Learning from 2019 and packing a punch in target seats

This committee knows that to get ourselves back to winning ways, we need to be ambitious going forwards and honest about the recent past.

In that vein, this month we discussed the internal investigation we commissioned into the Liberal Democrat response to the Unite to Remain campaign, and its structural and electoral implications for the Party.

The discussion was frank and robust, and it was agreed that we must ensure that lessons are learned and in particular that prior to any future negotiations we must have a clear objective together, with protocols established to protect the democratic, administrative and political interests of the party, and full administrative support for the negotiation team.

Speaking as the Chair of the FCEC, I am keen to highlight my, our, commitment to making sure that these recommendations translate into real action.

Looking forwards

There was a spending options paper looking at how money we do not have might be spent if it is gifted to us. For 2021 this is predominantly about appeals for funding our Scottish and Welsh Parliamentary campaigns.

We received clarification on G8 funding for the massive slate of elections coming in 2021, while also reinforcing our intention to prioritise any additional resources we may gain on saving the United Kingdom. That said, we are excited by and supporting the work to paint the map gold with elected Lib Dems in Wales and across England.

To that end, we received a report on the tiering of seats. We recognise that most seats in which we stand are not target seats and are now working to clarify how we can help and support these seats. One aspect of this work will be to ensure that every local party and all seats have a pathway to step-by-step improvement and political development – not just target seats – and use each GE as an opportunity to leverage campaign activity.

Finally, we received an update on the work of the new Chair of the Joint Candidates Sub-Committee, Alison Suttie, who will be working hard to make sure we can field excellent, trained, and supported candidates in target seats and beyond.

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 19th October

Monday 19th October

Before we moved onto the main business of the day, we had two Ministerial Statements.

The first, from Michael Gove, was the latest instalment of the Brexit drama. This was earlier in the week when the Government was insisting the talks were off. Christine asked an important question about the supply of medicines after the transition period ends.

Access to medicines is a fundamental right and I received assurances from the minister that my constituents and those across the country who are worried about #medicine shortages in the event of a no-deal #Brexit will be able to get them come 1st January-

— Christine Jardine (@cajardineMP) October 19, 2020

Matt Hancock then followed with his usual update to the house on the latest development with Covid. As usual, Munira led for us, and asked to see the memorandum of understanding between Test and Trace and the Police on their use of T+T data. Paul Scriven followed up in the Lords with a similar questions, something the Lords Minister has committed to providing.

Today @munirawilson confronted the government over the weekend’s alarming news that Test and Trace data would be handed over to the police.

Public confidence in the system is key to success, but this will worsen if the government doesn’t take privacy concerns seriously.

— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) October 19, 2020

The main business of the day was the hugely important Immigration Bill. Specifically, we were debating and voting on the amendments we had received from the Lords. 3 of these amendments were tabled by Lib Dem lords, see more information on them here.

Today we consider Lords Amendments to the Immigration Bill. We are supportive of all amendments but let us focus on the three from our friends at @LibDemLords.


— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) October 19, 2020

We voted on a number of amendments, but they were unfortunately all defeated. The Government voted down Jonny Oates amendment, which would have required the Government to provide physical proof of settled status. The Government also voted down the Alf Dubb’s amendment, which would have provided protection for child refugees.

Tuesday 20th October

A very busy Monday was followed by a quieter day in terms of votes. Most of the day consisted of a passionate general debate on Black History Month. Wera, as our equalities spokesperson spoke for us.

“We cannot condone a selective view and teaching of our nation’s history; one that leaves some people out and negates and invalidates their experience.” – @Wera_Hobhouse

Lib Dems are calling to expand the national history curriculum to cover a wider range of black history.

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) October 20, 2020

Mid way through the day, we were given notification that the Government intended on making a statement at 7pm. This was to announce that Manchester had moved to Tier 3. Christine as our Economy spokesperson made the poignant point ‘what happened to whatever it takes.’

What happened to “Whatever it Takes”? The British people won’t forget that.

People are worried about losing their jobs and feel abandoned by this government. @cajardineMP spoke after the news from Manchester.

— Lib Dem Whips 🔶 (@LibDemWhips) October 20, 2020

Wednesday 21st October

Wednesday was Opposition Day and Labour chose to focus on regional support measures (following the Manchester Tier 3 announcement) and Free school meals.

But before that we had 3 of our MPs asking the Prime Minister a question, Ed, Daisy and Sarah. They covered very varied topics including, financial support for families supporting disabled children, free school meals and Hammersmith Bridge.

Pleased to have Boris Johnson agree to look into the rules that prevent family members managing the finances of severely disabled people – people like Mikey, a disabled 18 year old saving for a specialist tricycle, who’s unable to access his Child Trust Fund savings.

— Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) October 21, 2020

At #PMQs@libdemdaisy pushes Boris Johnson to follow the lead of the Welsh Government & Kirsty Williams, Lib Dem Welsh Minister for Education, & provide free school meals during holidays to stop children going hungry.

Back the fight for free school meals⬇️

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) October 21, 2020

Questioned @BorisJohnson about the proposed new transport charges and #hammersmithbridge. Infuriating to hear how they are using people’s livelihoods as part of their political game-playing

— Sarah Olney (@sarahjolney1) October 21, 2020

Both opposition motions were hugely important debates that we were supportive of. Most importantly, our MPs made the point that we should follow the lead of Wales, and the Lib Dem Education Minister, by offering free school meals for children over the upcoming holidays. We were proud to support Labour motions and disappointed the government didn’t support them. All our MPs were in support of the motions, Sarah Olney and Ed Davey, couldn’t be present in Parliament for the day, so were paired with two conservative MPs.

Thursday 22nd October

Thursday, as usual, bring Business Questions. True to form, Elliot Colburn continued with his strange obsession of the Lib Dems by focusing his question around the Lib Dem Council in his constituency.

We also had the Economy Update from Rishi Sunak announcing his latest U-turn and his latest package of measures. Christine had her second opportunity this week to press the government on their economic support

“The Chancellor told us he would do whatever it takes to support people. This is not it.” – @cajardineMP

It’s clearer than ever that the furlough scheme must be extended.

Back our campaign to protect jobs now:

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) October 22, 2020

We had another statement from government, on the disparate impact of Covid-19. Munira covered for us and asked about the support for the disabled community and the worrying impact Covid-19 has on them.

Munira had a busy Thursday as she was involved afterwards in the general debate on Covid.

Friday 23rd October

A quiet day of private members bills. The main thing to note is that Alistair’s Hong Kong Bill will now be getting it’s second reading on 15 January 2021.

Next week is Recess, an opportunity for MPs to go back to their constituency and catch up on local issues.

All Hong Kongers must be offered a pathway to UK citizenship

If ever there was a time for us to act in support of Hong Kongers, it is now.

Many Hong Kongers have suffered grave persecution at the hands of the Chinese Regime.

With repeated reports of police brutality, the UK has a moral and legal duty to stand with Hong Kongers and ensure no one is left behind to suffer under the Chinese Communist Party.

My Bill to grant all Hong Kong Citizens a pathway to UK citizenship was due to have its second reading today but unfortunately we ran out of time. It has now been postponed to 15 January 2021 – just two weeks before the government’s recently announced (but still not detailed) visa scheme is due to come into force.

This issue may have been postponed but it will not go away until we win justice for Hong Kongers with BNO Passports.

By expanding British National Overseas (BNO) status to all Hong Kongers, the Bill goes well beyond the Conservative Government’s current citizenship commitments, which extend only to specific groups currently eligible to claim BNO status.

This clear route to citizenship for all Hong Kongers will strengthen the UK’s historic bond with the people of Hong Kong and show our continued commitment to the Joint Declaration, something that the Chinese regime has utterly betrayed.

We also need to make sure that the citizenship offer is affordable.

The Home Office’s claim that it will only cost £250 is deceptive given the upfront costs of the Immigration Health Surcharge.

The UK has a moral duty to act.

We urge the Conservatives to do the right thing for all of the people of Hong Kong and back this Bill.

In addition, we need to see measures to put in place an international lifeboat system as a matter of urgency, should the situation deteriorate further.

In recent months it has become politically fashionable to stand with the people of Hong Kong, but people fighting for their rights and for democracy need more than words. I was proud to introduce the Hong Kong Bill this year – time for the government to take it up and act.

— Alistair Carmichael (@amcarmichaelMP) October 13, 2020

The Government is failing to protect jobs and livelihoods

Despite the massive effort people have made to fight coronavirus it’s clear that the road to recovery is going to be rockier than we first feared.

With millions of workers worried about their livelihoods, the British people deserve a Government that listens to their concerns and does everything in its power to protect them. Sadly, this isn’t the case.

Millions of workers are worried about their livelihoods.

Today Rishi Sunak has announced his third economic support package in a month. How can businesses and workers across Britain plan for the future with such a chaotic approach from the Government?

Businesses need a clear strategy – not chop and change, knee-jerk reactions. That’s why we are calling on the Chancellor to expand furlough support urgently and across the whole economy until June 2021.

“The Chancellor told us he would do whatever it takes to support people. This is not it.” – @cajardineMP

It’s clearer than ever that the furlough scheme must be extended.

Back our campaign to protect jobs now:

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) October 22, 2020

This includes extending furlough support to the 3 million tax-payers across the country who have previously been excluded from any help, as well as anyone who has been told that their job is not ‘viable’.

It’s not good enough for the Chancellor to say that he can’t protect every job. He should be fighting as hard as he can to make sure nobody is left behind.

It’s not good enough for the Chancellor to say that he can’t protect every job.

It is insulting for thousands of workers up and down the country to be told that their jobs are simply ‘not viable’. They deserve better.

With the furlough scheme currently set to end on October 31st, generations will judge whether this Government has taken every conceivable step to protect people’s livelihoods and futures.

It’s time for them to do the right thing and extend furlough.

Getting our new party team in place

Improving our candidate process

Following the issues with our Mayor of London selection and in response to a request from the London Lib Dems, I asked Alison Suttie – a Liberal Democrat peer and the new chair of the Joint Candidate Subcommittee (JCSC) – to do an investigation to learn the lessons, not only for London but for our selections more generally.

She has turned around an excellent review with admirable speed, ensuring that her recommendations on how we vet would-be candidates can be considered in time to inform our Parliamentary selections for the next general election too.

Candidate selections are run by English, Scottish and Welsh Parties, so it will be for them to decide how to react to Alison’s recommendation. If acting on any of them requires assistance from the federal party, I am committed to ensuring we find ways to do that.

The London selection itself is now over. Many congratulations to Luisa Porritt for winning the support of members to be our candidate in next May’s elections.

Getting our central team right

One of the key lessons from the Thornhill Report into what went wrong in 2019 is the importance of getting our management structures and team right in the central party operation, as unless we do that we’ll just be endlessly caught in firefighting the latest problem.

Part of that is about how the Leader, CEO and President work together. As well as having established very productive working relations between the three of us, the relevant party bodies are coming to the end of consulting on a new scheme of allocation of responsibilities between these three roles, as recommended by the Thornhill Report.

In addition, following the previous appointment of Mimi Turner as our Director of Strategy, Messaging and Research, Trudy Church has been appointed our Chief Operating Officer and Cllr Dave McCobb our Director of Field.

With a new Chief Technology Officer currently being recruited and Fern McLurg and Sian Waddington continuing as Financial Controller and Director of Operations respectively, we have an excellent new senior management team in place alongside our CEO, Mike Dixon.

It’s also good to see that our talk about how other organisations need to improve their record on diversity is matched by us making progress in improving our own. I’m very much looking forward to working with them as we tackle the next set of changes needed to raise our game and to help you win.

Changes on federal committees

On the Board itself, we have welcomed two new members recently. Cllr Anita Lower (Newcastle Council) is a new directly elected member following Ruby Chow standing down. Bess Mayhew has been elected the new chair of the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC) following Barbara Gibson’s departure.

Best wishes and thank you for their work to Ruby, Barbara and to Kevin Lang, also standing down from the Board as Scottish representative. Scottish members are voting to elect his successor. Bess was already a member of FPDC so in addition to her becoming chair, Nicola Clark has been elected to join the FPDC.

As you will see from this, there is a steady trickle of posts that need filling all through the year. They are advertised on the party website in the ‘work for us’ section, alongside paid vacancies.

October Board meeting

The big issue at this Federal Board meeting will be our budget for 2021. Coronavirus has had a big impact on fundraising across the charity and not for profit sectors. Political parties have not been immune from this. This will require some tough decisions. It’s important that we take those with a clear view of the route through to political and so financial success.

So we will be looking at proposals which prioritise investing in electoral success, improving our diversity and enhancing our technology. We currently have the largest field team for the first year of a Parliament in the party’s history, and I’m very grateful to the different parts of the part that have worked positively with the federal party to ensure we have a team much larger than what the federal party could have done on its own.

As part of the work to maximise our membership income next year, we are seeking agreement from the English, Welsh and Scottish parties on a package of support and incentives for local parties to renew members who have not responded to renewal requests from HQ. Local knowledge and local conversations are crucial for persuading such colleagues to renew their membership.

We will also be reviewing the feedback from members to our consultation over governance reforms, such as how to respond to the comments made about the (lack of) transparency around how individuals vote at Board meetings.

There will also be what is now a regular quarterly review of party performance, measured across supporter engagement, messaging and our public standing, campaigning capability, and people and culture.

Comments, questions and feedback very welcome as ever –

The Government must protect British farmers

The Conservatives have continually promised to back British farmers throughout the Brexit process, but their failure last week to uphold our high food standards reveals just how hollow those promises were.

Our high agricultural standards must be protected in international trade deals and after the transition period.

Farmers across the country are incredibly worried about the future – they’re worried that the UK is about to be flooded with poor quality food and drink, undercutting their high quality produce.

The Conservatives voted against protecting our farmers and food standards last week, bringing us a step closer to this worrying reality.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for our farmers. If the Government doesn’t protect our food standards, they will only sow more uncertainty and worry for our farming industry.

We strongly believe that our high agricultural standards must be protected in international trade deals and after the transition period.

That’s why today, our Liberal Democrat Peers will be fighting to stop the Government from undermining British Farmers.

Our Lords will be fighting for a National Food Strategy, better climate policies and to give the Trade Commission teeth with statutory footing and the ability to report on the agricultural and food impacts of every international trade agreement.

By voting against food standards and animal welfare in the #AgricultureBill, the Tories have sold out British farmers – all so that they can secure easier trade deals post-Brexit.

Liberal Democrats stand with farmers across the UK and will continue fighting to protect them.

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) October 13, 2020

The Tories are risking a new Windrush-style scandal

Conservative MPs have rejected all 10 cross-party amendments to the Government’s Immigration Bill passed by the House of Lords earlier this month, including three from the Liberal Democrats.

The 28-day time limit on immigration detention (Amendment 6) – introduced by Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Hamwee in the House of Lords – was rejected by 328 votes to 264.

Indefinite detention is inhumane, expensive and unnecessary.

Indefinite detention is inhumane, expensive and unnecessary. The Tories may have blocked a time limit today, but Liberal Democrats will continue the fight to save both money and misery.

“Detaining people for months on end, without giving them any idea how long they will be there, is clearly inhumane.”@amcarmichaelMP calls on MPs to support the Liberal Democrat amendment to the #ImmigrationBill that sets a 28-day limit on immigration detention.

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) October 19, 2020

Amendment 5 – tabled by Liberal Democrat Lord Oates – would force the Government to provide EU citizens in the UK who are granted Settled or Pre-Settled Status with physical proof of their migration status, instead of the digital-only proof under the Government’s current system. It was rejected by 331 votes to 260.

One other Liberal Democrat amendment from the House of Lords was overturned without a division: Amendment 2, to preserve the right of UK nationals living in the EU to bring non-British family members with them if they return to the UK.

The Conservatives’ Hostile Environment is, sadly, alive and well.

The Conservatives’ decision to overturn these Liberal Democrat amendments shows how empty their promises to guarantee citizens’ rights after Brexit and to fix the broken immigration system really are. Their Hostile Environment is, sadly, alive and well.

The Windrush Scandal showed the devastating impact of the Hostile Environment on people who cannot easily prove their rights. By denying EU citizens physical proof of Settled Status, the Government risks making them the victims of a new Windrush-style Scandal.

Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to protect the rights of British nationals living in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.

Why we voted against the Tories’ crime authorisation Bill

Today, Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael led cross-party opposition to the Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, calling a vote against the legislation in the House of Commons.

Writing in the Independent ahead of the debate, Alistair set out our concerns:

“The Bill gives vast powers not only to the security agencies but also to a questionable collection of public bodies. There are no real limits, weak safeguards and inadequate oversight.

The Bill has no limits on the types of crime that could be authorised. Murder, torture – it is all on the table as written. Nor is there any independent approval of a decision to authorise a crime – or even a requirement for police or prosecutors to be informed about it at all…

It is essential that there is a clear legal basis for the actions of government agents. It has been lacking for far too long.

The Tories are using their majority to ram through things that no responsible Government should do

This Bill, however, is not fit for purpose. Parliament must stand up to this disturbing government overreach, and anyone who cares about the rule of law must oppose this Bill as it stands.”

The Liberal Democrats voted against Third Reading, but most Conservative MPs backed it and Labour abstained, so the Bill passed by 313 votes to 98.

Following the vote, Alistair said:

This is a dangerous Bill from a Conservative Government that is careless with our rights and freedoms.

“We all understand the need for MI5 and the police to authorise undercover agents to do things that would, in normal circumstances, be illegal. If the Government had restricted itself to that, it would have resounding cross-party support.

“Instead, the Tories are using their majority to ram through things that no responsible Government should do. They are trying to award far too broad powers to far too many parts of government, with virtually no safeguards.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats worked cross-party to try and fix this law. With the Government blocking our amendments, we had no choice but to vote against the Bill.”

Liberal Democrats secure free school meals in Wales until Easter 2021

I am pleased to announce today that in Wales we have secured free school meal provision for all school holidays until at least Easter 2021.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented countless challenges this year, but with the Welsh Government now guaranteeing £11 million for these provisions, we can help support those who look to school for more than just education.

Wales was the first UK nation to ensure that pupils received free school meals

As a Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Minister, I have fought hard for students and families throughout this crisis. Wales was the first UK nation to ensure that pupils received free school meals over the summer holidays, and we quickly delivered IT kits to our most disadvantaged pupils.

Happy to confirm today we’re making £11m available to guarantee free school meal provision during school holidays up to & including Easter 2021.

Thanks to @MarcusRashford for helping spread this news.

To find out if you could benefit, please click here:

— Kirsty Williams (@wgmin_education) October 15, 2020

After schools had reopened, I confirmed a minimum of £420,000 would be made available to ensure all pupils entitled to free school meals would continue to receive provisions if they were shielding or had to self-isolate.

This shows the difference Welsh Liberal Democrats can make for families and communities across the country.

With £11 million now going towards those who need it most, I hope it can provide some reassurance in these times of uncertainty.

A new Education Policy Institute report has said that Wales’ response to the pandemic led the way in the UK in these and a number of other areas. This shows the difference Welsh Liberal Democrats can make for families and communities across the country.

Once again, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will lead the way.