Garth Harkness

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Saddleworth North Ward on Oldham Council Learn more

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Today (27th February) the Court of Appeal ruled against building a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Having campaigned tirelessly on this issue for years, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I are delighted with the decision.

This third runway would make it almost impossible for the UK to achieve net-zero, and we have a responsibility to lead the word in tackling the climate emergency.

The climate emergency is the biggest issue facing the world today, and if the Conservatives want to take it seriously, they should now simply cancel any Heathrow expansion once and for all.

But we mustn't stop there.

We cannot combat the climate crisis if we allow airports to expand elsewhere, especially at a time when we should be promoting greener transport.

So I want you to sign the Liberal Democrat petition calling on the Tories to stop airport expansion across the UK. 

We will continue to hold this government to account on their climate change commitments. Have your say below. 

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Getting nominated: a guide

by Liberal Democrats on Thu, 27 Feb 2020

If you want to make your mark on the party by contributing to one of the volunteer committees that run things, then the first step is getting nominated.

To help you do that, we’ve produced this guide.

First though, you probably need to know which positions are currently open.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Do you want to help run the Scottish Liberal Democrats?

by Sheila Ritchie on Thu, 27 Feb 2020

We've got a raft of vacancies open on various Scottish Liberal Democrat committees.

Being on a committee is a really potent way of having your say on how our party is run. If you're keen to get more involved, why not take a look?

 

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

EU citizens deserve the right to stay

by Christine Jardine on Wed, 26 Feb 2020

During the 2016 referendum campaign, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Michael Gove issued a joint statement promising to automatically guarantee the rights of EU citizens.

They declared: “There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.”

Fast forward to today and the Conservatives have broken these promises, leaving EU citizens under a cloud of uncertainty.

The Tories have broken their promises and left EU citizens under a cloud of uncertainty.

Despite their guarantees in last year’s Tory manifesto, Boris Johnson’s Government has made no attempt to reassure those who are wishing to stay. Instead, they introduced a “Settled Status” scheme that has failed to provide reassurance or security.

The Conservatives are also refusing to provide EU citizens with physical proof of their rights. Instead, they have resorted to a digital code and an online Home Office database, putting them at risk of discrimination.

This is unacceptable.

Europeans who have made their lives here in the UK contribute enormously to our economy, our public services and our society. They must not be put at risk of a new Windrush-style scandal.

No one seriously believes that the Home Office will be able to grant settled status to everyone who’s eligible by June next year. Thousands will be left effectively undocumented and subject to the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment – at risk of eviction, detention and even deportation.

Europeans who have made their lives here in the UK contribute enormously to our economy, our public services and our society.

With the Bill I am tabling today, the Liberal Democrats are continuing to fight for EU citizens.

We are calling for these citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, without the need to apply. They should be able to register for physical proof of their status, with no arbitrary deadline.

EU citizens are our families and friends, our colleagues and carers. They deserve better. If you agree, show your support by signing the Liberal Democrat petition here.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Help us make the Liberal Democrats more representative

by Natalie Chindipha on Wed, 26 Feb 2020

We're a party of community, kindness and liberal values.

We want to make sure everyone out there knows they are welcome

We want to make sure everyone out there knows they are welcome. All members deserve to feel welcome throughout their membership journey. That's why we're launching a diversity & inclusion survey today.

We want to take this opportunity to reach out to local parties. This is your chance to tell us how we can best help you. We want to help you engage with communities in your area at a grassroots level and include members from underrepresented groups.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Hong Kong - One Year On

by Alistair Carmichael on Tue, 25 Feb 2020

As liberals, Hong Kong's fight is our fight.

A year on from the beginning of the protests in Hong Kong, the Chinese government haven't budged. Beijing continues to systematically violate the human rights of people in Hong Kong, and deny the region democracy. 

But Hong Kong is not giving up. The people of Hong Kong are not going to back down from this fight.

During the Handover, the UK promised Hong Kongers that their rights and freedoms would be enhanced and protected - including progress towards universal suffrage. Yet, just over a decade on, the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ arrangement has faded into a shadow of what it was supposed to be.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

English Local Elections Briefing

by Liberal Democrats on Sat, 22 Feb 2020

Thank you!

Whether you’re a Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate, a Mayoral Candidate, a GLA candidate, a Council Candidate or one of the thousands of Liberal Democrat activists that help get them elected, we want to say thank you.

The time and effort you give is what makes our party tick and without you, we couldn’t achieve the change at every level of government we all are fighting for. We hope you find this page useful as you prepare for the 2020 local elections.

Thank You So Much Laughing GIF by Pusheen

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Get ready for the action weekend!

by Henry Mcmorrow on Fri, 21 Feb 2020

As you know, there are hundreds of local and regional elections happening in England and Wales in May this year, including Council, Mayoral and Police & Crime Commissioner elections.

They present us with an excellent opportunity to make huge gains across the country, and for your local party to make a big impact in your local area.

To help you get off to a flying start with your local campaign, the Campaigns team is organising an Action Weekend from 20th - 22nd March.

Our goal? To knock on 100,000 doors across England and Wales over the weekend.

But to do this, we need you. We need as many local parties as possible to get involved by running dedicated events and campaigning sessions in your local area.

This coordinated weekend of campaigning will help to boost the profile of the party across the country and build momentum ahead of the elections. It’s also a good chance to get your newer members involved in campaigning for the first time.

The first step is to get your local event on the events page to ensure members and supporters can find it and RSVP.

Get my event on the website

The Campaigns team have also produced a National Action Weekend Pack.

Remember, there’s at least one election happening in every area, and if you’re not sure which ones are happening locally you can check on the Electoral Commission website using their postcode checker

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Happy LGBT+ History Month!

by Ed Davey on Thu, 20 Feb 2020

2020 marks the 15th LGBT History Month and since its inception in 2005, this has been a month of both reflection and action.

Over the last few years, we’ve made some amazing leaps for equality, including seeing same-sex marriage legalised in Northern Ireland just a few months ago. However, it is important to remember there is still a long way to go before we reach true equality.

Over the last few years, we’ve made some amazing leaps for equality

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Liberal Democrats have long demanded fundamental reforms to the distribution of power: proportional voting, decentralisation, an elected second chamber.  

Sadly, electoral reform has been lacking entirely from the Labour party's leadership contest. That's why, this week, I’ve written to the three remaining Labour leadership candidates, urging them to ditch our broken voting system in favour of proportional representation.

Read the letter in full below.

The last three years, more than any before, has shown politics isn’t working for people. It is broken. Now is the time to hit the reset button.

After the last General Election, 14.5 million people have an MP they didn't vote for.

At the last General Election the Conservatives, despite only getting 44% of votes, entered the House of Commons with 56% of seats. 14.5 million people have an MP they didn't vote for, while 71% of votes were “wasted”. In Scotland, the situation was even worse, with the SNP securing 80% of the seats from 45% of the popular vote.

It is no wonder that people feel they have little or no influence on decision-making today. Our democracy doesn't need piecemeal change. It needs an urgent and radical overhaul at all levels.

There are many issues we disagree on. But progressives right across UK, aside from Labour, agree that we have a decaying electoral system that shuts out too many from our democracy.

With a Prime Minister in Boris Johnson who tried to silence our democracy by unlawfully shutting down Parliament, nobody can trust him to fix our broken politics or the systems that support it.

So far in the Labour leadership contest, electoral reform has been dangerously absent.

It therefore isn’t good enough for the next Labour leader to sit on their hands and do nothing. It is past time Labour joined the progressive alliance in favour of electoral reform.

So far in the Labour leadership contest, electoral reform has been dangerously absent. I am therefore writing to you to urge you to make clear your support to align Labour with the growing progressive movement across the UK in favour of electoral reform.

Kind regards,

Wendy Chamberlain

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Constitutional Affairs

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Whoever you are, the Liberal Democrats will stand up for you.

by Liberal Democrats on Wed, 19 Feb 2020

The Liberal Democrats are working hard to tackle the big issues that people are facing across the UK.

✔︎ Ensuring a properly resourced NHS, to provide the highest quality care for our loved ones

✔︎ Fighting to reverse police cuts, to protect our communities from violent crime

✔︎ Protecting our environment. We’ve already done more to fight the climate emergency than any other party

✔︎ Building high-quality, reliable public transport links across the UK

✔︎ Investing in world-class education, to give our children the best start possible in life

We want to see an open, inclusive, outward-looking and optimistic United Kingdom. 

That's who we are. That is what we will be. And that is the future we will build.

If those are your values too, why not join us today?

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Taking the 'Time to Change' pledge

by Mike Dixon on Wed, 19 Feb 2020

The first time you go canvassing can feel daunting. For many people, going up to a stranger’s door, knocking, and starting a conversation isn’t something they do every day. They don’t often ask people about how they want things to change, in their neighbourhood or across the country as a whole.

More than 1 in 4 of us will experience depression, anxiety or stress this year. Almost every family will be affected.

But with practice and repetition, what may have initially seemed like an odd thing to do begins to feel natural. And even fun. It turns out that many people like being asked about their opinions, especially by someone who clearly cares, is open to listening and taking them seriously.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

At our latest meeting, the Federal Board welcomed our newest member, Lisa Smart, who has been elected the new chair of the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC), taking over from James Gurling. Welcome on board, Lisa!

We also welcomed back to the Board Tony Harris as Registered Treasurer and chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) and Mike German as Federal Treasurer.

Details of the outcome of elections for other key posts around the party are available on the party website. Congratulations to everyone elected and thank you also to everyone else who applied, helping to give us a strong set of names to choose from.

After our January Board meeting agreed the timings and got the ball rolling on key elements for our success this year, such as an independent elections review and our leadership election, the Board concentrated this time in particular on the Federal Party’s budget.

We’re rightly focused on ensuring we improve how we operate on your behalf

To give some context, overall our income in 2020 will be around £6.5 million, which compares with £34 million for the Conservatives and £46 million for Labour in 2018.

After the surge in spending and staffing in the immediate run-up to the general election, the Board agreed that this year we need to return to a long-term sustainable level of staffing and expenditure. This means day-to-day spending matching income from members, donors and grants, with any surplus from last year ring-fenced to allow us to implement recommendations from the independent elections review and for one-off projects focused on transforming our capabilities.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Today, Ed Davey and I have written to the Prime Minister, calling for him to reverse plans to scrap the BBC licence fee.

The British Press is by no means without criticism, but at its best, the BBC remains a beacon of independent journalism as well as high-quality entertainment. That's why Liberal Democrats will fight tooth and nail to save it. Read our letter in full below: 

Dear Boris,

We were dismayed to see on Sunday morning your government make yet another attack on the BBC with the reported plans to scrap the TV licence and make the British public pay a TV subscription fee instead. 

This was not in your manifesto and appears to be yet another thinly veiled step in your government’s efforts to undermine and thereby dismantle the BBC.

Dominic Cummings has previously described the BBC as the "mortal enemy" of the Conservative Party.

The fact that Ministers are already consulting on plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee from 2022, having so recently dismissed this option in a government review just 5 years ago, is yet more evidence that these plans are not sensible, considered reforms, but a deliberate and sustained attack led by one of your closest advisors, Dominic Cummings.

Mr Cummings has previously described the BBC as the “mortal enemy” of the Conservative Party. Of course, the BBC is not perfect, and all political parties have their gripes with the broadcaster. However, this does not justify the sustained attempts to undermine and hamper the BBC as we see your government doing time and again.

Whatever its faults, the BBC strives to provide impartial journalism and a platform for different views. In depriving them of funds your government is not only obstructing their ability to invest in British talent, but risking putting TV content into the hands of US corporates. The BBC is one of the four most internationally recognised British brands and is incredibly important as an influential tool abroad.

Under the Tories' plans, the fee for viewing the BBC could at least double compared to the cost of the licence fee.

That is why these announced plans are so alarming. Any civil system will mean a higher cost of collection and will also likely lead to higher evasion rates and higher penalties. These plans will cost the BBC hundreds of millions of pounds and if you pursue the subscription model, the fee for viewing the BBC could at least double compared to the cost of the licence fee. The losers will be the British public.

We believe that the TV licence fee should be set independently so the BBC can be truly independent of politicians of all colours and should be structured so those less able to pay are treated fairly.

The plans you have set out were not in your manifesto and therefore you have no mandate to pursue them. We write in the hope you will consider our concerns and act accordingly in keeping the BBC licence fee.
 
We look forward to a swift response.

Your sincerely,

Ed Davey and Daisy Cooper

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Meet your Election Review Team

by Dorothy Thornhill on Sun, 16 Feb 2020

Last month, the Chair of the Election Review, Dorothy Thornhill, was announced. Now, we're pleased to be able to announce the full review team.

They bring a wide range of skills and experience, in the party and outside to the review and will help the Chair ensure the review that is conducted is thorough.

Meet the team:

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

If not us, who? If not now, when?

by Lisa Smart on Sat, 15 Feb 2020

That’s the saying I live my life by, because taking action is the only way to change things in this world, and bugger me this world needs some change.

That saying has led me to a lot of places. I joined the party, started delivering leaflets, knocked on doors, stood for council and stood for parliament because I needed to act.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

The spring conference motions - explained

by Geoff Payne on Fri, 14 Feb 2020

Is a full programme of training, events, networking and parties not enough for you? At spring conference this year we have a huge package of policy motions, which all members have the chance to debate, amend and vote on. Here's a quick run-down for you! And if you haven't yet, book your place right here:

Book now →

F4 - Hong Kong

This motion introduces new party policy on the human rights situation in Hong Kong. It calls for:

  • Extending of the right to abode to all British National (Overseas) citizens
  • The government to use its relationship with China to persuade Beijing to not end the protests through military force
  • An indefinite suspension of export licenses for crowd control equipment to Hong Kong.

Read the full motion here

F6 - Children's Social Care

(England only)

This motion updates party policy on children's social care. It calls for:

  • Extra funding for children's social care
  • Higher priority for looked-after children in the education system
  • More care places for children who need it
  • A new scheme to help older looked-after children find accommodation to transfer into when they are ready to live independently
  • The government to review allowances and pay for foster carers
  • An exploration into whether an allowance scheme for kinship carers (who look after children of their relatives) should be set up
  • A national workforce strategy for social workers and children's home managers

Read the full motion here

F8 - Electoral Reform

This motion updates party policy on electoral reform. It calls for:

  • The use of Single Transferable Vote as the voting system for all Parliamentary elections and English local elections
  • The voting age to be lowered to 16
  • The rights of EU citizens to stand and vote in local elections to be protected, and extended to general elections when they've lived here for 5+ years
  • The use of Alternative Vote for elections to single positions like directly-elected mayors in England
  • The scrapping of voter ID law plans
  • A legal requirement for local authorities to inform citizens of the steps required to be successfully registered to vote. This includes a far greater effort to register under-represented groups

Read the full motion here

F13 - Supporting The Trans and Non-Binary Communities within the Liberal Democrats

This is a business motion (one that deals with how the party works internally). It seeks to improve accessibility to Liberal Democrat events for trans and non-binary people and protect their rights by:

  • Requiring Lib Dem HQ and all conference venues (Federal and Regional) to have at least one gender-neutral bathroom
  • The option to have your preferred pronouns on your conference pass
  • The option to include your preferred pronouns on speaker's cards
  • Training for presenters at party events on how to avoid unnecessarily gendered language

Read the full motion here

F16 - Welcoming Child Refugees

This motion calls on the Government to fulfil its existing obligations to provide sanctuary to child refugees, as well as to:

  • Extend family reunion rights so child refugees in the UK can sponsor family members to join them
  • Provide specialist legal advice for all child asylum seekers
  • Resettle 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees from elsewhere in Europe over the next 10 years

Read the full motion here

F17 - Student Mental Health Charter

(England only)

This motion calls on the Government to legislate for universities to ensure a strong provision of mental health support for students by:

  • Developing a Student Mental Health Charter for universities in consultation with students, universities and mental health charities
  • Including in the Charter guaranteed access to quality mental health support and the recording and reporting of waiting times
  • Ensuring all universities have the aim to reach zero suicide

Read the full motion here

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Not all your recycling is actually being recycled

by Wera Hobhouse on Thu, 13 Feb 2020

When a person puts their empty plastic bottle in a recycling bin, they understandably assume it gets recycled.

When I was the Cabinet member for the environment on Rochdale council, and when we sent our paper and cardboard to be recycled, we knew it had new lives as cardboard inserts to kitchen roll.

The plastic bag tax introduced by the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition government was hugely successful, but it was only ever intended to be the first step.

However, this is not always the case.

Far too often our waste, including recyclable items, are sold to private contractors who can incinerate or export waste to unregulated facilities.

We’ve all become aware of the devastating effect that plastic pollution is having on our oceans.

This isn’t the fault of our cash-strapped councils, who need to balance good waste management with ever-decreasing funding from the government.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

Losing a parent can be devastating

by Sir Ed Davey MP on Thu, 13 Feb 2020

When my dad died, my mum was left with three boys under the age of ten. At age four, I remember her going to pick up her widow's pension every other week. It was a lifeline for her and for us. It helped her adjust, and to take good care of my brothers and I.

For any family, losing a parent can be devastating not just emotionally, but financially too. My family weren't particularly poor, but I still don't know what we'd have done without that support.

Bereavement Support Payments are supposed to help families adjust to life after the tragedy of losing a parent.

From my own experience, and from working with my constituents and nationwide bereavement charities, I know how overwhelming it can be to suddenly find yourself a single parent. You have sole responsibility of putting food on the table and paying for childcare while dealing with your own grief. Add to this the needs of grieving children, such as specialist counselling, and an overwhelming financial burden is placed on families needing breathing room to heal.

Bereavement Support Payments are supposed to help families adjust to life after the tragedy of losing a parent. Yet for 2,000 families a year, the law says they aren’t entitled to this support, because the parents weren’t married.

With cohabiting couples being the fastest growing family type in the UK, how many more children need to suffer before the Government takes action?

Last week the High Court ruled that the difference in Bereavement Support Payments between married and cohabiting couples is a breach of children’s human rights. In 2018, the Supreme Court made a similar ruling.

Today, I asked the Prime Minister to make sure that all grieving children are supported, whether their parents were married or not.

Enough is enough. Today, I asked the Prime Minister to legislate to respond to both rulings, and make sure that all grieving children are supported, whether their parents were married or not.

I am pleased that Boris Johnson has agreed to look into the issue, and I hope that his Government will legislate to make sure that no child is left without the support they need.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →

My campaigning priorities

by Christine Jardine on Thu, 13 Feb 2020

The tiniest of silver linings in that of the Tory majority and the near enough certainty that this Parliament will sit for at least the next four years, is that we now have time to be strategic. We have time to plan.

The fact that our leadership race will not take place until the summer also allows us time to pause, reflect, and consider what we need going forward.

How do we reconnect with the voters and who will be the right person to do that for us?

We have had some spectacularly good leaders, but the next will also have to be someone special to break the cycle in which we find ourselves trapped.

They will need Tim’s ability to hold and inspire a crowd.

The current law on assisted dying offers no dignity, choice or compassion to those in the final stage of their life.

Jo’s steely determination and vision.

But most of all they will need something of that particular gift which both Paddy and Charles had in spades. Empathy.

That indefinable ability to connect with people on a level that says:  “I understand, I know, I appreciate what you are going through and I’ll do my damnedest to fix it”.

Over the next few months we will have the time and space for that leader to emerge.

In the meantime I will concentrate on three progressive, liberal campaigns that will make a real difference to peoples’ lives.

This first is to push for a change in the law on assisted dying.  

The current law offers no dignity, choice or compassion to those in the final stage of their life. It also criminalises family members who support their loved one’s wishes. 

We often pride ourselves on how far have come as a liberal, progressive society that treats everyone with compassion and equality. But, at the end of their lives, we’re letting them down.

The prescription of medicinal cannabis is legal but many sufferers of pain are still not getting easy access to the relief they need.

Then there is cannabis. 

The prescription of medicinal cannabis is legal. It was hard won, but the law remains so overly rigid and ambiguous that many sufferers of pain are still not getting easy access to the relief they need. 

The only way to properly solve this is to introduce a legal, regulated market for cannabis. 

This would also protect young people, free up precious police time by breaking the grip of criminal gangs and raise an estimated £1.5bn, which could be used to treat addiction and fight crime. 

A common sense, grown up and evidence-based policy that would radically change the lives of thousands of people. 

Just like changing the law to allow asylum seekers the right to work while waiting for their applications to be processed. 

A simple change in the law would help the economy and, more importantly, allow people who have risked everything the opportunity contribute fully to our society, and give them the dignity they deserve.

They are liberal, radical and what we need.

Read this article on www.libdems.org →