Author Archives: Joe Otten

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 | 10 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

Liblink: Sarah Ludford on the 12th anniversary of the European Arrest Warrant

The European Arrest warrant, allowing those suspected of crimes in one EU member state to be arrested anywhere in the EU, was agreed 12 years ago. Now under fire from a small group of (soft on crime?) Conservative MPs, Sarah Ludford MEP responds in the Huffington Post.

Since 2009, hundreds of suspects have been extradited back to the UK to face charges using the EAW, including 63 for child sex offences, 105 for drug trafficking, 27 for rape and 44 for murder, while 4,000 suspects have been sent to other countries. …

In fact, the EAW has become so integral

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Poverty at its lowest since 2004/5?

A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (pdf) shows that 13 million people in the UK were in poverty in 2011/12, a poverty rate of 21% which, while still too high, is the lowest it has been since 2004/5.

There is a mixed picture behind this: improvements for pensioners and children, and declines for adults in work, the latter being the angle picked up by the BBC.

The data predates some of the more recent benefit changes, which are not likely to help, although even a 1% uprating of benefits will be faster than many people’s wages, which …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 33 Comments

John Major: Class warrior

Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major is back in the news today condemning the stranglehold on power and influence enjoyed by the elite:

In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class. To me from my background, I find that truly shocking.

This follows his unexpected intervention in the energy debate calling for a windfall tax on energy companies. In both cases Major seems to be taking on the role of Cameron’s One Nation conscience, speaking up for people in modest …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 50 Comments

Liblink… Vince Cable: Europe is an anchor for British business

For centuries, Britain has developed economically through being an open, outward-looking country. Today, the economy has a high level of global integration. The UK is the world’s fifth largest exporter of goods and services, and we attract more foreign direct investment than any other European country.

…Vince Cable, writing in the Guardian.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

HS2 alternatives mean 14 years of replacement buses

The BBC and newspapers are reporting that proposals to upgrade the existing rail network instead of investing in HS2, would lead to 14 years of weekend closures and replacement buses. The cost of upgrading these main lines is not given, but it is worth reminding ourselves of the 1998-2008 upgrade to the West Coast Main Line which cost around £9bn after being scaled back due to technical problems and cost overruns.

Meanwhile Labour continues its lukewarm positioning on HS2, floating the idea of a reopening of the Grand Central line at a cost of …

Posted in News | 26 Comments

Liberal Democrat MPs are the best, polls say

Political Betting reports a poll by Yougov for Nottingham University on satisfaction with MPs in general and with the local MP.

The result that people generally rate their local MP higher than MPs in general is well known, and thought to be due to the fact that one perception relies on reporting, which is usually negative, and the other relies more on personal experience. But this poll also reveals that voters with Liberal Democrat MPs rate them significantly higher than those with MPs of other parties.

MP satisfaction

Posted in News | 8 Comments

Marxism: a respectable philosophy, or dangerous, or evil?

MarxThe Daily Mail’s ludicrous accusations that naval veteran Ralph Miliband hated his country conceal the relevant political question behind all this. Is Marxism a respectable philosophical position to take, or is it dangerous, or even evil?

This debate will sometimes revolve around the overthrow of Russia’s fledgeling democracy in November 1917, the subsequent mass murder and mass starvations committed by the Soviet regime under Lenin and Stalin, the suppression of the Prague Spring and so forth. To what extent can this be ascribed to the influence of Marx, or alternatively understood as a rejection …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 74 Comments

Energy price cap round up

It is now 6 days since Ed Miliband’s announcement that if elected, he would cap energy prices for 20 months, while undertaking a restructure of the energy market intended to bring lower prices in the long run. Some details have followed, for example that the cap would not necessarily be set at the May 2015 price, but may be set at an earlier price if energy companies appear to be hiking prices to beat the cap. This wouldn’t stop them hiking prices to build up a war chest.

George Eaton in the New Statesman called this a “brilliant trap …

Posted in News | Tagged | 22 Comments

LibLink… Chris Davies: It’s time to kick-start carbon capture

In the Huffington Post, Chris Davies MEP highlights the lack of progress on carbon capture, despite early enthusiasm and promises of funding for trial projects.

Yet now, there is little to show for the initial enthusiasm. Thirteen significant projects applied for the first phase of funding, but most could not meet the strict and inflexible requirements. In the second phase only one project, the ‘White Rose’ in the UK, is in the running for €300m support, Even so the odds are against it securing the necessary government commitment within the given deadline. Of a further €1 billion of EU

Posted in LibLink | Tagged | 19 Comments

That Ed Miliband speech in full…

milibandThe following arrived in a brown envelope at Lib Dem Voice Towers, this morning. It is probably an early draft.

I want to start by thanking somebody from the bottom of my heart.

Ella Philips, who fell off her bike and called me an action hero who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. She called me suave and not geeky at all.

I was pretty pleased with this until I realised she was concussed. So I got her to vote in her local constituency candidate selection.

I have emotion that is felt at kitchen tables …

Posted in Humour | Tagged and | 70 Comments

Perils of Equidistance

Nick Clegg’s speech to the annual conference struck a firmly equidistant tone with

We’re not trying to get back into Government to fold into one of the other parties – we want to be there to anchor them to the liberal centre ground, right in the centre, bang in the middle. We’re not here to prop up the two party system: we’re here to bring it down.

backed up with a list of Conservative policies blocked, and a promise to block some Labour policies – once we know what they are – …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 39 Comments

Liblink: Chris Huhne on being despised

Chris Huhne is in apologetic-but-fighting form in the Guardian, taking on wider reasons than himself for the negative public perception of politicians.

Chris is careful to apologise for and explain without excusing his conduct, but goes on to argue -

Maybe it was coincidence, but that summer I was the only frontbencher who, with Nick Clegg’s brave backing, called for the Metropolitan police to reopen the voicemail hacking inquiry into Rupert Murdoch’s empire.

Given that I was falling in love with someone who was not my wife, you might think that it was an act of folly to court Murdoch’s hostility,

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 28 Comments

Liberal Democrat Federal Conference agenda available

Autumn 2012 conference - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsAgenda papers for the federal conference in Glasgow have been published. Within the theme of ‘a stronger economy in a fairer society, allowing everyone to get on in life’ there are policy motions on work life balance, green growth, learning and skills, fairer taxes, strengthening the economy, housing benefit, tackling sexual and domestic violence, racial equality, and more.

Posted in Conference | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Liblink… Greg Mulholland calls for referendum on EU membership

eu_flagThe Daily Mail is reporting Greg Mulholland’s call for a vote on EU membership without waiting for a treaty change.

Even the huge changes that have taken place in Europe over the years – we’ve moved from EEC to EC to EU – have not led to a public vote. And it is not a little ironic that at the times there was a significant and constitutional change – in 1984, 1986 and 1992 – the then Conservative governments did not give the British people a say. The same happened under

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

LibLink: Stephen Williams on MPs’ pay

MPs’ pay is in the news today with suggestions that IPSA may agree a 10% or even a £10,000 increase, while other public sector pay remains frozen. Stephen Williams writes

IPSA was created in the aftermath of the furore over MPs’ expenses four years ago. It sets the terms of Parliamentary pay, pensions, budgets for staff and office costs and MPs’ personal employment expenses such as travel and accommodation. We MPs have absolutely no say in any aspect of the regime, including our salary. So MPs (nor meddling party leaders) cannot instruct IPSA to set MP pay at any particular

Posted in News | Tagged | 36 Comments

Welcome Croatia!

Today sees Croatia’s accession as the 28th member of the European Union. Croatia joins Slovenia, of the former Yugoslavia, which acceded in 2004.

Some rights reserved by Fenners1984

We can sometimes forget in our arguments over EU budgets, CAP reform and the repatriation of powers, just what the bigger picture is. With this accession, the EU is serving to bolster democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in a part of Eastern Europe recently emerged from civil war. It is serving British interests by bringing Western influence to the East, in a manner …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 18 Comments

How not to write for Liberal Democrat Voice

Here at LDV towers, we often receive offers of work which do very little to persuade us that the author either knows what this site is about, or is able to write reasonably correct English.

The following is typical. I have removed names.

Hello Blog Owner,

Hope the day is treating you well!

My name is ______, an Internet Marketer.

While searching on internet, I came across your blog and read 3 of your quality posts and got really impressed with it. I think you’re doing a great job and making your readers happy and better than they were.

My all blog posts

Posted in News | 9 Comments

The Tories’ biggest headache

Iain Martin in the Telegraph asks “Is Nick Clegg the Tories’ biggest headache?“. Once you get past the heartwarming bitterness, Nick is roundly praised with not-so-faint damnation, for blocking one right wing policy after another.

Mr Cameron remains pragmatic about the antics of his deputy, say colleagues. Some other Tories are much less relaxed. “Our backbenchers have really had it with Clegg now,” admits one minister. An MP from the Tory Right said that Number 10 was “supine” and far too eager to please the Deputy Prime Minister. “Why does our leadership spend so much of its time placating Clegg

Posted in News | Tagged | 36 Comments

LibLink… Guy Verhofstadt: Europe needs to change, but with Britain at its heart

Writing in the Independent, Guy Verhofstadt, president of the Liberal group in the European Parliament calls for Britain to seek EU-wide reform rather than a swathe of opt-outs.

Other European leaders have stressed their desire for the UK to remain part of the EU, but also that they are not interested in cutting a special deal for the UK alone. They rightly stress that the single market relies on a common set of rules, applied and enforced equally by everyone. At the same time, many on the continent recognise that there is growing need for major changes. Rather than

Posted in News | 8 Comments

Eric Schmidt’s perplexity – a challenge to governments

Google’s Eric Schmidt has been reported as being perplexed by the UK’s debate on tax avoidance.

I view that you should pay the taxes that are legally required. It’s not a debate. You pay the taxes.

If the British system changes the tax laws then we will comply. If the taxes go up we will pay more, if they go down we will pay less. That is a political decision for the democracy that is the United Kingdom

There’s a contrast here with the case of Starbucks, volunteering a little extra tax in a failed attempt to head …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 40 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPeter Chegwyn 19th Apr - 1:29am
    I think the Falklands War in 82 had something to do with that turn round Bill.
  • User AvatarDuncan Brack 18th Apr - 11:46pm
    David White - you are right about Beveridge (except that 1945 couldn't be called a khaki election - unlike 1900, for which the term is...
  • User Avatarmalc 18th Apr - 10:51pm
    Mark Valladares Sorry I shouldn't have said military bases, but we do - or may be did until recently, not sure after defence cuts -...
  • User AvatarBill le Breton 18th Apr - 10:24pm
    But what be the biggest shift for a Governing Party over a period of 13 months? Try December 81 to Jan 83. If potential turn...
  • User AvatarEd Wilson 18th Apr - 10:12pm
    Let's try again. "...power 4 million homes..." means onshore wind produces a number of kilowatt hours which, when divided by the notional power consumption of...
  • User AvatarRoland 18th Apr - 9:56pm
    A scary thought has just occurred - the Pensions Minister either doesn't actually know or want us to know, just how much pension tax relief...