hollymath: Black and white picture of my face in profile. I'm wearing a trilby (Default)
[personal profile] hollymath
I started writing a huge detailed essay about my interaction with the Lib Dems' policy motion on immigration, a proper how-the-sausage-gets-made thing that was very cathartic but also full of things I shouldn't say -- both because they're not really fair to talk about in public but also because it'd be boring or confusing to anybody who doesn't care enough that they already know anyway.

To turn several screens of text into a single clause, it turned out that the part of the proposed immigration policy the leadership were digging their heels on was the part most personally affecting me.

It's a close-run thing, because one of the amendments was about reducing the fees to cost, not to let the government continue making huge profits off of ordinary people. I would never have been able to pay for citizenship on my own, and yet there's still something that has affected me more than the many thousands I've paid out (it's esitmated to cost £7,000 to pay all the application fees involvined in immigrating here now, but it was only ("only," she laughs bitterly) about half that when I did it because they're hiking up the fees so much every year).

But another of the amendments was about something even closer to my heart. No Recourse to Public Funds is a thing that was stamped in my passport for the whole time I had a spouse visa -- the first two years at the time I did it; it'd be five years now. It meant I wasn't eligible for any kind of benefits for that whole length of time. Not only that, it meant my British spouse, who'd never lived anywhere else and had even previously been claiming some of those benefits, was no longer eligible either.

I vividly remember that when we got married, one of the documents we had to take to the British consulate in Chicago was a letter from his mother saying that Andrew was working but if anything meant he couldn't, his parents would support us. I don't know anyone else who had to have a note from their mum when they got married, but we had to prove that neither of us would be a burden on the state.

And they were true to their word: when the company Andrew had been working for went bankrupt a couple of months into our marriage, his parents did help us out. And mine. And friends of ours. And random friends from LiveJournal; I wince to remember it because I'm sure we never managed to pay them all pack, though we tried. We burned through the overdraft on his bank account, we went into debt that didn't get paid off for years, we had bailiffs at the door. (Ironically one of the effects of this ended up being one of the first things I remember that made me feel personally well-disposed towards the Lib Dems; at the time we had Lib Dem councillors where we live and one of them tried to explain our lack of council-tax benefit not being fecklessness but ineligibility thanks to my immigration status, to get the council bailifffs off our backs.)

The debts eventually got paid off, but the trauma of that time is still with me, as I learned to my dismay more than once when talking about this policy in the last few months.

The working group that devised this proposed new policy thought it was sufficient to decrease the time of No Recourse to Public Funds from the current five years back to the previous two. And to apply it only to the immigrant spouse, not the British one. I didn't and don't understand why the party leadership was so very keen on this. It's too complicated and obscure a rule to appease the racist-authoritarian vote they're still inexplicably chasing. I can't imagine anyone saying "I wasn't going to vote for you but now that I see you're keeping British people's spouses in penury, I'm sold!"

But more than that, I was horrified at how ableist this policy was. Any ban on benefits means married couples at the intersection of disability and immigration face living apart for their whole married lives. (The Home Office's continued insistence that it's fine to deport or prevent entry to spouses of British people because the Brit could just go live in the other country infuriates me: it's a policy that depends on the other countries being less brutal, arbitrary and xenophobic than the UK is, and sadly that's not something we can rely on but more importantly it shouldn't be something the UK relies on.)

So our Home Affairs spokesperson, an MP and former cabinet minister, got up to propose this policy motion and speciffically mentioned as a point of pride that we'd only have No Recourse to Public Funds for two years and how disabled people would be okay because there would be exceptions for them... and then people started talking about the amendments that had been chosen for debate. The first two were very good but I confess to not remembering the speeches because I was so nervous.

I wasn't nervous about public speaking, which I love doing. I had been excitesd and honored to have been chosen to propose this amendment, suddenly most important because it was the one that had all the resistance while the others were not being opposed by the leadership. I felt I was representing Lib Dem Immigrants, of which I was a founder member a year ago, and all my friends and colleagues in the party who wanted as much liberalism in our immigration policy as possible.

But that wasn't why I was nervous. I was nervous because I'd just had a panic attack and I'd worried it was still obvious on my face that I'd been crying. (That day I'd learned that modern bathrooms are getting less useful for these purposes: when all I wanted was a cool splash of water for my face, I found taps with a single button to press that dispensed only warm water. I tried that anyway but, feeling too hot, lookekd for a towel to dry my face off with and found only one of those Air Blade dryers that you stick your hands into. It was a very unsatisfying experience at a time I didn't really need anything else to go wrong!)

I had a panic attack because I'd asked my hotel to print out my speech for me since they said they were happy to do printing. The guy was having trouble with his computer and I had people waiting for me so I checked that I could leave it with him and I came back a bit later to find my four pages of 24pt in my most readable font and careful formatting...had been reduced to a single side of 10pt monospace. The hotel receptionist insisted that was the only way he could get it to print. I ran off and back in the conference centre had burst into tears for all of three seconds before a steward found me. I tearily explained my problem, and she in nice sensible older-lady fashion said it was all going to be fine, that we had nearly an hour yet before the debate and that was loads of time, and buistled off.

Well it took most of that hour to sort it out, with her and then both of us and then her again dashing from one end of the labyrinthine Brighton Conference Centre to the other, with varying degrees of understanding of the problem, with emails and flash drives and jammed printers and finally, finally, with fifteen or twenty minutes before I had to be in the hall for the debate, here was a speech I could read.

It's the one on the right here (click to embiggen).
Side-by-side pages of the same text in very different format ting

The silver lining of this horrid brain/body overload was that I had exactly no time or energy for worrying about actually speaking. I got up on that stage worried about exactly two things: was my face still red/blotchy from crying and was I going to fall down the stairs getting on/off the stage. (Of course there was step-free access but I couldn't see it and reasoned it must be somewhere behind the stage, probably dark, and that dark/unfamiliar places would be less good for me than dealing with the three or four steps everyone else was using at the front of the stage. Plus the hall aide was Zoe, a friend of mine, and when she asked if I would want help getting onto the stage I felt good about saying yes, so she just walked with me and I didn't fall down the stairs.)

But even with goals like that I don't think I could be faulted for a lack of ambition. I am an ordinary member; I've never spoken at Conference before; I'm not on important committees and no one important knows who I am. And yet here I was trying to tell people the MP, former cabinet minister, who'd proposed this motion was wrong on this subject and that I was right and that people should vote for what I said I wanted.

And they did.

As Lib Dem Immigrants told our members today,
we as a party can say: If you're married to someone British, you should be able to live here with them. No ifs, no buts, no means-testing. This is in contrast to the policies of the Conservative and Labour parties, and we urge them to follow our lead. As we campaign for Equal Marriage for LGBT+ couples, so also for mixed-nationality couples.
Like all our conference speakers, I was on BBC Parliament, so I've put the video from that feed, and a transcript of my speech, here if anybody is interested in even more detail than I've burdened you with here.



Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-25 09:50 pm (UTC)
barakta: (Default)
From: [personal profile] barakta
Thank you and well done for doing this, including surviving ARGH access fail. Steward and Zoe++

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-25 09:58 pm (UTC)
barakta: (Default)
From: [personal profile] barakta
I forgot you'd done that - too many things have happened since.

I think you got the line right, you weren't asking anything radical, you were pointing out that equal marriage should include for disabled people and that by implication you showed that disabled people aren't just wheelchair users but are people with health issues, or who have sight impairments AND that disabled people CAN and should be valued members of the Liberal Democrat party.

I did wonder why your voice sounded funny on the video cos I know what you usually sound like, laryngitis makes sense, poor you!

You got a lot in 4 minutes, you said the necessary, you linked the personal to the political and got at least 2 rounds of applause, spoke slowly, clearly and most importantly from the heart. You humanised the impact of the problem amendment.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-25 10:07 pm (UTC)
barakta: (Default)
From: [personal profile] barakta
I didn't think you did wobbly voice when emotional which is why I had been slightly confused, but yes, it did come across that way and that may not be a bad thing - you sounded like it was difficult to do and sometimes that sadly sways people.

I don't think you got the round of applause solely for being a LibDem, but for being able to BE a LibDem after immigrating to the UK. I think that's slightly different and a slightly different bar.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-25 09:54 pm (UTC)
angelofthenorth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] angelofthenorth
Well done!

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-25 09:59 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Well done and thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-25 11:29 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt

In fairness, I like an awful lot about the policies, and I respect several individual Liberal Democrats; I just haven't gotten over 2010 (when I voted LD and helped convince several friends in Lab/LD marginal constituencies to do similar); and between that and FPTP and living in a historically safe Labour constituency in which the Tories seem to gain a little more each election, it's tactical voting all the way down.

I'm glad there's a reasonable effort to try to influence other parties.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-25 10:04 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Trans symbol with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
<333 Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-25 10:49 pm (UTC)
sir_guinglain: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sir_guinglain
Congratulations again. The policy of this government is unsustainable from a social and cultural as well as economic point of view, at least without what I think of as moral damage. You have done a great deal to see it off.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-25 11:48 pm (UTC)
jesse_the_k: harbor seal's head with caption "seal of approval" (Approval)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
Excellent, hard work!

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-26 12:09 am (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
You were great! And thanks again.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-26 10:49 am (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
It's a team effort. Go team LDI :)

Here via Miss_S_B

Date: 2018-09-26 11:47 am (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Watercolour of barn owl perched on post. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
Excellent speech!

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-26 11:48 am (UTC)
kmusser: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kmusser
Way to go!

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-26 05:56 pm (UTC)
mrs_leroy_brown: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrs_leroy_brown
Massive props dude :)

(no subject)

Date: 2018-09-27 12:28 pm (UTC)
forests_of_fire: A picture of a brilliantly colored waterfall cascading into a river (Default)
From: [personal profile] forests_of_fire
Congratulations on getting them to listen. ♥

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hollymath: Black and white picture of my face in profile. I'm wearing a trilby (Default)
Holly

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