Patriotic media – an odd concept in a democracy

For some bizarre reason, the Tories seem to have let Andrea Leadsom out of the cupboard where they’ve been hiding her for the past wee while. On Newsnight last night, she told Emily Maitlis while under reasonably moderate pressure on Brexit that broadcasters should be more “patriotic.”

To suggest that the media should not question the Government’s actions on the most important issue facing our country in generations is chilling. The media should be there to scrutinise the government. It’s an important part of the scrutiny process.If it had done its job properly last year, we might not be in the mess we are in.

A press free to criticise the Government is one of the most basic elements of our democracy. Governments should expect to have their feet held to the fire. As it happens, I actually think that they get too easy a ride from some elements of the right wing press over Brexit.

Tim Farron was similarly horrified by Leadsom’s comments, saying:

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Observations of an ex pat: The fight for the spoils

Politics hates a vacuum. It especially hates a vacuum in the tinderbox cockpit of the Middle East where the conflicting issues of money, vital resources, religious extremism , religious conflicts, historic rivalries and the geopolitical link between East and West dangerously clash.

The virtual collapse in 2011-2012 of Bashar Al-Assad’s despotic regime in Syria created such a vacuum. It was filled by the even more despotic Islamic State Caliphate.

Now the Caliphate is on its knees.  The Western half of Mosul is recaptured.  Only a handful of IS fighters remain in the dangerously narrow winding streets of the Eastern half.

The fundamentalists once boasted that their Syrian-Iraqi base would become a springboard from which to launch an Islamic conquest of the Middle East and Europe. They  have retreated to their spiritual capital of Raqqa in Syria for the final battle to the death.

They will lose . But who will win? And what will they win? Assad, Russia, the US and its Western allies, Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Iran, a score  or more of rebel forces—all are directly involved in the fighting. Then there are there are the backers—or interested parties: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Kuwait, the EU, the United Arab Emirates, Somalia, Afghanistan and the wider Islamic world.

It looks as if Assad will regain and remain in power for the foreseeable future—but he will be a political shadow of his former self.   Neither the Trump Administration nor any of its European or Arab allies have any stomach for removing a secular despot who can be replaced by another fanatic Islamic despot. And besides, he will have the military support of Iran and Russia.

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The future and practice of garage politics

Oh no! Here we go again – another year, another leader.  Still we cling, the drowning man, to a way of doing politics that is so very Noughties or perhaps even very Nineties – Eighteen Nineties even.

In response to the 2010/15 disaster we  devised a Board, which is frankly very ‘grown up’ but totally unimaginative in the light of the huge alteration to our reputation, status and standing, as well as being culturally inappropriate to Liberalism.

WANTED:  a politics for the 2020s or even the 2030s, shipped today.

We need to predict the future.   “Hey, if you want to predict the future, make it”?

Good advice. Who said that?

Steve Jobs.

You see, in 2015, I began to wonder how Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX would approach the problems we had.  Watch Musk on some wicked issues here.

People like Musk and Jobs disrupt entrenched thinking. That’s what we need.  

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Improving Watford through arts, culture and fun

This weekend sees the start of the seventh Imagine Watford festival, consisting of free outdoor dance and theatre performances by an impressive array of British and international artistes and groups.

The festiva is part of a long-term vision of Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and Liberal Democrat councillors to use arts and culture to promote the regeneration of Watford town centre and make it a more enjoyable place to visit.

This has centred on an area of the High Street that had become primarily for the evening economy (a euphemism for bars and nightclubs). While successful enough of itself, the area had gained an unwanted reputation for late-night anti-social behaviour, while struggling to find a daytime role.

That is why Dorothy promoted the idea of a family-friendly town centre – as somewhere not just for shopping at one end and clubbing at the other, but as a place for cultural and social activity. We carried out a major environmental improvement scheme, which included creating a space where arts and community events can take place. As television retail guru Mary Portas, who grew up in Watford, commented at an event to mark the completion of the scheme:

High streets aren’t just about shopping, they’re about encouraging us to engage in where we live. We can never underestimate what the high street means to us.

Alongside that, we launched our Big Events programme of which Imagine Watford is part. It includes an urban beach and outdoor film screenings during the summer holidays, ice skating over the Christmas period. Other events, including a variety of music performances, are held at nearby Cassiobury Park, itself subject of a major lottery-funded restoration scheme, These events are enjoyed by thousands of local people, helping to create a sense of pride and wellbeing as well as offering people access new cultural experiences, and providing a chance for people from Watford’s diverse communities to come together. 

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Brexit, one year on

A lot can change in a year.

On 23rd June 2016, I was left heartbroken after a tough and exhausting referendum campaign saw a victory for an insular nationalist vision of Britain.

The vote to Leave has divided our country in a way even ‘Project Fear’ could never have imagined.

After the referendum, we were told that the populist right was on an unstoppable rise. Geert Wilders, Netherland’s answer to Donald Trump, would storm to victory in the Dutch general election; Marine Le Pen would triumph over the established political consensus in the French Presidential election; and the Liberal Democrats’ fight to keep Britain in Europe was laughed off.

But a lot can change in a year.

Our ALDE sister Party, VVD, secured victory in the Netherlands with a lead of over 8 points. Voters in France chose a pro-European liberal vision of hope as Emmanuel Macron overwhelmingly won the Presidency and obtained an absolute majority in the French Parliament.

And in the UK, it’s still all to fight for. Theresa May called a general election to ask the electorate to force through her destructive Brexit and the public refused to give her the mandate.

The latest polling on Brexit shows big movement – 53 per cent of people now back the Lib Dem position for a final say on the Brexit deal.

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Tainted love?

I’ve seen people talking about the need for a leader who will be “untainted” by Coalition.

I couldn’t disagree more.

We have a strong story to tell, and the Coalition is a crucial part of it. We will never thrive by being the party of protest and pure tactical voting. As Mark Pack and others have said, we need to create a core vote of our own. The Coalition makes this more plausible.

Despite being naturally liberal, I didn’t support the Lib Dems before the Coalition because I perceived them as a protest party.  I thought they were opportunists, tactical vote recipients, defined by who they were not rather than who they were.  Then the 2010 General Election happened, and the Lib Dems went into Coalition and started making hard choices. They started governing. Either I had been completely wrong about the Lib Dems, or they had risen to the situation amazingly. Or quite possibly, it was a bit of both.  They proved  beyond a shadow of a doubt  that they were a true and plausible political party of Government with their own agenda and ethos, which I very much liked.

The Lib Dems achieved so much in Coalition, outpunching their weight by a huge amount. The rise in the income tax threshold made a massive difference for the just-about-managing (note how the Tories have tried to take the credit for this). The Quad – with Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – adjusted the austerity regime to boost growth and protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Take a look at the distributional analyses of tax and benefit changes under the Coalition and compare them to those under the Tory majority rule since – it’s a horrifying change.

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Latest Social Liberal Forum Publication Now Available: “Northern Discomfort: An Analysis of the Lib Dem performance in the 2017 General Election”

Having had something of a break over the General Election period, the Social Liberal Forum is back with its nose to the grindstone, publishing new content to stir the interests of  liberals—in particular social liberals– everywhere.

We are very grateful to Michael Mullaney for writing his excellent analysis of the General Election results, especially as it focuses on the fate of the party in significant regions of  England.  We now hold only one seat in the north of England (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and looking at the north, the Midlands, Wales and East Anglia combined, we defended only seven of the 16 second places we were defending, and lost our seats in Leeds Northwest, Sheffield Hallam and Ceredigion.

The story of this General Election is undoubtedly the fall in vote share to 7.4%–wonderful as it may be to have increased our tally of MPs by four– and the party facing irrelevance in large parts of the north, and other parts of the country.   This is particularly distressing, as our policies would make such a difference to people living in these regions of England.

At the end of his piece, Michael says,

….there is a large potential market place for centre-left progressive politics.  This gives us the opportunity at the next election to present the public with a progressive, social liberal agenda.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDave Orbison 25th Jun - 3:45am
    Michael BG - "they [Labour] have a policy a policy of freezing benefits even if Corbyn has had trouble remembering that'. But isn't this the...
  • User AvatarPaul Pettinger 25th Jun - 2:56am
    @Keith Sharp - the UK's economic position in 2010 was nothing like that of Greece's. The coalition also failed to close the deficit more quickly,...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 25th Jun - 2:08am
    @ David Allen “What would you say to a Lib Dem coalition with Labour? I think it was a mistake to rule out a coalition...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 25th Jun - 1:49am
    @ Neil Mackinnon “If Brexit goes ahead these income inequalities are only going to get worse and be further inbeded. Brexit is going to make...
  • User AvatarTim Hill 25th Jun - 12:34am
    Wonderful stuff
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 25th Jun - 12:33am
    To the Coalition enthusiasts on this thread - What would you say to a Lib Dem coalition with Labour? Would it be (a) yes, having...
Sat 1st Jul 2017