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Ashford Liberal Democrats

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  1. Caroline Voaden reports from the European Parliament plenary chamber on the proposed new President of the Commission.
  2. It's been equal parts incredible, exhausting and humbling to be at the centre of a massive Lib Dem parliamentary by-election.

  3. After a time-warp 6 week campaign, an 18 hour polling day marathon and an incredible win on 26 May, the sixteen of us went to Brussels in June to take up our new positions as MEPs. You might have heard about the furore we caused!

    Image result for lib dem meps bollocks to brexit t shirts

    The Liberal Democrat cohort are sworn in as MEPs. If you like our tshirts, you can get your own here

    Between setting up offices in Brussels, Strasbourg and home constituencies, hiring staff, filling in forms and receiving hundreds of messages, we ran from meeting to meeting and started to home in on key policy targets. 

    For me, that meant fulfilling a lifetime passion for human rights work. In my previous life, I had volunteered for a number of charities and hosted refugees. But my day job did not allow me enough time to make a real impact. Being an MEP enables me to work with private organisations, governments and individuals from all over the world to drive an agenda of change. We have the power, and the responsibility to speak up for the weakest members of society - those who have been displaced, discriminated against or persecuted by their own governments. As Vice Chair of the Human Rights Committee, I am determined to fight for their rights. 

    I'm also delighted about what The Express have called the "Lib Dems EU Takeover" - our own Chris Davies and Lucy Nethsingha have both been elected committee chairs, of the Fisheries and Legal Affairs committees respectively. 

    Apart from committee work, there is so much else I want to do: a Young Visitors programme for UK apprentices, an arts competition for school children, and a series of documentaries about some of the many unknown EU-driven benefits to London citizens.

    Of course, none of this possible if we leave the EU. Brexit hanging over us like a dark cloud, and the prospect of a sudden end to our dreams is tough. Surely, few others have a more pressing personal as well as political incentive to Stop Brexit than the sixteen of us. That's why we were elected, that's what we promised to do and with your help, we will do.

    Best wishes from the Eurostar

  4. As I write this on Friday, I am about to set off for Brecon and Radnorshire, to help the brilliant Jane Dodds campaign in the by-election. It will be my third visit since the Recall petition first started. Make no bones about it, Jane is a brilliant candidate and our team there is outstanding, but we need more people to help over the next few weeks: we have a tough fight on our hands in a very rural seat. We need more people to help deliver leaflets, knock on doors and help with clerical work. Please, please, come and help. Postal votes land on doorsteps, and we need to call on postal voters this coming weekend, before many voters go on holiday.

    Jane is a good friend. As Leader of the Welsh Lib Dems she has been reinvigorating the party, and we need her in Parliament in Westminster. Please do whatever you can to come and help!

    Sal_and_Jane.JPG

    Come to Brecon and Radnorshire  ➜ 

    On your behalf I attended the Executive Committee of ALDE (our European sister party alliance) in Zurich at the end of June. We were celebrating the wonderful success of liberals in the European Parliament elections, and planning for the next five years. Leaders of our sister parties were absolutely delighted that our result with 16 brilliant MEPs helped secure that result, and they join us in believing that we can stop Brexit. It was uplifting to know so many politicians across Europe are fighting with us.

    Sal_in_Zurich.JPG 

    And last weekend, again on your behalf, I was at the Liberal International Executive Committee in London. It was a pleasure to welcome members of our 47 sister parties from around the world and to train and learn from each other in campaign techniques, as well as conduct our usual business. But for me, as ever, I was heartened with the stories of those liberal politicians across the world for whom democracy is a constant battle against autocracy and dictatorship.

    I met colleagues again from our sister party in Cambodia (the Cambodian National Rescue Party) whose Leader, Kem Sokha, has been imprisoned by the Prime Minister Hun Sen. Our colleagues are living in exile, at risk of attacks, with reports of torture and killings inside Cambodia. These brave people aren’t just fighting for their beliefs, for some they are fighting for their democracy and their lives. We stand strong beside them and will continue to do whatever we can to help them.

    I hope that you all get a good break over the summer - after the Brecon and Radnorshire polling day on 1 August! - and come back fighting fit for the Autumn. A new Prime Minister will not change the arithmetic in Parliament, and we need to continue to fight to stop Brexit. Who knows what will happen? I know one thing: the Liberal Democrats are resurgent because of you and your hard work. We remain at over 20% in the polls, and everything has changed. Let’s keep campaigning, growing and winning!

  5. World Population Day is an opportunity to put reproductive rights and issues of gender equality firmly on the global agenda. This year, period poverty must be front and centre of the conversation.

    If the UK Conservative government are serious about eradicating period poverty by 2030 then they must use this opportunity to ensure ending period poverty is in the minds of every single world leader. The Conservative government have a duty to do all they can to end the injustice and stigma surrounding periods in the UK and across the globe.

    Established by the United Nation Development Programme in 1989, the internationally recognised day has helped to highlight the importance of population issues and amplify calls for reproductive health as a priority. A key pillar of reproductive rights, menstrual hygiene impacts women and girl’s access to education, and often has a big effect on their overall health.

    Around half of all women and girls across the world do not have access to safe sanitary products and the stigma and taboos surrounding periods persists globally.

    Around half of all women and girls across the world do not have access to safe sanitary products and the stigma and taboos surrounding periods persists globally. The reality for many is that they are forced to use dirty rags, grass, plastic, or overuse a pad or tampon, due to a lack of access to sterilised sanitary products. The everyday reality and cost of periods is putting lives at risk and perpetuating inequality. So too is the cycle of misinformation and taboos that surrounds periods.

    Just this year, a Nepali mother and her two children were found dead after the woman was banished to a "menstruation hut". In this heart-breaking instance, the cause of death was smoke inhalation as she lit a fire in a desperate attempt to keep her children warm, but there have also been cases of women dying from snake bites, and others being subject to criminal attacks. These unnecessary, shameful cases are as a direct result of a lack of education surrounding periods. Associating periods with bad luck or impurity is not uncommon in cultures across the world, with devastating consequences.

    In the UK, a lack of understanding and education also leads to persistent stigma. Nearly half of those who get their period for the first time don’t know what’s happening to them and almost 60% report feeling embarrassed about their period. A failure to provide effective education about menstrual health to those of all genders is keeping taboos alive and perpetuating inequalities. Health issues including endometriosis often go undiagnosed because people aren’t clued up on warning signs or symptoms.

    Just this year, a Nepali mother and her two children were found dead after the woman was banished to a "menstruation hut".

    Providing sanitary products in hospitals and schools in England is a step in the right direction, but we should be leading on this issue. The Tories must pledge to roll our free products across other spaces too, including shelters, hostels, libraries, and leisure centres. The campaign to end period poverty globally by 2030 is crucial, but to do this we must protect our UK aid commitment and keep the issue on the global political agenda. Today is a chance to do that.

    It is time to eradicate period poverty wherever it exists. This World Population Day the Conservative government must use their voice to break the silence surrounding periods and ensure they are taking the most effective steps possible to bring an end to period poverty. No one, no matter where they live, should lose out on an education or have their health and wellbeing put at risk because of their period. Eradicating period poverty will take funding, it will take education, and it will take unwavering commitment. This World Population Day, I am calling on the Conservative government to use their influence and resources to help ensure the fight gets all three, at home and abroad.

     

  6. When we think of great moments of political upheaval, social change and protests for justice, the images which often come to mind are marches. There is something acutely powerful about seeing so many come together to create, for one moment in time, a community of like-minded people. A crowd which passionately believes in a common cause will have its cause noticed. Marches become beacons of free speech and spawn mass movements which captivate people's attention.

    These marches can seize or reinforce an agenda and create a new public narrative for how we view today's challenges.

    We saw this recently in Westminster with the march for climate change, and at the pride marches around the country, as a rainbow of people flow through the streets of Britain every summer. These marches can seize or reinforce an agenda and create a new public narrative for how we view today's challenges.

    While their disruptive methods caused frustration and, for some, may have overstepped the mark, no one can deny that Extinction Rebellion made people start discussing the environment around the kitchen table. It couldn't be clearer that when people take a stand, they become impossible to ignore.

    I was so proud to join more than a million people took to the streets of London to show their support for a People's Vote.

    My first march was 30-and-a-bit years ago with Amnesty International, highlighting the plight of prisoners of conscience abroad. Last month, as one of over 100 MPs I strode in solidarity to meet Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe outside the Iranian Embassy, during his hunger strike in protest at his wife's continued shocking and unlawful detention. I was also incredibly proud to be at the largest march this country has ever seen, back in 2003, against the Iraq war, when Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats led the political protest in the face of overwhelming criticism from the Tory and Labour parties.

    But I was even prouder, earlier this year, to be part of the largest march seen in the UK since then - when over a million people took to the streets of London to show their support for a People's Vote.

    And that's why I'm delighted the Lib Dems will be joining thousands of others on July 20 at the March for Change - unequivocally demanding this Brexit mess be stopped.

    We're unequivocally demanding this Brexit mess be stopped.

    Again the Lib Dems were prominent, just as we have been dominant in the fight against Brexit since the day after the referendum three years ago. Back then, many people described our position as desperate, out on a limb while Jeremy Corbyn urged that Article 50 be triggered immediately. Yet over time, more people joined our cause, our rallies became bigger and we made more allies in our fight against a government increasingly committed to the most chaotic of Brexits. Our message has grown louder and more people have taken to the streets to shout loud and clear to Labour and the Conservatives that the Brexit they want to deliver is not in our name and not what the majority want.

    We will take to the streets to shout loud and clear to Labour and the Conservatives that the Brexit they want to deliver is not in our name

    Some will disregard the marchers' voices. The Tory candidates to be our prime minister are putting rocket boosters on their campaigns to reach the dreaded No Deal cliff-end sooner. Jeremy Corbyn is choosing to bury his head even deeper in the sand.

    We the Lib Dems not only hear those voices, we are channelling their energy.

    I am proud to be the anti-Brexit spokesperson of the largest, loudest and proudest party committed to demanding better than Brexit and diverting us from the disastrous trajectory we've taken. More and more people are rallying behind our banner as we inch closer than ever to stopping Brexit.

    So, when we march in just a few weeks' time on July 20, we will do so with a more purposeful stride. I hope you will join us.

    The march for change are organising coaches to the march from across the UK. You can book a coach here: https://www.marchforchange.uk/assembly_points

  7. I'm Benny, and I've been a Liberal Democrat since 2017 - but I never really had a chance to get particularly involved.

    That changed last week when I headed up to Brecon.

    I knew how important this by-election is going in - we can't afford to take it for granted. It's essential as many Liberal Democrats as possible head to Brecon and Radnorshire to support our candidate, Jane Dodds.

    Brecon and Radnorshire is closer than you think.

    I was a bit nervous, initially. I'd never really done anything like this before. But the team on the ground were super welcoming and professional. I was paired up with experienced campaigners and learned a lot from them. I even got the opportunity to act as Jane's aide, travelling around the constituency with her - it was a lot of fun!

    There's a variety of stuff to do, too. There’s doorknocking, leaflet delivery, envelope stuffing and more – and I want you to know as a first-timer that it was easier and more fun than I ever imagined.

    Brecon and Radnorshire is closer than you think. I live in Shepherd’s Bush, and it's about a 3-hour drive to Brecon from home. It's pretty easy to get to by public transport too - just get the train out to Cardiff then switch onto a bus there. Many buses to the constituency are free on weekends - it can work out pretty cheap if you book in advance.

    Time's ticking on. There’s serious potential for a Lib Dem gain here, but the Conservatives and Brexit Party are working the constituency hard. We can't get complacent.

    Our team is currently working on the plan for postal votes, which land in just 9 days. In a constituency like Brecon and Radnorshire, that's a huge chunk of the electorate. That means this weekend is crucial for the campaign.

    Don't leave it to someone else - they might be leaving it to you.

    If you've never helped before, don't be put off - everyone has to start somewhere and the team couldn't be more welcoming. Come along - you'll love it.

    Don't leave it to someone else - they might be leaving it to you. Come to Brecon and Radnorshire - help us elect a new Lib Dem MP.

     

    I'll come!

     

    Follow Benny on Twitter: @Benny_curtis1

  8. This is a strange way to start off this blog post, but please bear with me. In April 2016 I got my first telescope. I didn’t spend a great deal, and it took me awhile to learn how to focus it, but eventually one night I caught Jupiter, its red spot and the bright twinkles of the four Galilean moons. It was at that moment I started to believe in Allah again. At around the same time I properly and very bluntly came out to my father - the end of a rather long journey in me accepting that I was a gay woman. Soon after, I popped down to the LGBT inclusive Christian church at the bottom of my road, in a bid to be able to reconcile faith in god with my sexuality. It was welcoming, but it did not feel like my spiritual home.

    I am of Arab Muslim descent and in my late teens I was a devout Muslim.

    See, I am of Arab Muslim descent and in my late teens I was a devout Muslim. I wore the hijab, prayed five times a day, did voluntary fasts, only ate halal, didn’t drink, stopped listening to music, stopped watching films, and would only read Islamic texts or books written by Islamic scholars.  I found peace in Islam and prayer, but that peace started to shatter as my attraction to a Muslim sister I attended Jummuah prayer with started to increase. This wasn’t the first time I had been attracted to a woman, but it was the first time I understood what my feelings meant. I buried that part of me, and met with a Muslim brother from my mosque to discuss marriage. Alhamdulillah that marriage did not take place as it would have been wretched for me and any children that eventuated.

    I walked away from Islam. I moved out of home. I met a woman who I was absolutely in love with. I had my first intimate experience with another woman (the former was unrequited). The day after I felt horrid, dirty, wrong and ashamed.  I stopped calling myself Muslim.

    For the next decade and a bit, I would have relationships with women, self-sabotage them and then go back to dating men. Whilst I accepted and embraced seeing others in same-sex partnerships and unions, I couldn’t embrace me being in one. A current close friend of mine commented that it was uncomfortable to watch.

    I have a lot of regrets, the women I walked away from that could have made me so happy, the relationships I had with men that made me feel broken and disconnected inside (not their fault), the impact the above had on my mental health and all those lost years not being who I truly was.

    I feel whole and am the person I was meant to be. 

    With all those regrets riding heavy on my shoulder, I attended Stonewalls’ Diaspora Showcase last year. That led me to attending the Stonewall BAME/LGBT+ role models programme in November 2018, where I met a representative from Hidayah, a Muslim LGBT charity. I am utterly ashamed to say when I walked into the room, I automatically assumed that the person wearing Hijab and Abayah was an ally, not LGBT themselves. It was unconscious bias stemming from my own experience growing up with no LGBT+ Muslim role models.

    Where am I now? After 20 years of struggling with my sexuality I have embraced being a gay woman. Hidayah has helped me reconcile my sexuality with my renewed belief and has shown me there is more than one way to be Muslim. I feel whole and am the person I was meant to be. I am not sacrificing aspects of myself.  

    I am also stepping up. It is hard. Whilst I have stopped caring if my extended family knows about me being gay, I am still petrified of bringing shame to my very supportive father. I have started to deliver talks about BAME and LGBT intersectionality. I was part of a panel on behalf of Hidayah in late March. It is nerve racking in the moments before I talk, but letting it all out and using my voice has given me a peace I thought was well and truly outside of my reach.

    I want to change the outcomes of other Muslim LGBT people

    And, most importantly I want to change the outcomes of other Muslim LGBT people. If I had been able to see someone like me growing up, I wouldn’t have felt so alone, isolated, scared and have lost so many years being an unauthentic me. I am doing that by working with groups like the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality and Hidayah, but also by being visible.

     

    Nadya Fadih-Phoenix - Brit, Aussie, Arab, Muslim, Gay (pronoun them/they)

     

  9. In a time of political crisis, we have some good news, and an invitation to demand democracy.

    I want Proportional Representation

    We have signed the Good Systems Agreement, alongside other parties, organisations and public figures.

    Together we have achieved something that has never been done in the UK. We're securing broad consensus about the principles that define good voting systems. Most importantly, seats won in Parliament must closely reflect the votes cast. We have also agreed that the best voting system for the UK would ideally be determined by citizens. This could be done through an evidence-based, deliberative process, like a citizens’ assembly.

    We believe this is a major milestone on the path to winning real democracy.

    Read more

    And now you have a chance to play your part! On Saturday 6th July, we are supporting a major action by Make Votes Matter activists all across the country. A host of street stalls and other activities are being organised for Demand Democracy Day. Check out the map and see what’s happening in your area. You can volunteer to help out and meet some new friends, or simply pop along to show your support for getting Proportional Representation in the House of Commons.

    Show your support for fair votes this Saturday

    Show support

  10. As deputy leader of Liberal Democrat MEPs, it's important to give the people who voted for me a chance to be heard. No matter the criticism, we will fight an insurgent campaign to Remain

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