Author Archives: Joe Otten

Must do better, UK

Whatever the outcome of Scotland’s independence referendum, we should all be shocked at the magnitude of the Yes vote. Surely we should never expect more than a few percent of any population to wish to renounce their citizenship due to dissatisfaction with their government and country, and opt instead for some smaller, weaker, largely untested and unknown alternative. That around half of a population may wish to do this might be expected in Iraq or Syria, but not in one of the more stable, peaceful, prosperous and free parts of the world.

How, then, has it come to this? Yes, there …

Posted in News and Op-eds | 24 Comments

Nick Clegg calls for Police and Crime Commissioners to be scrapped

Speaking on Radio Sheffield this morning (here, from 1h36m) Nick Clegg has said that he always had misgivings about Police and Crime Commissioners, and has said it is “now time to scrap this experiment”.

The Conservatives have to explain “why their promise that PCCs would attract independent members of the public have actually become a way for ex or failed politicians to have another lease of life, which is what we have seen in Shaun Wright and others like him.”

Posted in News | 14 Comments

Harm reducers hit back against WHO e-cigarette denormalisation

Various outlets are reporting research by University College London indicating that for every million smokers who switch to electronic cigarette, 6,000 lives per year can be saved. This follows WHO advice that vaping indoors in public places should be banned in order to maintain the culture war against smoking.

Posted in News | Tagged | 36 Comments

Nick Clegg calls for Ashya King to be reunited with his parents

The case of Ashya King, the little boy with a brain tumour, brings into sharp focus an ethical dilemma where expert, official, police and parent may come into conflict while each trying to do their best for a desperately ill child. When he disappeared, the hospital was rightly concerned for his safety, knowing that he needed specialist care. As it seems to have turned out, the Kings took every precaution to provide Ashya what he needed while seeking what they believe to be a better treatment in another country.

Nick Clegg has now called for Brett and Naghemeh King to be allowed to see their son, and that it is not appropriate to throw the full force of the law at them, for trying to do what is best for their child.

Posted in News | 20 Comments

Reflections on Rotherham (3): Believing and taking responsibility

It was difficult to read the Alexis Jay report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham. 1400 girls and 200 boys brutally abused and exploited.

And then we have the response from the council and the police. Denial. Victim blaming. Placing children into care homes where they were more at risk than they were in the family home. Sending looked-after children to school by taxis implicated in grooming and abuse. Regarding abused children as consenting participants. Treating an abused child as a criminal. Failure to investigate crimes. Vilification of those trying to raise awareness.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Channel 4 announce Clegg film

Channel 4 have announced that there will be a 90 minute drama about Nick Clegg and the formation of the coalition, broadcast in the run up to next year’s General Election.

Posted in News | 23 Comments

GDP above pre-crash level; strongest growth in G7

Today’s figures from the Office for National Statistics show growth of 0.8% in the second quarter of 2014, bringing UK GDP above the level it was before the 2008 crash.

With GDP 3.1% higher than a year earlier, the UK has the fastest growing economy in the G7.

Cheif Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander comments

Today we are passing a major milestone on the long road back to full recovery. There is still a long way to go but Britain has recovered the economic ground lost under Labour and is forging ahead.

The main reason that we stepped forward to

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 64 Comments

Full steam ahead on infrastructure

Tim Farron Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterOne thing that struck me about Tim Farron’s Beveridge lecture last Saturday was the scale of his ambition for investment in infrastructure.

Conservatives have often talked about their admiration of Victorian values – if only they really did admire those values, because Victorian values included ambition to build an infrastructure, to create a transport, communications and logistics backbone to our economy, to make a difference, to see a problem and not worry about whether fixing it would fit with your ideology, but to just get on and fix it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 34 Comments

Lower unemployment and more full time jobs

3D Employment GraphRecently I wrote about challenging Labour’s narrative on unemployment with the facts. Since then, the points made in that article have been confirmed with even stronger jobs growth, lower unemployment, and a greater still proportion of full-time jobs.

Updates of those figures, and figures used in this article are summarised here drawn from data in here. The number of new, net, full-time jobs is now up to 1.3 million, and David Blunkett’s post-Soviet style meltdown more distant than ever.

I dealt in …

Posted in News | 24 Comments

Call Clegg 11 July – data retention, Israel, Royal Mail, Germany to win World Cup

call cleggCall Clegg began with a question on the retention of communications data, with a supplementary of whether this is one of those things that can be blamed on the EU.

Nick was very clear that this law is just to underpin the maintenance of existing arrangements for data retention, as have been applied for many years, and not extending them. That the ECJ had struck down the EU Data Retention Directive, was a reasonable exercise of the checks and balances of a mature way of making decisions but left data retention without a legal framework.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Cable backs right to strike and opposes strikes

Vince Cable speaking to mediaQuoted in the Independent

We believe that getting round the negotiating table is better than striking.

We do not believe unions should be striking and causing mass disruption when everyone has been affected by similar pay conditions.

This reflects the fact that a better deal for one group of public sector workers would be paid for out of taxes on other workers, that the strikes if successful would not win a better deal for working people in general, rather for some at the expense of others. There is …

photo by: bisgovuk
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 78 Comments

Nick Clegg launches economic vision for the north of England

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Vince Cable, Business SecretaryNick Clegg is speaking in Leeds today to launch the Northern Futures project to find the best ideas for realising the north’s economic potential. An announcement on a series of Growth Deals, giving local leaders access to a £12 billion pot to support jobs, competitiveness and home building is expected on Monday.

While getting the north performing to its full potential is perhaps the prime economic challenge our country faces, there is something of a news blackout in the national media, …

photo by:
Posted in News | 11 Comments

Cameron pre-announces failure in Europe

David Cameron, British Prime MinisterIn a display of perverse pride, David Cameron has been spinning today that he will lose a vote on the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission. You might expect such a failure of (megaphone) diplomacy to be a source of shame, but I suppose failure is what the Brexit agenda demands, and hang the national interest.

In doing this he is, we are told standing up for the principle that the heads of government, not the European Parliament appoint the commission and that the …

photo by: bisgovuk
Posted in Op-eds | 33 Comments

Bath Labour councillor and Miliband adviser defect to Liberal Democrats

labour to lib dem defectCllr Rob Appleyard of Westfield ward, Bath and North East Somerset, has joined the Liberal Democrats. Quoted in Now Bath, he says

I’ve been proud of Labour’s stance on education, but I’ve been disappointed at the way they have played games over our children’s futures.

Posted in News | 39 Comments

Challenging the narrative: Employment

3D Employment GraphI was engaged in a twitter argument yesterday with someone who was disputing the progress we have seen in employment, putting the improved figures down to a million people enslaved on zero hours contracts.

The Office for National Statistics have provisionally estimated the number of zero hours contracts to be between 583,000 and 1.4 million. There isn’t an established data series for this that would enable historical comparisons, but there are such statistics for full time and part time workers. According to these the number of part time workers is up 356,000 since May 2010, and the number of full time workers is up 1,114,000.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 27 Comments

Appeasement or Opposition?

clegg farage lbcNothing is more annoying, said one voter on the radio, than mainstream politicians telling us why we voted UKIP.

But at risk of causing further annoyance, it is important to try to understand the UKIP vote, what it represents, and to what extent it is right to respond with appeasement, like Labour’s Sadiq Khan, and many others of left and right, or opposition. To be fair to Khan, despite the apology, he largely makes the same arguments Labour have been making for years.

Uniting the issues of immigration, Europe, and …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 39 Comments

Labour VAT attack poster backfires badly

Twitter is alive this morning with a Labour attack poster on the subject of VAT

labour-VAT

Unfortunately for Labour

Posted in News | 48 Comments

…or you could vote for not having an opinion

imageOn Wednesday I went to my first hustings as a European Parliament candidate (number 3 on the Yorkshire and the Humber list). When the Green candidate announced that he supported staying in the EU, I had a quiet conversation with the Labour candidate sitting next to me.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 24 Comments

Lib Link: Paul Tyler on establishment of the church

York Minster by Paul WalterOur own Stephen Tall broke the story last Slownewsday that disestablishment of the Church of England is a longer-term project than the Times and Telegraph might have realised.

Now Paul Tyler in Lords of the Blog, addresses the reasons for the historical presence of Bishops in the House of Lords as ‘Money, not Morals’.

I am a practising Anglican (trying to improve) but I have been firmly committed to disestablishment for over 50 years, for the sake of both church and state. The muddled

Posted in LibLink | Tagged | 6 Comments

Knife crime leaks reveal coalition battle over mandatory sentencing

The Court House - Warwick - Coat of ArmsLetters between government ministers debating whether a second offence of carrying a knife should attract a mandatory prison sentence have been leaked to the Daily Mail. The timing of these leaks must suggest an attempt by some Conservatives to exploit the appalling murder of Anne Maguire for political ends.

It may be a little less precise, but I am reporting this as ‘second offence of possession’, because more serious knife-related offences attract mandatory prison sentences already, including the offence, new in 2012, of …

photo by: ell brown
Posted in News | Tagged | 13 Comments

Steve Webb proposes fairer tax relief on pension contributions

Not content with the most radical reforms to private pensions in a generation, Steve Webb is proposing a flat rate of 30% of tax relief on pension contributions. Currently savers enjoy tax relief at the marginal rate of income tax they pay, so higher rate tax payers get the lion’s share, and standard rate tax payers have less incentive to save for a pension.

Steve told the Daily Mail

I’d like to see the benefits of pensions tax relief spread much more evenly.

Most people get 20 per cent relief, some people get it at 40 per cent. But the people

Posted in News | Tagged and | 28 Comments

Manifesto 2015: The debate is on

logo_lg new Liberal Democrat logoLast week saw the final, rearranged, Manifesto Roadshow in Leeds chaired by Sal Brinton. Those of us present had some good opportunities to suggest and debate policy ideas for the 2015 General Election manifesto.

There was lots of discussion of transport issues – around the quality and reliability of buses and trains and the capacity of the rail network. I raised the point that transport links between and within the northern cities has been identified as a vital ingredient in the agglomeration recipe that supports economic growth. While there has been some progress on this, such as with the Northern Rail Hub, we need much stronger and clearer ambition still.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Most of the benefits of an annuity at a fraction of the cost?

AnnuityAn annuity is a reasonable solution to an obvious problem. You don’t know how long you will live in retirement, but an annuity provider can estimate this, take a risk, and sell you an income that lasts the rest of your life. In practise this hasn’t represented good value for money, so I welcomed the budget announcement to give retirees more choice in investing or disposing of their own money. Yesterday Janice Turner argued for the photo by: LendingMemo

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 30 Comments

The price of trusting people with their own money

pensionsThe world of the private “Defined Contribution” pension is one that sees so many hidden fees it has been described as generating a greater return for the financial services industry than it does the saver. A large bite of this comes with the annuity purchase, where the pension pot, built up over the years, is spent on an annuity, converting a cash sum into a fixed (or index-linked) income for life.

Annuity purchase represents a kind of insurance against getting too old and running out of money.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 52 Comments

Suspicions of Lib-Labbery

lib lab Labour Liberal Democrat logo14 Areas that they now agree on screams the headline. The Daily Mail and (behind the paywall) The Times are reporting on the degree of policy convergence appearing between the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

While Tory strategists admit they struggle to envisage reaching agreement on plans for another five years of power-sharing with the Lib Dems, Labour now agrees with Nick Clegg’s party on a broad range of issues.

Posted in Op-eds | 45 Comments

RIP Tony Benn

Tony BennAnthony Wedgwood Benn has died aged 88.

Tony championed many causes including nationalisation, unilateral nuclear disarmamemnt, leaving the common market, socialism, and democratic reform of the Labour Party. He renounced a peerage – changing the law in the process – in order to remain a member of Parliament. He left Parliament in 2001 “in order to spend more time in politics”, leaving his Chesterfield seat to be won by Liberal Democrat Paul Holmes.

One of the few not to be taken in by Ali G, Tony was a conviction politician, and an …

Posted in News | 18 Comments

On Demonisation

A fellow councillor recently retweeted in a spirit of irony, something about ‘evil’ public sector workers. After a short exchange it became clear that the issue was the ‘demonisation’ of public sector workers by the government.

Now it almost has the status of received wisdom that Michael Gove hates teachers, Jeremy Hunt hates nurses, Eric Pickles hates local government workers, all Tories hate welfare recipients, that this hatred leads to demonisation, and the Liberal Democrats, while perhaps not directly involved, are quite comfortable with all this.

I was reluctant to get involved, as I disagree often with Michael Gove, and have no …

Posted in Op-eds | 79 Comments

Coalition with Labour on, if they don’t “break the bank”

Tonight’s radio programme Nick Clegg: The Liberal who came to power has hit the news-stands for this apparent top line demand of any future coalition with Labour:

There is just no doubt in my mind that if there were a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, we the Liberal Democrats would absolutely insist that government would not break the bank.

More details can be found in the Mirror, Guardian and BBC, and other sources of news are available.

Let’s contrast the following comments by Nick on the Labour Party

I think they’ve changed. I think there’s nothing like the prospect

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 44 Comments

Liblink: The lobbying bill is no ‘gagging law’

At the outset, ministers believed the bill would be a fairly non-controversial measure, limiting the political influence of maverick millionaires in elections. It was construed very differently by people we Liberal Democrats most strongly identify with: our natural, liberal allies in the voluntary and charitable sector saw the bill as a broad assault on their freedom of speech.

So write Paul Tyler and Shirley Williams in the Guardian.

The so-called ‘gagging law’ is keeping the definition of ‘non-party campaigning’ in the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000 – as that which “can be reasonably …

Posted in LibLink | Tagged | 20 Comments

Steve Webb on switching annuities for a better pension

The Telegraph reports that Liberal Democrat pensions minister Steve Webb is considering allowing pensioners to switch annuity providers bringing more competition and better value for pensioners.

The intervention comes before a report from regulators that is expected to accuse pension firms of making excessive profits from millions of people converting their lifetime savings into annuities.

Currently, most people are forced to use their pension savings to buy an annuity — paying an annual income for the rest of their lives. For many people, it is the biggest financial decision they will make. However, in recent years annuity rates have plunged, trapping many people in poor-value schemes that have destroyed the value of their lifetime savings.

The ability to switch annuities after retirement would trigger a revolution for savers and kick-start an industry catering for people who are shopping around to boost the value of their pension.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 10 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 22nd Sep - 2:51am
    Someone needs to explain to Clegg that devo on demand will increase resentment about democratic inequality and complication.
  • User Avataralec dauncey 21st Sep - 11:57pm
    Federalism demands either an English Parliament or Regional English federal entities. There really does not seem to be a demand for actual 'state' level entities...
  • User AvatarMack (Not a Lib Dem) 21st Sep - 11:52pm
    @simon Hunt I absolutely agree but this issue transcends everything. Cameron' s duplicity over our pledge to the Scottish People has made me ashamed to...
  • User AvatarSimon Hunt 21st Sep - 10:25pm
    Seems a bit rich for a senior Lib Dem to be blaming the 'old parties' for broken promises and a disconnect from Westminster. Paddy may...
  • User AvatarRoland 21st Sep - 9:29pm
    "(1) The three party leaders neglected to get the permission of their parties to do what they did." [Sesenco 21st Sep '14 - 7:18pm] They...
  • User AvatarGlenn 21st Sep - 9:09pm
    David Allen. I've heard variation on the Tories will barnstorm into power if we do this or don't that for years. The fact is they...