Tim Farron commitment to end homelessness – reason to be proud, but also conscious of a great challenge


A party press release yesterday said:

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.

This is a good reason to be very proud of our party. Making this commitment is a big deal. Housing is a basic human right, and we are right to base our policy on that.

Shelter advocate an approach based on the American “Housing First” model. I see that Tim Farron embraces that method. Continue reading

We’ve learnt the hard way not to stand in the middle of the road

We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.

Aneurin Bevan quoted in the Observer, 6 December 1953

We have reason to be cautiously optimistic about the forthcoming elections.

It will probably take years to clarify why we had such a disastrous result in the 2015 general election, but it seems plausible to say that it was because people did not know what we stood for any more. Despite a laundry list of governmental achievements, we had, to an extent, sold our soul to the devil – the tuition fees disaster being emblematic of the whole thing. Then we went into the election saying effectively that we’d put a tape measure between the two other main parties and stand exactly equidistant between them. OK, that’s not what we said, but that was the perception that came over. Continue reading

General election campaigns get off to a flying start across the country

Campaigns, of course, are already up and running across the country for the May 4th local elections, but Theresa May’s announcement has given even greater impetus to Lib Dem activists across the country.

Here’s a round-up of some of today’s action via Twitter – please let us know about any other team action photos in the comments!:

Caroline Pidgeon was up in Cambridge lending her support to Julian Huppert in his campaign to regain the city’s parliamentary seat and also to Rod Cantrill in his bid to be the first Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough:

https://twitter.com/CarolinePidgeon/status/855832360780275712

Jane Dodds and the team have been out in Montgomeryshire:

Continue reading

Tim Farron: Trump putting the UK at the ‘back of the queue’ is a devastating blow to May’s hard Brexit

Responding to reports Donald Trump will put the EU ahead of the UK in trade talks, Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said:

This is a devastating blow to Theresa May’s hard Brexit plans.

Yet another claim by the Brexiteers, that Britain would be at the front of the queue for a trade deal with US, now lies in tatters.

Theresa May should now make clear she will prioritise a trade deal with the EU over one with Trump. Continue reading

Does Parliament have the plushest waiting room in the world?

St Stephen’s Hall, Houses of Parliament – some rights reserved by UK Parliament

Despite understandable security measures, it is still easy to visit the Houses of Parliament and watch the proceedings.

I went there this week. You basically present yourself at the Cromwell Green entrance, which is halfway along the building by the big statue of Oliver Cromwell. At the gate, they tend to ask you why you want to come in – but you just have to say “I want to go to the public gallery of the House of Commons (or Lords)” and they’ll let you in (having checked that the queues are not too long). You then get given a green card and are seen by a policeman who gives you a little briefing. You then go through the inevitable airport security check and you are in.

It’s worth noting that it is your right as a citizen to enter Parliament and ask to see your MP at the central lobby. You are advised to book an appointment with your MP for such a meeting, but you don’t have to. Of course, he or she might not be in Parliament if you turn up unannounced, but all UK residents have a right to walk into parliament for such a purpose or to watch proceedings.

Once you are in you do have a surprising amount of freedom to linger and wander through the place, without any “shooing along” from officials. There are officials and security guards around, but it is really quite surprising how free you are to “mooch about” and admire the various paintings, plaques, ceilings etc. You get to stroll through Westminster Hall, which is magnificent and the most historic part of the present Parliamentary buildings. Charles I was tried there. Continue reading

Public funding for the arts should be cut during a recession, right?

Grant Wood - American Gothic - Google Art Project
Well, er, no. “America after the fall – Painting in the 1930s” is an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts which breathtakingly displays how public funding for the arts during a depression (let alone a recession) can work wonders. As part of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, the Federal Arts Project employed artists to create visual art works, which eventually included over a hundred thousand paintings as well as many sculptures and other works. Artists who benefited included Jackson Pollock. There were other New Deal art projects such as the Public Works of Art project, the Section of Painting and Sculpture and the Treasury Relief Art Project.

All these programmes helped to produce an extraordinary decade for American Art, which is reflected brilliantly in the Royal Academy exhibition, on until June 4th in Piccadilly, London.

What comes over is that the decade established a distinctive American Art world, which was finally free of reference to art elsewhere. There is an extraordinary variety of styles producing a most colourful and impactful exhibition, reflecting the profound changes going on in the USA at the time. Continue reading

Soft Brexit Tory MPs who sign up for a hard Brexit manifesto will be responsible for an historic mistake

In August 2016, unusually, I made an appointment to see my MP. I wanted to talk to him about Britain, after Brexit, being part of the EEA and EFTA – in other words “a soft Brexit”.

My Conservative MP unequivocally explained that he campaigned for “remain”, his constituency voted “remain” and he wanted to salvage a good deal for local companies from Brexit. He spoke about making sure there are no extra barriers for local businesses exporting abroad. He enthusiastically received a paper I gave him from the Adam Smith Institute advocating EEA/EFTA membership after Brexit. Continue reading