Lib Dems take action on attacks on anti-Brexit campaigners and growing far right activity in Lewes

190927window.jpgThree attacks with far-right overtones occurred overnight in Castle Banks, the Wallands and Priory. A brick with the word ‘traitor’ was thrown through the window of a private house displaying a Lib Dem ‘Stop Brexit’ Poster and anti-Semitic and threatening graffiti were daubed on fences and walls in the Wallands area.

As town councillors for the Castle Ward, Kate Wood and recently selected Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Oli Henman, are addressing what is an escalating situation. The local Lib Dem party has been active in working with Lewes police since incidents of politically motivated vandalism and criminal damage at the recent local and European elections targeted local parties opposed to Brexit. Local Lib Dem councillors are continuing to act to protect local residents and campaigners.

Oli_Henman_Speaks_Hustings.jpeg‘Lewes is known for its open-minded, liberal and creative atmosphere but these attacks are indicative of the rise of insidious far-right activity in the town,’ said Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate, Oli Henman. ‘Words such as ‘traitor’, now combined with death threats and anti-Semitic abuse, show a serious escalation of behaviour. We are deeply concerned at the criminal attacks to a number of properties over recent months and the impact this will have on local residents. We cannot ignore the fact that this follows the recent increase in the use of charged and inflammatory language by the Prime Minister and the Tory government. Will Maria Caulfield join me in condemning this recent vandalism and in calling on the government to adopt more conciliating language?

Lewes Lib Dems have been working with the police to take action on this activity for several months: ‘We are in regular contact with the local police and are asking for action at all levels from the local commander to the Police and Crime Commissioner’, commented ward councillor, Kate Wood. ‘Councillors and the local party have been dealing with several cases not just of Brexit related but also far-right vandalism and threats to individuals recently. We know the police have escalated these cases to intelligence-led policing and we look forward to some progress in these cases. The traditional values of British society – free speech, open and fair debate, respect for the individual and difference of opinion that have always been a strength of our nation are brought under threat by such actions.’

The Liberal Democrats will be organising a public meeting to which all residents will be invited to discuss responses and actions to the growth of extremism in Lewes. Further details will be circulated in the coming days.

Swinson: Parliament should be sitting so we can question PM

JoSwinsonFINAL-20190115033527423.jpgResponding to the Supreme Court ruling that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said:

“The court have found what we all knew all along, Boris Johnson has again proven he is not fit to be Prime Minister.

"This shutdown was an unlawful act designed to stop Parliament doing its job and holding the Government to account. Given this verdict, Parliament should be sitting so that we can continue to question the Conservative Government on their disastrous Brexit plans.

“This verdict has been unanimously agreed by experienced judges who have considered the case on its merits, acting as impartial guardians of our democratic system. The rule of law is an important pillar of our democracy, and those looking to use this opportunity as an excuse to attack these judges would be not only attacking them, but also the entire principle of our legal system.

“It remains the Liberal Democrats' priority to stop no-deal Brexit and to stop Brexit altogether.”

Oli Henman selected as LibDem PPC for Lewes

Lewes Liberal Democrats have selected Oli Henman Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes Constituency

Oli_Henman2017cropped.jpgOn Friday 20th September 2019, at a packed meeting Lewes Liberal Democrats selected Oli Henman as their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC). With the chance of a General Election mounting and intense speculation that the Liberal Democrats could win back the Lewes constituency from the Conservatives, local members had their opportunity to select the candidate at the hustings which took place in Lewes tonight. In a highly competitive contest with applications from nearly twenty applicants, three candidates were shortlisted and spoke at the hustings.

“We were delighted with the three strong candidates that had been shortlisted and I would like to thank them for making it difficult for our members to choose between them. I look forward to working with Oli and helping him campaign across the constituency. Our membership locally and nationally is at record levels and we know that Oli will work hard for the people of Lewes,” said Simon Burall, Lewes Liberal Democrat convenor. “Lewes is a constituency that the Liberal Democrats have held before and can and will win again. The whole party will be behind Oli.”

Oli Henman said, “Tonight I am excited to be selected to stand for the Lewes constituency - this is a beautiful part of the country, which I am delighted to call home. The warm welcome at the meeting from so many friends from across the constituency has been incredible, and I am determined to repay their confidence in me.

"However, our area is facing major challenges, the devastating Tory cuts of recent years have undermined our local services and the threat of a damaging No-Deal Brexit is critically endangering our local economy.

"The next election, when it finally comes, will mark a crucial moment for the future of our country. People will face a stark choice between the continued chaos brought about by the Tories or a chance to elect a strong local Liberal Democrat candidate.”

Rail fare rise an insult to passengers

Responding to the reports that rail fares are set to rise by 2.8% in January, Liberal Democrat Transport spokesperson Jenny Randerson said:

"It is an insult to passengers to see yet another rail fare rise. People right across the UK are paying for hugely expensive tickets whilst their services remain regularly delayed, over-crowded and often cancelled.
“The Conservatives have continually let down passengers. The Liberal Democrats have been long calling for an immediate fare freeze funded by the Government who must take responsibility for our failing railways – but to no avail.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. In government, the Liberal Democrats would not only freeze rail fares, but transform our railways by overhauling our ticket system as well as investing in our railways to make them more efficient and sustainable.”

East Sussex: Proposed Closure of Children’s Centres

Lewes Liberal Democrats are fighting proposals to close 4 Children’s centres in the District, among 14 proposed for closure across East Sussex.

The County Lib Dem team on ESCC have led the opposition to cuts in Early Years’ spending. 

philip_daniel_04_portrait.jpgLib Dem County Councillor Philip Daniel (Ringmer and Lewes Bridge) says: “At East Sussex County Council the Lib Dem team opposed cuts to Early Years spending at Budget time, and at every meeting of the Cabinet and Full Council where this has been on the Agenda.”

Councillor Daniel continued: “Lib Dems argue that these cuts are not only hurting vulnerable families but are also financial nonsense - they cut services which are aimed at prevention of problems. The cuts will mean greater expenditure over the next few years as problems are not addressed in the early years.”

The strategy, approved by the Tory Lead Member at the County Council and out for consultation, includes the removal of the 14 Children’s Centres and £2.6 million cuts to Early Help Services, which are targeted at the most vulnerable families and young people across East Sussex. Over 4,000 of the most vulnerable families in East Sussex rely on the Keywork service and many others access the Early Help services for help and advice. 

carolyn_lambert01_200.jpgLib Dem Councillor Carolyn Lambert (Seaford South) added: “Yet again, cuts in vital preventative services will not only have an immediate impact but will affect our children in the future.”

Priti Patel appointment as Home Sec panders to right-wing

Responding to the appointment of Priti Patel as the new Home Secretary, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“The job of the Home Secretary is to keep our country safe and ensure that everyone’s rights are respected.

“But now we have a Conservative Home Secretary who voted against allowing same sex couples to marry, has argued that it is wrong for citizens to hold the Government to account through the courts, and is one of the most enthusiastic advocates of Brexit – which would rob British police of the European Arrest Warrant and other crucial crime-fighting tools.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better from a Home Secretary. We will always fight to protect the rights of every individual, to give our police the tools and resources they need to prevent crime and keep communities safe, and to stop Brexit.

“By appointing Priti Patel as Home Secretary, Boris Johnson is continuing to pander to right-wing Brexiteers instead of putting the interests of the United Kingdom first. More proof that he is not fit to be Prime Minister.”

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Ed Davey has written to the new Home Secretary:

Dear Home Secretary,

Congratulations on your appointment as Home Secretary. I hope this will mark a fresh start for a department that has been badly mismanaged by your predecessors, who have contributed to the rise in violent crime by taking police officers off our streets, shattered public confidence in the immigration system, and injected a toxic culture into the way immigration and asylum applications are handled.

Crime and policing

With knife crime up 77% since 2015, gun crime up 36% and the number of homicides up 30%, I’m sure you will agree that we need urgent action to tackle the epidemic of violence that is destroying far too many young lives.

You will no doubt be provided with the Home Office’s analysis that Conservative police cuts have likely contributed to the rise in serious violence. Will you commit to providing police forces with the funding they desperately need to recruit more officers, restore community policing, and fully fund pay rises for police officers?

Some of the most important crime-fighting tools British police possess are reliant on the UK’s membership of the European Union: the European Arrest Warrant, EU-wide data-sharing systems such as the Schengen Information System, and our leadership role in Europol and Eurojust. These are particularly crucial for tackling the biggest cross-border criminal threats we face: human trafficking, the illegal drug trade, cybercrime and terrorism. Will you please confirm what official advice you have been given on the status of these arrangements if we leave the European Union? 

And will you introduce a proper public health approach to youth violence, working with your Cabinet colleagues to ensure that education, housing, social work and mental health services all have the funding and resources they need to stop violence spreading?

In particular, I urge you to persuade your colleagues in the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to invest in genuinely innovative and engaging youth services, to provide young people with a positive alternative to gangs and violence.

Immigration and asylum

You have spoken in the past about the need to restore public confidence in our immigration system, and I agree with you. That requires us to build an effective, compassionate system that reflects each person’s dignity, respects the rule of law and ensures fairness to taxpayers.

I therefore urge you to abolish your party’s arbitrary, damaging net migration target and end the Hostile Environment, including dropping your predecessor’s appeal against the High Court’s ruling that the ‘Right to Rent’ law is discriminatory and breaches human rights. Enforcement of immigration laws must be in the hands of a more accountable, well-resourced, intelligence-led Border Force – not landlords, teachers and doctors.

There are two other areas in particular where you could inject compassion and common sense while also saving taxpayers money. Indefinite immigration detention is unnecessary, inhumane and expensive; it should be reduced to an absolute last resort, with a 28-day time limit. Meanwhile, the thousands of asylum seekers who are forced to wait more than three months while their cases are decided should be allowed to work, instead of having to live on £37.75 a week from the Government.

Given the ongoing global refugee crisis, with 26 million refugees and 3.5 million asylum seekers around the world today, it is essential that the UK provides safe, legal routes to sanctuary for those who are forced to flee their homes. I urge you to finally fulfil the Government’s commitment under the “Dubs Amendment” (Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016) to relocate 480 unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe, as well as to guarantee the future of refugee resettlement schemes after 2020 and commit to resettling a further 10,000 refugee children in the UK over the next 10 years. 

Human rights

Finally, will you please confirm that the Human Rights Act will not be repealed and that the Government will continue to be committed to the European Convention on Human Rights? Contrary to your past comments about them, these are essential for protecting fundamental British rights and freedoms, and the Liberal Democrats will oppose any attempts to undermine them.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these issues, and I hope we can work together to build a safer, freer, fairer country where individuals have their rights and dignity respected. Good luck!

Yours sincerely,

Ed Davey MP
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson

Boris Johnson's Brexit already damaging British business

Responding to the Industrial Trends Survey published today by the CBI, showing that UK manufacturing output fell at the fastest pace since the financial crisis, Liberal Democrat Treasury and Business spokesperson Chuka Umunna said:

“Boris Johnson talks about the need for a ‘can do’ attitude but by pursuing a ‘no deal’ Brexit he is asking British businesses to run up a down escalator - which makes it all the more difficult to do business.
“These are not forecasts, these are facts. Uncertainty caused by the Brexit Boris Johnson campaigned for is already negatively impacting on the economy. As a minimum, he should dump his policy of keeping a “no deal” Brexit on the table, in order to reassure firms that he will not take the country off a cliff this October.
“The only way to break the impasse in Parliament is to give the British people a final say on any Brexit deal. The Liberal Democrats are the only party who, if in government, will be unequivocally committed to holding a People’s Vote and stopping Brexit.”

Lib Dems back call for declaring Climate Emergency

One of the first acts of the new co-operative alliance running Lewes District Council was to declare a climate emergency. Councillors from all political parties backed the co-operative alliance's plan to take forward a range of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become climate resilient by 2030, in common with many other authorities across the UK. Liberal Democrat Councillor Christine Brett seconded the motion and Liberal Democrat Councillor Rob Banks spoke in favour of the motion:

rob_banks_cropped.jpg"No-one thinks that our district on its own can successfully tackle this huge global crisis. But we can take a lead and do our bit. There are now well over 100 Councils all over the country setting out to get a grip on this crisis in their own communities. It is important to learn together, work together and make progress together with all these councils.

"We want the District Council to work with other councils and organisations to help prevent a catastrophe for our children and grandchildren.

"It will be crucial to involve the whole community in all our towns and villages. We need to involve people in providing ideas and action, provide more information on what is happening and what can be done about it, and take a lead in making the changes that will be needed. At the same time we can learn from the ideas and actions of other Councils across the land, and work closely with them.

"In 1979 what was happening to our climate was a growing concern even then. In 2019 it is an emergency. In 2030 it is game over because this is when scientists tell us that climate change is irreversible damage. It is ridiculous to think that people not even born yet have to wait to be adults before we can achieve this.

"I won’t be able to look my children in the eye and say I did nothing. There is a recognition of a need to take urgent action. Science proving this is stark and robust and we need to implement the policies to deal with it.

"Co-operating together on this issue is so important, and I hope all groups on the council can work together on this.

"The motion sets us on a clear path of carbon reduction. Not only will we set our own house in order, but we will inspire others to act and create the conditions for them to do so. The Council’s decisions come with a climate impact assessment, so that this emergency is always at the front of our minds, and for the Council to be a leader in the community through education and information. 

"I want to see bold action on climate change. Amendments to planning rules can allow residents to update their homes to cut energy consumption – saving money as well as the planet – and of course, any new homes should be as energy efficient as possible."

Rob cited examples from other Liberal Democrat authorities, saying:

"Eastleigh Borough council requires housing developments to be more energy efficient than national building regulation standards and encourages passivhaus home development.

"It was in the early 2000s that Sutton helped pioneer the Beddington Zero Energy Development. They are currently working with partners to build a Passivhaus Secondary school.

"South Somerset is creating a new energy storage facility, which will be the largest council-owned battery storage system in the UK. It will provide instantly available electrical power, on demand to the National Grid. It will also bring in much needed funding for the authority.

"Cornwall is supporting a project to explore geothermal energy and Bedford with hydro-electric power."

Paying tribute to the hard work of Liberal Democrat District councillors in the previous council including Sarah Osborne and Vic Ient, Rob added:

"This council has already made a good start – to give just a few examples - by investing in solar panels on council owned buildings – including council housing stock; it has changed planning policy so all new buildings need to have external charging points and so each new home built includes a renewable energy scheme, and charging points for electric vehicles. Let’s build on that good work and go forward together across the council with all political groups involved."

The alliance consists of Liberal Democrat, Green Party, Labour and Independent members. The Climate Emergency motion was passed by all parties on the council.

Councillor Calls For Answers From The NHS On Seaford Health Hub

Liberal Democrat Councillor Carolyn Lambert is calling for answers from the NHS on their plans for the Dane Road site. 

carolyn_lambert01_200.jpgCouncillor Lambert says: "The NHS has repeatedly been asked for clarification on their requirements for accommodation.  There is still no clear statement from them as to the square meterage the two surgeries need both for their immediate needs and to future proof accommodation for the two practices.  This leaves in doubt the statement from the Clinical Commissioning Group that the Dane Road site is too small to meet their needs. 

"I remain unclear as to exactly why this site could not be re-developed to keep the surgeries in the town centre.  Simply saying the site is too small is not good enough when they cannot provide facts and figures to back this statement up.

"In addition, I am very concerned about rumours circulating that the NHS plans to sell off the Dane Road site to build a hotel.  We need a clear statement of intent from the NHS about their plans for the site.  If indeed, they are proposing to sell the site, then why are they asking Lewes District Council to foot the bill for building new accommodation?

"I remain fully in support of both our medical practices having accommodation that is fit for purpose.  I am pleased that this project has now been called in for scrutiny by the new administration at Lewes District Council.  However, in view of the substantial sums of public money involved and the serious concerns raised by local residents, I urge the District Council not to proceed with this project until these questions have been satisfactorily answered."

Co-operative Alliance takes control of Lewes District Council from Conservatives

Lewes District Council, after 8 years of Conservative leadership, is now controlled by a Co-operative Alliance of councillors from the Green, Liberal Democrat, and Labour parties plus two Independents (Monday, 15th July). Liberal Democrat Councillor, James MacCleary and Labour Councillor Chris Collier proposed the new Leader of Lewes District Council, Councillor Zoe Nicholson, leader of the Green Party group in a move to take control of the council. The Alliance voted unanimously for the new leadership arrangements with Councillor James MacCleary, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, as Deputy Leader.

The Alliance has an overall majority on the councillors and is the result of joint working that has been ongoing since the local elections in May. The Alliance will operate on a shared leadership arrangement with the Green Party and Liberal Democrats rotating the leadership annually.

The new Leader of the council, Zoe Nicholson, who leads the Green Party group, said: "I am very much looking forward to getting to work with our Alliance colleagues and focusing on what matters to local people. I’m excited about working with our new Cabinet of skilled local people who really have the district in their DNA. The support we have received from local people has been really inspiring, we will be completely focussed on living up to people’s expectations.”

The council’s new Deputy Leader, James MacCleary, who leads the Liberal Democrat group, said: “It’s taken some hard work to get to this point, and we were determined to build this alliance on firm foundations. No party was returned with an overall majority on the council in May so building an alliance with a clear majority of seats was crucial to ensure stability for residents and our hardworking council staff. We have a lot of work to do and this alliance represents a chance to create opportunity and release the potential of our communities.”

Labour group leader, Chris Collier, who will serve in the new Cabinet, said: “Forming the Co-operative Alliance was just the first step in building a more collaborative, forward thinking administration. We’ve worked hard to put in place a solid platform for the next four years. From here, it’s about delivering on our manifesto commitments as a shared vision across all our communities.”

Ruth O’Keeffe, co-leader of the Independent group who will also serve on the Cabinet, said: "In our discussions as a Co-operative Alliance we find that we agree on a lot concerning what matters to local people. We have already found that we will be able to put the interests of local people first and manage to work out positive solutions if there are things that not everyone in the group can agree on."

Independent group co-leader, Steve Saunders, added: “I’m looking forward to giving a voice to those I represent. Joining with like-minded colleagues across the District, to change the way decisions are made and help make the Council work for each and every one of its residents.”


    • The parties that make up the Co-operative Alliance won a total of 22 seats on Lewes District Council representing an overall majority. The Conservatives have 19 seats.
    • Those 22 seats break down as: 9 Green Party, 8 Liberal Democrat, 3 Labour Party, and 2 Independent.
    • Leadership of the council will be rotated between the Green Party and Liberal Democrats on an annual basis.
    • The council’s Cabinet will be composed of 9 Cabinet members, four Green Party councillors, three Liberal Democrats, one Labour and one Independent councillor. Between them these parties hold 22 of the 41 seats on Lewes District Council giving them a controlling majority.

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