Unite to Remain agreement aims to deliver at least 60 Remain MPs across England and Wales

Oli_003_Lewes_Castle.jpgLewes Liberal Democrats are very glad to see a strong push for a united approach to tackling the biggest and most urgent issue of our political lives - the future relationship of the UK with the European Union.

By making this arrangement with other pro-European parties, the Liberal Democrats are showing that we will put the national interest above party politics, to deliver Remain.

The Liberal Democrats will stand aside, so that there is a clear pro-Remain candidate, in 13 constituencies. In turn, other parties will stand aside in 43 constituencies for a Liberal Democrat candidate.

Speaking on 7th November in the Lewes Constituency, Oli Henman, Lewes Lib Dems Parliamentary candidate, said:

“All the polling and evidence clearly shows that the election in the Lewes constituency will be a close race between myself and the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats overwhelmingly beat the Conservatives, Labour and Green Party in the recent European elections here. When it comes to a General Election, this constituency has been a Lib Dem/Conservative marginal since 1992."

"We are therefore very disappointed that the Green Party have decided to split the Remain vote here, especially as they stood aside at the last election here in 2017."

“We are committed to a grown-up collaborative approach to politics and we have shown good faith as a party in the Sussex area as we will be standing down in favour of Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion and we have a strong Cooperative Alliance on Lewes District Council. I would urge the Green Party to think again here."

“We are already working hard across the constituency, talking to voters about our priorities. We are committed to fighting against the chaos of Brexit and the uncaring approach of the Conservative Party and instead offering a brighter future for all local residents.”

Maria Caulfield must come clean on A27 plans, says Lib Dem Oli Henman

In undercover plans being developed by the government, protected areas of the South Downs from Lewes to Eastbourne are facing a major threat to their environment and communities.

After years of ongoing consultations on the future of the Lewes to Eastbourne section of the A27, Conservative MP Maria Caulfield, had reassured residents that there would be no new ‘motorway style’ road across the South Downs landscape.

However, in a recent letter from Ms Caulfield, local residents have been told that a business case for £450 million has been submitted to the government and is currently being considered.

Oli_Cuckmere_Valley_cropped.jpgOli Henman, Lib Dem Parliamentary campaigner said, “We do not need new road-building at a time when government at all levels is declaring a climate emergency. We should be moving to a more flexible and environmentally sustainable approach to transport and identifying creative ways to encourage people to limit their carbon footprint while travelling.

“Previous plans agreed with Norman Baker, former MP for Lewes, have already secured ‘in-line’ improvements of approximately £70m and include specific initiatives around road safety and traffic flow such as roundabouts, crossings and cycle paths.

“The £450m now proposed is not needed for the existing road. Even dualling the current route would have a major impact on surrounding villages, and the fact that there are plans for consultation on possible routes makes it clear that this would indeed be a new road.

“This funding could be spent in many better ways, such as delivering more frequent and longer train services and electric buses; as well as faster broadband for our rural areas to support a growing number of people to work remotely.

“It is particularly worrying that our current MP, Maria Caulfield, is telling some residents in affected villages that she opposes any new road, while the Reference Group she chairs put forward the case for this development. Why so much secrecy around the plans? How badly are our villages going to be affected? It’s time that the Conservatives came clean on what is going on with the A27!”

Vic Ient, South Downs Society Policy Officer, said, ‘‘The route of this new road has not yet been approved but it is clear that any major new road would carve a scar across our beautiful ancient landscape and blight many villages, local communities and rural businesses. We understand that there are several options being considered by Highways England for a new road, all to the north of the A27, the building of which would substantially impact the view from the Downs. The unconfirmed new plans would see an enormous and damaging new road-building programme across an area of natural beauty, rare ecosystems and high biodiversity.”

Local resident Yvonne Fuller said “This news is very worrying to anyone who enjoys the beautiful and peaceful landscape of the South Downs. We welcome the fact that there is new investment for cycle routes and improved safety but we are deeply worried by reports of a new ‘motorway style’ road across our unique landscape.”

Tory cuts leave children in Seaford, Newhaven and rural villages stranded

Local Liberal Democrats have condemned cuts to Children’s Centres in Lewes District that will leave only one Children’s Centre in the whole of the constituency of Lewes. Under plans to be carried out by April 2020, local Tories are targeting cuts at coastal towns and rural villages. Children’s Centres have been earmarked for closure in Seaford, Newhaven, Ringmer and Chailey.

"These cuts will leave coastal and rural families struggling when their local Children’s Centre closes. There’s no guarantee that “partners” will take the centres over and provide the services, nor is it obvious how families will continue 'to receive keywork services at home from nearby keywork hubs’ as ESCC claims,” said Cllr Philip Daniel, Lib Dem County Councillor for Ringmer and Lewes Bridge.

“Many families will now have no choice but to pay the high costs of travel to Lewes in order to access children’s services at all," said Lib Dem County Councillor for Ouse Valley West and Downs, Cllr Sarah Osborne, "We know how much pressure families are under in our communities and the additional time and high transport costs are yet another thing for them to cope with if these cuts go through”.

“The situation in Newhaven is particularly worrying”, commented Cllr James MacCleary, Lib Dem District Councillor for Newhaven South and deputy leader of Lewes District Council, “The Newhaven Children’s Centre at Denton Island is being ‘de-designated’ from a dedicated Children’s Centre to be rented out instead to interested parties. This is a cut in any other terms and the Tories should come clean about it and the fact that yet again they are targeting our coastal towns and villages.”

Lib Dem County Councillor for Seaford South, Carolyn Lambert, highlighted the impact of the cuts, “We’ve seen this over the years in Lewes. East Sussex County Council use Lewes District as a target for some of their most draconian cuts. With 4 out 14 Children’s Centres affected in Lewes District, Lewes will suffer 30% of the ESCC cuts. Following closures of day centres in Seaford and Ringmer and the threats to Ringmer swimming pool, Lewes District is yet again singled out by the Tories”.

Oli Henman with Cllr Christoph Kurthy at Newhaven Children's Centre

“Lewes needs a stronger voice at a national level to bring pressure to stop Lewes Constituency taking the brunt of unfair and divisive cuts” said Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate, Oli Henman, “Although the Tories are promising more money for public services, the real picture is Tory cuts across the board, targeting our most vulnerable communities.”

The latest Conservative plans for cuts in Children’s Centres across East Sussex were presented by children’s services lead, Cllr Sylvia Tidy, on Monday 7th October. It is proposed that 14 Children’s Centres will be de-designated across East Sussex with 4 in Lewes District. 14 centres were listed in the original consultation document in May 2019.

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.”

- - - - - - - - - - - -

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.”

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