Three-and-a-bit years ago I woke up to the news that we, the UK, had voted to leave the European Union. My stomach lurched and my insides turned cold. My overwhelming feeling was "I didn't do enough."
Time numbed the pain a little, but the guilt remained. I didn't do enough. I expected it to all be fine. I put some posters up, wrote some social media posts and (unsuccessfully) tried to persuade my parents that voting leave was a very bad idea. I concluded that it wasn't enough - if I wanted to influence the direction of the country I needed to get out of my armchair and out on the doorsteps. And I needed to put my support and effort behind a political force I believed in.
I'd always been a Lib Dem supporter and voter. As with many political party decisions, mine were influenced by my parents who used to be members and my early memories of any political activism were of putting out those bright orange diamonds in our house windows. I also remember the elation in our house when Labour swept in on a landslide in 1997 and my parents celebrated the end of the Conservative dominance in politics.
Fast-forward to July 2016, along with thousands of others, I tied my colours to the mast and signed up as a member of the Liberal Democrats.
But it wasn't actually their Brexit policy that brought me to the Lib Dem's door. For years I'd been extolling the virtues of proportional representation, an elected House of Lords, more focus on environmental policy, equal marriage, shared parental leave. I'd done an internship with a centre-left think tank in my university years. I'd been really struck by the front page of The Independent in May 2005 showing the gulf between what the people voted for and what we'd got in terms of seats. Every election I had dutifully completed a survey to see whose policies matched my priorities and I had consistently come out as predominantly Lib Dem (with a slither of Green and Labour thrown in for good measure). If I was going to end up anywhere it was to follow that delicate yellow bird.
And whilst I think Brexit undermines our ability to make Britain the best it can be, being part of the EU is not an ends in itself for me. Staying in the EU, or having the closest possible relationship with it outside, is the foundation we need so we can address inequality in all its forms in the UK, so we can tackle the environmental crisis we face, and so we can be open, welcoming and collaborative with our neighbours for a safer, brighter future.
I joined the Lib Dems after the referendum not because of their Brexit stance, but because I needed to channel my frustration into positive activism. These things don't happen on their own. If not you, who, and if not now, when?
Feel like Meera? Then you can join, volunteer or donate!
We now know that there will be a general election on the 12th of December. This poll is a huge opportunity for the Liberal Democrats; if we can elect more anti-Brexit MPs, and dump Boris out of office, we'll have cleared the main obstacles to stopping Brexit. Having ended the senseless chaos, we will be able to focus on the priorities that will actually improve the lives of ordinary people: demanding better for the NHS, our environment and our public services. You can find out about our candidates for Walthamstow, Leyton and Wanstead, and Chingford and Wood Green here.
If you haven't previously registered at your current address, make sure you're registered to vote here. If you're going to be away on the 12th of December, you can request a postal vote or a proxy vote in advance.
Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats will be campaigning locally and in nearby target seats. You can help us in many ways, depending on the time you have available:
Volunteering - Every little helps! Even just spending half an hour to deliver some leaflets in your area would be enormously helpful.
Put up a poster in you window - Please select "I can put up a window poster at election time".
Donate - A little can go a long way locally.
At midnight on Monday 21st October the deadline passed for the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to prevent changes to legislation on abortion and same-sex marriage. As a result, the Government must legislate for abortion and equal marriage in Northern Ireland. This happy outcome, bringing Northern Ireland into line with the UK, the Republic of Ireland and other liberal nations, followed strenuous cross-party work.
We were pleased to see Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy lead this cross-party effort, with strong support from Liberal Democrats such as Layla Moran, despite unpleasant targeted attacks in Walthamstow by anti abortion protesters.
Meera Chadha, the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Walthamstow, said:"Extending abortion and equal marriage rights to Northern Ireland is a hugely positive step in ensuring people can life safely and freely in all parts of the UK. We were hugely disappointed with the vicious campaign by anti abortion protesters in Walthamstow and will continue to fight for citizens rights locally and nationally."
During the countdown to the deadline, Ms Moran spoke on the historic significance of what has been achieved.
"The time for inequality in Northern Ireland is over. For decades, women in Northern Ireland have been subject to laws that have violated their human rights. With the midnight deadline rapidly approaching, this will finally come to an end. Despite a last minute stunt by the DUP, and a lack of support by this Conservative Government on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, we are finally closing the curtain on the historic inequalities in Northern Ireland.
The Liberal Democrats have a proud history of standing up for women’s rights and LGBT+ rights, from the Abortion Act 1967, to Liberal Democrats legislating for same-sex marriage in Government. And we will keep fighting for further progress. In the next few months the Liberal Democrats will not take anything for granted and will work to ensure that the necessary changes to the law are made so that women in Northern Ireland have a right to seek an abortion and anyone can marry the person they love."
I am passionate about addressing social inequality and tackling climate change and have worked in the non-profit sector for nearly a decade. My priority in Parliament is not just to stop Brexit, but to get on with addressing the social and economic divide that caused Brexit in the first place.
If you are an EU citizen living in the UK, you should obtain either settled or pre-settled status now. Doing so will ensure you are able to live and work here without problems after Brexit.
If you can prove that you have been in the UK for at least one day in the last six months, you can apply for pre-settled status. It's a quick process, and will give you the right to live and work in the UK long enough to obtain full settled status, if that is what you want.
To apply for pre-settled status you need evidence of being in the UK for at least one day from the past six months. This could be any one of the below (other forms of evidence are also acceptable):
- Used airline, train, ferry or ship ticket that shows the date you entered the UK.
- Stamp in your passport showing you entered the UK (relevant for non-EU spouses etc).
- Monthly bank statement showing money you've spent or received in the UK.
- Mobile phone bill in your name with your address in the UK.
- Council tax, water, gas or electricity bill.
- National insurance number.
- Letter or appointment card from your GP, a hospital or other healthcare professional.
If you have a document of this kind, you should be able to apply immediately (even if you only just arrived). Advice on how to do this can be found here.
Even if you're only applying for pre-settled status now, you will be able to apply for permanent settled status in the future. It will be easier if you have the documents ready - you should start collecting the evidence described below (in the settled status section) as soon as you can.
If you can prove that you have been resident in the UK for at least six months a year, for a five year period, you can apply for settled status (there are some exemptions that reduce these requirements). Further advice on the rules, and how to apply, can be found here.
The really important point is to have documents that prove that you were resident in the UK for this time. Single documents that give evidence for a long period are best, such as:
- tax documents - for example your P60 or P45.
- a letter from your employer confirming your employment (or college confirming your enrolment and attendance).
- pension statements showing your employer's pension contributions.
- mortgage statements for a house or flat.
- your tenancy agreement and evidence that you've made payments - for example a bank statement or receipt.
- annual bank statements or account summaries.
Even if you're not ready to apply now, you should start collecting these documents for the future.
I'm fresh back from #LibDemConference and feeling enthused and excited for the next few months (although feeling anything but fresh after a very intense weekend!). I joined, like many, in 2016 and this was my 4th autumn conference and definitely by far the best.
4 years ago I arrived at conference with a new local Liberal Democrat friend, both as newbies, and we mostly sat in the main hall listening to policy motions. It was a great insight into the democratic way that Liberal Democrats make policy, with everyone able to contribute and debate. Aside from the process, the content of the policies and debates aligned with my values and priorities, for example arguing for action on a zero-carbon economy, against the expansion of grammar schools, and for dignity in dying. I felt instantly at home.
Fast forward to conference 2019 and I'm Vice Chair of Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats and a Parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow. I've arrived with a strong contingent from the borough and bumping into people I know in the party. Every fringe event, debate, training session and social throws up more great people all of whom are welcoming and supportive. The quality of debate is high, with one session on Knife Crime and Youth Violence led by Siobhan Benita, the Liberal Democrat Candidate for London Mayor being one of the most pragmatic, evidence-based and informed discussions I've ever attended.
This conference felt different to previous ones. I started many conversations with people who were brand new members and attending a political conference for the first time, some of whom were already eager to dive right in and stand as a councillor or a Parliamentary candidate. There were also many who had joined from Labour or Conservatives (not just Sam Gyimah!), including one who had been a Conservative Councillor and candidate multiple times. All commented on how much friendlier and more welcoming they had found the Liberal Democrats than their previous parties and how impressed they had been at what they could influence even as an ordinary member.
I sadly could only stay for the weekend, needing to get back to my young daughter and the day job, but on the train back I was busy compiling follow up actions and things we can do in the Borough to help address some of the most pressing issues we face.
I am immensely proud to represent the Liberal Democrats and the more I get involved with the party, the prouder I become.
So now, it’s back to reality on a Monday morning and time to turn all those exciting opportunities into action. Let's get cracking!
Following a week of pantomime in Westeminster that no novellist could ever have imagined, Geoff, our parliamentary candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green, issued the following statement to the local press on his understanding of the readiness, or otherwise, of local businesses to make themselves ready for a No Deal (or in fact any deal) Brexit.
Geoff Seeff, our parliamentary candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green, has issued the following statement to the press on his response to the prorogation of Parliament in order to prevent discussion of the Government's intention to leave the EU without a deal (or indeed with a deal) . It has been published in the local Guardian but the words "Egged on by our arrogant, obsessive and misguided local MP" were edited out.........