Author Archives: Antony Hook

Design for Europe

The referendum on Europe will probably be the most important political event of our lives. Our choice will have consequences for decades, or even centuries.

Britain is better off in. Europe is better with Britain. The planet has better prospects with a strong Europe, living up to the best of our history and the brightest visions of our future. The Europe I fight for is one that changes, learns from the mistakes of the past and becomes a better Union tomorrow than it has been.

This campaign is our chance to fightback against the peddlers of spin and division, to tell people …

Posted in Campaign Corner | 11 Comments

Lib Dems are the natural party for Eastern Europeans in Britain

Britain’s always changing. That is one of the best things about our country.

Liberal Democrats, and before us Whigs and Liberals, have long supported outsiders seeking to make this place their home.

Whigs supported Huguenots – religious refugees from France. In the nineteenth century Liberals supported equality for Jews and Catholics, who were denied basic civil rights.

It is well documented in history that the arrival of new people has made our country greater. Immigrants have brought new talents and energy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 43 Comments

You should stand for Police & Crime Commissioner


Next May, the entire United Kingdom will vote. It will be the first national election since the General Election and will be seen as a test of all parties one year into the new parliament.

Police & Crime Commissioner elections will take place in England & Wales, on the same day as devolved elections.

If you care about human rights, as Liberal Democrats do, policing is where human rights come into sharp focus. No other civilian agency in entrusted with powers so affecting liberty and so at risk of political demands based on popular misunderstanding. Policing needs checks and balances from a liberal point of view, and strategy founded on evidence.

Posted in Campaign Corner | Tagged and | 23 Comments

Opinion: 200 years on from Waterloo: democracy not dictators, unity not barriers, peace not war.

WaterlooThis week’s 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is a reminder of how far Europe has come.

At Waterloo, 65,000 men were killed or wounded in one day.  In contrast, we have now had 70 years without war in Europe.  Long may peace continue.

We enjoy secure peace partly because every country in Europe now has an elected government. There are no more monarchs or dictators seeking out war for vanity or power. Most importantly, we have the European Parliament where modern opportunities and problems, which cross old national borders, can be discussed by MEPs we elect rather than fought over by armies.

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Opinion: Have a local party meeting after the election

We will all be very busy for the next few weeks, working hard to get Lib Dem MPs elected.

But once the votes are counted, the job of setting the country on the best direction will not over.  There is every chance no party will win a majority.

Thinking about this must not distract us from campaigning.   But it would be irresponsible to think that polling day is the end.  It is just the beginning.

The Federal Executive has agreed processes for how Liberal Democrats approach inter-party negotiations.

A negotiating team will operate on appointment by the Leader.  It will report to a small reference group drawn from FE, FPC members and MPs/peers. They will report to the full committees and all MPs/peers.  Any proposed decision to work with another party in government will go to a Special Conference.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: US analysis of how to beat “far right” UKIP – be consistent

Washington DC based think tank, The Marshall Fund, which promotes understanding between North America and Europe, has produced a new research paper: “The Unstoppable Far Right?” that looks at UKIP in Britain and similar parties in Germany (Afd) and the Netherlands (PVV).

The paper compares “euro-sceptical right-populist” parties in these countries and concludes that what mainstream political parties say and do has a big impact on whether people vote for these parties. The “rise” of these parties is by no means inevitable: the PVV went significantly backwards at the 2014 European elections.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 16 Comments

Opinion: Why the First World War matters for government for,and by, the people

Lloyd george public domainIn this 100th year since the Great War’s outbreak, and especially around Remembrance Day, we have all been united in sorrow for the pain and loss of life, respect for the ultimate subordination of self to a common good, and gratitude that war on such a scale has been unknown to us for decades and may, with wise leadership, never be seen again.

There is sometimes a view that the First World War was a pointless slaughter. That analysis is too simplistic, in my view. At university, I was privileged to spend a whole year looking at primary sources on British political, economic and military strategy in the First World War. The strategic picture reveals what was at risk in 1914-18. Beyond the pain there was a reason and a purpose.

Today, we see the First World War through the prism of the Second World War, which appears a blatant struggle between good and evil.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 24 Comments

All welcome to the first Liberal Democrat European Group Conference

ldeg-logoThe next 5 years will be amongst the most important for the Liberal Democrats, for Britain and for the European Union.

Liberal Democrats face three important European challenges, to:

  1. Elect, or re-elect, Liberal Democrat MPs to ensure, as far as we can, that the UK government is constructive about the European Union as a means to advance the UK public’s interests.
  2. Win any referendum on Europe.
  3. Return a large group of Liberal Democrat MEPs in 2019 to fight for the interests of our constituents and a more liberal and democratic Europe.

These challenges are all important. All the people we care about in our communities will be affected by these three events. None of these three challenges will be easy to meet.  Nor can we wait.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 10 Comments

Opinion: Debates, PEBs and Judical Review: A graveyard of lost causes

This week’s announcement of broadcasters’ provisional plans for the 2015 General Election Debates predictably drew complaints and threats of legal action.

The plan is undoubtedly odd in some respects.  Glen Oglaza, who has been a senior political broadcast journalist for as long as I can remember, tweeted that the idea of excluding a party in government (the Liberal Democrats) from one debate was “bizarre.”

Broadcasters will have to review their plans nearer to the election period, taking into account what the polling situation may be at that time, the number of candidates each party is set to field and other election results between now and then.

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With what song would you open Liberal Democrat Conference?

The national convention of the US Democratic Party traditionally begins with Aaron Copeland’s famous, uplifting composition, ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’. If you don’t know the piece a recording of it is here.

Posted in Conference | 64 Comments

Opinion: Celebrate 50 years free of the death penalty

Noose, Old Austin County Jail, Bellville, Texas 0130101348BW
This week marks half a century since the last executions in England.

Around the world, the death penalty has been reduced to a minority practice. Only 58 countries mow use capital punishment. Asia is its last redoubt, where ninety per cent of executions take place there. It may well be connected that the continent in which democracy is least prevalent is where execution is most common. Many new democracies created in the last 50 years abolished the death penalty when they threw off the yokes of military dictatorship, communism or apartheid.

photo by:
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

Antony Hook asks… Juncker nominated as next President of the European Commission – What happens next?

EU flagToday the European Council nominated Jean-Claude Juncker to be the next President of the European Commission. The heads of government of the 28 states voted overwhelmingly for Juncker. Only the UK’s David Cameron (European Conservatives and Reformists) and Hungary’s Viktor Orban (European People’s Party) voted against.

Juncker’s nomination reflects not only the European People’s Party’s status as largest group in the Parliament but also that it supplies more of the states’ heads of government than any other party. The Council’s nominee will go before the Parliament in its plenary, 14-17 …

photo by: rockcohen
Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , , , , , and | 33 Comments

Opinion: A European manifesto of hope

Antony Hook in SE regionFor me and many other people, being a Liberal is about politics based on hope.

One of my favourite definition of hope is that it stands for “Helping Other People Evolve”.

Helping, not forcing.

Evolving, because almost everyone can see some scope for change for the better in their life.

We are not talking about forcing people to change their lives against their will.

Nor do we say, “each to their own, I’ll sort out my life and if you have no chance of a better future that is not my problem.”

Liberal leadership, based on hope, is about giving people a chance to fulfil their potential.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Opinion: Britain needs jobs, not UKIP/Tory insults

Workers bankers london bridge - some rights reserved by zoonabar

Over 4 million British jobs depend on exports to the Single Market.

Those are the words of the Centre for Economic and Business Research regarding their recent report into British Jobs and the Single Market.

When we talk about this issue UKIP and the Tory Right throw around words like “liar”. When people do that it usually means they have lost the argument.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

Opinion: Regina v Nigel Evans should wake up MPs

Statue of Justice - The Old BaileyNigel Evans’s acquittal on charges of rape and sexual assault has triggered various expressions of concern.
Those expressed, trenchantly by some, are:

    1. The Crown should never have prosecuted him because the evidence was weak.
    2. The Crown treated him differently because he is an MP.
    3. The case shouldn’t have relied on alleged victims who did not consider themselves to have been victims.
    4. Nigel Evans is left with a huge bill to pay his defence.

“The Crown should never have prosecuted him because the evidence was weak.”

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 36 Comments

Opinion: Why I am against Grayling over Criminal Legal Aid

As a candidate for the European Parliament my focus is on EU-related issues: trade, climate change and cross-border crime. But some national issues are, in my view, so pressing that I cannot ignore them.  Among these are Chris Grayling’s proposed cuts to criminal legal aid, so severe they threaten whether defendants will have proper representation at all.

On 6 January, I was in Oxford to support a protest against these cuts.  Concurrent protests happened at courts all over England & Wales. The campaign aims to raise public awareness and persuade parliament to say ‘no’ to Grayling, as Parliament did over Price …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

Opinion: Horizon 2020 means €80 billion extra science for Europe and jobs in the UK

If I say, “Europe gives us a wider horizon” you might think this was a general observation that uniting as a continent, doing things together, helps us see and reach further in the world.

It certainly does but I have in mind a specific horizon: the Horizon 2020 fund. This is €80 billion that the European Union has voted to allocate to scientific research in 2014-20.

A European fund like this means a big opportunity for the UK.  We have some of the best universities and other research institutions. They are well placed to apply for grants under this fund.  Already …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 16 Comments

Opinion: do Parliament’s laws really need Royal Assent in 2013?

Queen Elizabeth IIThe country needs to save as much money as it can. Anything we can save will help the government to balance the books.

A small but wasteful activity is the requirement for Acts of Parliament to receive Royal Assent. Many people may believe that a Bill becomes law when it is passed by both Houses of Parliament. But it is a requirement for every Bill to go before the Queen and receive her approval.

Royal Assent is usually granted a few weeks after the Bill is passed by Parliament. …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 36 Comments

An earlier Letter from the Leader

Liberal Democrat members now receive a weekly letter by email from the party leader, Nick Clegg. I found a 32-year-old example of a “Letter From the Leader” to party members – one from David Steel on 27 February 1981. (Click to enlarge photo)
Without email, Steel asked for Local Association Chairmen (sic) to “take an early opportunity to read and discuss at appropriate constituency executives and other meetings.”

He noted that the party was campaigning on “unemployment and cuts” (today it is “jobs and growth”). Presumably, this observation was really a …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | Leave a comment

Opinion: public contracts should not go to companies linked to human rights abuses

I recently spoke in Canterbury against the Conservative City Council’s decision to consider giving its waste handling contract to a company whose Israeli affiliate are alleged to be linked to human rights abuses in Palestine.

The Council is refusing to consider the ethical issues on the basis of an interpretation of European law that prohibits taking such matters into account. The correct interpretation of the law is disputed but members of the public formed the distinct impression that the Conservative Council …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: The Ryder Cup is symbolic – Europe is stronger together – and it’s more entertaining

The 2012 Ryder Cup involved a classic sporting comeback and a heart-stopping close finish. Team Europe came from kilometres behind to beat the USA 14.5 to 13.5.

The Ryder Cup is one of those sporting events, like football’s World Cup or the Olympic athletics, that interests people who normally take little notice of sport.

I think the interest in such big events is because:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Opinion: Unelected Lords are against the spirit of the European Convention on Human Rights

For as long as philosophers and political campaigners have asserted that certain rights are basic, universal or inalienable, the right to elect one’s legislators has generally figured in those rights.

England’s 1689 Bill of Rights protected the right to elect Members of Parliament without interference from the Crown.  In France the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man guaranteed the right to vote. In America, five separate Articles of the US Bill of Rights protect voting rights and both Houses are elected under the Constitution.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides:

Article 21

(1) Everyone has the right to take part

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 33 Comments

Opinion: Scrap the tax on e-books

A liberal success over many decades has been to protect the tax-free status of books and newspapers. A tax on books would be abhorrent as it would be a tax on free speech.

A democratic, civilised society requires the free exchange of ideas, information and art in books. Books are vital for people, young and old, who wish to educate themselves and improve their prospects.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 18 Comments

Enjoy Europe Day? Churchill would have done

Last Wednesday, 9 May, was Europe Day.  If celebration of this day here in Britain passed you by then you might enjoy Winston Churchill’s Zurich Speech in 1946, calling for a United States of Europe.

You can read the full text here and can listen to the former Liberal Home Secretary delivering the speech in two parts here and here.

Council of Europe

In this seminal speech, Churchill said,

“If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

Opinion: Police Commissioner elections – the Lib Dem candidate won’t spy on you

As a campaigner with a strong interest in the European Elections, I am really happy to see a number of counties moving towards selection of a Liberal Democrat candidate for the Police Commissioner elections in November.

This is because in the European Elections an important message for Liberal Democrats is that we are effective on crime. Crime crosses state borders within Europe. We need co-operation and integration to ensure that our police’s powers to bring criminals to justice, the rule of law, and important civil liberties cross borders too. The other parties won’t make the commitment that we will to tackle …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Opinion: Does control of search warrants matter to you? Then become a magistrate

In recent days Liberal Democrats have united against reported Home Office plans for the state to acquire unprecedented power to search private online communications. As Mark Pack noted, resistance to this has even won Nick Clegg rare praise from the Daily Mail.

Many Liberal Democrats have the necessary habit of not just debating how society ought to be, but carrying liberal values into effect in daily life. Many Lib Dems who are passionate about education, including myself, serve as school governors. Likewise, party members volunteer as neighbourhood watch coordinators, Citizens Advice …

Posted in Op-eds | 2 Comments

Opinion: The Tory Party has mutated. It is for us to say Europe is our hope for the future

David Cameron’s renunciation of a Treaty not even yet fully negotiated was the culmination of a process that began around 1992.

In 1992 a small group of Tory ultras, “the Maastricht Rebels”, began fighting their party’s traditional pro-Europeanism. It has taken 19 years to make their fringe views a normal Conservative Party and conservative press position. 1992 has led to 2011 like a river flows to the sea.

Anti-Europeanism’s hold on a major political movement has caused a poorly informed anti-Europeanism to take hold among many of our fellow citizens in the UK, as it has among some of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 25 Comments

Opinion: Court of Appeal upholds importance of social media in riot cases

This week (Tuesday, 18 October 2011) the Court of Appeal constituted by three of is most senior members, the Lord Chief Justice, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division and Lord Justice Leveson, gave judgment on ten cases arising out of the August riots.

Seven of the ten sentences were upheld including two where the offenders had committed their offences by posting on Facebook.

The LCJ began the judgment with a clear statement:

There can be very few decent members of our community who are unaware of and were not horrified by the rioting which took place all over the country between 6th

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Opinion: A child dies every 20 seconds from lack of clean water

On 19 May, the summit of European-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific parliamentarians (the ACP-EU Assembly) at Budapest called for action to alleviate the global crisis in clean water supply.

One in six people in the world have no access to clean water. 2.5 billion are without clean sanitation and 1.5 million die every year from water contamination.

The report presented to the summit found that there are three main causes of water pollution: industry, agriculture and sewage. In developing countries 70% of industrial waste is dumped untreated into water. The most common source of water pollution, however, is faecal matter.

One of the Millennium Development Goals …

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Opinion: An historical comparison – the Big Society vs the Great Society

In the late 90s, Tony Blair’s New Deal deliberately adopted the name of US President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1930s programme to increase public spending, create jobs, and escape the Great Depression.

Thirteen years later, one assumes that David Cameron’s Big Society (that Jeremy Browne praised yesterday) at least partially invokes another significant American liberal reform era: the Great Society of President Johnson in the 60s.

I fear that substituting “big” for “great” represents a lesser moral ambition. The Kennedy-Johnson years in America were self consciously “a call to greatness”. Politicians talked of “new frontiers”, putting an end to war, conquering …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 16 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarBolano 9th Oct - 11:36pm
    @David Evans What is being discussed here isn't representative democracy. If we follow Matthew Huntbach's reasoning, a smaller share of the vote for both the...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 9th Oct - 10:39pm
    @ Matthew Huntbach - I too am sorry, but it is sad to hear a good Lib Dem like yourself describe a rationally argued point...
  • User AvatarPhyllis 9th Oct - 10:17pm
    Richard Underhill Cameron, Osborne and Gove are great mates. Gove and May loathe each other. So May gets the cold shoulder. Yes sometimes things are...
  • User AvatarPhyllis 9th Oct - 10:13pm
    The irony of a (seemingly) all-male panel of contributors taking over this thread, started by a Lib Dem woman, about the role of women in...
  • User AvatarDavid Wallace 9th Oct - 8:54pm
    Might donate tomorrow. I admire his balls (pardon the pun). Well done Stephen!
  • User AvatarDavid Morrison 9th Oct - 8:49pm
    I remain to be convinced of the alleged benefits of education campaigns in this regard. If some people are genuinely ignorant of the harm to...