“Until we meet again” – best wishes to Stephen Glenn as he moves even further North.

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Stephen GlennIt has been about a month since Stephen Glenn (of this parish) left our shores to head to Kirkwall (albeit via Eastleigh) but it has been a bit remiss of us not to wish our fellow Northern Irish Liberal Democrat all the very best in his new role as Parliamentary Assistant to Alistair Carmichael MP. We have benefited greatly from his expertise particularly in kickstarting this collective blog – but we also remember his wonderful knowledge for most of the most obscure quiz questions. I know that he his heading to Scottish Conference at the weekend, and I had a very enjoyable time with him at a previous one. The events of the journey travelling there seem somewhat appropriate for the eve of the great Abortion Debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly tomorrow. For those that don’t know, both Stephen and I blogged on LibDemsNI.org on the same topic, sat opposite each other on the Stena HSS to Stranraer. What we didn’t realise until we showed each other the posts, that we had used the same illustration for the post.

Stephen, you and I will remain firm friends, and I am sure this is the case for all of us here in the local party who have come to know you when you were here. We look forward to welcoming you home in May – I assume you’re still intent on running the Belfast Marathon!

Come on Tim… come on HQ… remember we’re here too

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Stephen Glenn speaking at Lib Dem Federal Conference

Stephen Glenn, local membership development officer for the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats,has just sent an email to Lib Dem HQ and the Party President Tim Farron MP, following the members’ survey highlighted yesterday:

Hi all,

Much as many of the Northern Ireland local party members (Branch 900 for your info) would love to take part in your recent survey on survey monkey you have neglected to include us as an option for location.

We do not fit into any of the English regions, nor are we Scottish or Welsh. We must certainly are part of the UK and not outside the UK, despite some of your team sending us information as if we were in recent months on how we can keep our Westminster votes (something we do in fact have with 18 MPs).

Can you please remember us in future. It is hard enough trying to keep our members here without Great George Street sending out all member mailings that neglect this fact.

Thank you.

Stephen Glenn

As you can see from the above picture, Stephen has spoken [many times!—Ed.] at Federal Party conference, and most recently he has spoken as a Northern Ireland party member. Has the Party forgotten this?

A Lib Dem round up for World AIDS Day 2010

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World Aids Day 2010 logo1 December 2010 saw many Liberal Democrats, bloggers and others, marking World AIDS Day across the United Kingdom, including Stephen Gilbert MP, Tim Farron MP, Lynne Featherstone MP, Stephen Williams MP, Jenny Willott MP, Colin Ross, Stephen Glenn, Millennium Dome, Andrew Reeves, and myself.
Let’s have a quick look at what some of them said:

Stephen Gilbert MP

Stephen Gilbert MP

The openly gay MP for St Austell & Newquay, sent the following message:

Today is a really important day to raise awareness, raise money for HIV/AIDS, and to show our support for those with the illness.

Despite recent medical advances, HIV/AIDS remains a life-limiting illness and we still have a huge way to go to tackle it.

I urge everyone to join me today in support of the work of charities such as the Terrence Higgins Trust and RED to help those at home and across the world.

There are vigils and events around the UK to commemorate the day. LGBT Lib Dems will be present at events in Manchester, London, and elsewhere.

Stephen also tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons calling on Her Majesty’s Government to end the ban on gay and bisexual men, and their partners, being blood donors.

Stephen Gilbert said:

As an openly gay Member of Parliament, I am a passionate believer that we must end this ridiculous and situation where law is based on stigma not science. This is one important area where true equal rights still don’t exist for LGBT people and that must change.

Technological and scientific advances mean that this unsound ban just isn’t fit for the 21st Century. It’s time to reviewed this outdated legislation and allow science and common sense to prevail.

The text of the EDM reads:

That this House notes with concern that men who are openly gay or bisexual are barred for life from donating blood; further notes that the regulations which call for this life ban have been in place since the 1980s in response to the HIV pandemic and have not been updated since, despite greater understanding of the disease; further notes that New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Japan and Australia currently allow gay and bisexual men to give blood; believes that policy on blood donation, individual exclusion and time limits thereupon should be based on science not stigma; and calls on the Government to introduce an evidence-based approach to allow as many people as possible, regardless of their sexuality, safely to donate blood.

Early Day motion 1120

Please write to your MP to ask them to sign this EDM to highlight and support this important issue.

Lynne Featherstone MP

Minister for Equalities has made a video…

She has asked that everyone takes the ‘Count Me In’ Pledge.

I will know my HIV status,
I will not assume I know someone else’s HIV status,
I will take personal responsibility for using condoms,
I will value myself and my health and,
I will stay informed about HIV and how it is spread.

Stephen Williams MP

Stephen Williams MP

MP for Bristol West said:

Like millions of people around the world, I am wearing my red ribbon for World Aids Day. Over the last 6 years I have worked with a variety of Aids related charities, most notably the Terrance Higgins Trust, on several HIV issues both in Bristol and in Westminster.

I have constantly spoken up for the need for proper sex and relationships education in schools, for affordable anti-retro viral drugs for Africa and for access for treatment for asylum seekers in Britain.

Today I used the rare opportunity of a question to the Prime Minister to ask David Cameron about the coalition government’s plans to combat HIV. The answer is that we are doing a lot, at home and abroad. Yesterday’s launch of the Public Health White Paper signals a new approach to public health, often the cinderella of the NHS. And abroad, we will be the first major country to hit 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid, much of which will benefit public health programmes in the developing world.

Jenny Willott MP

from Cardiff Central

Jenny Willott MP

Jenny Willott MP

spoke in the debate on HIV in Westminster Hall organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS. She asked:

I have just had a baby and I was tested automatically for HIV during my pregnancy. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that extending such automatic testing could play a valuable role in identifying cases very early so that people can receive the treatment that, as he said, will not only help them with their own medical needs, but prevent them from spreading the condition?

HC Deb, 1 December 2010, c302WH

and later on in the debate she said:

Will the hon. Gentleman also suggest that we need to tackle the stereotypes about the kind of person who might have HIV? That is one issue for people who do not go to their doctor, or who do go but whose GP does not pick up on it. As Pauline Latham mentioned earlier, GPs may not think that a middle-aged, heterosexual white woman is likely to be HIV-positive. We need to tackle those stereotypes.

HC Deb, 1 December 2010, c306WH

Incoming Liberal Democrat party president,

Tim Farron MP

Tim Farron MP, President Elect of the Liberal Democrats

boarded the Stop AIDS Campaign bus outside Parliament this week to show his support for the effort to bring an end to children being born with HIV by 2015.
Commenting afterwards, Tim said:

It is important we mark World AIDS Day however we can. Last year 400,000 babies were born with HIV or contracted it through their mother’s breast milk. But there are simple and affordable medicines to prevent this. We’re asking the Government to support the campaign for an AIDS-free generation born in 2015.

The Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria has saved nearly six million lives since its creation in 2002 and if fully funded, could ensure virtually all babies are born HIV free by 2015.

Diarmaid McDonald, Coordinator of the Stop AIDS Campaign said,

The UK could lead the world in ending children being born with HIV by 2015. By giving its fair share to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria the government could make this incredible goal possible. I’m delighted by Tim’s support for our campaign.

Michael Carchrie Campbell

Here in Northern Ireland, I came out on my other blog Gyronny Herald as a person living with HIV.

I gave the example of how one person can start to help to break the stigma of living with HIV.

Unsurprisingly given my job and other interests, I was at a political conference a few weeks ago. I was talking to a friend, who was also in attendance. He was asking what I was doing with my life, I told him that I was still working for my boss two days a week. He asked what I did the rest of the time.

I said:

“I help out down at The HIV Support Centre in Belfast. I’m a Trustee there.”

He asked:

“Is there much need of that, here?”
“Well, going on last year’s figures, there are about two people diagnosed in Belfast each week.”
“That’s bad.”
“Do you know anyone living with HIV?”
“No, I don’t.”

I stretched out my hand, he shook it, and I said,

“Hello, my name’s Michael, and I am living with HIV – you do now.”

My friend was rather stumped for words. But he then asked about how I was coping, and he said that I looked really well, and that I was coping well.

Here in Northern Ireland one of the best ways that you can support people living with HIV is by supporting our own local HIV-specific charity, The HIV Support Centre, which is based in Belfast. As a trustee and as a client there I know the work that they do is vital. Many have gone there when they think all is lost, when they think that their lives are over, and the staff and clients there help to turn them around, set them back on the road to better health, and to sorting out their own mental health when they learn the often devastating news that they are HIV positive.

If you would like to be support The HIV Support Centre, I know that they welcome donations not only of money, but of time, as well. Please visit their website to see how you can make a difference.

Party and Public will end up having no confidence in our MPs

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Good enough then, good enough now.

The Tuition Fees battle continues to rage, with a petition signed by 104 PPCs from last May’s Westminster Election having been sent to all 57 Liberal Democrat MPs.

Personally*, I hope that if the MPs vote against Party Policy – that is, for the increase in tuition fees – they are challenged by their local parties for the right to stand again as Liberal Democrats.

Perhaps it is time for the Leadership to be challenged publicly at Lib Dem Spring Conference in Sheffield. Would a vote of no confidence in the Party Leader in his home city be in order?

A petition, calling on all Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against the proposed rise in tuition fees when this is debated in Parliament before Christmas, has been sent to all the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs.

This petition has been established in opposition to the coalition government’s current proposed policy on tuition fees and has been signed by 104 of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidates at the 2010 General Election (over 15% of the total Lib Dem candidates).

The petition was conceived and produced by Craig Bichard, with the support of Derek Deedman, the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Arundel & South Downs at the 2010 General Election. Craig is a 19-year-old student and passionate member of the Arundel & South Downs Liberal Democrats, and it is his ambition to become a Liberal Democrat MP in the future.

Both Craig and Derek feel very strongly that unlike manifesto policies, which are aspirations to be delivered by an overall majority government or used as a basis for a compromise agreement in a coalition situation, the unconditional pledge made by Liberal Democrat Candidates to vote against any rise in tuition fees is a promise which must be kept – and 103 other Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidates at the 2010 General Election agree and have signed the petition. All agree that this is a red line issue and the provision in the Coalition Agreement for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain is not sufficient.

Derek Deedman‘s blog

The petition in full is reproduced below:

During the General Election campaign many of our MP’s (and now government ministers) signed a pledge with the National Union of Students that they would vote against any tuition fee rises during the course of the next Parliament. The wording of this pledge clearly indicated that this would be unconditional; regardless of whether the party was in government or in opposition. The party has been very clear for many years about its view on tuition fees and that we feel they should be abolished.

However after the recent publication of the Browne review into university funding it now seems entirely likely that although tuition fees will be capped this will be done to an unacceptable level of somewhere between £9000-£9500 per year with almost all courses costing at least £6000 per year.

Stopping this from happening is vitally important. Not just for the benefit of students but also for the Liberal Democrats. There is one thing that sets the Liberal Democrats apart from other political parties; this is that when we say we will do something during election campaigns we then do it in government. This can be seen in how the income tax threshold will rise to £10,000 by the end of this Parliament, the AV referendum on 5th May 2011, the reduction of MP’s to 600, the Pupil Premium and the delay over the replacement of Trident. We have achieved this and more despite the compromises of being in a coalition.

Nick Clegg emphasised this best of all during the televised leadership debates when he said that the Labour and Conservative Parties have given us “Nothing but broken promises”, he also emphasised that “The Liberal Democrats are different”. Finally and crucially he announced how he wanted to create a “New politics” and part of this vision was for parties to do in government as they claim they will in opposition.

It is time for us to remind him of these important values. The rise in tuition fees is designed to fill in the £2.9 billion black hole that will be left in the teaching funds for universities after the announcement of cuts of 40% in the spending review. However in the context of reducing the deficit this is a drop in the ocean and these savings could surely be better achieved elsewhere. For example during much of Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister the top rate of tax for the highest earners was 60% and yet today in harder financial times it is 50%. Yet it is students (hardly the richest people in our society) who will be paying for the last generations mistakes. This may be a hard time economically but this is a battle we must win.

We are different and must show that we are; especially now that we are in a position to do so.  Otherwise this party will rightly face many more years back in the political wilderness having been labelled as ‘just like the other lot’.

So are these savings of £2.9 billion worth it? Is this price worth the loss of our party’s integrity and our values? If not then we must let the leadership know how we feel and stop these fees from rising while we still can.

We, the undersigned Parliamentary Liberal Democrat Candidates at the 2010 General Election, call on Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and all the Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against any increase in tuition fees, as pledged to the National Union of Students and publicised as such during the 2010 General Election campaign.

There must be better alternatives and we must find the right one; or the else the party and the next generation of students will rightly feel let down for the next Parliament and beyond.

Thank you all for your time, we will all be watching the results of the vote very closely.

Signatures

Derek Deedman (Arundel and South Downs)

Godfrey Newman (Horsham)

Simon McDougall (Littlehampton and Bognor)

Martin Lury (Chichester)

5. Bernadette Millam (Brighton Pavilion)

Andrew Falconer (Runnymede and Weybridge)

Paul Elgood (Hove)

James Blanchard (Huddersfield)

Jon Underwood (Tiverton and Honiton)

10. Mark Chapman (Spelthorne)

Andrew Aalders (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich)

Wendy Taylor (Newcastle upon Tyne East)

Nick Perry (Hastings and Rye)

Peter Carroll (Maidstone and the Weald)

15. Alan Bullion (Sevenoaks)

Roger Barlow (Macclesfield)

Richard Baum (Bury North)

Nigel Quinton (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Nigel Bennett (South Suffolk)

20. Chris Nelson (Kettering)

Chris Bramall (Stourbridge)

Sam Boote (Nottingham East)

Adam Carew (East Hampshire)

David Ord (North Tyneside)

25. Adrian Collet (Aldershot)

Gareth Epps (Reading East)

Chris Foote Wood (Middlesbrough)

John Dixon (Cardiff North)

Philip Eades (Poole)

30. Steven Lambert (Aylesbury)

Philip Latham (Stockton North)

Lynne Beaumont (Folkestone and Hythe)

Michael Mullaney (Bosworth)

Brendan D’Cruz (Castle Point)

35. Jamie Matthews (Pudsey)

Helen Flynn (Skipton and Ripon)

Edward Fordham (Hampstead and Kilburn)§

Alex Berhanu
(Ilford North)

Richard Grayson (Hemel Hempstead)

40. Howard Keal (Thirsk and Malton)

Iarla Kilbane-Dawe (Edmonton)

Paula Keaveney (Garston and Halewood)

Steve Guy (Wycombe)

Rob Hylands (Gosport)

45. Martin Pierce (West Ham)

Tim McKay (Edinburgh South West)

Elizabeth Jewkes (City of Chester)

Daniel Roper (Broadland)

Stephen Glenn (Linlithgow and East Falkirk)

50. Chris Tucker (Slough)

Dave Raval (Hackney South and Shoreditch)

Margaret Rowley (Mid-Worcestershire)

Mike Willis (Loughborough)

Andrew Simpson (Northampton North)

55. Colin Ross (Wolverhampton North East)

Fiona Hornby (Devizes)

Paul Smith (Enfield North)

Tom Snowdon (Amber Valley)

Anna Pascoe (South West Devon)

60. Denis Healy (Hull North)

Tony Hill (Maidenhead)

Jane Lock (North Swindon)

Les Jones (Morecambe and Lunesdale)

Paul Brighton (Alyn and Deeside)

65. Ian Robertson (Rutherglen and Hamilton West)

David Harding-Price (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

David Rendel (Newbury)

John Loughton (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow)

David Hall Matthews (Bradford West)

70. David Smith (Wakefield)

Jerry Evans (Birmingham Hall Green)

Carol Woods (City of Durham)

Denise Hawksworth (Bolsover)

Mark Blackburn (Westminster North)

75. Jonathan Bramall (Dudley South)

Jane Brophy (Altrincham and Sale West)

Peter Reisdorf (Wirral West)

Jill Wareham (Isle of Wight)

Jane Kulka (Reigate)

80. Paul Dixon (Sunderland Central)

Susan Gaszczak (Rayleigh and Wickford)

Sally FitzHarris (Kingswood)

Simon Partridge (Great Yarmouth)

David Rundle (Banbury)

85. Mike Collins (The Cotswolds)

Margaret Phelps (Witham)

Stephen Martin (North Warwickshire)

Graham Oakes (Exeter)

Nigel Jones (Newcastle under Lyme)

90. Trevor Carbin (South West Wiltshire)

Farooq Qureshi (Leyton and Wanstead)

John McClintock (Chatham and Aylesford)

Nigel Rock (Kinelworth and Southam)

Christian Vassie (York Central)

95. Linda Jack (Mid Bedfordshire)

Kevin Ward (Glasgow East)

James Monaghan (Morley and Outwood)

David Goodall (Southampton Itchen)

Joe Naitta (Derbyshire Dales)

100. Robin Lawrence (Wolverhampton South West)

Lucy Care (Derby North)

Richard Nixon (Brigg and Goole)

Sally McIntosh (Mid Derbyshire)

Alan Beddow (Warwick and Leamington)

*This post is purely my personal opinion, not that of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats.

§ (deleted) as was included originally in error. (updated 30 November 2010)

Successful complaint brings Pink Paper’s Readers’ Awards to Northern Ireland

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Pink Paper Awards now come to Northern Ireland - go and nominate

Following my complaint yesterday to Tris Reid-Smith, Editor of the Pink Paper, and following his response, I am pleased to say that as of today, the Pink Paper’s Readers’ Awards now include the option of saying you are from Northern Ireland.

The email I received from Tris this morning says:

There’s a further update. Having looked into it further, we have now been able to include Northern Ireland as an option in the Readers’ Awards! Obviously anything you can do to get the word out to people and to get them to take part would be great!

Therefore, anyone reading this please broadcast far and wide.

crossposted from Gyronny Herald

Just shows what you can do if you complain.

Liberal Youth Northern Ireland

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Stephen McFarland

Stephen McFarland

 

While Michael and I were over at Scottish Conference at the weekend one of our student members Stephen McFarland, a student at Aberdeen Univeristy, asked if he could set up a Liberal Youth Northern Ireland page on Facebook. Both of us being old hands in the youth wing of our party of course jumped with glee at such a suggestion coming from the Youth members themselves.

You can visit and like the page Stephen has set up here.

Liberal Youth NI at present has no executive structure, but is a proposed youth wing of the local party of Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland.

The primary aim is to represent the policies of Liberalism and Liberal Democracy to those between the ages of 16 and 25 in Northern Ireland. Encouraging political involvement in a part of the United Kingdom were the Liberal Democrats do not presently contest elections.

At present Liberal Youth Northern Ireland is not an affiliated member of Liberal Youth! But out of little acorns great oaks can grow.

If you are a young person living in Northern Ireland and want to get involved, click on the join us tab above. The youth joining fee is £6 which works out at 50p  or half the price of a ‘broadsheet’ daily newspaper a month. If you are a student in any of the Northern Ireland Universities or Regional Colleges and interested in setting up a Liberal Youth Branch there contact us by email and we’ll be delighted to get in touch with you about how to do so.

insult to injury

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Last week, I blogged about the lack of recognition of the Northern Ireland local party of the Liberal Democrats by the Federal Party website.

This evening, quite by chance, I noticed that there is a link at the bottom of the Federal Party‘s homepage for ‘N. Ireland’.

Where does this link go?

Liberal International includes both the Liberal Democrats and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

It goes to the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland – a sister party within Liberal International. Now, there may have been plans, or indeed hopes, in the past that the Alliance Party would become a State Party of the Liberal Democrats. I am sure that what has happened in the House of Commons, where Naomi Long, Member of Parliament for Belfast East stated before the election that she would not take the Lib Dem whip, makes it clear that there is little chance of Alliance Party = Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland.

Stephen blogged well over a year ago about making a formal link up*,

The Lib Dems in Northern Ireland have long taken the stance that they would not contest elections but lend support to the most prominent centrist party, which is the Alliance Party with their 7 Assembly Members and 32 councillors.

but this has not happened – nor is it likely to, according to discussions Stephen had with Alliance’s executive director, Gerry Lynch. It is a fact that former Alliance leader Lord Alderdice sits as a Liberal Democrat Peer in the House of Lords, but this looks like it will continue to have no effect upon forming a formal link up.

Unless and until the Alliance Party becomes the Liberal Democrats’ State Party in Northern Ireland, the Federal Party needs to recognise that they are not this. The local party needs to be publicised, and as chair of the local party, I will be writing (not emailing) to seek the fixing of this. I will update you on the progress.

* keen readers will notice that at the time there was a link to the Northern Ireland local party on the then Federal Party website.