Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Hallmark of a Civilised Nation ...

…is that we offer refuge to those fleeing war and oppression. So said Chris Huhne MP in this morning's first debate.
A day to be proud to be a Liberal Democrat. Which other party, small or large, would spend time at a conference this close to an election to debate and pass a motion on preventing the detention of children who are seeking sanctuary here from some of the worst horrors we can imagine? Hearing again the story of children being snatched from their homes in dawn raids, taken in prison-type vans to a “detention centre” aka a prison, being searched, being forced to carry an ID card at all times, torn away from friends, schools and medical care, and treated as criminals because their parents thought that they’d be safer in the UK than at home makes me almost ashamed to be British but then I hear about organisations which help, like our own Justice First and I listen to my party debate intelligently and passionately better ways to deal with the undoubted difficulties posed by some people seeking sanctuary here and I know that at its best, Britain is still a wonderful place to live. We just need Liberal Democrat policies in action, rather than being debated.
We had another excellent debate on our proposals for a Fair Start for all children. Recognising that in some families poor parenting, low aspirations and poverty make it unlikely that the children will arrive at school ready to learn means that we need to do more for those children when they get to school. We also need to build on the good things that are there already like the SureStart centres which have provided excellent support for some families. But the really good policy in there is the pupil premium idea – not the redistribution proposed by the Tories which will see a lot of schools in Stockton South lose out, but a genuine new fund that will put £2.5bn into schools every year, depending on the number of children coming from deprived backgrounds. The schools will decide how to spend it to improve the outcomes for those children, the schools will improve and more people will want to send their children there. It’s the perfect way to break the downward spiral which leads to failing schools.

To complete the package there was our Youth Policy – Free to be Young. The policy paper is colourful and written in accessible language. More importantly, it’s been road tested by young people, written after masses of consultation with them, and approved by them. The youngest speaker at conference, 10 year old Maelo Mannings, summed up our policies approved today: Liberal Democrats are great for children, great for young people. We’re not bronze, we’re gold! I couldn’t put it better myself.

1 comment:


Well done Mealo, it is good to know the future s secure with supporters like you. I joined the party at 14, I think you've beaten me!

Eunice Hinds