Why I’m backing Layla Moran for Lib Dem Leader

This is Layla’s* vision for a better future for us all. It was published via the Independent 27th May:-

‘Around the world, people are looking to their leaders for guidance. Some people will feel safe and hopeful. Others may feel uneasy and question their nation’s choices. In moments like this, decent leadership can make an enormous difference to people’s lives.

For me, the best leadership is calm, measured and purposeful. It is open, transparent and direct. Good leaders spell out what they and their parties stand for, allowing people to grasp the ideas, embrace change and move forward together.

So, as I enter the Liberal Democrat leadership race, I want to make my vision for our country clear. In the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, I want to champion a more compassionate and cooperative United Kingdom that gives every person and our planet a chance to thrive.

Where everyone has access to high-quality education and retraining. Where politicians work together to help the most vulnerable, and key workers are respected and paid a fair wage. Where we cherish nature as the finite resource it is, rather than continue the managed exploitation we have now.

As a former teacher, education is close to my heart. I joined the Lib Dems because their education policies are best placed to ensure every child is world-ready, not just exam-ready. The educational inequalities that existed when I first joined the party more than 12 years ago are still here; in fact, many have become further entrenched.

When I reimagine the education system, I picture more investment in the early years, to reduce inequalities before children get into a classroom. More power for teachers to design a world-class education system, which recognises and supports children with practical skills as well as academic. And, a nationwide adult retraining programme to get people back on their feet and into work.

Our economic approach also needs urgent change. As the country recovers, we mustn’t leave anyone in our society behind. A Universal Basic Income is necessary to support those who fall on hard times. We must invest in education, health, social care and public services, and give all frontline workers the support they deserve. And let’s prioritise our wellbeing and mental health alongside economic growth, because now more than ever, we need to move forward positively and compassionately.

We have an opportunity to steal a march on the environmental crisis, too. In the past months, travel has reduced, and the demand for coal and oil has plummeted. This presents us with a precious opportunity to flatten the climate curve.

I want to see a UK which is not just carbon neutral but carbon negative. Young people, given they will have to carry this burden for us all, should be involved in the decision-making processes for achieving this ambitious goal. We must acknowledge the part that biodiversity catastrophe plays in pandemics, and recognise that to build resilience, we need to talk about habitat as well as carbon.

In areas such as education, economy and environment, the country simply must move forward, rather than look back. This is where I would start as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, along with our ongoing campaigns to reform our political system and challenge threats to human rights in the face of populism and authoritarianism, at home and abroad.

Of course, to make real progress and seriously challenge the Conservatives, the Lib Dems need to move forward as well.

For too long, we’ve become more defined by what we’re against, rather than what we’re for. The party lost trust when many supporters questioned our judgement in entering a coalition government. Subsequent leaders have struggled to move us on from this. We’ve also lost our campaigning edge; we need to rediscover a bold vision and also build the machine to deliver it.

Under new leadership, the Lib Dems must work together at all levels of the party, to rebuild our campaigning strength, listen to voters and restore trust. We need a national brand that complements local council successes, rather than imposing messages that work against local aims. We need to build broad support across the country, and we need to live (and look like) our values of diversity and inclusion.

This approach has worked in my constituency, where building cross-party support, listening to voters, and a strong campaigning effort led to an 8,000-vote increase in my majority in December.

I’ve listened to Lib Dems members and cross-party voters since then, and I’ve included their contributions in my bold forward-vision for our future, with education, economic fairness and the environment at its heart.

The sliver of silver in the clouds of this crisis is the once in a generation opportunity make our country fairer and more liberal. The moment for change exists, and with the right leader and vision, progress is within the Lib Dems’ grasp. We just need to reach out, seize this moment, and move forward as a strong and united party.

That’s why, throughout the leadership contest, I will be asking Lib Dems members to move forward together – and Vote Layla.’

My Views on Social Liberalism, Layla and the late great Charles Kennedy

I’ve spent pretty much all of my adult life to date pressing the case for what I see as Social Liberalism. I’ve been a lifelong trade unionist with very much left of centre views but I have never identified as a socialist as I see socialism as too authoritarian and centralising of power. The Labour Party whilst at face value being of the left is actually a very odd mixture of right, left and centrist politics, always at war with itself via its many sects. I’m a free thinking person, and an environmentalist and I want to embrace good ideas wherever they may come from; UK politics is far too tribal and it’s the reason we are in the mess that we are.

I see Layla as a breath of fresh air who will take on the establishment and fight for the common good but from a radical standpoint. I hope she will both be elected as Lib Dem leader and that she will take the Lib Dems back to the kind of left of centre politics it pursued under the late great Charles Kennedy.

And before the whataboutery starts, of course this initial standpoint does not cover all aspects of policy.

* Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and a candidate for Lib Dem Party leadership

Cycling – What’s legal, what’s not/What’s advisable, whats not

With so many people cycling during our present health lockdown even I as a regular/daily cyclist for a few years now have been checking what cyclists legally can and can’t do on our roads. Whilst Googling around on the subject I came across this very recent Chronicle newspaper article which I thought was both well written and informative:-

www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/cyclists-rules-roads-helmet-pavement-12815392

One thing some cyclists can easily forget or even deliberately disregard is that pedestrians are the most import thing on our roads, not cyclists or indeed vehicles. The other thing about some cyclists is that they don’t have bells on their bikes. How on earth are they to warn pedestrians, whom they are coming up on from behind, that they are there without a bell? I know some cyclists will think they are not cool with a bell on their bike but I can’t get my head around that rather daft excuse.

Also, because I’m a cyclist I find that non-cyclists seem to think I should be able to explain the deficiencies of other cyclists as if we are some kind of Borg Collective! (Star Trek fans will get this). Questions I’ve been asked:-

* Why don’t you cyclists use cycle lanes/tracks and keep off the road? (I do when they are available)
* Why don’t you cyclists have a bell on your bikes (I do)?
* Why don’t you cyclists carry insurance (I do), we vehicle drivers have to so you should too.
* Why don’t you stick to cycling outside of rush hours, you get in the way. (Do I really have to answer this?)

I could go on but you get my drift. Firstly, I am no more responsible for the behaviour of other cyclists than one vehicle driver is for another. Why on earth do some non-cyclists think cyclists are?

Cycle paths often end in the wrong/dangerous places as this one does.

And another thing, bad cyclists will invariably be bad drivers too. Most cyclists are also drivers of vehicles you know.

But what has really struck me in recent times is that cycling, outside of those who do it, seems to be quite unpopular. It’s as though some folks think it should be banned. In a bizarre and dangerous incident a while back a van driver overtook me just before a junction which I had signalled to turn left at. He then cut straight in front of me and turned left into the same road and slammed his brakes on. A more deliberate act of intimidation aimed at me I have never seen whilst cycling. Not only that he jumped out and told me to get off the road! I assume he wanted me to cycle illegally on the pavement (see the newspaper article linked above)? *

Yes I too get upset when I see adults riding bikes on pavements which have not been designated for cycling; it’s wrong and in my locality Merseyside or Lancashire Police should be challenging cyclists who do it. And yes I also deplore cyclists jumping red lights; they need catching a fining just like vehicle drivers who do it.**

I find cycling fun and it keeps me fit. What’s more it’s an environmentally friendly way of getting from A to B over short to medium distances. I try not to be a pain in the a**e to other road users and I hope the recent uptake in cycling will make bike riding a normal everyday thing which no longer requires explanation, apology or accusations.

* By the way does anyone have any stats from Merseyside and Lancashire for fines handed out for cycling on pavements? If you’ve read the linked article above you’ll have noted that between 2012/13 and 2017/18 only two people paid fines for cycling on pavements in the Northumbria Police area.

** Although in defence of the odd bit of pavement riding I can think of two places in my locality were cycle tracks start/end in daft/unsafe places all but forcing cyclists to use a short section of pavement.

Teachers standing up for safe learning conditions are condemned…….

The BBC has the article on it’s website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-52685220

Our right wing newspapers have always had a downer on the teaching profession so it’s no surprise that in the debate over when schools should return to being open (other than for the children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters) that it uses the issue to teacher bash. The Children’s Commissioner wading into the matter telling Government and teaching unions to ‘stop squabbling’ is frankly unhelpful too. By using such a phrase she probably inadvertently gives the impression of an equal battle where both sides could well be in the wrong. However, in my view, school staff are very much the victims of the back to school approach of HM Government.

A while back and before the somewhat arbitrary date for some primary school years to return was set by government I read this from the NEU:-

It struck me as a very sensible document which clearly laid out and in a concise way the concerns of teachers and school staff in general.

The real issue here has been the lack of constructive/meaningful engagement with teachers representatives in the back to school process BEFORE the arbitrary date of June 1st was set for English primary schools.

We never seem to learn the value of good industrial relations in the UK and keep making the same old mistakes yet those making the mistakes/missteps then use the press to attack the victims of flawed consultation or in need non-consultation! That those who work in schools expect their unions to be be fully consulted is a given, it’s not rocket science for goodness sake.

Get off the backs of school staff, they are not the problem here and they have the support of the vast majority of parents.

It’s not wrong to expect a safe working and learning environment to be fully mapped out before orders to get on with it are are handed out from Downing Street.

Click on the NEU document to enlarge for reading

Maghull – C19 & how our world seemed to change from locked down to unlocked so quickly

Liverpool Road North shops in 2015

It’s normally very hard to access the shops on Liverpool Road North Maghull by car as the few parking spaces there are will usually occupied most of the time. C19 changed all that as the businesses closed and there were no cars wanting to park apart from those belonging to a few very local residents.

And then yesterday I went to deliver food to our isolating daughter and found pretty much the last parking space; the world has moved on or is that moved out very fast indeed!

Oddly though it seemed only 3 or 4 of the shops were actually open yet the cars and vans were back in numbers; a couple of days ago the only vehicles would have been those travelling through this small shopping area on their way to elsewhere.

I’m still of the view that it was just a little previous (maybe a couple of weeks previous) of government to ditch the ‘Stay at home’ message in favour of ‘Stay Alert’ as it may, on the limited evidence of Liverpool Road North yesterday, have sent the message ‘Go out’ even if that was not what was intended.

I’m guessing that similar scenes will have been replicated across England although probably not in Scotland or Wales?

And here’s an historic shot of the same shopping area in much quieter times, all the time:-

Encouraging more walking & cycling – well I never

Walking and cycling destinations from Rimrose Valley County Park Country Park.

The BBC has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52592421

Quote from BBC article – ‘We need to protect the public transport network as lockdown is lifted, the UK Transport Secretary is expected to say at a press conference on Saturday.

The BBC understands Grant Shapps will encourage the public to continue to work from home if they can.

Those people who need to travel into a workplace will be urged to consider choosing more active ways to travel like walking and cycling.

The intention is to take pressure off roads and public transport networks.

It is believed that Mr Shapps will talk about using the unique “opportunity” of the lockdown restrictions to change the way we get to work.’

That folks are walking and cycling more during our present health crisis is a given and it’s clearly a big positive, along with less pollution producing traffic of course, in these difficult times. Interestingly though governments have shown little enthusiasm for promoting healthier pollution-free ways to travel over many generations other than via sound-bite token nods towards walking and cycling to try to make themselves look green.

Now, however, government is in a fix when it comes to unlocking lockdown due to buses and trains not being able to move large groups of people because of social distancing requirements. The consequence could and probably will be grid-lock on our roads as more folks turn to their polluting cars. All of a sudden Government needs a way to stop traffic jams so ‘get on your bike’ as the rather unpleasant Norman Tebbit once said although in a totally different context.

Of course for health/fitness, reducing pollution and traffic congestion reasons government is right but, and it’s a big BUT, our cycling infrastructure is poor, inadequate, crap etc. compared with many other European countries. You see more enlightened European governments have been investing in it over all those generations that UK politicians have been making but token noises and throwing the odd crumb off the table. How the chickens have come home to roost…….

A map produced to show Merseyside/Liverpool City Region cycling route aims of recent times. Many are still that aims….

My previous blog posting of January 2019, regarding quite limited plans to improve walking and cycling infrastructure on Merseyside seems to be relevant too, so here it is:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/11/walking-and-cycling-in-the-liverpool-city-region-lcr/

Click on the photos to enlarge them…….

Maghull High School comes to the aid of the NHS

Maghull & district folk may well have heard about this project already but as a Maghull High Old Boy and presently a member of it’s Academy Trust I just had to blog about the great health initiative it’s youngster are involved in.

Here’s a link to their fundraising page:-

www.gofundme.com/f/maghull-high-dt-face-masks-for-nhs?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet

I understand that they have already made a large number of masks which have been donated to NHS hospitals such as Aintree and Whiston.

Another example of people and in this case our younger generation doing their bit to help during our present health crisis.

Note:- The photo above is from March 2019 when construction work on the new school building was taking place