Apologies for the “fringe of Conference”

The Social Democrat Group event last Monday was described as the “fringe of the conference” and “by far best #ldconf Brexit discussion yet“. However, hundreds may have been disappointed, and for that we apologise.
Entitled “Can Britain’s relationship with Europe be saved?”, and jointly organised with Policy Network, it was a fantastic discussion, with far too much substance to cover properly in a single LibDemVoice article. To listen to or watch a recording of the event, go to http://www.ldsdgroup.co.uk/events/can-britains-relationship-with-europe-be-saved/.
The event opened with Roger Liddle, Labour peer and co-chair of Policy Network, which jointly organised the event. He thought the Tories would stick together and do some kind of Brexit deal. He said there would be a transition deal before a final deal, and he correctly predicted that May’s speech this week in Florence would say so. He warned this would make campaigning to remain in the EU more difficult. It would mean a transitional deal where little changed for two years, so that the British public would only discover how catastrophic Brexit was two years after we had already left. Roger suggested that we would therefore leave, and the battle would then be to rejoin. However, he said this is a battle we can win.
Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, emphasised that we are democrats, we are not afraid of the will of the people, and so we should propose a referendum on exit terms. To convince the public how dangerous Brexit is, we need to find language to bring a divided country together. We must keep raising this issue, including “the dreaded conversation over the Christmas turkey”. We also need to persuade the EU too to change its language. Some comments from Jean-Claude Juncker have been unhelpfully divisive.
The chair of the meeting, Sarah Ludford, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats on Brexit in the Lords and is a former MEP, agreed, saying that some in the EU “just saw us as a pain in the backside” without appreciating the significant positive contribution the UK has brought to the EU.
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President John F. Kennedy continues to inspire, 100 years after his birth

My photo of President John F. Kennedy’s beloved sailing boat, Victura, with his eponymous museum to the left and Boston’s harbour and city skyline in the background.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is holding a special exhibition called “JFK 100 – Milestones and Mementos” to mark the centennial of the great man’s birth.

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What you see and what you don’t see. Time to ditch GDP and measure our progress differently

The yardstick for the success of an economy is the measure of its Gross Domestic Product or GDP. It is essentially the sum of all goods and services that a country produces, corrected for seasonal fluctuations and inflation.

The modern concept of GDP was developed by Simon Kuznets for a U.S congress report in 1934. President Herbert Hoover had the challenge of tackling the Great Depression with only a mixed bag of numbers that were extremely ineffectual when trying to answer the question, “how is the economy doing?”

Over the next 80 years the GDP not only became the way in which politicians, journalists and the public measure the economy, it actually defined what the modern economy is.

So what’s the problem?

The problem with the GDP is that it pretty good at measuring the things that you can see but is terrible at measuring things that you can’t see. Therefore things that are easily measured like manufacturing and monetary transactions push the number up whilst advancement of knowledge, community service, clean air, are all pretty much ignored. Even worse, the social damage caused by an activity is not factored in negatively, in fact the transactions that relate to poor health, depression, pollution, societal breakdown like divorce lawyers etc. actually push the GDP up.

In his book Utopia For Realists, Rutger Bregman highlights this point humourously but with a large dose of dark truth.

“If you were the GDP, your ideal citizen would be a compulsive gambler with cancer who’s going through a drawn-out divorce that he copes with by popping fistfuls of Prozac and going berserk on Black Friday.”

The fact that a huge chunk of government policy is formed on the drive for growth at all costs based on a measure that rewards things like carbon polluting manufacturing, deforestation, over-fishing etc. goes a long way to explaining why we live in such an unequal society.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #489

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 489th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (17-23 September, 2017), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Lib Dem Conference highlights – Neil Fawcett’s air guitar

One of the highlights of my life, let alone Conference, was Neil Fawcett accompanying Kelly-Marie Blundell’s rock set at the Disco on inflatable air guitars from Primark. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human being look quite so happy and fulfilled. He’s in the bottom right of this video by The Mirror’s Mikey Smith:

I should add that Neil was not alone. Louise Harris and our Joe Otten also had …

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Talking Bournemouth and Brexit with Sam Skubala on the Politics World podcast

Have a listen to my chat with Sam Skubala when we talked about Bournemouth, Brexit, Vince and Jo. And about reducing inequality.

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Lib Dem Conference highlights – Caron on the Fringe

So, another group of Lib Dem Conference highlights with a shamelessly self-indulgent look back at the fringe meetings I spoke at.

The Child Poverty Action Group fringe

On Monday I spoke at a fringe meeting run by the excellent Child Poverty Action Group. The work of groups like CPAG is so important in highlighting the impact of poverty and it’s great that they speak up, even when what they have to say is uncomfortable for us as Liberal Democrats to hear.

The theme of the meeting was around achieving social justice. What would that look like?

The botched implementation of Universal Credit was a major aspect. Along with the appalling family cap, it was cutting the incomes of the poorest families by £3000-£5000.

We had passed policy that very morning that tackled several of the concerns that CPAG had – like restoring a second work allowance and restoring the cuts announced by George Osborne the minute we left the Coalition.

Starring in a video with Malala and Jo Swinson

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGeorge Kendall 26th Sep - 1:50am
    @John King Thanks for the comment. I've changed the page to take out the links to the "fringe of the conference" tweet, as that was...
  • User AvatarPaul Walter 25th Sep - 11:39pm
    Agreed about LBJ, Hywel. One of his big strengths was gaining votes in Congress for his bills, by hook or by crook.
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    Thanks Lorenzo - from October 1st, I'll be posting some more about things I noticed on my tour of the USA.
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