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  • Claire Cadogan Edensor cropped (Claire Cadogan)
    Article: Nov 19, 2020
    By Peter Dobbs

    Derbyshire Dales Liberal Democrats have unveiled the team that will run the local party for the coming year.

    Derbyshire Dales Lib Dems held their Annual General Meeting on Zoom recently and elected a new Chair and team of officers.

    The new Chair is Claire Cadogan. The Honorary President is Trevor Boam, Treasurer Henry Jebb, Secretary Midge Dobbs, Vice Chair Asher Bond and Data Officer Peter Dobbs We are still seeking nominations for Membership Secretary, a post we hope to fill in the new year.

  • ox3z (Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)
    Article: Nov 18, 2020

    The Sunday Times carried an important article (paywall) in which it revealed that the government has awarded £1.5bn of taxpayers' money to companies linked to the Conservative Party during the coronavirus pandemic. None of the firms were prominent government suppliers before this year.

    They say that in normal times, ministers must advertise contracts for privately provided services so that any company has a chance of securing the work. A person's connections are not supposed to help. The government is also legally required to publish details of awarded contracts within 30 days, so the public knows how its money is being spent.

    However, during the pandemic, neither has happened. Facing a sudden need to deliver millions of items of PPE, test kits and vaccines, ministers used emergency procedures to award work directly:

    According to Tussell, a data provider on official spending, Whitehall departments have taken an average of 72 days to publicise who has received money, meaning public debate has often moved on before decisions can be scrutinised.

    It is a less straightforward situation than the bribery or "cash-for-questions" scandal investigated by Nolan. As the government mounted a war effort to combat Covid-19, it has instead resembled more of a "chumocracy".

    This is a world in which ministers have turned to friends with links to the Conservatives because of a mixture of trust, convenience and a panicked need to deliver, rather than a desire to benefit themselves financially.

    The end result, however, is arguably similar: friends of the Conservatives have played a central role in responding to the pandemic, securing high-profile positions and contracts along the way.

    This pattern of conduct became visible in May, with Britain in lockdown, when Boris Johnson and the health secretary Matt Hancock turned to trusted contacts to run parts of the pandemic response. Baroness Harding, a Conservative peer and the wife of John Penrose, a Tory MP, was appointed to run NHS Test and Trace. The former TalkTalk executive, 53, had spent a career in the private sector before Hancock awarded her the position, announcing it in a tweet.

    In the same month Kate Bingham, a family friend of Johnson's whose husband, Jesse Norman, is a Tory MP and Treasury minister, was appointed to oversee the vaccines taskforce. She accepted the position after decades in venture capital, having received a personal call from the prime minister. According to a speech that Bingham, 55, gave to a group of US venture capitalists, she responded to Johnson's offer by saying: "I'm not a vaccine expert, why should I be the right person?" Then there is the layer of "chums" who have been brought in as advisers and intermediaries between Whitehall and outside companies. Some have sat in on meetings with ministers and contacts who go on to secure lucrative contracts.

    In March, for example, Lord Feldman of Elstree, former chairman of the Conservative Party, was quietly appointed as an unpaid adviser to Lord Bethell, a hereditary peer and nightclub baron turned health minister.

    According to a government source, Feldman's role, which was never announced publicly, was to assist Bethell, 53, in his "work with industry" during the pandemic.

    That included sitting in on a phone call on April 6 between Bethell and Meller Designs, which supplies high-street shops with home and beauty products. It is owned by David Meller, who would have been a familiar face to Feldman.

    Meller, 60, is a Tory donor who has given more than £63,000. Most of that came during Feldman's spell as chairman, when he was responsible for fundraising. Meller Designs later secured £163m in PPE contracts.

    Three days later, on April 9, Owen Paterson, a Conservative MP and former secretary of state for Northern Ireland, took part in a phone call with Bethell and Randox, a Northern Irish diagnostics company. Randox pays Paterson £100,000 a year as a consultant.

    It is also linked to Harding, who sits on the board of the Jockey Club, the horse racing body. Its biggest annual event, the Grand National, is sponsored by the company. Paterson's late wife, Rose, also sat on the Jockey Club board.

    It is unclear why Paterson, 64, was on the call, but government sources say it was a "courtesy call" to discuss testing and the MP was involved because of his role for Randox. The company has received £479m in government testing contracts this year, acquiring more orders even after it had to recall half a million tests because of safety concerns.

    Whole organisations have achieved remarkable penetration within Whitehall during the pandemic, often under the cloak of secrecy. They include Portland Communications, a political lobbying firm whose clients include HSBC, Pfizer and BAE Systems. It employs a number of former Tory advisers.

    In March its chairman, George Pascoe-Watson, was parachuted into government, again without any announcement, to advise Harding and Bethell on strategy and communications. It is understood that Pascoe-Watson, a former political editor of The Sun, participated in their daily calls, prompting civil servants to raise concerns about "appropriate channels".
    A source said: "Nothing happened. They loved him."

  • Stop the Tory Power Grab in planning
    Article: Nov 13, 2020

    Defend local planning and ensure your community's voice is heard

    An open letter hosted by CPRE, the countryside charity, and Friends of the Earth to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has already been signed by over 1500 elected representatives.

    The open letter is about the government's proposed changes to the planning system, as announced in August 2020 in the White Paper - Planning for the Future.

  • Spelthorne Liberal Democrats What we believe in (Spelthorne Liberal Democrats)
    Article: Nov 13, 2020
    By Peter Dobbs

    In a nutshell:

    The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

    More broadly, this is the preamble from our national party constitution:

  • Care home residents Covid 19 (getsurrey)
    Article: Nov 10, 2020

    The separation of care home residents and their loved ones has left families devastated. Worse still, the health of those in care has worryingly deteriorated due to a lack of contact.

    Too many people have already lost family members as a direct result of lack of contact.

    Eight months into the pandemic, and the Government's so-called "new" guidance simply allows a continuation of visiting from outside or behind a screen and will continue to separate families and abandon those in need.

  • ALDC
    Article: Nov 10, 2020

    Power is taken away from local areas. Planning Policy will be set by the government in Westminster. It will ignore the needs and wishes of local people.

    Fewer affordable homes. Developers may only need to provide affordable homes when building 40 or more houses. Currently they have to provide it when building 10 or more, in most places.

  • Biden/Harris win
    Article: Nov 9, 2020
    By Rugby Lib Dems

    Responding to the news that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won the US presidential election, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

    "People around the world will now be breathing a huge sigh of relief. Over the past four years Donald Trump has fed a new divisive form of politics, testing American democracy to its very limits. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris's victory isn't just democratic, it may have saved US democracy.

    "I'd like to congratulate Joe Biden and urge him not only to deliver on his promise to restore liberal values in the United States, but also to ensure the US will play a constructive role in the international battle to beat Coronavirus. The virus, like all of the world's biggest problems, can only be solved if we work together as an international community.

    "I hope Joe Biden will be a president who fights alongside progressives for social justice and climate action at home and abroad."

  • .
    Article: Nov 8, 2020
  • Is He Gone Yet
    Article: Nov 7, 2020
    By Tony Clayton

    Trump's desperate efforts to stay in office, sowing distrust in the democratic system, are bad for all of us. Populist nationalism combined with attacks on the democratic process - smearing opponents, stoking prejudice and disregarding the truth - have truly terrible precedents in history.

    Our politicians, of all parties, should be standing up for the values which we share with liberal democracies across the world.

  • Tim at Heaves Farm
    Article: Nov 7, 2020

    South Lakes MP Tim Farron has accused the Conservatives of undermining British farmers after they yet again failed to back an amendment to the Agriculture Bill last night to protect British food and farming standards.

    Conservative MPs voted down Amendment 16B, added to the Bill in the House of Lords, which would have forced the UK Government to ensure that British food and animal welfare standards are maintained in any trade deals.

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The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the individual authors and do not represent the position of Derbyshire Dales Liberal Democrats.