Author Archives: George Potter

Opinion: English devolution – with maps

Being very much a politics geek, the renewed discussion on English Devolution following the pledge of home rule for Scotland by all three major party leaders, prompted me to start considering what England might look like if the same powers were devolved to it.

Two well known options for English devolution are those of either a devolved English Parliament or devolved regional assemblies for the regions used in European elections. To my mind the former (as a result of covering 53 million people) would continue over-centralisation in England while the latter is hindered by the regions lacking cohesive identities and being …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 96 Comments

Opinion: What to do in the event of Scottish independence

At the time of writing people across Scotland are voting in the independence referendum to decide whether to stay in the UK or leave. The polls all seem to indicate a narrow lead for a No vote to independence and I personally expect that will be the outcome as well.

However, in the event of a Yes vote then practically everything in politics will change as Scotland and the rest of the UK are committed to (at least) two years of negotiations followed by independence. So, here’s a handy guide on what Liberal Democrats should do in the event of a …

Posted in Op-eds | 8 Comments

Fairer Society part 3: Making hard choices to end poverty

Christian Aid's Poverty can be eradicated posterThis is the third and final article in my series on why and how Liberal Democrats can claim the social justice agenda which has been abandoned by both Labour and the Conservatives. The first part is here and the second here. I argued we should abandon the notion of helping only the “deserving” poor, which defines our current welfare system, in favour of two new principles to define our approach to welfare:

  1. The role of the welfare state is to guarantee for every person

photo by: HowardLake
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 55 Comments

Fairer Society Part 2: Goodbye Mr Beveridge

William BeveridgeIn my article on Saturday, I talked about how Ed Miliband’s ‘youth tax’ shows that Labour have abandoned any claim they ever had to be a party that cared about social justice or a fairer society. And the Conservatives have never even cared about a fairer society as they are ably demonstrating with their plan to cut £20 billion from the £79 billion (e.g. not including pensions) welfare budget if they are in government in the next parliament.

Therefore the Liberal Democrats, the party of Beveridge, are now the only …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 55 Comments

Fairer Society Part 1: Only the Liberal Democrats are left to stand up for fairness

Benefits-welfareOn Thursday we saw Ed Miliband deliver his big policy speech on welfare, introducing his ‘youth tax’ in an attempt to be tougher on the Tories than welfare. In the process he proved that Labour, not content with failing to manage the economy properly in their last time in government, have given up on any idea of fairness or social justice for their next time in government.

Interestingly, the policy he announced had been reported on twice already by newspapers, the Sun and the Telegraph, over the course of the past year …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 28 Comments

Opinion: Does our party’s structure and constitution need an overhaul?

Liberal Democrat Conference 2011There are many issues facing the Liberal Democrats at the moment and there has been much discussion about these issues. But one which has been overlooked, in my opinion, is the need to apply our traditional enthusiasm for constitutional reform to ourselves

At the moment the structure of the party is essentially a replica of a national political system. We have constituencies of local parties whose members (the voters) elect a local government in the form of a party executive and who also elect voting representatives (MPs) by proportional representation to send to conference (parliament) where they in turn elect the Federal Executive and the Federal Policy and Conference

photo by: NCVO
Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 35 Comments

Opinion: Why I was persuaded to back LibDems4Change

N30 Public Sector Demonstration, Not HappyI’m no one special in the party. I’m Secretary of my local party, acting Chair of South East Liberal Youth and I once sat on a regional executive for a year.

And since 2010, despite the mistakes I think we’ve made in how we’ve handled being in coalition, until now I’ve always thought that getting rid of Nick Clegg as leader would be a very bad mistake. I thought that by doing so we’d be seen to be rejecting our achievements in coalition whilst failing to win back any of the people we’d already lost.

photo by: Loz Flowers
Posted in Op-eds | 335 Comments

Opinion: Some facts about Ukraine and Crimea

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians in pro-Europe rallyGiven some of the comments being widely made about the crisis in Ukraine, particularly those defending or minimising the actions of Russia, I thought it would be worthwhile to point out some facts about the situation and counter some of the popular myths. They doesn’t necessarily establish that one side is completely right or wrong but they are worth bearing in mind.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 57 Comments

Opinion: A real answer to the ‘English Question’

One of the more interesting policy papers to be debated at Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in York is ‘Power to the People’ which sets out with the aim of providing a blueprint for a federal UK. In almost all areas it is a brilliant paper which offers a clear, radical, liberal vision of the future of our country.

However, there is one flaw in this paper. And that is the embarrassing fudge which it offers when it comes to English Devolution.

It proposes that England use Single Transferable Vote proportional representation for local elections – so far so good – but then …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 42 Comments

Opinion: Why aren’t we borrowing more?

At the moment the yield on the UK’s five year government gilts is 1.65%. What this means in plain English is that if our government wanted to borrow £1,000 it would have to pay back £1,083 in five years.

In contrast, if you or I or a business went to the bank and ask to borrow the same amount for five years we’d be looking at paying back well over £1,500 by the end of the loan.

What this tells us is that our government can borrow money very, very cheaply. It can borrow it at less than the rate of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 22 Comments

Opinion: Chelsea Manning is a woman. Get over it.

This week the leaker of the US diplomatic cables to Wikileaks, US Army private Bradley Manning formally announced that she will be living the rest of her life as a woman, hopes to have hormone therapy and would like to be referred to from now on with female pronouns.

Predictably, this triggered an onslaught of media attention referring to Chelsea Manning as “Bradley” and as “he”. This in turn triggered an equally predictable deluge of transphobic opinion and comment pieces across print, broadcast and online media.

Some of these pieces are of the “a dog isn’t a cat even if you …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 27 Comments

Opinion: What is the cumulative impact of cuts on disabled people?

With the Conservative ring-fencing of 40% plus of the welfare budget because it goes to a section of society which disproportionately votes Conservative (e.g. pensioners), it should come as no surprise to anyone that the forcing of all welfare cuts onto the remainder of recipients has hurt a lot of people.

Amongst those most badly effected are disabled people. Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (formerly known as incapacity benefit) has been time limited to one year. Disability Living Allowance is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments and will have been cut by 20% by 2015. Social care services are being cut …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Opinion: Three flaws in the Government’s education reforms

One of the things that seems to characterise Tory ministers in this government is a remarkable attraction to putting ideology and an assumption that they know best ahead of little details like “facts” and “evidence based policy”.

A good example of this comes in the form of Michael Gove’s education reforms which have been characterised by a breathtaking disregard for decades of research into what works and an aversion to listening to anything or anyone who disagrees with the reforms.

Nevertheless, I’d like to highlight the following facts about education. It would be nice if he paid attention:

Starting maths early damages educational

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 45 Comments

Opinion: We’ve got our strategy the wrong way round

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKLast Friday Lib Dem HQ sent out an email to parliamentarians, PPCs, council group leaders and other office holders about our party’s new message script. The full email, if anyone is interested, can be found herehere, courtesy of the Liberator.

Aside from the immensely catchy wordy message of “the Lib Dems are working to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life” (complete with an incredible 16 sub messages), a key point was this:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 41 Comments

Opinion: Disability Living Allowance replacement will cause economic and human cost

Under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, passed by the government earlier this year, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for disabled people of working age is due to be replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) with a net result of a 20% reduction by 2015 in the DLA budget – it is worth pointing out at this point that the fraud rate for DLA is estimated by the Department of Works and Pensions to be less than 0.5%.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 37 Comments

Opinion: The need for the CAP

This is the last article in a three part series of articles based on interviews with Lib Dem MEPs George Lyon and Phil Bennion about reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The other two articles can be found here and here.

One of the subjects which came up in the interviews was whether or not to have a CAP at all. Both of them made some interesting points about the subject.

Phil Bennion made the argument that it was necessary for the sake of global food security.

“We have to approach food security, not just from Europe’s point of view ...

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Opinion: The future of the CAP – specific proposals by Liberal Democrats

This is the second of three articles, based on interviews with Lib Dem MEPs Phil Bennion and George Lyon, covering the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This article addresses the specific changes they want made to current EU plans for reform.

When I spoke to him, Phil Bennion explained to me that, while Lib Dem MEPs are broadly supportive of the Commissioner’s plans for reform (the key idea being to start spending 30% of ‘pillar one’ payments on environmental elements), they have serious concerns with the detail.

An example he gave was the proposal for farmers to have …

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Opinion: The future of the CAP – general Liberal Democrat aims for reform

Last week I wrote about reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the work of two Liberal Democrat MEPs, Phil Bennion and George Lyon, in successfully driving that reform.

At the moment the CAP is going through another round of reforms ahead of the EU’s next financial precept.

Phil Bennion explained to me what the priorities of George Lyon and himself and other Lib Dems were when approaching these negotiations.

In his 1987 paper on the CAP Phil Bennion looked at ways of cutting payments to the largest farms on the basis that they had considerable economies of scale. …

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy: a Lib Dem success story

A fortnight ago I was in Strasbourg where I was lucky enough to speak to two Liberal Democrat MEPs from farming backgrounds about their work to reform the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Phil Bennion, Liberal Democrat MEP for the West Midlands, explained to me how the CAP, which has two pillars of funds, works.

“Pillar one is common to every country in the European Union, pillar two is devolved and co-funded by member states. In the UK we spend 80% of our pillar two money on environmental schemes, while other countries spend theirs on things …

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged , , and | 22 Comments

Postcard from Strasbourg

Compared to rainy London and Paris, spring has definitely arrived in Strasbourg. Aside from the occasional fleeting band of clouds, the skies are bright blue and the temperature wonderfully mild.

Strasbourg is a city of wide streets and avenues and buildings which can be either distinctly German or distinctly French in their architecture – a legacy of two thousand years on the border between France and Germany.

This legacy, in many ways, defines the city. Most Strasbourgeoise, especially the younger generation, speak French, but most of the older generation still speak the Alsatian dialect of German. The region might be famed for …

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Opinion: Jenny Willott is wrong on the Welfare Reform Bill

On Sunday Jenny Willott wrote an article on LDV explaining the reasons behing Lib Dem MPs voting to reject the Lords amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill. However, I’m afraid that, as someone who has been campaigning on this for several months, I am not satisfied with her explanation and think that there are several flaws in her justifications.

For example, to put what Jenny said another way, 4 in 10 people affected by the time limit will lose ESA completely. That’ll be 280,000 people with long term illness or disability that prevents them from working. Those who lose it …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 36 Comments

Opinion: getting the welfare reforms right

Today an open letter, signed by well over forty of our parliamentary candidates from 2010, will be sent to Nick Clegg. And, on Monday, a meeting, organised by the Social Liberal Forum, will take place in the Palace of Westminster in Committee Room 18 (made infamous by the story about Sir Bob Russell MP allegedly pulling the door off of its hinges).

The subject of both the letter and the meeting will be the recent voting record of our peers on aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill ranging from sickness and disability benefits, to the household benefit cap and child benefits.

The …

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

Opinion: What’s happened to democracy in the Liberal Democrats?

What’s happened to democracy in the Liberal Democrats? Is it dead? Or is it just comatose?

The reason I ask this question comes from my own experience of our internal democracy.

When I joined the party at the age of 18, I was impressed by how, unlike any other major party,  ordinary members had a real say. That I, as a member, had a voice equal to anyone else in the party, be it my local councillor or the party leader and that everyone’s vote was equal.

So, last year, when I learned about the shocking plans by the government to drastically cut …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 72 Comments

Opinion: Welfare reform – LibDems must stand up for the vulnerable

The Commons have already passed, and the Lords are currently voting on, the Welfare Reform Bill. It contains provisions which will scrap the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replace it with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). It also contains changes to time limit receipt of contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (a sickness and disability benefit) to a maximum of 12 months.

As has been pointed out by Lib Dem blogger Caron Lindsay, the change to ESA is utterly destructive and senseless.

The arbitrary time limiting of ESA is, incidentally, also directly against official party policy as set out in

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 33 Comments

Opinion: Government must not force work activities on Cancer patients

The main form of financial support for the long term sick and disabled is the Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

Once upon a time, cancer patients undergoing radio or chemotherapy intravenously were placed in the support group of ESA where they received unconditional support. However, those receiving radio or chemotherapy orally were placed in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA where they were forced to attend work related interviews and complete other work related activity or face having part or all of their support withdrawn.

My mother died of cancer. A large part of her treatment consisted of oral chemotherapy. Oral because …

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Opinion: Our Parliamentarians must fight for our benefits policies

It was rather disappointing last week reading Jenny Willot MP’s article on LDV last week about the Harrington report and about the motion on the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) which was unanimously passed at autumn conference.

The article seems to imply that, by accepting the Harrington recommendations, the government is complying with the ESA motion and that a big round of applause is in order. We spotted a problem, passed a motion about it and then our ministers and MPs fixed it. Job done right?

Well, no. Despite that being what the article seems to imply, the situation is far from resolved.

By fully …

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Opinion: Why you must lobby Parliament over welfare reform

A few weeks ago, our autumn conference passed a motion on the Employment Support Allowance (ESA). This motion was passed near unanimously and party policy is now for us to push for significant changes to the government’s welfare reforms.

The reason behind the new policy is that the government’s changes, as currently formatted, would put two million long term sick and disabled people through a system which treats them like scroungers and cheats rather than vulnerable people in need of support. At present, 11,000 people a day are being put through a deeply flawed assessment process, which gets the decision …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 26 Comments

Opinion: What Nick should say about tuition fees at the 2015 general election

More than any other issue, tuition fees have damaged the view of our party in the country as a whole. For what it’s worth, here’s what I think our leader should say about fees when going into the next general election:

I would just like to say a few brief words about tuition fees.

As a party, we entered the last election with a promise to oppose any increase in tuition fees. As a party, we then broke that pledge. That was wrong.

Nothing can justify breaking a promise like that. Nothing. We made a mistake and we have been punished

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 49 Comments

Conference motion: The way sick and disabled people are treated by the benefit system

At 4.15pm on Saturday 17 September, Lib Dem autumn conference will debate the Liberal Youth sponsored motion on the Employment Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment. This motion deals with the way sick and disabled people are treated by the benefit system and the way in which they are assessed to determine whether they are eligible for benefits or not.

The motion specifically targets the time limiting of support to a maximum one year for any sick or disabled people who have made national insurance contributions in the three years prior to claiming, the appeal system which sees anywhere between …

Posted in Conference | Tagged , and | 16 Comments

Opinion: Political reasons for people to back the ESA motion‏

If any of you are wondering how we can improve our situation in the polls then I’ve got a suggestion for you: back the Liberal Youth sponsored ESA Motion.

Now there are all sorts of compassionate, liberal and financial reasons to back this motion. The current system is unfair, inhumane, inaccurate and expensive. But, putting all that to one side for a moment, there are sound political reasons to back it.

At the moment the treatment of people with long term illnesses and disabilities is appalling. The media are starting to wake up to the issue, the government is facing a …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 27 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarHywel 28th Nov - 12:01am
    (1) Didn't seem borne out by that article though (http://may2015.com/features/how-are-the-lib-dems-polling-and-will-they-survive-in-may-2015/) which says the pre 2005 (ie non-first term MPS) saw an average vote drop -...
  • User AvatarLiberal Al 27th Nov - 11:49pm
    According to Simon it 260,000, according to Tez, it is 150,000 - so much for facts. Also, I love how Guy Verhofstadt quotes the founder...
  • User AvatarEnlight_bystand 27th Nov - 11:45pm
    @johntilley the other point with the increased media coverage is that there tends to be a high volume of fringe candidates, who I'd guesss will...
  • User AvatarHelen Tedcastle 27th Nov - 11:35pm
    John Tilley Yes it it surprising that no article has appeared on LDV regarding Hunt's 'big idea' for education. Elite private school-educated Hunt clearly has...
  • User AvatarAndrew Colman 27th Nov - 11:21pm
    Support Nick on this one Freedom of movement should be a basic human right which the EU should be proud of and uphold. Remember its...
  • User AvatarConor McGovern 27th Nov - 11:09pm
    ^Because there's nothing genuinely 'Islamic' about what they're reported to be doing. It's like bringing up the evils of democracy when the Democratic People's Republic...