existing commitments.

This sends the wrong message to the British public at a time when obeying the rules is critical on the Covid front.

All this does is fan the flames of nationalism at home and weaken the UK’s standing abroad.

There couldn’t be a more irresponsible and damaging handling of Brexit.

The Government must drop its breaches of international law and negotiate with the EU in good faith. It will be British workers and businesses that will pay for Boris Johnson’s brazen tactics.

It seems that under Boris Johnson, accepting the rule of law has become optional.

For the sake of the future of our country, Ministers must stop playing fast and loose with the rule of law.https://t.co/Y0tnePWmvn

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) September 14, 2020

First time at conference? Being online makes it easier than ever to get stuck in

I’ve been a member for many years but like many others, I’d never taken the plunge and dived into conference.

That all changed last year when I went to the 2019 Lib Dem Party Conference in Bournemouth.

I didn’t know what to expect, but before I knew it, I was meeting fellow Lib Dems from across the country, sharing stories, learning new tricks, and feeling at home with over 3,000 like-minded members who share my values.

How’s that for a great weekend by the sea?

Thanks to Coronavirus, this year’s going to be a little different. Well, very different actually. Conference will be exclusively online – but that just makes it even easier to access all the great events on offer.

And for anyone who feels daunted by turning up as a newbie, there’s nothing to worry about. Here’s what to expect…

Meet fellow Lib Dems

There are loads of ways to meet other Lib Dems. Why not start off by dropping in at the Federal Conference Committee virtual stand and asking any questions you might have about the weekend?

Enjoy a virtual stroll through the exhibition centre. Talk to members with a plethora of diverse interests. Chat to teachers and women’s groups, or see how the Liberal Democrat Seekers of Sanctuary are standing up for asylum seekers in the UK.

In each auditorium session, members can use the online chat function to bounce ideas around.

Hear from the party leaders

Welsh leader Jane Dodds, Scottish leader Wille Rennie, and newly-elected party leader Ed Davey will all be taking to the virtual stage to discuss the issues facing the Lib Dems and laying out their vision for the future.

Get stuck in on key debates

Are you a fan of the Universal Basic Income? Where do you think our country should go in a post-Brexit world? If like me, you enjoy getting stuck into the debate, this is your chance.

At conference, Lib Dem members come together to debate and vote on the key issues of the day – and decisions made by delegates (that’s you!) go on to become national party policy.

See the full list of motions and debates, and find out how to participate here.

Check out the fringe

A particular highlight for me will be Lib Dem spokesperson for home affairs and constitutional reform Alistair Carmichael and the Social Liberal Forum discussing alliances, electoral pacts, and whether the Lib Dems could ‘do business’ with Labour.

Saturday night is comedy night with the Liberal Democrat Creative Network. In just one of the excellent fringe events, watch comedians battle it out to pitch a new law for post pandemic life, with the winning idea being taken to parliamentarians.

Browse fringe events in the conference directory.

Help shape the future of the Lib Dems

Some newbies will go on to become Members of Parliament or stand for council, others will leave their mark by helping to shape party policy.

Forging a path to electoral success depends on every single one of us standing up and fighting for a better future.

Whichever direction your Lib Dem journey takes you, conference has a training session to help you along the way. Learn digital campaigning skills from the experts, get advice on reaching out to new members and growing your local party, or find out how to become a target seat. There’s a huge amount on offer.

I left conference feeling motivated and uplifted.

Meeting crowds of Lib Dems – whether virtually or in person – goes to remind you that there are thousands of people across the UK who believe in the same values of openness, tolerance, and freedom that we as Lib Dems stand for.

And if you see me in the chat, feel free to say hello. I’ll be there trying to get around as many events as possible!

Register for conference today.