Corbyn is definitely not the Messiah!!

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the Messiah. He’s not even a naughty boy! He is Theresa May’s little helper trying to ensure that the UK hurtles over the Brexit cliff an objective that he has clearly held to all his life

Over the past 2 weekends we have knocked at getting on for 3,000 doors in Liverpool – I’ve knocked at a good number of these myself.

What is extremely interesting to me is the response that we are getting on Brexit usually without us even mentioning the subject. These fall into a number of categories:

  1. Remainers This group falls into three categories
  1. People who have always been Remainers and are convinced that they were right and think that the only way to resolve the issue given the stalemate in Parliament is a People’s Vote now that the facts of leaving are known.
  2. People who were Leavers and now are Remainers
  3. Members of the Labour Party who are Remainers and have either left the Labour Party or are not renewing their membership when it falls due.
  • Leavers. This category creates two sub categories
  1. People who have always been leavers and think they are right and we should do it even if we lose jobs etc;
  2. People who are still Leavers but are appalled at the way the Government has acted and support a referendum as the only way forward.

Of course, it is even more complicated than that but if I say which way forward above all had a very clear majority it is that there should be a first referendum on the facts as being the only way to bypass a deadlocked Parliament.

Of real interest to me is category 1 iii above which is the view of Labour Party members. Yesterday alone I met two married couples both in their mid 30s who have over the past few months have left the Labour Party. Brexit was the reason they left and the behaviour and lack of leadership of Corbyn was the final straw. Intriguingly, all four of these people had voted for Corbyn and were now so acutely embarrassed and appalled by him that they had now left the Party.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Corbyn is a liability to the Labour Party. Opinion polls show that young people who were enthused by his rhetoric are disappointed with his delivery. How else can anyone explain the fact that the most incompetent Government in modern history is still comfortably ahead of Labour in the opinion polls.

What I see on the doorstep in Liverpool is being replicated nationally. Labour is hemorrhaging members to the Lib Dems on a daily basis and the people that they are losing are the competent organisers that are the backbone of any political campaigning on a sustainable basis.

As I look at the national scene, I see a majority of good people in Parliament. People who are open to reason. People who put practicality over crude ideology. They exist in all Parties but not at the top levels of either the Government or main opposition Party at present. The ideologues who lead both Parties want us to go lemming like over the Brexit cliff. Now is the time for people like Jo Swinson; Sarah Wollaston and Hilary Benn to come together with one objective – get the People’s Vote to save this Country.

Let us be quite clear what the consequences of Brexit – never mind an even worse no-deal Brexit would mean. Cuts to the NHS, cuts to social care; cuts to schools; cuts to universities; cuts to housing; cuts to environmental programmes cuts to …. Well everything actually because our national wealth will decrease outside the EU and that will take down our capacity to spend money on all the things that our Country so badly needs. This isn’t guess work. Since the referendum we have gone from being the fastest growing economy in Europe to being the second slowest.

To pretend that a better deal is possible between a Labour Government and the EU is a lie. The EU have made clear that the current deal with May is the only deal on offer because they have rules in place with all 28 EU Countries because they are rules that we have urged on the EU whilst we are in membership.

To pretend that there will even be a General Election in the short-term is also a lie. Corbyn cannot win a Vote of No Confidence in the House of Commons. If he thought he could he should have moved it in December.

Locally we have our own ‘JC’ moving Labour voters inexorably our way. That is, if course, JA or one Joseph Anderson Mayor of this parish.  His latest little gem is the idea that people are rushing off the cruise which dock in Liverpool and one their favourite destinations is Great Homer Street market. Well I have welcomed hundreds of tourists to Liverpool at the Cruise Liner terminal and other places and do you know not one of them has ever asked me how to get to ‘Greaty Market!’

Just as Corbyn refuses to listen to the people of the Country Anderson refuses to listen to the people of Liverpool. We have lost £3.5 million on St John’s Market. Apparently according to our blessed Mayor no-one in Liverpool wants to physically shop any more. So why is he now suggesting we might buy the whole of the St John’s Centre and has already bought the Central Station shopping Centre?

His views and figures just don’t add up on retailing any more than they add up on Calderstones Park. We will lose up to £2 million if we proceed with his original proposals. We hope that he will not renege on his promise made at the November Council meeting not to compulsorily move the Beechley Riding for the Disabled Association from their Harthill base.

Whether its JA or JC doesn’t really matter. They are both acting as recruiting sergeants for the Lib Dems at the moment which is why we in Liverpool are looking forward to the May elections when I have no doubt at all that we will be adding to our growing number of councillors and members.

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In praise of…… Families!

Dr Fred Cook and Nurse Jill Dickinson (as was) celebrating 50 years of marriage yesterday

I’ve always been pleased to acknowledge that anything that I may have achieved in life can be put down to the family that I was born into and the one that I have helped build up during my lifetime.

I reflected on this yesterday when I skived off from door-knocking in Allerton & Hunts Cross (Sorry Fiona McBride!) and went to a family event in Aughton.

There I spent 7 hours with some of my nearest and dearest. It was an event to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my Cousin Jill to her husband Fred. I still find it incredible to think that we can possibly be celebrating an event 50 years ago which I was actually present at. I so vividly remember the event as many of Jill’s friends were attractive young nurses (as was she) and I was a very impressionable 16 year old! In fact it was the day that I became sweet 16 because it was on my birthday

There are always surprises. Who would have guessed that my cousin John would end up an accomplished ukulele player!?

Of course, most of the people who were present at that event are no longer with us. What was the senior generation at that event has morphed into my generation. We sat there looking at children and grandchildren mixing happily over the decades the oldest ‘child now approaching 50 and the youngest grandchild just 6 months old.

As with all families there were people who have drifted out of our orbit for a number of reasons. There was however a core of 4 cousins, who lived our early lives in tandem with each other because of the closeness of my Mum and her sister Joy. Until I was 11 my sister and I lived in London while my cousins lived in Maghull. However, at almost every holiday we came North or they came South.

My big sister, Ann, had to be interrupted. I suspect she had been telling Erica about some of my youthful indiscretions. Her husband, Alec, and 2nd cousin Jonathan seem to be trying to look elsewhere!

How 8 of us squeezed into the very small (with no bathroom) flat that we had in London now escapes me. The same when we came to Maghull where the house was only slightly bigger, but they did have a bathroom. What luxury! It must have been absolute chaos and a touch of ‘six in a bed at the old Pier Head’ but that is not what any of us could recall yesterday. What we remembered is the games and the fun and the love. Not all the time. There is apparently a cine-film of me throwing a tantrum which I am try to buy at any cost before it gets released to the World!

My cousins and I might have seemed a little smug yesterday. In many ways our feeling was that we have done our bit. We have brought our children into the World; they have done quite well and are bringing up their children in the same spirit with which we brought up ours. Above all we know that should anyone in our extended family need help, the family would be the first place we and they would turn for assistance.

In another 25 years we know that most of our generation will also have passed from this Earth and that our children will be the ‘senior generation’. We can hope that perhaps they will pass on stories at event about Grandpa Fred or cousin John just as we were able to yesterday.

So, what is the connection between my sentimental journey yesterday and my day-to-day life as a jobbing politician? It is a realisation that all the polices and programmes that I pursue and my Party pursues just must be family friendly. The family is still the basic building block of society. Many of the people who have problems have them exacerbated because they have no comfort blanket of a family to which they can turn for help. Loneliness, ill health, poor eating are all exacerbated by having no-one to turn to.

So many of the policies which have been pursued by politicians have caused problems for the family and therefore society as a whole. Those problems of ill thought out housing; poor transport and lack of child friendly policies have been hugely made worse by the actions of industry and commerce. Too many people in families are rarely able to get together as a family unit when Mum is on one zero hours minimum wage contract and Dad is on another. Too many people desperately struggle to provide family-based child care and can rarely do things as a family unit.

Take holidays as an example. In places across the whole of the Pennines families could have at least one week together because of wakes weeks. Here an entire town would shut down for a week. Excursion trains would pick them up on one Saturday take them to places like Blackpool and drop them off the following week and then go to the next town down the line. Now people who cannot get holidays in the ‘school holidays’ get fined if they take their children away on holiday during term time. What arrogance and nonsense. Its far more important for a family to get time together when they can afford it and they are allowed out from work than another two weeks in class.

So what changes would I make?

  • Dealing with that holiday problem by a more understanding system which differentiates between lazy parents who don’t care about school attendance and good parents who want to build their family and give children good memories for life.
  • Raise the minimum wage level to a level where parents do not need to have two full-time jobs to keep going but could survive on 1.5 jobs.
  • Proper legislation for those on zero-hour contracts and pretend self-employment such as that of UBER which allows both holiday pay and time off.
  • Planning policies which do not segregate our society but keeps families of different ages and different means together.
  • Greater support for families facing stress.
  • A decent home for every family and not living in hotels or substandard private sector accommodation.

How much would all this cost? Next to nothing. In fact, I think it would save money. Family breakdowns cost money for the health, education, social, police and other services. Invest in the family in the short-term and save a fortune on broken adults in the long-term. Will this ever happen? It will involve politicians and society as a whole thinking over a longer time frame than the next election. So, my guess is that we will find out where those pigs got wings before we get positive moves in the right direction.

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A Beacon of Hope for the World from America

This is the Democrat side of Congress. I want my Party, my City Council and my Parliament to look like this as well

Let’s face it everyone, 2018 was not a good year for liberals in politics globally. In a year that saw the right-wing advance in Europe and South America and a particularly vicious strain of racism hit the United Kingdom.

For the clear anti-Semitism and misogyny in parts of the Labour Party to the anti-Muslim and ‘keep the girlies in their place’ actions of the Tory Party to challenges on the street to people speaking Polish or looking ‘foreign’ have left our Country weaker and more divided.

For the past 2.5 years the United States of America seemed to exemplify much of what is wrong with the global body politic. A petulant, mean spirited, sexist and immoral man had been elected as the President of the most powerful Country in Western Politics. Admittedly, he lost the popular vote by 3 million but in the peculiar system which America has he won. He then started cutting away from long-standing alliances; causing trade wars which are damaging his economy as much as anyone else’s and appealing to his unattractive and illiterate base.

But then in November something wonderful happened. Donald Trump, the Great Satan, lost! He lost the popular vote for the Senate and he lost the House to a blue tide which swept the Republicans out of power. But that only tells half the story. Just look at that blue tide. Women; Moslems, Christians, Native Americans; people of Somali descent. In fact, a diversity which reflects the USA as a whole. Compare that with the shrunken Red side of the Chamber. Of their new congress people only one – yes one was a woman!

I looked on with awe yesterday as this motley collection was sworn in. What a joy to see these vibrant young people take their seats. They hold out to me not only a hope for the future of the USA but perhaps a signpost for the way forward in the United Kingdom.

Our Parliament looks a bit like Congress used to prior to last November. On one side, a predominantly male, wealthy and white Conservative Party. On the other a much more diverse group of people on the Labour benches with different ethnicities and backgrounds. It’s hard to talk about religions because we do not carry religious affiliations on our sleeve in the way that they do in the US.

My own Party is moving steadily forward. Our team of MPs is one third female with one from a minority background as the first UK MP of Palestinian descent. In my own Council Chamber in Liverpool our Group is 50/50 in terms of gender and I am the oldest member of our group by some 20 years with a good middle-aged spread (!) but not the proportion of 20+ year olds that I would like to see. Two of our members also are descended from recent immigrants to our Country.

Can what is now happening in the USA also happen in the UK? On their first day in office the Democrats took decisive action to try and break the impasse on the budget. They acted but did not move from the principles on which they had been elected. They fought the wall although it would have been easier to try and appease a group of right-wingers who support Trump and backed it or fiddled around at the edges.

They have set out clear ambitions about climate change; health services; social care; taxation; foreign policy and a host of other matters which there is a clear line between them and Trump. They are bold and their new law-makers will not allow them to be anything else. They may not yet be able to totally change the policies of Trump but they can neuter much of what he wants to do and show that there is a better friendlier and more attractive America.

In our Country there is far too much appeasement and too little principle. May decides her policy on Brexit, the key issue of our generation on political calculation and her reliance on a largely white, ageing and suburban/rural membership. Corbyn has only one thought – how to get a General Election. The fact that a General Election after Brexit would leave him unable to deliver any of his pet projects because there would be no money is irrelevant to him. An impoverished ‘People’s Republic’ is more appealing to him than staying in a system which would help to deliver strong services for those that need them most.

So where do we go from here? We need to remove power from the white baby boomers who still predominate in all the Political Parties. Yes, that does include me! But the omens are not good.

My own Party has more than doubled in size since the 2015 General Election and we have succeeded in getting a good number of those new members into positions of authority within the Party and elected on to councils. Half of the people who I expect to get elected next year will be people who have joined us in the past three years and half will be experienced returnees to the Council. Progress that is welcome but so many of our new members happily support us on twitter but not on the streets.

That is not only a problem for our Party but also for the Labour Party. I’ve just seen a motion approved by the Wavertree Labour Party which is redolent of student politics at its worst. Instead of hard actions they want protests and demos on the street of Liverpool and the Country. Actions which will do more to get people to vote Tory than anything else although it might make the protagonists feel more self-righteous, although that is a feeling that they have in abundance anyway!

So, I close with an appeal. If you are between 20 and 40 get involved with a political Party. This applies to anyone but especially to people who are women or from minority backgrounds based on sexual preference, race, faith or disability. Then don’t just Tweet but campaign to change the minds of people by example and by practical actions. I clearly hope that you will join my Party and if you are in Liverpool would be delighted to talk to you. Just contact me at richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk. But if you want to join another Party please do so.

I want our Parliament and our Council to look like the House of Congress did yesterday. Diverse, young, vibrant and committed. Well done América – we can once again say we want to follow your example!

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Protecting Council and other public sector employees from violence

We are pleased to be joining Labour colleagues in supporting this important campaign from UNISON to protect all public sector employees as they carry out their work

In my last blog I pointed out that we were pleased that the Labour Party had shared with us in advance a motion they were putting to the January Council meeting. We were pleased that they have also sent us another motion which we are delighted to support.

Perhaps, this should be the New Year Resolution for all Liverpool Councillors and the Mayor. Let’s work together when we can and only oppose each other when there are clear and substantial differences of opinion. It strengthens the case for all of us if we can work together and sometimes splitting over tiny differences of opinion weakens the way people think of us as a whole and the way that our messages are received by those we are trying to influence.

So, Lib Dem Councillors in Liverpool are joining Labour Councillors in asking the Council to support a UNISON “End Violence at Work Charter” in light of the fact that almost half Unison’s members working in the community sector have been subjected to violence or aggression in the past two years. Our Lib Dem employment Spokesperson, Cllr Kay Davies said, “As a public sector employee with a Trades Union background myself I am urging the Council to get behind this very worthwhile UNISON initiative. The attitude of some employers that this is just part of the job is wholly unacceptable.

Every employee should be able to expect that their employer treats them with respect and supports them in all their activities both front and back of house. One of the reasons for the high sickness rates for some public sector employees is the stress that they are put under because of the work that they have to do. They often meet people and work with people who are themselves living under great personal stress and therefore verbally or sometimes physically ‘lash out’ at those trying to help them.

Whilst we recognise this stress everyone must be aware of the need to ensure that our front-line staff can do their jobs calmly and safely”

ENDS

The full motion is appended below

Cllr Andrew Makinson    Cllr Kay Davies

This Council recognises that many public service workers are subjected to violence and aggression in the course of their work.

UNISON state that almost half of their members working in the Community Sector have been subjected to violence or aggression in the course of their work in the previous two years.  Incidents reported by UNISON members range from verbal aggression to serious physical assaults.  

Council further notes evidence that public service workers have been told by employers to tolerate violence, because these assaults are just “part of the job”.

This council applauds UNISON for developing the ‘End Violence at Work Charter’ – which commits an employer to ten basic actions to safeguard public service workers and provide support should they become the target of violence at work. The actions include managing risk, providing appropriate training and making support available to those who have suffered from violent incidents.  

This council notes that the End Violence at Work Charter is already making headway in driving up safety standards for public service workers and recognises that 35 major employers in the charity and housing association sectors have already signed up across the UK

This council wishes to see far more employers confront the issue of violence in the workplace and ensure that nobody providing services on behalf of this council is left exposed to unacceptable risk of violence against.  

This therefore council commits to exploring making the ‘End Violence at Work Charter’ a core part of our commissioning process. 

Council requests the Chief Executive to report back to the city council on options to encourage and where possible requires all existing service contract providers to sign up to the End Violence at Work Charter and explore ways to extend the above aims to the awarding of new contracts with the City Council.  

Further council reiterates its opposition to violence at work in all sectors and reaffirms its commitment to working with its own employees and Trade Unions to ensure that all appropriate steps and support are in place to tackle the issue for its own workforce. 

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New Hotel and Restaurant tax to fund Giants type events

When the Giants have walked they have brought millions of people into the City and they have brought millions of ££s with them. The problem is that the private sector makes the profit and the public sector picks up the bill

One of the things that many people do not realise about politics in Liverpool, or for that matter, the Country is that most politicians get on with each other most of the time. In Liverpool, Lib Dems and Labour vote with each other on about 90% of the votes that are taken in the Council or committees. That is for two reasons:

  1. We share some of the philosophy and policies of another Party; and
  2. Within local government we are often not doing what we want to do but responding to the dictats of central government.

This often shows itself in the votes that are taken on issues where central government or multi-national corporations are doing things that affect our City or where we believe in principle that the Government based in the South East does not understand the problems that affect councils and people in the North. That’s when we ask for more policy and on these occasions, with minor amendments we vote together on such issues.

So, we were very pleased when the Secretary of the Labour Group, Cllr Joann Kushner sent our chair, Cllr Kris Brown, a motion for Council relating to how to pay for the Giants and similar programmes. After a discussion we too submitted the motion to Council. This means that the names of both Lib Dem and Labour Councillors will appear as proposers of the motion on the Council’s Agenda. We too had been considering such a motion and whilst we would have expressed things slightly differently and asked for slightly different things we are not insisting on those differences when we so clearly are together on the main principles of the policy and our ask of Government.

We believe that the Government should allow a new tax on hotel bedrooms and restaurants in the City Centre to fund big spectacles in the City such as the Giants. This would, of course, not just be a tax for Liverpool but would give all councils the right to levy a ‘tourist charge’ for specific purposes defined in law and up to certain levels.

Such a tax is common throughout Europe and indeed in tourist areas throughout the World such as the USA.

Lib Dem Culture Spokesperson Cllr Carole Storey said, “Ever since 2000 when the Council first started to run for the European Capital of Culture, we have been staging big events and big programmes in the City. These events and activities have boosted our image, brought huge investment into our City and created thousands of jobs. Now because of Government cuts all that is at risk.

This Council like all others is being cut beyond the bone. It will have money left only for statutory services mainly for children and adults in need. Things like the Giants will not be possible because we cannot afford either the staff time to prepare and bid for them or the costs of running them which, in spite of sponsorship, does leave the Council with a bill.

But we know that the hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the City Centre and further afield make a huge profit from these events. Our proposal is that the Council should ask the Government to create a new tax, not just for Liverpool, on things like bedroom occupation. Just £2 a night per occupied room in hotels, ‘bed and breakfasts’ and Airbnb would bring in enough money to keep the visitors coming and the cash flowing.

Until the Government acts, we should consult relevant businesses to seek a way forward to enable them to make a fair contribution to the event’s costs from which they so clearly benefit.

The full motion is appended below.

Cllr Carole Storey and Cllr Kay Davies

This council recognises and applauds the inventive ideas and boundless energy that has originated from the Culture Team.

The worldwide appeal of the Giants, World Boccia, International Netball, Red Bull Drifters, Fusion Festival, Cruise Liner Terminal to name just a few of the international events that have brought millions of tourists to the City since 2008.

These outstanding events have, over the past 10 years since the Capital of Culture, led to a huge increase in tourism, which has seen many new hotels, restaurants, bars and bistros etc within the city centre. This has created £100 million plus economic impact to the city resulting in full hotels, restaurants and bars.

Unfortunately, this economic impact now needs to show itself in many of the areas whose residents contribute towards the costs of these events but see little of its rewards.

With this in mind this council believes that it should adopt the principle of a small charge on meals and hotel rooms that is prevalent in many international cities throughout the world. This money would be ring fenced and be used in the areas of deprivation and need throughout the city.

This council is aware that at present it is illegal to for the council to impose this upon hoteliers and restaurateurs, therefore, until the law is changed that a voluntary scheme is discussed with those concerned.

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Joy to the World and especially Liverpool!

The crowds that came together at short notice time after time to campaign for Calderstones Park is just one example of the way that our Liverpool community instinctively comes together when the need is there

So, it’s now Christmas Day and I hope everyone is having a good time. I am not going to spoil it with a ‘doom and gloom’ blog. I could do that but let’s leave it until 1st January!

I wanted to talk about some of the good things that have been happening in Liverpool this year and some of the other things I have been involved with which give me hope for the future.

Locally, I can only be impressed by and grateful for the work of the Save Calderstones Park campaigners who have raised more than £40,000 to fight a judicial review and to get more people to sign a petition against the deal to sell part of our park to Redrow. This is an absolutely marvelous set of actions. It just shows how the people of Liverpool instinctively get together when they believe that their heritage, their City, is threatened.

In an entirely different context thanks to all those who keep the food banks going especially the football supporters who on a weekly basis fill vans with donations. It’s a sad sign that such food banks are needed but a tremendous sign of the compassion of our City that wherever possible we rally round to meet the needs of our fellow Scousers.

Similarly, this City does more for the homeless than any other city. We welcome the fact that Labour have put more money into initiatives such as Labre House. But a range of other projects exist such as the Paper Cup Project run by the indefatigable Michelle Langan and the alternative centre for the homeless established by Lawrence Kenwright. I don’t often agree with Lawrence and I think that the way he has added a gross carbuncle to Millennium House is a disgrace but every credit to him for opening a centre to complement that of the Council.

Going back to parks I see the tremendous work being done on a daily basis by Chrissie and her team in Walton Hall Park. I believe that they should be running the Park and taking full control of it. As volunteers they bring life and vitality to the Park and a real sense of community spirit.

In my own Church Ward local residents have come together in a number of locations to keep entries and pavements clean so that they can be used by children in cleanliness and safety and also making a much better environment for us all.

Coming up soon will be a new initiative in Meredale Road where just one a month for two hours the road will be closed to cars so that children can come out and play together and the adults can meet up as well. It was interesting at the recent public meeting that was held that people shook hands who had seen each other going past but had never spoken to each other before. That’s community for you.

It’s worth remembering too, the people who will be at work for at least part of Christmas Day. When Erica was Lord Mayor, I became her chauffeur for the day and we visited the Police; Fire Service; ambulance service and Women’s Hospital before visiting a group who had raised money to provide a lunch for lonely people. The staff were proud to be serving, albeit very pleased to get back to their families. There were almost more volunteers at the lunch than people being fed as people wanted to ‘give back’ to their City.

Further afield, indeed across almost the entire world, I am thrilled and impressed by the young people who are part of World Merit. In almost half the Countries of the World we have committed and concerned young people doing good things to help their cities and their countries. From beach clean up campaigns; to homeless programmes to helping women with menstrual products to creating micro businesses to lift people out of poverty they are engaged and engaging. I get such a boost of personal energy when I am working alongside them.

My own Party in Liverpool is stronger than it has been for years. Over the past year the Council Group has doubled in size. Only 8 but that is a lot compared to 2 in the council year 2014/15. We gained in Childwall; Woolton and took the last seat in Church Ward all, of course, from Labour. Then in September we were joined by Cllr Kay Davies in County Ward who joined us from Labour because of Corbyn and Anderson.

Then on a very personal basis Erica and I were blessed with the arrival of our 5th Grandchild in October. Mairi is our second grand daughter and although she lives in a remote island off the coast of Scotland, we can see her almost every day because of the miracle of the internet.

In my own family Erica is in Guernsey spending Christmas with her Mum so I am ‘Home Alone’ until tomorrow. Her Mum has dementia so just like every other family we have our downs as well as our ups and are having, together, to deal with a problem which many other families are facing.

Does this blog sound smug and complacent? I hope not. In the midst of the national turmoil over Brexit; in the face of those people who will wake up today lonely and hungry it may seem that way. What I have tried to describe today are the green shoots of hope which support our City enrich our lives and for which I feel personally proud.

We will need to build on all these green shoots in 2019 and beyond. Liverpool has huge problems and the SS Great Britain is currently travelling in very choppy waters. I just hope that all those who are concerned about our City and Country will take advantage of a few days of peace and calm before returning to the fray in the very early New Year.

So as Tiny Tim so sagely observes in ‘A Christmas Carol’, “God Bless us – Every One”. My best wishes and those of the Lib Dems in Liverpool to all the people who live in; work in; visit or just love our great City and its people.

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Paddy Ashdown – A personal tribute

Th Rt Hon Lord Paddy Ashdown will be missed by me; all Liberal Democrats and many many more people outside our Party who knew him or knew of him

Last night the death of Paddy Ashdown hit me quite hard. Perhaps it was the realisation that at the age of almost 66 I am only 12 years his junior. But actually, it was because even now, Paddy was one of the few people to whom everyone would listen. People didn’t always agree with his arguments but they knew that those arguments were worth listening to. In turn, he listened to almost everyone and talked with almost everyone. He did that from an absolute belief in the liberal principles which he espoused.

But before I go on let me turn briefly to another more recent Leader who I also admire greatly – Nick Clegg. The great charge levelled against him and his fellow MPs was that he sought the coalition so that he could get his seat on a Ministerial car and the perks of office. This, of course, is absolutely nonsensical. If Nick or Paddy or Charles Kennedy or Jo Grimond or David Steel or Tim Farron had seen that as their first objective, they would never have joined our Party in the first place.

Being a Liberal, now Liberal Democrat, has never been the obvious place to be whether you are wanting to be a Councillor, MP or PM. You have to fight to win; you have to fight to stay elected; you have to fight to make yourself heard in what is still largely a two-Party system. There are no safe seats for us although some are safer than others! Any of our Leaders could have held high office in another Party. Any of the Lib Dem candidates seeking your vote in Liverpool in the elections next May would have been welcomed in another Party. Indeed, it is fascinating listening to Cllr Kay Davies who came from Labour to us describing the differences between our Parties.

So, if High Office was not their ambition what was? An absolute belief in our liberal principles with a clear understanding that those principles would not be delivered by any other Party in British politics.

Those principles are 100% clear:

  • A fierce Internationalism combined with a patriotism that says that the UK should be up there as a World and European Leader championing the causes of world peace and fighting the poverty; lack of education; environmental degradation and sectarian fighting. Not for us the false patriotism of jingoistic flag raising and drawing up of barriers but an outward looking Britain taking its values to the World.
  • An environmentalism that recognises that we only inherit the world from our predecessors and must bequeath it to our successors, our children and grandchildren, in such a way that they too will be able to thrive in clean air; clean environment and cleans seas.
  • A sense of fairness which questions the need for people to earn tens of millions of £s but instead calls for and works a greater sharing of the Country’s and the World’s wealth.
  • A belief that the Country cannot be run by politicians and bureaucrats in London or our economies decided by global capitalists taking their profits to offshore islands. With a decentralisation of power and a breaking up of international cartels.
  • All these being underpinned by a strong economy without which there is no money or other resources to fund the things that ordinary people need. The NHS; Education services; transport services; parks and libraries on which we all ultimately depend.

Of course, other Parties share or claim to share most these values but above all it is the penultimate one about the sharing of power which absolutely distinguishes us from any other British Party. We seek power to reform society to give it away again to the people who it really belongs to who  just lend it to us at election time.

Paddy and Jo and Charles and Nick and others all understood that and in the face of all the odds argued strongly and coherently for those ideals. Those ideas were often accepted by the two parties of the establishment years after our Party promoted them. Too often we could have said, “We told you so” but didn’t because that was pointless. Our policies evolved to meet new challenges and pressures within the principles outlined above.

What links the Leaders of my party in the 51 years I have known them is their sheer humanity. I actually thought that a few years ago about someone who was our Leader even longer ago, David Lloyd-George. When Mrs Thatcher was buried with great pomp after a service in Westminster, I recalled that Lloyd-George was buried in a simple service in the parish church in the where he had grown up.

Anyone could talk to Paddy. If you were depressed, he cheered you up. If you lacked motivation, he provided it in bucket loads. If you were unsure of where our policies applied in the greater scheme of things, he would make it all seem so simple. He did it with a smile, a joke and often a pint in his hand. He could talk as easily to a lot of bolshy Young Liberals (YLs are always bolshy thank goodness) as he could to great statesmen, presidents and Global Leaders.

I remember him coming to Liverpool at one election to support David Alton. We had arranged to meet at St Oswald’s Gardens in Old Swan. When we got there so had Militant who were barracking him from a balcony above where we were trying to hold a press conference. With no hesitation he took one look at them and shot straight up the stairs to meet them. After five minutes they went quiet for the rest of the visit and Paddy came down again. Whether he had swayed them with his arguments or just reminded them that he was the only Party Leader trained to kill with his bare hands I don’t know! But he went to talk to them when many others would have turned away.

Paddy, I will miss your acute brain and your reasoned and reasonable arguments so much. But so also will the body politic at a time when reasonable voices able to discuss thing rationally and calmly are so rare. At a time of shrill voices; huge prejudices and even huger chips on shoulders our final tribute will be for politicians to try and remember his example and come together at this acute hour of need for our Country.

Of course, for Liberal Democrats there is an easier way to honour and remember him. Next time it’s pouring with rain but you have 250 leaflets to deliver put your wellies on; find a bag for your leaflets; brave the elements and do it with the message inside your head, “I am going out for Paddy”.

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