Author Archives: Joe Otten

#Brexit referendum question to change after advice from Electoral Commission

referendum2From the BBC

The elections watchdog has recommended a change to the question to be put to voters in a future EU referendum.

The Electoral Commission said the wording proposed by ministers – “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” – could be perceived as biased to the status quo.

It has proposed adding the words “or leave the European Union?”

Posted in News | 18 Comments

The crowded centre-left

The “crowded centre-left” may seem an odd phrase to use when the Labour Party appears to be about to lurch off to the hard left, but there is some context here for both the self-indulgence of Corbynism, and for some of the decisions we will have to make as a party in the coming months.

Many, notably David Howarth and Mark Pack, have argued, in an otherwise very good paper, that the socially liberal, economic right is a desert, and we must be pitching our tent economically on the centre left.

Posted in Op-eds | 107 Comments

Agenda 2020 open thread, essay collection and competition

As we announced here, Agenda 2020 is the name given to a project of the Federal Policy Committee to re-examine our timeless values. They have now published quite an interesting collection of essays (pdf here) to set the ball rolling, and are inviting further essays by the 5th October.

You might miss the essay collection if you have gone for one of the greener options for the conference agenda, or if you aren’t going to conference, but I must say they are interesting enough to put my natural cynicism for the project on hold for a while.

Rather than attempt a review, let me give you a little teaser of each. Quotes do not imply endorsement.

David Boyle:

This is an extension of the implications of Popper’s open society, and its implications are profound. Society, public services and the economy are the same in this respect:

Posted in Conference | 6 Comments

Rawls v Bayes

At the Social Liberal Forum conference session on equality, one of the points raised by Julian Huppert (pictured alongside chair Mark Blackburn and the other speaker Kelly-Marie Blundell) was that of philosopher John Rawls’ idea of the Veil of Ignorance.

Huppert Blackburn Blundell

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 25 Comments

#Labstain: Labour’s mass indifference to the Welfare Bill

labstainspineYesterday, all but 48 Labour MPs abstained on government proposals to save £12bn from the welfare bill, in particular from the working age poor. This dithering follows 5 years of vitriol directed at Liberal Democrats over measures that did not go this far.

Posted in Op-eds | 59 Comments

Tim Farron speaks against the Welfare Bill

Yesterday in the Commons, Tim Farron gave his first speech as party leader, against the Welfare Bill, highlighting the effects of the ESA changes on people with mental health conditions, the effects on young people, and on the working age poor. He criticised Labour’s confusion over the bill in deciding to abstain, although 48 Labour rebels voted against.

The Liberal Democrats will stand up for families, whether they are hard-working or just desperate to be hard-working. We will not let the Conservatives through choice, or the Labour party through their silence, unpick our welfare system.

Posted in News | 36 Comments

Channel 4: Cathy Newman, Tim Farron, sex and sin.

Tim Farron had a grilling yesterday on Channel 4 news from Cathy Newman on his personal position on some moral issues. There’s been some criticism of Tim for sounding a little bit evasive on this, and indeed suggestions have been coming into Voice for better answers that he might have given.

Now I don’t know exactly where Tim personally stands on this, but I have no reason to doubt that he is basically a liberal dealing with the sensitivities of the “traditional Christian” view rather than the converse. My apologies for use of these terms, no doubt there were and are many traditional Christians around who are sound on LGBT+ rights and abortion, and many old liberals who are not. But you know what I mean.

Posted in Op-eds | 286 Comments

A small step for trust in the manifesto

It has been obvious since long before the election that we have a trust problem. We did the right thing on tuition fees, bringing more young people than ever from disadvantaged backgrounds to university, a contribution system that fairer in terms of graduate incomes than general taxation would be, and therefore more “left wing” in the distributional sense, if not in the clientilist sense. This, graduate tax in all but name, on a moderately generous interpretation (! yes I know) honoured the second half of the pledge “work towards a fairer system of student finance” in spades, and made the first half redundant.

But politics doesn’t work like that. Labour can repeatedly break their promises to students when they have a majority in parliament and money to spend and it does not define them. We can all but honour ours and face a massive trust issue.

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | 128 Comments

Labour Leadership: Who should liberal democrats be cheering?

Nominations have closed in the Labour leadership contest, and for £3 (probably in breach of our rules and theirs) you might even have a vote. The options are, Jeremy Corbyn, a socialist from another era, Andy Burnham, a good looking Ed Miliband, Yvette Cooper, an experienced minister of 11 years, and Liz Kendall, the Blairite.

I’m writing this post to give space for a debate on who we Liberal Democrats should be cheering on in this contest. Who, for £3 paid to the enemy, might it even be worth supporting? (No, I haven’t read the rules; this does not constitute advice of any kind.)

Posted in Op-eds | 84 Comments

Liberal Reform interview Tim Farron and Norman Lamb

Last week Tom Papworth and I interviewed the two leadership candidates, Tim Farron, and Norman Lamb on behalf of Liberal Reform supporters who submitted questions.

To give you a flavour, here are the wordles. Can you tell which is which?

Norman wordle

Tim wordle

Posted in News | 18 Comments

The real problem with #EdStone is that Miliband cannot be sure he will be able to deliver

We are all sneering – myself included – at Ed Milliband’s decision to inscribe a monolith with 6 election pledges. Even the Labour-supporting Guardian has likened it to Neil Kinnock’s Sheffield Rally.

Preposterous as this seems, I suspect that the intended message – that they are really serious about these pledges – may nonetheless seep through, while politicians and reporters clutch their aching sides, to the wider public.

Posted in Op-eds | 30 Comments

My challenge to Ed Miliband – your core message may be a fabrication


Yesterday on Question Time, you said, as you have said many times during this campaign:

There are some people who tell you that the way we succeed as a country is as long as a few people at the top do well and large corporations, that’s what powers the economy…

Here’s a good question, which you’ll be glad I asked you: Who are these people who tell us this? Have we heard of any of them? Are they standing for election? Can you give us a direct quote or two?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 63 Comments

Why Labour and Conservative supporters should vote Liberal Democrat

We are facing four main scenarios for after this election; they are:

  1. A Labour led government with some sort of support from the SNP.
  2. A Labour led government with some sort of support from the Liberal Democrats.
  3. A Conservative led government with some sort of support from the Liberal Democrats.
  4. A Conservative led government with some sort of support from UKIP and the DUP. (Blukip)

It is hard to dispute that a Conservative in a Labour – Liberal Democrat contest should vote Liberal Democrat, and likewise a Labour supporter in a Conservative – Liberal Democrat contest. I will argue that for the first time, the converse is also true. Conservatives and Labour supporters should elect Liberal Democrats competing with their own candidates.

Posted in Op-eds | 133 Comments

LDVideo: Dialogue over Division

The politics of the Devil’s songs is easy, anyone can do that … but the politics of releasing the better angels of our nature – that’s much tougher.

Posted in YouTube | 29 Comments

Tim Farron is the most engaged MP on twitter

Tim FarronAnalysis of politicians’ tweets by Demos shows Tim Farron to be the most engaged MP on twitter, while of the three party leaders, Nick Clegg is the most likely to interact with followers, as measured by the proportion of @ replies.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Further steady fall in unemployment

Yesterday’s monthly update from the office for national statistics shows unemployment down 97,000 in the last quarter of 2014 and by 486,000 on a year earlier.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 28 Comments

Theatre Review: The Absence of War

This revival of David Hare’s play loosely based on the 1992 General Election sees Sheffield Labour MP and party leader George Jones as channelling Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband in similar measure. As in 1992 the country is emerging from recession, and the voters perhaps do not feel rich enough to afford a Labour government yet.

Posted in Op-eds | 10 Comments

Commons to vote on 2.001 parent babies

A free vote is due this afternoon in the House of Commons on whether to allow a process of transplanting a nucleus into an ovum or embryo with healthy mitochondria so that parents may have their own (99.9%) genetic child while preventing mitochondrial disease in that child. Details on the BBC.

Calling a child born following this process a ‘3 parent’ baby is a little hyperbolic, and helps to add oil to the flames of the “ethical” debate surrounding every kind of intervention in the embryo or germ line. I believe that mitochondrial disease is a bad thing and preventing it is a good thing and that ethics demands unequivocal support for this process, but I do recognise there is a debate to be had.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments

The left cheers Syriza while Miliband equivocates

The victory in Greece of anti-austerity party Syriza (in coalition with a hard right junior partner) has been warmly welcomed by anti-austerity commentators here.

Perhaps jumping the gun a little regarding the difference between voting to end austerity and actually ending it, Zoe Williams in the Guardian talks of a “a successful, transformative movement”.

Posted in Op-eds | 68 Comments

Cochrane review: Vaping can help you quit smoking

A review published by the Cochrane Collaboration – which serves to compile and make accessible evidence from clinical trials – has found that electronic cigarettes do help smokers reduce smoking or quit altogether.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Devo Sheffield announced: transport, skills, business support, housing, no mayor

Nick Clegg is in Sheffield today to confirm a city devolution deal which will shift power from Whitehall to the Sheffield City Region combined authority, giving the city region greater control over transport, skills, housing and business support. This historic deal for Sheffield will allow the city to introduce “oyster-style” travel cards, and local councils and businesses will have control over the majority of the skills budget for the area for the first time.

This comes a month after the Northern Futures Summit, which brought together local people and businesses to share their vision for strengthening the economy in the region. The deal does not impose any specific form of governance over the city, such as a metro mayor.

Posted in News | 29 Comments

LibLink: Farron – we need to be honest about the housing crisis

Tim Farron writing at is calling for 300,000 homes a year to be built to end the housing crisis in contrast to some of the less ambitious policies around.

The key issue in housing isn’t that first-time buyers can’t get on the ladder, nor that rents are too high. ‘Help to Buy’ isn’t the cure-all to our ills and whilst a rent cap might help renters in the short run, in the long run it will only disappoint. The politicians who propose these short-term measures will also disappoint, unless they have a more thorough approach. Unless we aim to end the housing crisis in its entirety, instead of just tinkering at the edges, we are just short-changing people for short-term electoral gain.

Posted in LibLink | 46 Comments

Emily Thornberry resigns over tweet

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry has resigned from the front bench over a tweet from Rochester which shows, at best, a gulf of understanding between the Labour front bench and working class “white van man”.

Posted in News | 69 Comments

Lynne Featherstone wins Stonewall Politician of the Year

Lynne Featherstone MP was named Stonewall’s ‘Politician of the Year’ at their annual awards ceremony yesterday. It was awarded jointly to Lynne and to this guy off Eastenders.

Lynne has been tireless in promoting LGBT+ rights over the last four and a half years and was the architect of the bill legalising same sex marriage.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

Labour hang on in South Yorkshire – my guilty part

Labour have retained the post of Police and Crime Commissioner, following the resignation of Shaun Wright, with 50.02% of first preferences ahead of UKIP on 31.66% with a turnout of 14%. The Liberal Democrats did not stand a candidate.

The campaign was dominated by the issue of the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham, with UKIP accused of crassly exploiting the issue for their own political ends, and Labour accused of being responsible for the authorities that failed those children. Both accusations have merit, though in my book failing to protect 1600 children is worse than crass politicking. I’m not suggesting that Labour’s policy was to fail these children, but any virtual one-party state is likely to fail its people and needs to be voted out.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 41 Comments

Liblink: Catherine Bearder MEP on UKIP’s collapse in the European Parliament

As we reported yesterday, the loss of a Latvian MEP, Iveta Grigule from UKIP’s “Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy” group mean that is no longer eligible for group status, losing substantial budgets and (unwanted, unused) influence.

Catherine Bearder writes in the New Statesman

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 14 Comments

A fair and fast economic recovery

The Labour Party has two attack lines on the economic recovery these days. One is that it is the slowest recovery ever, and the other is that it is happening particularly unfairly. Both are wholly without merit, and show that Labour are living in a fictional dreamworld.

The charge that this is a particularly slow recovery seems to be based on the length of time it is taking to return to trend, looking at graphs such as this:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 88 Comments

ISIL Debate Open thread

House of Commons. Crown Copyright applies to this photo - recall debate in the House of Commons is about to begin. This is the motion that has been tabled

That this House condemns the barbaric acts of ISIL against the peoples of Iraq including the Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christians and Yazidi and the humanitarian crisis this is causing; recognises the clear threat ISIL poses to the territorial integrity of Iraq and the request from the Government of Iraq for military support from the international community and the specific request to the UK Government for such support; further recognises the threat ISIL poses to wider international security and the UK directly through its sponsorship of terrorist attacks and its murder of a British hostage; acknowledges the broad coalition contributing to military support of the Government of Iraq including countries throughout the Middle East; further acknowledges the request of the Government of Iraq for international support to defend itself against the threat ISIL poses to Iraq and its citizens and the clear legal basis that this provides for action in Iraq; notes that this motion does not endorse UK air strikes in Syria as part of this campaign and any proposal to do so would be subject to a separate vote in Parliament; accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government, working with allies, in supporting the Government of Iraq in protecting civilians and restoring its territorial integrity, including the use of UK air strikes to support Iraqi, including Kurdish, security forces’ efforts against ISIL in Iraq; notes that Her Majesty’s Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; and offers its wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty’s armed forces.

On twitter

Posted in News | 64 Comments

Could it really not be any clearer than this?

Ed Balls MP, Denton - (Labour Leadership Campaign) - 2010Defending the clarity of his party’s position on the deficit after forgetting to mention it in his speech, Ed Miliband said

Ed Balls talked this week about our approach on the deficit. I have talked about our approach on the deficit. No one should be in any doubt about my approach on the deficit.

My approach is clear – we are going to get the deficit down, we are going to get the debt falling and we could not be clearer about that.

photo by: Harry Potts
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 34 Comments

That Ed Miliband speech in full… (2)

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

Ed speechThankyou so much.

Friends, this country will never turn our back on the world and on the principles of internationalism. Those values are reflected not just in this country but in this party, and in the great team of Manchester United.

Posted in Humour | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarStephen Harte 2nd Sep - 1:06pm
    Hi Paul. My proposal (back of an envelope as it is) would be for male and female candidates to be elected on different electoral cycles....
  • User AvatarCarl Gardner 2nd Sep - 12:46pm
    No, David Allen, Ashdown did not condemn the killing of Bin Laden "in similar terms" to Corbyn. It's astonishing that I, a non-LibDem, have to...
  • User AvatarBen Midgley 2nd Sep - 12:42pm
    I'd like to see calls for a co-ordinated European refugee portal being established on-line, and on the ground where safe havens can be safeguarded, applications...
  • User AvatarJ George SMID 2nd Sep - 12:41pm
    The challenge is in the claim that "If we want to avoid being caught into the middle of this ideological conflict, we need to spell...
  • User AvatarPaul Harding 2nd Sep - 12:41pm
    I admire your commitment to both Lords reform and to boosting the number of female parliamentarians. I disagree strongly with 'slots for men and women'...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 2nd Sep - 12:38pm
    Actually, this isn't really about whether or not the US could practicably have taken Bin Laden alive, or not. It would be perfectly possible to...