Our ambitious new plan for refugees Britain can and must do more for refugees - read this article to find out what - and why:
I passionately believe that the British people are open, tolerant and progressive. That’s what I love about us. But lately I’ve felt the country slide into a Britain I don’t recognise – a Britain that’s closed, insular and suspicious.
The Conservatives are largely to blame.
Their treatment of refugees – especially child refugees – is despicable and shameful. Faced with the biggest global trauma since the Second World War, Theresa May has torn up her promises and turned her back on the most vulnerable people in the world.
How will future Britons judge us?
The Liberal Democrats believe that as an advanced liberal democracy we must have compassion for those in need. The world looks to Britain as a leader in global business and a guardian of progressive values. We are proud of that.
That’s why, while visiting a refugee charity in Cheltenham today, I announced our plan to fly in the face of Theresa May’s callousness: we will take 10,000 refugees from Syria every year in the next parliament, and help find homes for asylum seeking children stranded in Europe.
This will ease some of the suffering caused by Conservative cold-bloodedness – going some way to redress the injustice of Theresa May’s repeated U-turns and broken promises on refugees. It’s the decent thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. And it’s the patriotic thing to do.
We want Britain to be an open-hearted and forward-looking world leader, not a provincial and miserly island on the fringes of Europe.
If you share this vision, support our refugee plan and vote Lib Dem on 8th June.
The leaked version of the Labour manifesto has confirmed Jeremy Corbyn's Labour won’t give the people the final say on the Brexit deal.
This comes after Jeremy Corbyn made clear that Labour believes Britain must leave the EU whatever the agreement reached, in an interview with BBC Look North yesterday.
Former Liberal Democrat party president Simon Hughes said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has waved the white flag and given Theresa May a blank cheque to pursue a divisive Brexit.
“Now this leaked manifesto confirms they are refusing to give the British people the final say over the Brexit deal, no matter how bad it is.
“A better future is available. The Liberal Democrats will stand up to Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain and against a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and put up prices.
"We will give you the final say on Brexit – with the option to stay in if you don't like the deal on offer."
I’m delighted to announce today that the Lib Dems will invest nearly £7bn more in schools and colleges over the next Parliament.
This funding would reverse cuts to school and college budgets, protect per-pupil funding in real terms, and ensure that every school gets the support it deserves. This goes further than Labour’s commitment to reverse £3bn of cuts to school budgets by 2020.
My colleague Sarah Olney – our Shadow Education Secretary – had this to say: "Children are being taught in overcrowded classes by overworked teachers – but Theresa May doesn't care.
“While funding per pupil is set to see the biggest cuts in a generation, billions are being spent on divisive plans to expand grammars and free schools. The Lib Dems’ extra £7 billion would ensure no school and no child loses out.”
Sarah’s right – the Tories are misdirecting and cutting funds to disastrous effect. Perhaps the saddest statistic is that – according the National Audit Office – up to 60% of school buildings are in urgent need of repair. How damning! Our schools are quite literally crumbling.
If you want to stop the continued degradation of our precious education system and prevent the Conservatives from bruising it further, vote Lib Dem on 8th June – the strong opposition that Britain needs.
Over the course of the parliament, we will:
• Protect per pupil funding in real terms in schools (£3.3bn)
• Protect further education per pupil funding in real terms (£660m)
• Ensure no school loses out from the National Funding Formula (£1.26bn)
• Protect the pupil premium in real terms (£415m)
• Invest in continuous professional development for teachers (£165m)
The £6.9bn includes £1.1bn of Barnett consequentials for devolved nations.
These plans will be fully costed in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, which will be launched in due course and set all our spending plans out in more detail. This will include reversing the Government’s proposed funding for new grammar schools.
Today, we've have announced our first election manifesto commitment; we will invest an extra £6bn a year in our NHS & Social Care system.
This new funding will be paid for through an immediate 1p rise on all rates of income tax.
This funding will be ring-fenced to be spent only on the NHS and social care and will provide vital services with the money they desperately need as part of a five point plan to put health and care services on a more sustainable footing long term.
This is our flagship spending commitment and our first major policy announcement for the election.
Our manifesto will also set out a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services.
As he made the announcement, Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Farron, said:
"Theresa May doesn't care about the NHS or social care. People are lying on trolleys in hospital corridors and she has done nothing. The truth is you can't have a strong NHS with a Hard Brexit."
"The Liberal Democrats will rescue the NHS and social care. We are prepared to be honest with people and say that we will all need to chip in a little more."
"It is not too late to change Britain's future. The Conservatives want absolute power, Labour are too weak to stand up to them, so we will. The Liberal Democrats will be the strong opposition Britain needs."
Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Norman Lamb, added:
“The NHS was once the envy of the world and this plan is the first step in restoring it to where it should be."
“A penny on the pound to save the NHS is money well spent in our view."
“Simply providing more money on its own is not enough and that’s why this is just the first step in our plan to protect health and care services long-term."
“We also need to do much more to keep people fit and healthy and out of hospital, and that is why this new funding will be targeted to those areas that have the greatest impact on patient care such as social care, general practice, mental health and public health."
This our five-step plan for the NHS & Social Care:
- Introduce a 1% raise in income tax, generating £6bn a year
- Ring-fence ALL of this for the NHS and care, investing efficiently and effectively in social care, primary care, mental health and public health
- Introduce a dedicated Health and Care Tax, showing on people’s payslips exactly what we spend it on these vital services.
- Establish a cross-party health and care convention, consulting and working with patients, the public, NHS staff and care workers, to ensure our systems are sustainable and integrated and put on a sustainable financial footing in the long term.
- Introduce an Independent Office of Health and Care Funding to monitor health and care budgets, which would report every three years on how much money the system needs to flourish
At around Midday yesterday, I heard that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, was in Eastbourne walking the streets of Upperton Ward. Obviously the game-plan was for the Tories to win back Upperton from our splendid Lib Dem county councillor and dear friend of mine, Pat Rodohan.
At first I was somewhat nonplussed by the Prime Minster's surprise, though I'm happy to welcome anyone to our wonderful town - I remember last time just before the general election David Cameron, spookily, paid us a visit as well (I wonder why?). But I knew Pat had been working really hard for the residents of Upperton and the feedback we had, indicated he was in a strong position to retain his seat. So what was going on I asked myself?
And then of course twigged....
The Conservative National Party were heavily targeting Upperton below-the-wire yesterday with numerous telephone calls, probably using a professional call centre, to get to as many non Lib Dem voters as possible and tell them the PM was in their Ward and if they want stability, strong government blah blah, the voter should go out right now and vote Conservative.
And it became clear to me this effort was working, which is not surprising as it's one hell of a large hammer to crack one relatively small nut in the great scheme of things, so what was going on and how were we to respond??
To answer the former, it's obvious that the fantastic levels of support I've received from across town has seriously rattled the Tories, and secondly we had to come up with something pretty spectacular to see off such a forensic and extensive use of resource from the Tories. And as we all know folks, money to pay for people to make squillions of phone calls for them would be a drop in the ocean!
So I went out to the team to ask they drop everything and head toward Upperton to get our vote out. I went onto FB to ask Eastbourne to join us in fighting off this cynical tactic of effectively buying a Ward election just so the PM can look good, and for the current MP to be able to say she was on course to hold her seat on June 8th.
And the town responded astonishingly. People flooded in. Our volunteers knocked on doors long into the evening, we told them what was happening and needed them to vote for Cllr Rodohan, and they did.
Today at the count we beat the Conservatives - and Pat actually increased his majority. We also saw a substantial increase in our vote on the top of the boxes as they were opened. Often by a factor of 8 to 2. These would have come in just over the last few hours before the polls closed as a result of our huge efforts in the final straight!
Thank you if you were one of those who helped.
In Eastbourne yesterday, people power beat the Prime Minister....
Below is a Facebook live video I recorded earlier today to express my enormous gratitude to all those who helped us retain our excellent county councillors here in Eastbourne. Thanks all.
But we don't stop there; Tomorrow (Saturday) we have another Action Day and another 45,000 new leaflets to deliver with my message of why, God willing, I should be returned as your MP on June 8th. With your help I am sure we can continue bucking the national trend.
Please come along to the Action Day if you can to help, even if just for the morning or the afternoon. You can even take some newsletters home with you to deliver during the week (what fun!!). It will just be brilliant to see so many people there, as we take the next step in our fight to regain this seat.
Liberal Democrats commit to ending rough sleeping in Britain Tim Farron announces measures to help end rough sleeping
The Liberal Democrats have committed to ending the scandal of rough sleeping in Britain, as the Homelessness Reduction Bill enters into force today.
Following a campaign visit to the Hundred Houses Society, a charitable housing association in Cambridge, Tim Farron announced a series of measures the party would put in place to help end rough sleeping.
These include introducing a Housing First provider in each local authority, to put long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters. Other policies include increasing funding for local councils for homelessness prevention, reinstating housing benefit for under-21s and reversing planned cuts to Local Housing Allowance rates.
The number of people sleeping rough rose to 4,134 in 2016, up 16% on the previous year. The Government has estimated that homelessness costs the state up to £1 billion a year.
The news comes as a coalition of charities, including Centrepoint, Crisis, Homeless Link, Shelter and St Mungo’s, have called on political parties to commit to end rough sleeping in Britain.
Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said: “It is a national scandal that so many people are sleeping on the streets in 21st century Britain.
“By increasing support for homelessness prevention and properly funding emergency accommodation, we can end rough sleeping across the country.
“We will also ensure each local authority has at least one provider of Housing First services, to allow long-term homeless people to live independently in their own homes.
“The evidence suggests that supporting people and giving them long-term, stable places to stay is far more successful in tackling homelessness than constantly moving them to different temporary accommodation.
“Under this government, homelessness has soared and the stripping of young people of housing benefit threatens to make matters even worse.
“This election is a chance to change the direction of this country and stand up for a Britain that is open, tolerant and united."
Benefit cuts and Brexit squeeze to leave 3 million families £2,500 worse off Three million households will be hit to the tune of £2,500 a year
Planned benefit cuts by the Conservative government combined with soaring inflation will leave nearly 3 million working households an average of £2,500 a year worse off, according to analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
Low inflation over the last two years has meant the government's freeze on most working-age benefits has only amounted to a 1% real cut so far.
But rising inflation from the falling pound is now set to reduce the value of these benefits by 5% between now and 2020, with total cuts of over £5 billion a year in the long run.
Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Susan Kramer commented: "Theresa May’s plans for a divisive Hard Brexit and savage cuts to benefits will leave millions of working families worse off.
"Three million households will be hit to the tune of £2,500 a year as a result of cuts to tax credits, rising prices and the falling pound.
"The Brexit squeeze will hit people in the pocket across the country, with the poorest families hit hardest.
"This election is a chance to change Britain's future and stop a disastrous hard Brexit that will leave us all poorer.
"Every Liberal Democrat MP elected is a challenge to Theresa May’s Hard Brexit agenda."
Elections campaigns so often come down to hope against fear, but Liberal Democrats need to harness both to succeed this year, writes Ben Westwood
“Be afraid, be very afraid”. Hardly an inspiring rallying call in progressive politics, but scaremongering is a strategy that has won elections for left and right wing alike, and we cannot ignore that in this campaign.
The Labour party used that very slogan in the 2001 general election, depicting William Hague on a campaign billboard resplendent with a Margaret Thatcher hairdo, an image designed to give the British electorate nightmares. It worked and Hague’s Conservatives took a humiliating beating at the ballot box. It was a far cry from Labour’s strategy of hope from four years earlier – “Things can only get better”. But this is a well-known formula: a message of hope in opposition, and a message of fear when in government.
Little has changed since the days of Blair, but fear seems to have gained an upper hand recently. The 2015 election was a battle of who can scare who the most. Labour warned on cuts – “Next time they’ll cut to the bone” – but they couldn’t beat the Conservatives at their own game. The fear of Ed Miliband’s incompetence, sitting in the pocket of the SNP on campaign posters, won the day for Cameron.
However, voters can tire of endless scare-mongering, as seen in last year’s EU Referendum campaign. The Remain campaign allowed Leave to seize the hopeful message embodied in Boris Johnson’s bumbling joie de vivre, while concentrating on the dire consequences of EU departure. Remain failed in the face of patriotic slogans of regaining independence and spending money on Britain instead. But alongside these hopeful messages, the Leave campaign used fear in an effective counter-balance – Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster may have caused uproar but it struck a chord with millions of disenfranchised voters looking for someone to blame. And as for the “remoaners” – they’re an out-of-touch liberal elite, as former banker Nigel Farage pointed out, even as he visited Donald Trump in his gold-plated lift.
This fear of the liberal elite, used so effectively by Trump in last year’s US election, is going to be a big factor in the coming weeks. The Conservatives and UKIP would have us believe that the liberal elite is trying to defy democracy through the courts and in parliament. Only a general election can deliver us from evil enemies of the people. After all, what do judges know?
This Conservative narrative – however warped in our eyes – is a persuasive one because it combines hope for a brighter Brexit with fear of those trying to ruin the process. It helps hugely that the massive machinery of big money donors and media moguls are backing this message. The Tories outspent all the other political parties put together in 2015, and with the daily artillery fire on whingeing liberals and dangerously deluded Corbynites from Paul Dacre’s Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, the odds are stacked heavily in their favour once again.
So between a heartless right wing machine and a clueless left wing opposition, where does this leave the Liberal Democrats who lost 49 MPs two years ago? With our yellow ‘liberty bird’ emblem, we have always been a party of hope, built on the principles of freedom, democracy, openness and free trade. We have never been an angry party, but now is the time to harness fear and righteous indignation because our principles are under attack.
The Conservatives’ strategy will undoubtedly be to keep the debate firmly on Brexit – an issue where Theresa May feels she has popular support – but that may backfire in Remain-voting constituencies such as mine in Lewes. We have already seen this in Richmond and we need to ensure it happens across the country so that returning to a powerbase of 50 or 60 seats is well within our grasp. People are fearful of a hard Brexit and, while we must champion our positive vision of Europe as a haven for freedom, we cannot ignore the fact that the Conservatives could be leading us off an economic cliff-edge. Businesspeople, many of whom have usually seen the Conservatives as their party of choice, need to realise that so many Tories are willing to lead Britain to the disaster of crashing out of the EU with no deal and reverting to WTO rules. Boris Johnson doesn’t think it’s a problem, and with his bank balance, why should he? It is businesses and their employees who will bear the brunt of this chaos.
However, we must not let the Conservatives make this election all about Brexit. A BBC Populus poll at the last election showed that the NHS and the economy were the biggest issues, ahead of immigration, and that welfare and education were far more important to voters than the EU. I doubt that has changed – people fear for their health, their bank balance, their safety net and their children’s future more than anything else.
We know that there is much to be fearful about another five years of Conservative government because we’ve already had glimpses of it. Let off the leash with no moderate coalition partner to keep them in check in the past two years, the Conservatives have happily hacked away at the welfare state. The NHS is in crisis with creeping privatisation, crippling debts and rock-bottom morale. Our schools are under threat from funding cuts, something that the Tories pledged not to do. The most vulnerable in our society are seeing their welfare payments cut – from the disabled to widowed parents, of which I am one.
Of course we cannot go knocking on doors scaring people like some kind of yellow peril, but there is a lot on the line in this election. The elderly, who so often vote Conservative, need to realise that the Conservatives are imposing cuts on social care budgets that mean nursing homes cannot cope. It is the Conservatives who allow waiting lists to lengthen and preside over a health system on the brink of collapse. Parents need to realise that the Conservatives are overburdening their children’s education with tests, while quietly cutting school’s budgets.
We cannot base our entire campaign on scaremongering but fear will play a big part in this election. We need to address these fears, harness the energy and indignation, and transform it into a positive message that we are the only party that combines compassion with economic competence, and that we will stand in the way of Conservative policies that will do harm to every sector of society, as we did with some success during the coalition government. We should be proud of that too and proud of our resurgence. Progressive-minded people across the country are flocking to the Liberal Democrats in their thousands. Both hope and fear can drive us forward. Be afraid yes, but be inspired too – this just might be the biggest political fight of your lives.
- Ben Westwood is a journalist, author and lecturer in politics and media at University of Brighton. email@example.com
Southern Fail has become a pressing issue in both constituencies, with commuters angry at a Government that inexplicably supports the rail operator, paying ticket refunds out of taxpayers’ money
This general election can’t come soon enough for Liberal Democrats in my neck of the woods. I live on the cusp of two constituencies which turned from yellow to blue in 2015, and we now have a chance to win back seats the party should never have lost.
The parallels between Eastbourne and Lewes are striking – both had popular Liberal Democrat MPs with healthy majorities overturned by the Conservatives two years ago. This was no Tory surge though – their party’s votes barely moved and actually fell slightly in Eastbourne – winning by just 733 votes there and by 1,083 in Lewes. The Liberal Democrats clearly bore the brunt of coalition-bashing as voters defected to Labour, Greens or stayed at home. These are the people the party needs to win back this time round.
Despite the political similarities, Eastbourne and Lewes are very different. Eastbourne is the seaside town shaking off its ‘God’s waiting room’ image with an economic boom and rapidly growing young population, while market town Lewes is famed for breweries, antique shops and boisterous Bonfire celebrations. Both have flourishing tourism and commuter populations, but the EU referendum highlighted a key difference – Eastbourne voted decisively to leave while Lewes plumped overwhelmingly to remain.
Veteran campaigner Stephen Lloyd is standing again in Eastbourne after a petition by constituents dismayed by his defeat. He first stood for parliament in 2001 and won Eastbourne in 2010, defeating Conservative Nigel Waterson. Very popular locally, Lloyd established over 3000 apprenticeships and pushed hard on the redevelopment of the town centre. He has continued working for Eastbourne despite losing his seat, and it often feels as if the town has two MPs.
On Brexit, Lloyd promised to respect the referendum. Reflecting his history of breaking ranks with the party hierarchy (he voted against tuition fee increases during the Coalition), Lloyd refuses to support a second referendum, a key pledge of leader Tim Farron. However, Kelly-Marie Blundell, one of the new generation who replaced retiring Norman Baker as candidate for Lewes, has a very different stance. She is unashamedly pro-EU and backs a second referendum, secure in the knowledge that Lewes backed Remain very strongly.
But beyond Brexit, on the doorstep and on social media alike, local people have more important concerns. Health and social care, the number one issue in a BBC poll at the last election, is top of the list. The Government’s decision to move maternity services from Eastbourne to Hastings was deeply unpopular, while Lewes suffers from having no hospital – patients have to travel miles to Brighton, Haywards Heath or Eastbourne. Adult social care is also under immense pressure from a Conservative-led East Sussex County Council that aims to save £56 million over the next three years.
Transport has become a pressing issue in both constituencies recently with Southern Fail consistently failing to deliver anything approaching an adequate train service in the face of strikes. It has reached crisis point in the past year and there is huge anger from thousands of commuters at a Government that steadfastly and inexplicably supports the rail operator, paying ticket refunds out of taxpayers’ money.
On all these issues incumbent Conservative MPs Caroline Ansell and Maria Caulfield are vulnerable. They claim to understand people’s concerns but cannot escape the fact that their party is pushing through cuts to everything from disability payments to widow’s benefits, and from schools to hospitals, while supporting big business over local people when voting for fracking on our Downs.
Neither MP can dispel the feeling that they are out of touch. Ansell recently asserted in the face of mass complaints from headteachers that Eastbourne would suffer no school cuts as a result of the Government’s new funding formula, in direct contradiction to estimates from the National Audit Office. Ansell is from the richest area of Eastbourne, Meads, and has invited derision by mispronouncing the name of one of her constituency’s least privileged areas, Langney, in a recent vlog post. Caulfield is gaining a reputation for being similarly out of touch – she doesn’t even live in her Lewes constituency.
Buoyed by a surge in membership towards 100,000, Liberal Democrats are highly motivated here. Much depends on the floating voters who drifted away to left-wing parties last time, and on the fear and anger felt by Remainers. Much also depends on fundraising, as the Lib Dems rely mainly on smaller contributions from local supporters. This is vital in challenging the far better funded incumbents. Two years ago, the Conservative machine spent more than every other party combined, buying front page advertorials in Johnston Press newspapers and plastering constituencies with billboards of Ed Miliband in Nicola Sturgeon’s pocket. We are confident it won’t work this time.
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell rather patronisingly referred to the Liberal Democrats last week as one of the “minor political parties”. That’s motivation enough to show everyone what we’re made of. Bring it on.
Ben Westwood is a journalist, author and lecturer in politics and media at University of Brighton.
Liberal Democrats expected to surpass 100,000 members Voters flock to Liberal Democrats after Theresa May calls snap general election
The Liberal Democrat membership surge is about to take the party to a landmark 100,000 members – thanks to a staggering 12,500 joining since Theresa May announced the snap General Election last Tuesday.
Reaching six figures makes the party bigger than it has been since the mid-1990s and puts it on course to reach its highest membership ever within days. The biggest the party has been since its formation is 101,768 in 1994.
It means that more than 50,000 members have joined since last year’s European referendum and more than 67,500 since the 2015 General Election.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron pledged to build the party to 100,000 members by the end of the parliament as a key pledge during his 2015 leadership campaign - but at that point everyone expected the end of the parliament to be 2020.
Tim Farron said:
“Thousands of people are joining the Liberal Democrats every day because they want to change Britain’s future.
“People want a strong opposition to Theresa May’s Hard Brexit agenda and the Liberal Democrats are the only party challenging them up and down the country. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has completely failed, offering no opposition whatsoever and giving Theresa May a blank cheque to pursue a Hard Brexit.
“This election is your chance to change the direction of our country. If you want to stop a disastrous Hard Brexit, if you want to keep Britain in the Single Market, if you want a strong opposition to fight for an open, tolerant and united Britain, this is your chance.”
The landmark figure is just the latest sign of the party’s gathering momentum:
- The latest poll in Sunday’s Observer gave the party a four point increase. The party is consistently polling between 11-14%, close to double its average for most of 2015 and 2016.
- We are on a winning streak. Not only did we win the Richmond Park by-election in stunning style in December 2016, we have had an astonishing run of council by-election gains – more than 30 since last May – making it the best year for by-election gains in the party’s history. We are winning from the Tories, Labour and UKIP, and in areas that voted both Leave and Remain. We are also the only party to have increased its share of the vote in every recent parliamentary by-election.
- We have over-taken Labour in fundraising. In the last quarter of 2016, the Liberal Democrats raised nearly £2m – more money than the Labour Party for the first time ever.