Aimee to lobby Coventry South MP on Brexit

On Wednesday, I will be lobbying Jim Cunningham, the Labour Member of Parliament for Coventry South, with Our Future, Our Choice, and hundreds of young people from across the UK. We will be there to ask our MPs to give us a say on Brexit in a People’s Vote.

In 2016, Coventry South voted to remain, with 51.1 per cent of people choosing to stay in the EU.

Support for the EU has now risen even more, with 56.5 per cent of people there saying they would now vote to stay if there was another referendum.

My generation will be affected by Brexit more than any other – despite being overwhelmingly against it. We will end up poorer, and more isolated – despite many not even having a chance to vote in the 2016 referendum, a referendum that was won on the basis of undeliverable promises, and a campaign that broke the law.

This matters to our city, since 2007, Coventry has been responsible for managing £65million of European Union funding. including FarGo Village, development of the Belgrade area, and so much more. Data published in February by the University of Sussex’s UK Trade Policy Observatory shows that Coventry could lose 1750 jobs in a “Soft Brexit” scenario, and upwards of 3950 jobs could be lost if we drop out of the EU with no deal.

It is vital that we tell our MPs that they must do all they can to prevent it, or risk losing the votes of millions. On Wednesday we shall be doing exactly that – taking over parliament and letting MPs know how we feel. We are the future of this country: MPs would do well to remember that we are also their electorate.

Aimee


Creative Commons Licence
Photos of “Coventry 4 Europe placard” “People’s Vote Coventry placard” and “EU Gotta fight for your right to Vote placard” by Aimee Challenor are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Youth Strike for Climate

Today (Friday 15th Feb 2019), school kids across the UK took part in a coordinated Youth Strike for Climate. Raising the issue of climate change through peaceful protest and not going to school. It received both support and criticism, and police say there were two arrests.

An estimated 15,000 young people across more than 60 UK towns and cities have refused to attend school today, as part of a national Youth Strike to raise awareness of climate change. The movement has been largely inspired by Swedish student Greta Thunburg who made headlines in August 2018 for starting the first school strike for climate outside the Swedish parliament building. Today’s strikes in the UK aimed to echo Greta’s strike from August, and there was a significant presence throughout central London, with the other largest protests being held in Brighton, Oxford, and Exeter.

UK Student Climate Network, one of the organising groups, has four key demands:

  • The government should declare a “climate emergency”
  • It should also inform the public about the seriousness of the situation
  • The national curriculum should be reformed to include “the ecological crisis”
  • The age of voting should be lowered to 16 so younger people can be involved in decision-making around environmental issues.

Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP, and former Teacher, wrote an article in support of the protests for The Independent, saying; “As a former teacher, I know how frustrating it must be to watch students walk out of class, particularly if they have important exams on the horizon. But, given the gravity and urgency of this issue, I support this strike, and the students, wholeheartedly.”

But Education Secretary Damian Hinds warned students they should not miss lessons to take part in the strikes.

I want young people to be engaged in key issues affecting them and involving themselves in causes they care about. But let me be clear, missing class won’t do a thing to help the environment; all they will do is create extra work for teachers.

Damian Hinds, UK Government Education Secretary

There have been reports on Social Media that participants of the strike have been arrested this afternoon;

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told me this evening;

There were two arrests:

A 19-year-old man has been arrested for obstruction of the highway.
A 17-year-old youth has been arrested for a public order offence.

Press Bureau, Directorate of Media and Communication, New Scotland Yard

It’s important to recognise that this is the official number from the Police however it has been disputed by a volunteer for protest support project Green and Black Cross, who told me that they’ve received information of at least 4 arrests related to the Strikes, of which 3 arrestees were under 18.

More than 200 academics supported the strikes publically, signing a letter to the Guardian newspaper.


Cover photo: Youth Climate protests in London. Photo by Sarah Cope, used with permission.

A Liberal Democrat perspective on Trump’s State of the Union

I originally wrote this for Lib Dem Voice, and you can find it on their website.

Screengrab of White House SOTU video. Src: @WhiteHouse

Last night, Mr Trump presented his State of the Union to the American People and the watching world. I stayed up late and caught a live stream of it, as well as the Democratic Party response delivered by Stacey Abrams.

Judah Samet. Src: White House Public Domain Photo via flickr

It was an uninspiring jumble of falsehoods, empty promises, and rhetoric. The highlight of the evening was Congress singing “Happy Birthday” to Holocaust and Pittsburgh shooting survivor Judah Samet, who turned 81.

The evening began with Presidential hypocrisy as Trump praised three “incredible heroes” who participated in D-Day, yet in November he cancelled his Armistice Day visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial simply because it was raining.

Like Nixon before him, Trump tried to use his State of the Union Address to oppose the ongoing investigation in him and his team, referring to investigations as “partisan” and “ridiculous”. Trump then moved on to praise his “success” with Tax reform – that didn’t pay for itself, he criticised antisemitism – despite his own rhetoric directly contributing to a rise in the abuse of Jewish people and communities. He continued his tirade against a woman’s right to have control of her body, he rallied against legal asylum and pushed again for his racist southern border wall.

In one of the stranger twists, Donald Trump told us that he is meeting Kim Jong-Un later this months and that the US has held “constructive” negotiations with the Taliban, and then in the next breath went on to criticise Iran calling them “Bad bad people”. He praised the US Armed Forces; “Our economy is the envy of the world, our military is the most powerful on earth, and America is winning each and every day,” ignoring the fact his recent discriminatory trans ban, will weaken the US Military.

Of course, I could continue to highlight the fallacies in almost everything Trump said, but it’s important to look at the positive, and fortunately, we did get to hear from a leader who delivered a powerful message – Stacey Abrams.

Stacey Abrams in November 2018. Src: Marla Aufmuth / TED via Flickr. CC-BY-NC-ND

In her speech, Abrams calmly presented a vision of a better America, it wasn’t a rebuttal, or even really a response, but it was clear; Democrats will tackle what this Government is not.

She tackled the recent US Government Shutdown, highlighting bi-partisan work in Georgia on criminal justice reform, transport, and foster care. She tackled healthcare, climate change, children in cages at the border, LGBTQ Discrimination.

On Education, Abrams highlighted active shooter drills in Elementary schools and rising Higher Education costs;

And, most importantly, Stacey Abrams finished strong, leaving viewers with a message of strength;

America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies: foreign and domestic … and when we do so, never wavering — the state of our union will always be strong

Stacey Abrams, Democrats response to State of the Union, February 5th 2019.

Stacey Abrams’ speech contained everything we needed to see from a revitalised Democratic Party as we began the 2020 Presidential Election Fight, and if it wasn’t a response to the State of the Union, I’d have expected to see it in an announcement of candidacy.

We had two speeches last night; one was Presidential and a sign of Leadership, the other was Trumps. The next two years are still going to be difficult for America and the world, but maybe the Democratic Party are actually ready to put up a fight.


Aimee Challenor is the Diversity Officer for the Coventry Liberal Democrats. She is engaged to her partner who lives in Michigan, USA. She tweets at @AimeeChallenor. Views expressed here are her own and not nece those of the Liberal Democrats.

Why the National Autistic Society were right to reverse their decision on award winning charity Mermaids

This post was originally posted to Lib Dem Voice in October 2018.

This week, in a move described as “worrying” by LGBT+ Lib Dems, the National Autistic Society removed all links to the trans youth charity Mermaids from their Gender page. Yesterday they reversed their decision and apologised. As a trans person with autism myself, I know it’s crucial that signposting to proper support is essential.

I was diagnosed with autism at 4 years old. It’s a diagnosis that has been constantly rechecked throughout my life.

When, aged 16, I came out as transgender, one of the first things I faced was disbelief in my Gender Identity by medical professionals because of my autism. Instead of seeing gender specialists, I was sent back to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

I turned to Mermaids for support, who helped me secure a referral to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Gender Identity Services. If Mermaids had not have been there for me, I likely would’ve continued to experience rejection of treatment because of my autism. I continue to be asked about my autism at Gender Identity appointments, despite it being repeatedly addressed.

My experience is just a small snippet of why these charities should work together to ensure there are signposts to the right support for young transgender people with autism. Research shows that transgender people are disproportionately likely to be on the autism spectrum.

LGBT+ Lib Dems were among those highlighting the original decision and rightly calling it worrying;

I’m thankful that the National Autistic Society realised quickly they made a mistake and worked hard to fix it. Thanks to people supporting autistic trans people, and the NAS reacting quickly. I know that more people will be supported in accessing support.

People’s perception of my autism diagnosis nearly stopped me from being able to be myself. I hope that other trans people soon won’t have to face similar identity policing. You can help make that a reality by responding to the Government’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act until 19th October. There are guides available from both Stonewall and LGBT+ Lib Dems.

I dedicate this article to Kayden Clarke, a trans man who was shot dead by police in February 2016. He’d just been denied treatment because of his autism.