Getting children back to school

The past few months have been incredibly difficult for pupils and teachers. We must ensure no child’s opportunities are diminished due to this terrible pandemic – that means getting children back to school safely.

A comprehensive test, trace and isolate system is critical to reopening classrooms as safely as possible.

Ministers need to work with local authorities to improve the NHS Test and Trace service, which is still failing to reach enough close contacts. https://t.co/GsFQkDDYov

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) August 10, 2020

However, school leaders, teachers, parents, and pupils need to feel confident that their schools will be COVID-safe once term begins in September.

Boris Johnson needs to step up and take action if this is going to happen. We must have a comprehensive test, trace, isolate system in place. The current NHS Test and Trace service is failing to reach enough close contacts; we need to see significant improvement before September if we are going to safely reopen schools.

The Government must also address the practical and financial support requirements that are involved with fully reopening schools. School leaders and teachers will be under serious pressure to adapt to making schools COVID-safe – they deserve a Government that fully supports them through this difficult time.

Liberal Democrats want to see radical steps to support education providers, from making community spaces available to schools, to a Teach for Britain campaign that can bring in new staff in this difficult time.

Honouring our debt to Afghan interpreters

During the war in Afghanistan, a number of Afghan civilians served with British troops as interpreters. These brave men and women risked their lives to enable our Armed Forces to do their jobs.

It was our own Paddy Ashdown who fought to ensure that the Government didn’t forget the service of these Afghan heroes.

Many of them were no longer safe in Afghanistan, facing reprisals for their service to the UK.

So I was proud that, when the UK began withdrawing our forces in 2012, it was our own Paddy Ashdown who fought to ensure that the Government didn’t forget the service of these Afghan heroes.

Back in 2013, he spoke powerfully about the “debt of honour” we owe them, and argued that they must be offered the chance to live in the UK.

Afghan translators put their lives at risk to help British troops. The least we can do is allow them the chance to build their lives in the UK.

It was our own Paddy Ashdown who back in 2013 fought to ensure that the Government didn’t forget the service of these brave people. 👇 pic.twitter.com/TECrCZgUyH

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) August 7, 2020

Thanks to Paddy’s campaign and the efforts of Liberal Democrat Ministers, we secured a scheme to allow interpreters to move to the UK.

However, they faced fierce resistance from Conservative Ministers, who set tight limits on who could benefit from the scheme.

Only those who were still working for the UK in December 2012 were eligible, and they could only bring family members with them if they moved at the same time – spouses and children could not join them later.

This left far too many interpreters stuck in Afghanistan and at serious risk of violence, or in the UK but separated from their families.

So we kept campaigning and, in 2018, the Government promised to expand the scheme to include all interpreters who have served on the frontline with British troops since May 2006.

It claimed that up to 200 more people would be able to benefit from the changes – but, two years later, just two translators have been able to come to the UK under the new rules.

Afghan translators put their lives at risk to help British troops. The least we can do is now allow these brave people the chance to build their lives in the UK.@Jamie4North has led a cross-party letter demanding we fulfil our debt to these brave translators 👇 pic.twitter.com/mSs5PN89A5

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) August 4, 2020

The Government also promised in March last year that interpreters who have relocated to the UK would now be able to bring family members to join them.

Brave individuals in Afghanistan who put their lives at risk for our country deserve the right to stay in the UK.

Sadly, however, not a single family member had been relocated to the UK under the new rules more than a year after that change came into force.

These failures represent an appalling breach of the debt Paddy spoke of back in 2013.

These courageous interpreters must not be left to live in fear of reprisals for their service, nor must they be cruelly separated from their families.

So, along with my Liberal Democrat colleagues and a number of MPs from other parties, I have written to the Defence Secretary and the Home Secretary, urging them to put this right without further delay.

There are no quick fixes to rebuilding our party

In this campaign, I’ve really been put through my paces. Through 20 hustings, with more to come, and hundreds of media interviews for newspapers, blogs, TV & radio, I’ve been making my pitch for the leadership.

That’s how it should be. We need to make sure our next leader is battle tested, because they face a big task when they take over this party at the end of August. The election review was 61 pages of recommendations, and Dorothy Thornhill rightly pulled no punches in identifying many of the big structural issues our party faces. I’m proud that as a party, we’ve been honest about what has gone wrong over the last decade, and I’m personally proud that Dorothy is backing me as the candidate to fix it.

But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it will be easy. There are no quick fixes to the challenges we face as a party, and there never have been. Whether that is our structural issues around campaign resourcing, our lack of a coherent message to the electorate, or our poor record on diversity, we can’t wave a magic wand and make those problems disappear overnight.

A lot of the work the next leader will have to do isn’t exciting, it won’t be front page news but it’s absolutely critical to our future success and will take hard work and graft. Fortunately, I’ve spent my life rising to challenges and have never been scared of a bit of graft. From when I was a young carer to my Mum, to when I won Kingston by 56 votes in 1997 when it wasn’t even a target seat, to beating the Tories in Government and more than trebling renewable energy, I’ve never backed down from a big challenge.

That’s why in this contest I’ve been talking about my plan to rebuild the party on solid foundations around a coherent core message, because we can’t go into another election with big ambitions that are built on sand. I’m determined to work with every part of our party, from the grassroots to the President and CEO, to deliver on the election review and make sure we can put the party in a position to win again.

I’m excited for the opportunity to take that experience and apply it to leading our party, rebuilding from the grassroots upwards, making sure people know Liberal Democrats stand for a fairer, greener and more caring society and making sure that our campaigners have everything they need in order to win in elections next year and beyond.

5 ways we have fought to protect jobs during coronavirus

Throughout this terrible disease, people have not only faced heartbreaking loss of life, but also crushing anxiety over their livelihoods.

Lockdown has been necessary to prevent an even greater catastrophe, but the economic shutdown has thrown millions of people into financial hardship.

Liberal Democrats have been fighting to make sure people do not feel left behind as the country slowly recovers. We cannot allow this to create a new wave of inequality in Britain; the damage done to businesses and jobs falls harder on some than others.

Here’s how we’ve been fighting to ensure no one is left behind.

1. Pushing the Government to help the self employed

Back in March, as the Government announced its financial support plans for businesses and employees, there was one group of workers that was conspicuously left out: the self-employed.

Over five million people – cleaners, taxi drivers, hairdressers, builders – all of these people faced tremendous uncertainty with the lockdown, but were not initially included in Rishi Sunak’s plans. We spoke out and pushed the Government to go further.

A key Liberal Democrat amendment to the emergency #CoronavirusBill could help support 5 million self-employed people through this national emergency.

We urge the Government to ensure that no-one is forgotten as this crisis continues.https://t.co/qwLcXJJL84

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 24, 2020

It worked. The Government expanded their offer, and we urged them to move even quicker to ensure that these people had enough to get by throughout the hardest period of lockdown.

2. Fighting for the furlough scheme to be extended

In early May, Rishi Sunak suggested he was hoping to “wind down” the furlough scheme in the coming weeks.

The furlough scheme has been a lifeline for millions of people this year whose employers were shut down or suffering dramatic loss of business.

In fact, it is estimated that the furlough scheme covered around a quarter of all jobs. The fact is that the scheme prevented even greater numbers of redundancies than we have seen – it has been essential in preventing cruel mass unemployment. Yet Rishi Sunak wanted to wind it down prematurely.

That’s why we spoke out against his plans and launched our “Safe to Return to Work” scheme that would give people that time and that confidence and help avoid further large-scale job losses.

3. Speaking up for the hardest-hit sectors

The economic turmoil of COVID-19 has not been felt equally across all sectors. That’s why we’ve spoken out for those who are feeling the pinch the hardest.

Take the creative industries.

We enjoy a world-leading creative sector, but without additional support they risk emerging smaller, weaker and with lasting damage.

That’s why in July Daisy Cooper called for a package of support to reinvigorate creative industries. Daisy’s plan, Power of Creativity: Recovery and Renewal, pushed the Government to take ambitious action to address the specific needs of a vulnerable sector.

4. Standing up for the 3m Excluded

We have heard too many heart-breaking stories from those who have lost their livelihoods as a result of coronavirus and are excluded from the Government’s support

Jamie Stone MP

Even now, there are too many people not receiving the help they need.

There are still around 3 million people who are not currently covered by the Government’s support.

New starters, newly self-employed people and freelancers all face difficulty getting the help they need.

But these people cannot be left behind as our economy begins to recover – that’s why we’re campaigning hard to get the Government to go further for the 3 million excluded.

Jamie Stone led the creation of an All-Party Parliamentary Group dedicated to helping these people, and as a party we’re going to keep pushing the Government to take action to support these people

5. Calling for an extension of the Brexit transition period

Instead of acting in the national interest, Conservative Ministers have been content to drive the UK towards a disastrous Brexit in the midst of a pandemic.

Refusing to extend the Brexit transition period not only threatens our vital medical supplies during this crisis, but also risks a huge economic hit.

Liberal Democrats have been speaking out against this reckless behaviour from the Government, calling for an extension of the Brexit transition period in order to protect jobs in Britain for those only just recovering from lockdown.

Returning Officer’s Ruling 5th August 2020

A complaint has been made about Ed Davey’s campaign’s conduct in its communication with members as to their voting intentions, specifically that they instructed canvassers not to disclose the identity of the campaign they were actually calling on behalf in calls made on the 11th and 14th of July 2020.

The Returning Officer has considered this matter carefully and has taken representations from the Campaign. The Returning Officer has found that the campaign, in so doing, acted in a way that was likely to mislead members.

The Returning Officer has required the campaign to forthwith delete the data collected from these calls and has received confirmation that has been done. The Returning Officer reserves the right to take further action if on further consideration such is felt necessary.