Willie Rennie: Amazon must change its ways

Back in January, Willie Rennie called out both Amazon and Nicola Sturgeon over low wages and poor working conditions at the company’s Dunfermline depot. A couple of months later, he found himself banned from the premises after Amazon management cancelled a planned meeting with workers to discuss the issues.

Things haven’t got any better for the beleaguered employees at the depot. This week, the Courier revealed that some seasonal workers were sleeping out in tents in this weather to save the costs of commuting to and from the depot.

Then an undercover reporter working for the Sunday Times (£) wrote about her experience of working there:

In one case, a woman who spent three days in hospital with a kidney infection was docked two points, reduced to one on appeal, despite providing a hospital note.

And:

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Vince back in the spotlight as strongest voice opposing Sky takeover

It’s almost exactly six years since Vince Cable was taken off the Sky merger case after he was secretly recorded saying that he had declared war on Rupert Murdoch.” History shows that he was right then and he has been vocally opposing the latest attempt by Murdoch’s Fox to take control of Sky.

Coincidentally, before the takeover hit the headlines, Vince gave a lecture in which he explored the relationship between media ownership and plurality of opinion and explained why it mattered:

Whatever our views about particular opinions expressed in the press and about particular owners, the health of the press and of democracy itself depends on there being a range of independent providers: in other words, plurality as opposed to competition which may be intense but fails to provide a range of competing opinions and information sources. Pluraity matters in the words of the Journal of Media Law because “where a few firms dominate the media landscape they exercise considerable control — there is now a convincing body of evidence to suggest that particular corporate or political affiliates can lead to media bias or the suppression of information.” Ofcom, the media regulator, has stressed the importance of plurality “by preventing too much influence over the political process.”

Later on, he talked about the need for more “checks and balances” to prevent future scandals:

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Latest Brexit poll shows that Liberal Democrats are on the right side of the argument

Back in August, I said that I couldn’t support the Open Britain organisation (the evolution of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign) because it was too enthusiastic about restrictions on free movement of people and because it wasn’t calling for a referendum on any Brexit deal.

I still can’t sign up to them for the same reasons. However, I do accept that there are areas of common ground between our organisations. This weekend they have conducted some very useful research which shows that half of Leave voters are not prepared to be a penny worse off as a result of leaving the EU.

That YouGov poll, conducted this week, also obliterates the Leave majority. When asked how they would vote if the referendum took place tomorrow, 44% said Leave and 44% said Remain. That is a dramatic reversal of fortune.

Ed Miliband writes about this in today’s Observer:

This chimes with the experience in my constituency, where seven in 10 voted to leave. Many of them were desperate for a new beginning for themselves and their families. The government will rightly be subject to an almighty backlash from Leave voters if it makes decisions that make them far poorer and leaves less money for public services. Having voted for a better future, for them this would be the ultimate betrayal.

The evidence is already there that people will be worse off after Brexit. And this isn’t just Europhile hyperbole. It’s actual government fact as we saw in the Autumn Statement.   This is where Miliband’s article is so depressing. What on earth is the problem with giving the people the chance to determine for themselves whether the final deal on offer is in line with their expectations? What could possibly be more democratic?

Let’s look at it this way. If you decide you are going to buy a house, you state your intention to do so by putting in an offer. If it is accepted, you can still pull out if you don’t like the terms of the sale. The same thing applies to Brexit. If people realise the true extent of the cost, and that the stuff they were told was “Project Fear” was actually an underestimation, then they may well choose to reconsider their decision. The You Gov research proves that.

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A longer read for the weekend: Baroness Kate Parminter’s Burntwood Lecture on Brexit and the Environment

Kate ParminterThis week Liberal Democrat peer Kate Parminter became only the second woman to deliver the prestigious Burntwood Lecture to the Institution of Environmental Sciences.. She spoke of the challenges facing the environment from Brexit in a 45 minute lecture entitled “Separation Anxiety.” Read her full lecture below:

It’s an honour to have been asked to present the Burntwood Lecture this year, and to follow in the footsteps of such an illustrious parade of former speakers. Many of your previous guests have been eminent scientists or fearless campaigners; I stand here tonight to deliver this lecture (pause) as a politician. That’s not inappropriate, however: Lord Burntwood, the IES’ first Chairman, whose name the lecture commemorates, was himself a member of parliament and a minister in Clement Attlee’s Labour government. But more importantly, it’s not inappropriate because the great challenge of our time, the subject on which I’ve been asked to speak, is itself primarily political: Brexit.

How the United Kingdom manages its withdrawal from the European Union will shape this country’s future for decades. In the absence of any clarity from the government over what it sees as the final destination of this process, I hope I can enlist everyone here in helping me to draw up the broad approach the UK should adopt in dealing with environmental policy post-Brexit. I’m going to tell you what I think, and I hope you’ll respond at the end with thoughts of your own.

There are two competing visions for the future of the UK outside the EU. One – hinted at by some of the supporters of the Leave side during the referendum, but never fully articulated – is of a country free of the kind of burdensome regulations they liked to pretend emanated from Brussels; a fleet-footed, buccaneering, free-trading nation spotting openings in the global marketplace and exploiting them ruthlessly. This vision implies a deregulated low-cost low-tax low-value economy – with clear implications for environmental policy. In May this year, for example, George Eustice, the farming minister, attacked – quotes – ‘spirit-crushing’ EU directives, including, explicitly, the birds and habitats directives – and went on to criticise the use of the precautionary principle as the basis of EU legislation, a criticism echoed by many of his colleagues. You may remember that this kind of approach echoes Conservative ministers’ attempts, during the coalition government, to water down or scrap environmental regulations through such initiatives as the Red Tape Challenge and the balance of competences review – attempts which, happily, Liberal Democrat ministers ensured came to nothing.

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Liberals across Europe mark Human Rights Day

Imagine living in a country where the government could just shove you in prison whenever it felt like it. And once they had you in their clutches, subjected you to cruel and degrading torture.

There are plenty people who don’t value their vote enough to use it, but imagine if we didn’t have it at all.

What if we weren’t allowed to voice opinions that were out of step with our rulers? Or assemble to protest against their decisions.

Anyone who has been brought up in this country will most likely not have had any direct experience of the things I’ve …

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How a boxer fighting in Manchester tonight typifies the horrors of Fidel’s Cuba

Anyone with a slight interest in UK Boxing will probably be watching the unstoppable Anthony Joshua (17 wins, 0 losses, 17 KOs) defend his IBF heavyweight title tonight and almost certainly demolish Erik Molina. However, on the undercard is another heavyweight, Luis Ortiz, known as the “Real King Kong”, who has an equally impressive record (26 wins, 0 losses, 22 KOs). He’s quite interesting because Cuba has produced many great boxers, but no great heavyweights – Ortiz is considered the greatest ever Cuban heavyweight.

As you may know, despite producing legendary boxers, the Stalinist regime in Cuba forbids them from turning professional, so they have to stay amateurs for the rest of their lives – or defect.

Ortiz took the decision to defect to the USA in 2009, not to secure a lucrative professional contract, but to able to pay for his daughter’s illness. Despite the Cuban propaganda, the healthcare system in Cuba is terrible. Their answer to Ortiz’s little girl being born with necrosis in one of her fingers, despite everywhere else in the world being able to treat this, the only answer from Cuban doctors was to amputate. Ortiz was left with two choices, stay in Cuba, fight as an amateur for the rest of his life, stay in relative poverty and have his baby daughter go her life without a finger or risk his and his family’s life by making a perilous journey to America where he can make an incredible living for his world class talents and his daughter doesn’t have to have a finger cut off and face a lifetime of backwards medical practice. 

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What would Britain be like in 2030 if the Liberal Democrats were in power? Your chance to shape our vision

Last year, Your Liberal Britain was founded by five new members who were keen to set out a clear statement of what a Liberal Britain would look like.

Their work has been supported by the Federal Policy Committee and they have already conducted a wide-ranging consultation. You can read some of the contributions made on this site here.

Now they are taking their work to the next stage with a competition, for which the closing date is 23rd December. Members are asked to set out what Britain would look like in 2030 if the Liberal Democrats were in power. Your Liberal Britain says:

As a party we struggle at times to explain what we stand for: our values mean the world to us, but they can be hard to communicate.

To overcome this we need a short, simple, inspirational description of how life in Britain would be better if the Lib Dems had their way. We need to supplement the preamble to our constitution with a temporary vision statement that helps communicate its statement of our permanent values to the people of Britain today.
We can then use this document to guide our policy making, inform our campaigns and communications, induct our new members and support our candidates and elected representatives.

I am going to be one of the judges and another, party president Sal Brinton, explains a bit more about the competition.

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Recent Comments

  • User Avatarmatt 11th Dec - 1:35pm
    Latest Yougov poll http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/bg3iahmaw8/TimesResults_161205_VI_Trackers_W.pdf In hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the European Union? Right 44 Wrong 42...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 11th Dec - 1:33pm
    Talk of EU punishing the UK is rubbish. We decided to leave, the rest of the EU are right to look after their interests and...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 11th Dec - 1:29pm
    This is the type of exploitation that our party MUST ensure is wiped out, it is an affront to our society and too many global...
  • User Avatarmatt 11th Dec - 1:01pm
    @CassieB " A small majority voted Leave. But they didn’t get to choose the detail. I don’t see how holding the government to account on...
  • User AvatarFiona 11th Dec - 12:50pm
    Thank you for posting this. I am a member of IES, and would have loved to attend, but it wasn't possible this year. I'm hoping...
  • User AvatarMartin 11th Dec - 12:37pm
    Before the referendum polls showed that something like half or more of the electorate did not believe that Brexit would harm the economy. Clearly, most...