Author Archives: Andrew Brown

How the West can be Won

In May, eight “Metro Mayors” will be elected across England. Whilst the precise details vary between authority areas, each mayor will inherit a city deal providing them with money and powers over infrastructure development in an area covering multiple local authorities.

Given the generally urban nature of most of the areas it is anticipated that Labour will win many of these. (Although given recent results in Sunderland and Rotherham such old certainties no longer feel quite so axiomatic.) In the “West of England” area, though, we anticipate the fight will be between us and the Tories.

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

Brexit means…Keeping mum

Brexit means Brexit… The oft repeated mantra has become as synonymous with Theresa May as Major’s “Back to Basics”, Blair’s “Education, Education, Education” and Cameron’s “Compassionate Conservatism”. Like those, the phrase has become something of a joke – not helped by the assonance of the words “Brexit” and “Breakfast”, and the trap this has provided to ministers and commentators alike. So far, so funny, so harmless. Well, not harmless, but there is a world of difference between soundbites and actual policy. Originally “Brexit means Brexit” seemed designed to simultaneously pander to those who want a hard Brexit, whilst leaving the government leeway to work out what to do.

Of course, the official explanation of a lack of policy is that we cannot “reveal our hand” in advance of negotiations. There can be no escaping the whiff of sophistry about this answer – particularly when you consider the conflicting signals from the various departments charged with coming up with some form of coherent plan for those negotiations, preferably before Article 50 itself is triggered. It is patently obvious that no such plan yet exists, and all the while the clock is ticking towards the government’s self-imposed deadline.

If taken at face value, then May’s approach shows a shocking disregard for parliament, and the people. Her original desire to exercise Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 was but a symptom of a wish to retain control over every aspect of Brexit. I doubt those who voted to “Take Back Control” meant “take back control and hand it to the whoever is selected to lead the Tory party to do with as they wish”. Nonetheless in a few short months we have gone from having a government elected on a manifesto in which they said “yes to the Single Market” to a situation where the new Prime Minister will not now categorically repeat that affirmation.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

Is a Progressive Alliance the way forward?

Since the last general election – and even more so since the EU Referendum and the election of Donald Trump in the United States – there has been talk of a need for a “Progressive Alliance” between Labour, Lib Dems and Greens, in an effort to beat the Tories.

Much of this talk has come from Green Party members, with Caroline Lucas being a prominent voice in favour, but there are those in Labour and the Lib Dems for whom this would seem to be a beguiling idea. Indeed, former leader Lord Ashdown has long hankered for a realignment of the left.

Personally I’m a sceptic; for all sorts of reasons.

First, just how do you define “progressive”? To me it’s one of those political phrases that gets thrown around a lot, but means so many things to so many different people it has lost any real meaning. There are, for example, many in Labour who are perfectly happy with its authoritarian tendencies (evident in its internal organisation as well as in many of the policies it pursued in office) who would describe themselves as progressive, whereas I would not.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 36 Comments

Agenda 2020 Essay #12: What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party is currently running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions is TODAY. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected]

For me, it means what it meant in 1986/87 when, in the early years of Secondary School, I was taught about different electoral systems. The Modern Studies teacher explained the ins and outs of First Past the Post and alternative forms of Proportional Representation.

I pointed at PR: “I support that, and the people who support that.” I said.

It means what it meant in 1992 when I cast my first General Election vote. Still  politically naive (despite many hours of listening to Radio 4 over the years prior: the demise of Thatcher, the election of Major, through the first Gulf War and the scrapping of the poll tax…) but knowing that I wasn’t Tory (I had seen how Tory policies has decimated large parts of Fife, with pit-town upon pit-town in ruins) but also that I wasn’t Labour – even though, in those days, Labour votes in Dunfermline West were weighed not counted.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 2 Comments

Opinion: Fairer Taxes? How higher rate taxpayers will benefit more in 2014

Earlier this week I saw this tweet from Paul Lewis of BBC Radio 4’s Moneybox programme:

This struck me as odd, so I asked Paul how he calculated the £195 figure (I do not know enough about benefits and Universal Credit to make a judgement on the £39 figure). He quickly answered:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 13 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRebecca Taylor 21st Jul - 11:49am
    @Dave - It's very simple: I don't think Brexit can be stopped/overturned except through democratic means . So my response to the "you're anti-democratic" brigade...
  • User AvatarIan Patterson 21st Jul - 11:37am
    @David Raw such illustrations did feature in campaign materials, that I saw.
  • User AvatarPeter Watson 21st Jul - 11:36am
    "if you’re a liberal in the Conservative party, you are now politically homeless. Join us." Turning that around, surely it would be more productive for...
  • User AvatarMichael 21st Jul - 11:34am
    We should firstly advocate what we as a party and individuals think is right - and with commitment and passion. For me there is greater...
  • User AvatarMike S 21st Jul - 11:20am
    @ Katharine Hi Katharine. OK thanks for engaging. "seemingly not seeing that the message IS in the values and belief system underlying our policies" No...
  • User AvatarChristine Headley 21st Jul - 11:04am
    Staying parochial, the Labour vote in Stroud is heavily attached to David Drew. We were second with more than 30% of the vote in the...