January 2011

My appearance on Strictly

On Christmas Day I appeared for less than a second on Strictly Come Dancing - but I was seen by millions!

In fact, a surprising number of people have told me that they spotted me. It was during the introduction to Vince Cable's dance (and didn't he do well?), when they showed him speaking at Party Conference and I was smiling in the audience.

I was vain enough to check out the news item that it came from, and when I did I realised once again why I admire Vince and why Coalition was the right thing for our party to do.

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Some personal news

My mother, Ida Price, died last week. She had Alzheimer's, and she gradually faded away, very peacefully.

I have praised the work of Amy Woodgate House, where she had been for the last two and a half years, many times before. I know that it is entirely thanks to the care she was given there that she survived so much longer than expected, and enjoyed her last months comfortably and contently.

We are holding the funeral in Kingston on Wednesday and a Service of Thanksgiving in Penarth on Friday. Please get in touch if you would like more details.

"Edwardian attitudes?" You only have to go back to the 1970s!

Nick Clegg announced today that maternity leave is, in effect to become parental leave. A mother who does not use up her full entitlement for leave may pass it on to the father. This is very welcome, and emphasises the whole family unit, not just the mother-child relationship.

The proposal is, in fact, based on plans drawn up by the last Government, and I'm pleased to see that such a good idea was not lost in the transition.

But Clegg referred, rather oddly I thought, to Edwardian attitudes to work and family life. Odd, because I can recall very similar attitudes as recently as the 1970s.

When my first child was born in 1974 I was offered a simple choice - take six weeks paid maternity leave, then either return full-time or resign my job. That was the normal option faced by a working mother. I was not prepared to stop breast feeding at six weeks, so resigned. And that was that. No guarantee of work of any sort at any date in the future; no paid leave after six weeks. And fathers were not entitled to any leave at all, relying on the sympathy of their employers to even get time off to attend the birth.

I was employed in the public sector (at what is now Roehampton University) but, like all employers at the time, they didn't have any schemes to enhance the national scheme. In practice, they were very supportive of me and offered me part-time work when I was ready to return.

There's going to be a consultation on the proposals, with a start date of 2015. It's been a long time coming - but thanks.

From 90 days to 14

Apparently, two thirds of the Liberal Democrat manifesto was in the Coalition agreement or has since been carried out by the Government. That's a pretty surprising figure, given that we are the junior partner in the Coalition.

But you wouldn't know it from the national press, which is dominated by Conservative and Labour big money. They, of course, delight in jumping on the issues where we did not get what we wanted. So it is down to some of us to point to all the things that Liberal Democrats did offer in their manifesto and which they have delivered.

The latest of these are the changes to the anti-terrorism regulations. The much maligned control orders are to be replaced by a more focused set of regulations. Once again the press is homing in on the new proposal for night residency compared with the previous16 hour curfew, which they claim is much the same - actually it's a definite improvement even if it is not a total removal.

But they are downplaying the most significant change, namely the reduction of detention without charge from 28 to 14 days. It's still too long in my view, but 14 days is a very different proposition from 90 days which Tony Blair proposed. It was a big issue when he proposed the increase, but with so much else going on at present, this small but important reduction to 14 days has been largely overlooked.

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