2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Review of 2014 for Upper Bangor.

Upper Bangor’s Lib Dem Councillors work hard for their community all year around, not just at elections. We spend all year delivering leaflets, knocking on doors, attending meetings, events, representing and fighting for residents, and more. Here’s just a few of the things that we’ve worked with residents to achieve;

  1. Stopped three week waste and recycling collections from coming to Upper Bangor, and encouraged Gwynedd Council to investigate alternative methods of collections in areas heavily populated by HMOs.
  2. Put pressure on Gwynedd Council to work with businesses to address Upper Bangor’s commercial waste problem.
  3. Working with Gwynedd Council to introduce new policies to address the management and regulation of HMOs in our communities.
  4. Investment in our pavements in roads; Albert Street, Victoria Street, and Holyhead Road.
  5. Held Gwynedd Council to account on the Holyhead Road cycle path spend without consultation.

Welsh Liberal Democrats deliver for Wales’ poorest children.

we-re-investing-282m-in-our-poorest-pupils

Even though we’re not part of the Welsh Government, we’ve managed to secure our flagship Pupil Deprivation Grant to support pupils from deprived backgrounds with reading and numeracy skills.

Since we first secured this money, teachers have told us just how much of a difference it makes to the children who need it most. Higher reading levels, fewer children skipping school, a narrower attainment gap – all because of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Next year, all schools in Wales will receive £1,050 per child on free school meals – rising to £1,150 the year afterwards. For the first time, we’re also extending this Grant to under 5s to make sure our children get the best possible start in life.

For Bangor, this money means an additional £272,500 for our school pupils.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats secured this extra money in 2012 to give less well-off pupils a fair start and I am delighted that we have managed to increase it once again,” said North Wales Liberal Democrat AM Aled Roberts.

“Schools in Gwynedd will now receive over £3.7 million extra in the next two years thanks to the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

“I’m also pleased that 12,500 nursery children under the age of 5 will now benefit.  The aim is to make sure that every child has a fair start when they begin their formal education.

Too often children from poorer backgrounds fall behind in school even at an early age so this Welsh Liberal Democrat policy is designed to tackle inequalities in our education system.

Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru yn cyflawni dros ddisgyblion tlotaf Cymru.

pdg-graphic-2-cy

Er ein bod ni ddim yn rhan o Lywodraeth Cymru, rydym ni wedi sicrhau Grant Amddifadedd Disgyblion i gefnogi disgyblion o gefndiroedd amddifadus gyda’u sgiliau darllen a rhifedd.

Ers i ni ennill yr arian hwn gyntaf, mae athrawon wedi dweud wrthym bod yr arian ychwanegol yn gwneud gwahaniaeth i’r plant sydd fwyaf angen cefnogaeth. Lefelau darllen uwch, llai o blant yn colli ysgol, bwlch cyrhaeddiad llai – a hyn oll oherwydd Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru.

Blwyddyn nesaf, fydd pob ysgol yng Nghymru yn derbyn £1,050 ar gyfer pob plentyn yn derbyn prydau ysgol am ddim – fydd hyn yn codi i £1,150 y flwyddyn wedyn. Am y tro gyntaf, rydym ni hefyd yn ymestyn y Grant i blant dan 5 mlwydd oed i sicrhau bod ein plant yn cael y cychwyniad gorau mewn bywyd.

Mae hyn yn golygu hyd at £272,500 ar gyfer disgyblion ac ysgolion Bangor.

“Gwnaeth Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru llwyddo i gael yr arian yma wedi’i benodi yn 2012 i roi cyfle i ddisgyblion o gefndiroedd difreintiedig cyfle teg, ac rydw i’n falch iawn ein bod ni wedi llwyddo cynyddu’r cyllideb unwaith eto,” dywedodd Aelod Cynulliad dros Ogledd Cymru Aled Roberts AC.

“Bydd ysgolion yng Ngwynedd yn derbyn hyd at £3.7m dros y ddwy flynedd nesaf diolch i Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru.”

“Rydw i hefyd yn ymflachio y bydd 12,500 plant meithrin o dan 5 mlwydd oed hefyd yn buddio o’r cyllid. Y bwriad yw sicrhau bod gan bob blentyn dechrau teg pan maent yn dechrau addysg.”

“Yn aml iawn mae plant o gefndiroedd difreintiedig yn cwympo yn nol yn yr ysgol ac mae polisi’r Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru wedi’i gynllunio i ddatrys anghydraddoldebau ein ein system addysg.” 

CLLR RHYS TAYLOR SIGNS FOR MEN UNITED V PROSTATE CANCER.

Cllr Rhys Taylor is the latest signing to Prostate Cancer UK’s campaign, Men United v Prostate Cancer, a unique team which seeks to unite people across the UK against the common enemy of prostate cancer. Research for Prostate Cancer UK shows that nearly 650,000 people in Wales know someone who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer but nearly six in ten (56%) people in Wales say they don’t feel personally informed about the disease.

Each year almost as many men are diagnosed with prostate cancer as women are diagnosed with breast cancer but research in to the disease has historically been badly underfunded, leaving tests and treatments trailing behind other common cancers. In addition the quality and availability of treatment can vary across the UK. Men United v Prostate Cancer, the brainchild of Britain’s foremost male health charity – Prostate Cancer UK – is about fighting this apathy and neglect which surrounds the disease. Rhys will be joining tens of thousands who have already signed up including comedian Bill Bailey, Welsh Olympic legend Colin Jackson and national treasure Sir Michael Parkinson.

Cllr Rhys Taylor said: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, affecting many in my Constituency alone. If we are going to beat this killer we need as many people as possible to sign for Men United. By uniting together and taking action for men’s health, we can bring about real change. I’m proud to able to show my support to the campaign and I urge everyone to get on board. It’s easy – just search Men United online and you’re in! Prostate cancer is a massive opponent but I firmly believe that with the right team we can beat it!”

Samantha Fairclough, Services Manager for Wales at Prostate Cancer UK said: “Survival rates for men with prostate cancer lag behind those in the rest of the UK and too often the services men need are out of reach. We know from the Welsh Government’s Cancer Patient Experience Survey that things are getting better for men in Wales but we still lag behind other parts of the UK. That is why Prostate Cancer UK is here to support men in Wales and we call on the people who can make change to join us in leading change. It is great to have Rhys on board.”

 

 

 

 

ENDS

 Notes to Editors:

 

Men United – The Facts:

  • Men United v Prostate Cancer is our call for men to join together in a movement against the common enemy of prostate cancer. The aim is to build a united front of men against this disease. We want to get the message out about one of the UK’s biggest man killers, support men affected by it, and intensify the search for more reliable tests and treatments for the future.
  • Men are being asked to sign for Men United by visitingwww.prostatecanceruk.org/menunited where they can also test their health knowledge by taking a quick quiz.
  • The core audience is men over 45 who urgently need to know about this disease, and to do something about it. Men United is not exclusively for men. This is a movement for men, but women will be critical supporters and activists within it. But, the core idea is that men are very consciously facing their health and banding together to right a wrong.
  • Whether they’ve been diagnosed or are simply concerned about prostate cancer, men can find out about the disease atwww.prostatecanceruk.org.


About Prostate Cancer UK:

  • Prostate Cancer UK fights to help more men survive prostate cancer and enjoy a better quality of life. We support men and provide vital information. We find answers by funding research into causes and treatments. And we lead change, raising the profile of the disease and improving care. We believe that men deserve better.
  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Every hour 1 man dies from prostate cancer. One in four Black men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives.
  • Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer can call Prostate Cancer UK’s confidential Helpline on 0800 074 8383 or visitwww.prostatecanceruk.org – the helpline is free to landlines, staffed by specialist nurses, and open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday with late opening until 8pm on Wednesdays.

Plaid’s promise of ‘local solutions’ on school closures broken.

The top line of Plaid Cymru’s 2012 manifesto read as follows;

“Plaid Cymru councillors are a crucial part of the team of Plaid Cymru representatives at all levels of government who are listening to what everyone in our community has to say and are working hard to make people’s lives better.”

In a recent meeting of Full Council in Gwynedd, Councillors from across the region were asked to vote on how school closures should be decided upon. An ongoing problem across the county for many years. Plaid Cymru Councillors voted, en bloc, in favour of giving the Cabinet the power to decide on school closures.

A council without strong opposition has just pulled the carpet from underneath Councillor’s feet – Full Council has even fewer powers. Another nail in the coffin for democracy in Gwynedd.

In 2012 Plaid Cymru launched its manifesto, setting out its vision for a Plaid Cymru governed Gwynedd Council. In that manifesto, Plaid Cymru said;

“Plaid Cymru councillors will continue to lead the discussions resulting from a reduction in the numbers of children and the need for fewer buildings by negotiation in order to find local solutions.”

In a letter to local press another resident said they could not believe that Plaid Cymru “the champion of small rural communities, the bastion of Welshness” was pursuing a plan of school closures.

School closures has massive impact on local communities, the future of local rural communities, and on pupil’s and individual’s sense of belonging, and those who live, work and represent those communities now have very little influence over the decision to close or keep schools open.

Plaid also promised the following to the electorate;

  • Our aim is to create an education system that produces rounded individuals with a strong sense of belonging
  • Plaid Cymru will introduce an innovative scheme in the world of education that concentrates on children who are not at present achieving their full potential
  • Plaid Cymru believes in developing viable rural education for the future
  • Our ambition is to create an education system that will thrive in the future with an emphasis on enabling strong headteachers to lead in their communities
  • Plaid Cymru believes that federalisation, lifelong schools, co-operation, building new area schools are options to be considered in different circumstances.

In April 2012 Llais Gwynedd Leader, Councillor Owain Williams said: “The school closures have no educational, economical or environmental basis and is nothing more than the Plaid Cymru-run Council’s blinkered campaign to destroy the county’s most  fragile communities both socially and culturally.”

Plaid should remember that democracy isn’t something for at the ballot box – it happens every day, yet local people are becoming less able to hold their council to account and influence decisions made.

Whilst politics should remain separate to education, communities are an integral part of education and it’s important that communities remain at the heart of schools and education across Gwynedd and across Wales. This is another example of how Plaid Cymru controlled Gwynedd Council is not acting in the best interests of local people, fail to hear what local communities have to say, and are failing to recognise the collective power of individuals to shape decisions about their communities.

Where next for society?

We now live in a society in which the only thing almost everyone strives for is to better their own position, as individuals, within our existing society. That can be traced back to the 1970s and Thatcher.

What Britain lacks is a popular movement capable of inspiring people through a vision of how to make society a substantially better place to live for the vast majority of people.

“Without that vision politics will rarely provoke more than a yawn.”

The context here is that rich counties have come to the end of what higher material living standards can offer, and according to Wilkinson and Pickett we are the first generation to have to find other ways of improving the real quality of living. The evidence, they say, points towards greater equality.

However British politics has failed to engage people in a meaningful rhetoric around equality and fairness, and even where these movements exist in British politics, not enough has been done to convince enough people that greater equality is the way forward.

Research in Britain has shown that many people have a strong personal belief in greater equality and fairness but these values “have remained private intuitions which they fear others do not share.”

What’s more is that even people who initially reject appeals for greater fairness and equality (both for those at the bottom and top of society) are in favour of a new vision for improving the quality of everyone’s lives when presented with a story of equality based in evidence.

This is why we need a fairer society if we are to revitalise civic society and boost our economy where everyone benefits, whether that’s through housing, employment, health, or education. Put simply, we need to do more than throw cash at something to deliver improvements.

Whatever the strength of our economy, societies are “social failures” given the level of inequality that still exists in our society despite major improvements in the material standard of living.

One author called the gap between the poor and rich the “moral horror story of our time.”

Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar have shown that the gap between the rich and poor and the enormous disparity in children’s home backgrounds, including the social and cultural capital that they bring to the “educational table” is fundemental in determining the attainment of pupils.

“The term cultural capital refers to non-financial social assets that promote social mobility beyond economic means. Examples can include education, intellect, style of speech, dress, or physical appearance.”

“Social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups.”

In 2007 a UK nationwide survey found that by the age of 3 children from disadvantaged backgrounds were educationally up to a year behind children from more privileged homes (London Institute for Education).

Additionally, Alan Milburn, a former Labour UK cabinet minister, recently published a report showing that pupils eligible for free school meals in England are 50% more likely to obtain five good GCSEs than their counterparts in Wales.

Fundamentally, a fairer and more equal society will do more for educational attainment than simply improving the material standard of living. Increasing education spending alone will not deliver improvements in attainment. Increasing education spending in itself will not enable education as the great  societal leveller that it should be. Improving the material standard of living will not, in itself, improve social and cultural capital, a key part in delivering educational attainment for children and young people.

Children’s start in life is also incredibly important in underlining their development and their (perceived) success in later life.

Early attachment theory states that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally. Attachment theory explains how much the parents’ relationship with the child influences development.

This has an impact on a child’s start in life, but also the equality in ensuring fairness for both parents and the impact on the household. As attachment theory explains, poor attachment at an early stage in a child’s life can have a detrimental impact on the rest of their childhood and adult life, including educational attainment.

Which is why we cannot continue to allow governments to pit the poor against the rich in creating a stronger economy in a fairer society.

In the past arguments about inequality have centred on the privations of the poor and on what is fair, where reducing inequality depended on scaring the better off into “adopting a more altruistic attitude to the poor”. This has generated a fundemental distrust which contributes to the broken society in which we live.

Greater equality is not, and should not be about lowering standards or levelling to a common mediocrity.

Subramanian and Kawachi (2006) said that “inequality acts like a pollutant spread throughout society.” Research shows that the more unequal a society (the steeper the socio-economic gradient) the worse everybody performes in education, not only those children with less well-educated parents. The UK and USA have worse average literacy scores on national levels of attainment because of the steepness (meaning less equal) of the social gradient

“Greater equality is the gateway to a society improving the quality of life for all of us and an essential step in the development of a sustainable economic system.”

We don’t just need a fairer society for the poor, we need a fairer society for all so everyone can succeed, where everyone is given the best start in life, where everyone is supported in succeeding. By vilifying the rich we create distrust in our society to the point where a broken society is self created. We need to challenge the obscenities of wealth and power, and those with the broadest shoulders should bear the biggest burden, but that’s different to creating an enemy.

Even in 2014 improvements in the material standard of living isn’t going to make vast improvements to society – we need a look at community life, mental health, social relations, education, trust, equality and sustainability. How people interact, people’s perceptions of others, and how groups within our society interact is just as important, if not more, than finance. Government can no longer only use improvements in the material standard of living as a means of greatly improving the quality of living in modern Britain.

In Britain we have been rightly committed to narrowing the health gap between the rich and the poor, but we’ve seen little change. The reason for this is because the policy has been centred on breaking the links between socio-economic disadvantage and the problems it produces, which is only part of the problem.

Wilkinson and Pickett explain the flaw in this policy perfectly.

They said that these policies are grounded in the dividing belief that the poor need to be taught to be more sensible (drugs, protected sex, exercise and alcohol consumption etc) with the unstated hope that people can carry on in the same circumstances, making no real improvement to their standard of living.

We should be rejecting an ‘artificial fairness’ to improve social mobility and the standard of living in Britain. A fairness that generates mistrust between large swathes of our society. A fairness that talks down the poor through playing big government, clamping down on fairness and freedom in the name of equality which isn’t truly equal.

We need to capture and provide a narrative for the collective belief that society could be different through greater equality, and interweave a strong economic narrative.

Welsh Labour’s lacklustre response to improving mental healthcare in Wales.

The Welsh Labour Party once again displayed their poverty of ambition for Wales.

A debate was held in the Welsh Assembly this month on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Wales. The Welsh Liberal Democrats, following a unanimous decision by members at the Party’s Spring Conference, tabled the debate calling on the Welsh Government to take a number of key steps including:

• investigating waiting times between a child or young person’s first assessment with CAMHS and their subsequent service referral;
• routinely publishing readmission statistics;
• consistent and accurate reporting of inappropriate placements on adult mental health wards;
• considering the introduction of mental health education within the school curriculum; and
• introducing a national framework to ensure continuity of treatment in the transition between CAMHS and Adult Mental Health Services.

The Welsh Labour Government voted against all of these suggestions.

One in ten children and adolescents in Wales will experience a mental health issue, and waiting lists are too long, there is a lack of investment and focus on early intervention, too many young people are still inappropriately placed on adult mental health wards, safety checks are not common practice and many young people get lost in the transition between CAMHS and Adult Mental Health Services.

Nearly a decade ago the Children’s Commissioner warned that CAMHS provision was in ‘crisis across Wales’, and we’re still hearing those same concerns echoed by child health experts in 2014.

Figures compiled by the Welsh Liberal Democrats show that the number of vulnerable young people in Wales waiting more than 14 weeks to access child and adolescent psychiatric services has almost quadrupled, from 199 in January 2013 to 736 in January 2014.

Wales made a good start in being the first country in the UK to have a national strategy on CAMHS with the launch of ‘Everybody’s Business’ in 2001. There are examples of excellent practice across Wales, yet sadly despite action plans, frameworks and even the Mental Health (Wales) Measure, there remain significant concerns that can no longer be ignored.

Welsh Labour, when they voted against making improvements to mental health services in Wales, displayed their lack of ambition, displayed a willingness to play politics with people’s health, and shows how Labour continues to let the people of Wales down.

Why extending the Pupil Premium to HE is one good step in the right direction.

I recently came across a short excerpt of Tim Farron’s article on extending the Pupil Premium to HE students.

The Pupil a Premium, a Liberal Democrat flagship policy, currently gives schools new, additional money to provide additional support for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds (pupils receiving Free School Meals).

In England the Pupil Premium in 2013/14 is worth £953 per eligible child in primary schools and £900 per eligible child in secondary schools. In 2014/15 the value of the Pupil Premium will increase to £1,300 per pupil for primary school children and £935 per pupil for secondary school children.

In Wales in 2013/14 the Pupil Premium, or Pupil Deprivation Grant, will give pupils in receipt of FSM an additional £918, an increase from £450. (All in opposition in Cardiff Bay, by the way!).

Research shows that one of the key measures that can be taken to address poor attainment and the fact that pupils eligible for free school meals in England are 50% more likely to obtain five good GCSEs than their counterparts in Wales, is addressing inequalities in education.

I’ll come back to addressing inequality as a means to improving the standard of living in another blog soon!

Finance is only one part of addressing those inequalities through providing additional support for pupils through smaller classes, additional support, additional time or new resources.

However, it is just one step. We have to go further. We have to do more than tweak the edges of the current settlement.

The same exists in HE however in terms of access in addition to attainment. The cost of education, day to day living, resources, travel is perhaps more of a barrier to accessing HE than fees, an argument that many have pursued since 2010 when the coalition government raised fees from £3,564 to £9,000 per year.

Extending additional financial support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds would be a welcome step in addressing barriers to accessing HE and widening access to HE. However the cost of living is an issue for the majority of students. 2/3 of students surveyed in Bangor (around 2000 students) told us that their student loan didn’t cover or barely covered the cost of their accommodation alone. That’s without food, travel, clothes, resources and general day to day living.

Listening to students, day to day living costs are more of a concern than tuition fees.

More needs to be done to address the underfunding of students, which impacts on access, retention, and success in education, and that’s without considering the impact of financial pressure on students’ health and mental health, which many institutions are becoming less equipped to deal with following funding changes in 2012.

But whilst this article and the majority of people talk HE we miss out on talking FE.

The financial pressures that FE students are just as great if not greater in some cases. FE students have far less financial support, are far more diverse in some cases than FE students, and FE institutions are facing more and more difficult situations.

Some local authorities are cutting travel arrangements for FE colleges, which will impact on students even further, adding more to the already high costs of studying.

In Wales we passed a policy with a new vision for FE in Wales, from structuring to the delivery and flexibility of education for institutions and learners. As a party we have long called for parity between HE, FE, and apprenticeships and other forms of education, and rightfully so. But we need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, and we need a wholesale review of student funding, access, widening participation, retention, and FE in it’s entirety.

The Pupil Premium is something to be proud of, breaking down the links between someone’s background and attainment, however we have to do more, we have to go further, and we have to persuade the wider public of education as a public good and a right.

Why we need a fairer society to truly build a stronger economy

“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free, and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”
preamble to the Liberal Democrat constitution.

In the makeup of modern British politics, the Liberal Democrats are different.

We now live in a society in which the only thing almost everyone strives for is to better their own position, as individuals, within our existing society. That can be traced back to the 1970s and Thatcher.

The Liberal Democrats have always advocated a move away from greed and self interest and toward a way of life more centred on values, community, and equality. The Party has attempted to reignite the search for a shared vision of creating a better society.

Given the context, the Lib Dems had (and still have) the opportunity to become a popular movement capable of inspiring people through a vision of how to make society a substantially better place to live for the vast majority of people.

“Without that vision politics will rarely provoke more than a yawn.”

The context here is that rich counties have come to the end of what higher material living standards can offer, and according to Wilkinson and Pickett we are the first generation to have to find other ways of improving the real quality of living. The evidence, they say, points towards greater equality; a fundemental and founding principle for the Liberal Democrats.

As a party the Liberal Democrats have failed to engage people in a coherent story about equality and fairness – the Liberal Democrat story.

However politics in Britain has also failed to do the same thing with two parties clutching at straws to achieve true equality.

Research in Britain has shown that many people have a strong personal belief in greater equality and fairness but these values “have remained private intuitions which they fear others do not share.”

What’s more is that even people who initially reject appeals for greater fairness and equality (both for those at the bottom and top of society) are in favour of a new vision for improving the quality of everyone’s lives when presented with a story of equality based in evidence.

This is why we need a fairer society before creating a stronger economy.

Whatever the strength of our economy, societies are “social failures” given the level of inequality that still exists in our society despite major improvements in the material standard of living.

The Party has started on that work in education, for example. The Pupil Premium, a flagship policy, goes to the heart of addressing poor attainment. What it is and what it does.

The Pupil a Premium, a Liberal Democrat flagship policy, currently gives schools new, additional money to provide additional support for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds (pupils receiving Free School Meals).

In England the Pupil Premium in 2013/14 is worth £953 per eligible child in primary schools and £900 per eligible child in secondary schools. In 2014/15 the value of the Pupil Premium will increase to £1,300 per pupil for primary school children and £935 per pupil for secondary school children.

In Wales in 2013/14 the Pupil Premium, or Pupil Deprivation Grant, will give pupils in receipt of FSM an additional £918, an increase from £450. (All in opposition in Cardiff Bay, by the way!).

Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar have shown that the gap between the rich and poor and the enormous disparity in children’s home backgrounds, including the social and cultural capital that they bring to the “educational table” is fundemental in determining the attainment of pupils.

“The term cultural capital refers to non-financial social assets that promote social mobility beyond economic means. Examples can include education, intellect, style of speech, dress, or physical appearance.”

“Social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups.”

In 2007 a UK nationwide survey found that by the age of 3 children from disadvantaged backgrounds were educationally up to a year behind children from more privileged homes (London Institute for Education).

Additionally, Alan Milburn, a former Labour UK cabinet minister, recently published a report showing that pupils eligible for free school meals in England are 50% more likely to obtain five good GCSEs than their counterparts in Wales.

Fundamentally, a fairer and more equal society will do more for educational attainment than simply improving the material standard of living.

Another example of the Lib Dem’s work on addressing inequalities in order to improve society for all is Shared Parental Leave.

Early attachment theory states that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally. Attachment theory explains how much the parents’ relationship with the child influences development.

This has an impact on a child’s start in life, but also the equality in ensuring fairness for both parents and the impact on the household. As attachment theory explains, poor attachment at an early stage in a child’s life can have a detrimental impact on the rest of their childhood and adult life, including educational attainment.

For too long governments have pitted the poor against the rich, young against old.

In the past arguments about inequality have centred on the privations of the poor and on what is fair, where reducing inequality depended on scaring the better off into “adopting a more altruistic attitude to the poor”. This has generated a fundemental distrust which contributes to the broken society in which we live.

Greater equality is not, and should not be about lowering standards or levelling to a common mediocrity.

Subramanian and Kawachi (2006) said that “inequality acts like a pollutant spread throughout society.” Research shows that the more unequal a society (the steeper the socio-economic gradient) the worse everybody performes in education, not only those children with less well-educated parents. The UK and USA have worse average literacy scores on national levels of attainment because of the steepness (meaning less equal) of the social gradient

“Greater equality is the gateway to a society improving the quality of life for all of us and an essential step in the development of a sustainable economic system.”

The Liberal Democrats have failed to unite society behind a shared vision, the Liberal Democrat vision, of improving the quality of life for all through greater equality and fairness, which I believe has been fundemental in our performance in elections. We have allowed Labour and the Tories to concentrate improvements in the standard of living in Britain to people’s economic circumstances. We have allowed them to convince the electorate that even in the 2000s the material standard of living is th way to improve society – not community life, mental health, social relations, education, trust, equality or sustainability. And where we have heard of these things, they have been underlined by big government and material living standards.

Government can no longer only use improvements in the material standard of living as a means of grestly improving the quality of living in modern Britain.

Greater equality and fairness as a means of improving our society is the Liberal Democrats’ home territory, our message.

In Britain we have been rightly committed to narrowing the health gap between the rich and the poor, but with little change. The reason for this is because the policy has been centred on breaking the links between socio-economic disadvantage and the problems it produces.

Wilkinson and Pickett explain the flaw in this policy perfectly. They said that these policies are grounded in the belief that the poor need to be taught to be more sensible (drugs, protected sex, exercise and alcohol consumption etc) with the unstated hope that people can carry on in the same circumstances, making no real improvement to their standard of living.

This is why the Tories can’t be trusted to build a fairer society, and Labour to build a stronger economy.

The Tories have no interest in a fairer society, which only results in an undermining our strong economy.

Labour position themselves whilst creating artificial fairness, generating mistrust between large swathes of our society. Talking down the poor in playing big government, clamping down on fairness and freedom in the name of equality which isn’t truly equal.

Liberal Democrats are the only ones to truly appreciate true equality, fairness and freedom and the role that those societal qualities play in ensuring a strong and sustainable economic system for the whole of Britain.

During and pre 2010 Liberal Democrats bucked the trend.

We were not the same old party standing up for change but divorced from any real ideas for change that went deeper that the surface images that party politics has long projected.

The Pupil Premium, Shared Parental Leave, making the tax system fairer, making pensions fairer. We stood up for fairer politics, meaningful community action, a united healthcare system, a welfare system that delivered for people entering the system, having to rely on the system, and existing the system to re enter employment.

Unfortunately the Lib Dem’s story wasn’t a united, well rehearsed, and popular message capable of inspiring that shared vision in which people reimagine a fairer and better society.

As a result of 2010 the Lib Dems have a lot to do in inspiring a shared vision of a more equal society as a means to creating a more prosperous economy.

Not only do the Lib Dems have a lot to do in inspiring that shared vision, but they have a lot to do in dusting off the worst of the coalition government.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party that truly believes and can deliver a fundamentally fairer and more equal society for all, not a society which vilifies the rich and plays big government for the poor.

Without a strong and convincing narrative of how equality and fairness are fundemental in creating a stronger economy, the Liberal a Democrats will always fail to achieve widespread electoral success.

The Liberal Democrats have to capture and provide a narrative for the collective belief that society could be different through greater equality, and interweave a strong economic narrative.

The Liberal Democrats need to refocus on the party’s roots in communities, equality, and liberty and away from doggedly chasing a certificate in economic competence.

Only then, and only after the party has captured and built a consensus that unites society behind the notion of greater equality, can the Liberal Democrats truly deliver on their commitment to building a stronger economy in a fairer society, proving both electoral and economic competence.

That’s what the Liberal Democrats have to achieve if the party is to avoid wipeout beyond 2015.