Libdem Child's (mainly) weekly thoughts




You're probably wondering whether this is really a teenager's blog or not. Well it is. I believe in the Liberal principles of fairness, equality and community. I may only be fourteen but I can hold a good debate on politics. Honest, I can.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Eulogy Given At Jeremy Thorpe's Funeral

I attended Jeremy Thorpe's funeral yesterday and was moved by the eulogy given by Steven Atack, a longstanding good friend to Mr Thorpe. Mr Atack has kindly given me permission to publish it. 


Jeremy Thorpe Eulogy – by Steven Atack

I have been asked by Jeremy’s son Rupert, Jeremy’s son to say a few words about the man I have known for forty years first as a political colleague and then as a dear and cherished friend.

My journey on the Thorpe Express, for that is what life with Jeremy was like, began when I was elected National Chairman of his rebellious Young Liberal Movement – as you can see that was some considerable time ago!

Ushered into his office by his loyal Secretary, Judy Young, Jeremy stood up, shook my hand warmly and told me to sit on the day couch he used for his naps. He swivelled round, pen and pad in hand, looked over the spectacles and said “Now Steve, when did your problems first begin??”

And so, charged with his wit and Evangelical zeal for the Liberal cause, away we sped.

For myself, and so many others, Jeremy was a champagne politician, putting the fizz back into the dull grey political era of Harold Wilson and the even greyer period of Ted Heath whom Jeremy once described as “being akin to a large plum pudding around which no one knew how to light the brandy”!  These pearls of wit were a cardinal element of Jeremy's unique style.

Indeed his leadership began with a distinctly champagne theme when the Returning Officer could not find anything to put the ballot papers in for the election for the Liberal Leadership.  A champagne bucket was quickly summoned for the purpose and Jeremy was duly elected.

Jeremy’s campaigning skills were unparalleled and I believe, remain unrivalled. Whether he was leaping with Olympian style over a street barrier or taking over the village post office in North Devon for a week, because the Postmaster hadn’t had a holiday in years, Jeremy knew how to hit the spot.

And the capacity of his memory was Herculean.  I remember once when he was campaigning he met a lady he didn’t know very well, together with her young daughter.  Out it tumbled: “She did very well in Geography, didn’t she Mrs Dawes”.  Jeremy had not only now remembered who the lady was, but had earlier been studying the A level results of children in Barnstaple in the local newspaper and remembered those as well!

In a party down to but six Members of Parliament Jeremy’s optimism was contagious.  One of his first slogans, a pun on the phrase “Where there’s life there’s hope”, he turned into “Where there’s life there’s Thorpe”. And life indeed there was – in spades.

Throughout his political carrier Jeremy worked tirelessly to combat poverty and inequality at home and overseas.  His opposition to discrimination in all it's forms - racial, religious or of sexual minorities, was relentless and he was never fearful of tackling controversial issues head on.

But beyond his passionate commitment to Liberal politics, Jeremy had a happy and deeply loving family life – first in his idyllic marriage with Rupert’s dear mother Caroline, cut short so tragically by her death in a road accident.

Jeremy always remembered Caroline, dedicating a monument to her in his beloved North Devon which he often visited and also a lasting and living memorial in the shape of the Caroline Thorpe Children's Ward in the North Devon Hospital.

And then his second wonderful marriage which was to last over forty years with his wife Marion.  

Jeremy and Marion shared a profound loyalty to one another which endured in the face of all adversity and “in sickness and in health”, as Jeremy valiantly faced down the torment of Parkinson’s Disease for over thirty years.

With Marion, Jeremy also shared his great love of music, continuing that passion from his marriage with Caroline. 

Both were highly gifted musicians; Marion being a world-renowned concert pianist and he a talented violinist.  They counted Benjamin Britten, Yehudi Menuhin and Peter Pears as dear friends.  Indeed Yehudi Menuhin played the violin here in this church at Caroline’s funeral over forty years ago, when a piece especially composed by Ben Britten was also aired.

I think though even Jeremy drew the line when handed a guitar to play by the late Jimmi Hendrix – a close run thing though!

Jeremy was a devoted father to Rupert, whom he adored.  He took particular pride in Rupert’s talent as an internationally respected photographer, in his grandson, Quinn and Rupert’s wife Michelle.. 

He was also a central part of Marion’s family life with her children, David, James and Jeremy and their own children.

Jeremy Thorpe’s life had a richness beyond the difficult days we all know he had to face, and it was with his family that it’s richness was at its zenith, some of the happiest of times being spent with them at his beloved cottage in North Devon.

That family life was profoundly important to him and remained so until his final days, cared for by Rupert, his family and close friends - and a wonderful team of compassionate carers, Naz, Eleanor and Sajil, who are with us today.

In my later visits to an ailing Jeremy he developed a form of communication using hand signals, as his voice was barely audible; the voice, which had held audiences across the Realm in rapture and enthrallment, now almost silent.

I read political pieces to him and one of the last was this, a definition of the Liberalism he held to all his days and I shared in my youth. It is taken from the Annual Report of the Dewsbury Liberal Association in 1923 as they awaited the election of that year.   The words could have been from Jeremy himself…..

“We cannot afford to be idle.

An election may come at any time. Liberalism is not dead. It has a message for today. It believes in Democracy. It believes in a Government of aristocracy, not of birth, of wealth, or of landed or other possessions, but an Aristocracy of intelligence, of energy, of character.

Liberalism is not a compromise between two extremes of opinion. It is a solution of its own for the ills of humanity.  It is not a half way house between Conservatism and Socialism. 

It is not a house at all.  It is a broad road of travel along which may walk honest pilgrims through the confusion of life, not without glimpses, at the end, of the walls and towers of the Celestial City”

I asked him if this was what it was all about and as Jeremy’s eyes moistened, up went the two thumbs, so reminiscent of one of his favourite campaigning postures.

Well my dear Jeremy, it is my hope and my prayer that now, at the end of your journey down your Liberal road, you can see, from a splendid view, those walls and towers of the Celestial City.


May you Rest in Peace old friend and Rise in Glory. Amen.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Do you agree with Danny Alexander?

Extract taken below from an interview by Robert Peston, BBC Economics Editor, with Danny Alexander on the eve of the Autumn Statement announcement. I have chosen this particular bit because I truly don't know how the Lib Dems will win votes on the back of a low wage recovery come the election. It confuses me that a low wage recovery still equals growth? Somehow I think that people on zero hour contracts and who are scraping a living will take little heart from the comparisons that politicians make at macro level about growth comparisons. When you cannot afford to heat your home or pay your bills and you are still working long hours you cannot rely on false statements about the economy growing when what you experience is far from prosperity.  

DA: Well, what we have seen in our economy this year is strong economic growth but we haven't seen tax receipts - particularly income tax receipts - grow as strongly as was forecast. We are seeing a lot more people entering the labour market, a lot of young people entering the labour market, who inevitably start on lower wages… That means income tax receipts are weaker.
RP: But isn't it an indictment of your economic policy that this is such a low-wage recovery?
DA: Hold on a second, our policy has led Britain, which was one of countries hardest hit by the financial crisis, to have the strongest recovery in the European Union, the best recovery in the G7, the best job creation in Europe, more jobs created in the United Kingdom than in the whole of the rest of the European Union combined. So yes, of course we need to see wages improve over the years to come, it is very very important to make sure the benefits of this recovery are shared. But I'd much rather be in the position of the United Kingdom than in the position of the many other European countries right now.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

What is a 'Prohibited Person'?

Ciaron O'Reilly very kindly spoke at a political session I hosted in 2013 on Bradley/Chelsea Manning

Ciaron O'Reilly, a non-violent Catholic pacifist has been arrested in Brisbane, Australia, where the G20 is taking place. The offence against Ciaron? It is for being a 'prohibited person'. What on earth does a 'prohibited person' mean? Some things just stop you in your tracks and this one did it for me. I have only ever seen the word 'prohibited' being used at the airport or certain public places where people are prohibited from carrying dangerous things such as sharp metal objects or glass. See example below. But what does a 'prohibited person' do or not do to become prohibited?

A quick Google search throws up this term in connection with firearms. Ciaron was not carrying firearms. A non-violent Pacifist would not be carrying arms now would he? It turns out that even Ciaron does not know what he is being charged with in connection with his arrest but it would not be far off the mark to guess that it is because he wanted to confront Barack Obama over Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. America being America cannot tolerate any dissent over who it calls a 'traitor'. While I don't like Julian Assange myself I see no reason why someone like Ciaron cannot be free to heckle Obama. Isn't America meant to be a great Democracy? Chelsea, formerly Bradley, Manning alerted the world to some truly horrific atrocities being committed by their soldiers in Iraq.  Yet, it is him who is in prison while those soldiers are free.

Democracy is increasingly becoming an ideological thought that only seems to exist in people's heads and recedes further and further away from the reality of this world which is being overtaken by heavy handed behaviour.  Free Ciaron O'Reilly. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

How Much Is A Tory Minister Worth?

Another day, another Tory MP telling ordinary folk what they think of them. This time it is Lord Freud shooting his mouth off about disabled people. Lord Freud claims to, "care passionately about disabled people" . So passionate is Lord Freud that he sees fit to threat disabled people as inferior beings. 

He has branded disabled people as being unworthy of even the minimum wage! When you consider how people on the minimum wage are struggling to survive this puts Lord Freud's thoughts into context. Also, when the Adam Smith institute defends someone who spouts right wing views then you really know that something is wrong. 

Disabled people already struggle day in day out because of the Government's welfare reforms, unfair sanctions and constant visits to the job center but what would Lord Freud who used to be a banker know. In fact, his record to date of being a welfare minister was a precursor to today's comment. The following is a record of Lord Freud's disgraceful record. 

"In 2013 Work Capability Assessments for disabled welfare claimants were described by Peter Beresford OBE, Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University, as "reminiscent of the medical tribunals that returned shell shocked and badly wounded soldiers to duty in the first world war or the 'KV-machine', the medical commission the Nazis used in the second world war to play down wounds so that soldiers could be reclassified 'fit for the Eastern front''.

"In October 2010 a number of church groups and organisations complained to the Prime Minister David Cameron about Freud and chancellor George Osborne's "misrepresentation" and "exaggeration" of fraud in welfare claims that had the effect of stigmatising the poorest and most vulnerable in society"

"In July 2013 Freud was criticised in The Guardian for his "withered meanness" that sought to explain the dramatic increase of food banks in the United Kingdom as being due to people taking goods that were available for free rather than anything to do with his welfare reforms."

So what is he worth? Nothing to those who are suffering as a result of his policies. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

F11: Reforming the Welfare System-Sunday 9.25am

Mover: Kelly-Marie Blundell and Summation: James Sandbach. 
Both who have done a great job in seeking much needed reforms. 

I am not at conference but have written this post in support of this motion. Please vote in support of this debate and show people who are living on the poverty line or below it that Lib Dems do care. 

In the Liberal Democrat constitution it states that ‘ we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger…’ What do these words tell you? It tells me that the spirit of Liberalism is about caring for those who are unable to care for themselves. A helping hand is the hand of Liberalism. We are in government yet we see thousands unable to care for themselves. They live in poverty. Their needs and well being are not adequately and constructively taken into account by the political masters at Westminster.

I call upon Liberal Democrats to attend the ‘Reforming the Welfare System’ debate scheduled for Sunday 5 October at 9.30am. Please vote in support of this motion because as a party we cannot be blind to the hardship of those who live on or below the poverty line and who have to rely on the Welfare State for assistance.

According to the http://www.cpag.org.uk/ Child Poverty Action Group 3.5 million children live in poverty in the UK. That’s 27% of UK children. I don’t think that this is an acceptable fact. Ian Duncan Smith sees cutting benefits as akin to William Wilberforce’s mission to free people from the slavery of benefits. He wants to give people from ‘chaotic lives security through hard work to end the benefits trap’. He hasn’t even be able to deliver on Universal Credit, a system that has suffered from poor management and waste costs, yet alone liberate people on benefits. Would it not have been better to have spent the millions wasted to date on devising a system of benefits that recognises the causes of poverty?

At least 66% of children growing up in poverty stricken homes have at least one working parent. Work does not always pay because the wages of the lower income group are sacrificed at the altar of the higher business profit margins. These 66% of children are caught in a poverty cycle. They aren’t being participatory members of society because the system of wages prevents them from being able to do so. Where is the so-called benefits trap?

Why are people on benefits punished through the system of sanctions? ESA was brought in in 2008 to replace incapacity benefit. In the first three months of 2014 there were15,955 sanctions, compared with 3,574 for the same period in 2013. Can all these people be benefit cheats? Common sense will tell you that a high surge in numbers means that the system is not working.

Read this story, for instance, which was published on Mumsnet: “You get a job interview. It’s the same time as your job centre appointment, so you reschedule the job centre. You attend your rearranged appointment and then get a letter saying your benefits will be stopped because going to a job interview isn’t a good enough reason to miss an appointment”.

There are many testimonies on the internet from those who have suffered from benefit sanctions and the common thread running through their stories is that the sanction system does not take into account the dynamics of real life. People are sanctioned because they missed an appointment through ill-health or having to go to hospital for a medical that they have been waiting months for.

Fellow Liberal Democrats, we can no longer stand by and watch a generation of children fall by the way because of some ideological belief that the welfare system enables laziness, cheating or sloth. We cannot tolerate a political system that does not recognise the causes of poverty but is quick to stamp on what it sees as a ‘benefit culture that breeds scroungers’. Enough of the stigmatization. It is time to tackle the causes and effects of poverty.

The Liberal Democrats should vote for this motion which calls for a truly Liberal approach to the reform of the Welfare system. It will show that we are the party that stands up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Is that a Black Cloud or is it just the Tory Party conference?

Judging from Twitter I can't be the only one who is despondent about the never ending message of 'hit the poor' that comes from the Tories. Yet again, young people are being hit through benefit cuts that will hit children and school leavers. The Tory line of thought is transparent -Why bother with these? They won't vote Tory anyway. Is the Tory party capable of any good ideas apart from 'bash the poor' and welcoming business with 'open arms'? Did these chaps really go to that top school called Eton and graduate from Oxbridge? The right-wing neoliberal ideology that they hold so dear seems to almost put them in a strait jacket of brain activity. How does freezing benefits make Britain 'fairer' when there is huge inequality, the bankers don't face sanctions and the rich pay the same taxes as the poor?

So, who will suffer from these proposals? The following is a Statement from the Childrens Society:

“The majority of those affected would be the children of working parents who would see further real-term cuts to their child benefit and child tax credits.
“This comes just hours after the Government announced a further cap on welfare and a scheme that will bar childless 18 to 21-year-olds from housing benefit.
“Far too many families in this country are already struggling to provide a basic standard of living for their children because of the three-year one per cent annual cap in benefit rises put in place at the start of last year. 
“These further cuts will make it harder for families to put food on the table and pay the rent to keep a roof over their head. http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/node/50089

Other interesting articles:

http://politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2014/09/29/george-osborne-speech-sketch-pain-poverty-and-the-cold-hard

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/29/seven-other-ways-george-osborne-save-3bn-a-year

Monday, 22 September 2014

A cruel ice bucket challenge against an autistic boy


Ice-bucket-prank-615x345
The classmates of a 15 year old teenager with autism tricked him into participating in an ice bucket challenge in order to raise money for charity. Instead of the bucket being filled with ice cubes it was filled with human waste and cigarette butts.The poor boy's mother found the video on his Smartphone. The cruel teenagers who pulled the evil prank had used the boy's phone to video it. Thankfully, police are questioning the culprits. 

My take on this is that those who did this to a vulnerable teenager need to be publicly named and shamed. What on earth possesses some teenagers to take teen pranks and high jinks into the realm of pure cruelty? Picking on those who are vulnerable is something to be ashamed of. Didn't these teenagers have any inbuilt behavioural traits as to what is right and wrong? I suggest that they be made to perform community service by working with people with disabilities for a year. In this country this act would be classed as a disability hate crime.  Here is a report, published by the University of Leicester, which is well worth a read and shows the amount of hate crime faced by disabled people (and other groups).

People with disabilities are not joke material.