Author Archives: Joe Otten

Bombing Daesh in Syria?

The possibility of a vote in Parliament on bombing Daesh (also known as ISIL/ISIS/IS) in Syria is coming with talk in the news of which Labour MPs might back it, in a potentially close vote. I think we need to debate this too. It is likely to be a free vote or one with significant rebellions on all sides. Should our MPs be whipped?

The difference between attacking Daesh in Iraq and Daesh in Syria seems to be a legal one not a moral one. The former is in support of Iraq/Kurdish Iraq at their request, and the latter would arguably require a UN Security Council resolution which may be unlikely. And practically there are Iraqi ground forces to support from the air. In Syria, this is less clear, and bombing alone never seems to achieve anything.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 42 Comments

Cameron sets out 4 EU demands

cameron-europeThe BBC is reporting Cameron’s central ask of the EU as being

  • Protection of the single market for Britain and other non-euro countries
  • Boosting competitiveness by setting a target for the reduction of the “burden” of red tape
  • Exempting Britain from “ever-closer union” and bolstering national parliaments
  • Restricting EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits such as tax credits
Posted in News | 38 Comments

Tim Farron speaks on Housing and Planning Bill

Tim Farron condemned the Conservative government’s Housing and Planning Bill yesterday for an all-out assault on social and affordable housing, at a time when they are most needed.

Access to housing is fundamental to our liberties, our opportunities, and our hopes for the future; that applies to every person here. We therefore need a positive vision for housing that meets existing needs and gives security to the most vulnerable. We need more homes of all tenures—affordable homes that must live up to their name and be genuinely affordable. We need an ambitious plan that increases home-building to 300,000 properties a year,

Posted in Op-eds | 8 Comments

Lords vote to delay tax credit cuts but not to stop them

Yesterday’s “fatal” motion by Liberal Democrat peer Zahida Manzoor to reject the governments tax credits was lost by 310 votes to 99 with the Labour bloc abstaining – another #Labstain on welfare.

Tax credits debate in Lords

Tax credits cuts "will have such a damaging and devastating impact on millions of peoples' lives."That was the verdict of one Liberal Democrats peer – who has provoked fury among Conservatives by introducing an unusual "fatal motion" in the Lords to try to prevent the cuts' introduction.

Posted by Channel 4 News on Monday, 26 October 2015

In moving the fatal motion Baroness Manzoor said

Posted in News | 39 Comments

+++Liberals sweep to power

The Liberal Party has swept to power, winning 184 seats out of 338, an overall majority of 30. The election platform included such policies as

  • Cutting income taxes for the middle-classes while increasing them for the wealthy
  • Running deficits for three years to pay for infrastructure spending
  • Doing more to address environmental concerns over the controversial Keystone oil pipeline
  • Taking more Syrian refugees; pulling out of bombing raids against Islamic State while bolstering training for Iraqi forces
  • Legalising marijuana
Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 54 Comments

Fiscal Charter causes chaos in Parliamentary Labour Party

Fiscal CharterTomorrow Parliament debates the Fiscal Charter, this debate being a political wheeze designed to test and expose Labour’s position on public borrowing, that appears to be working beyond George Osborne’s wildest reasonable expectations.

The charter demands

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 49 Comments

David Nutt joins Liberal Democrat expert panel on drug reform

The party is setting up an expert panel to look at the case for legalisation of cannabis.

Norman Lamb was on Newsnight last night (4 minutes 30 seconds in, following a report at 1m50s) explaining the idea.

Posted in News | 11 Comments

Reaction to Theresa May speech

It is a sobering thought that this country might have two Conservative women prime ministers before there is a single one of another party. Today Theresa May made her pitch, and here is some of the reaction.

Posted in News | 29 Comments

Jeremy Corbyn speech open thread

Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech to the Labour conference as leader is due to start shortly.

All such speeches are played to two audiences: one in the hall and one in the country. How Corbyn plays this will be particularly interesting, his being a candidate of the left wing core vote and, it is suggested by his opponents, putting two fingers up to moderate public opinion.

Posted in News | 26 Comments

Susan Kramer responds to John McDonnell speech

Susan Kramer - Some rights reserved by David SpenderLiberal Democrat shadow chancellor Susan Kramer has responded to John McDonnell’s speech at the Labour conference yesterday.

Posted in News | 60 Comments

Jeremy Corbyn is not just unelectable

My Sunday at Liberal Democrat Conference seemed to dwell more on Jeremy Corbyn than might be ideal. In the Agenda 2020 session on spelling out our priorities and vision for policy development for the next 5 years, I may have derailed things a little with the following observation.

Corbyn’s election is certainly a challenge to liberal economics. If anybody else – ourselves included – had suggested price controls, printing money, and offering easy alternatives to austerity that (like Syriza) you can’t deliver, they would not only be seen to be wrong, but thought to be highly cynical, grubbing around for votes with populist messages that can’t be delivered or in the knowledge that they would do more harm than good.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged | 79 Comments

I disagree with Jeremy

Jeremy Corbyn photo by lewishamdreamer1Jeremy Corbyn strikes me as someone who is still fighting all the battles of the 1980s and has not thought much about anything since.

Re-open the coal mines! Of course – they were closed by the Tories, so they must reopen. But ban fracking – because that is getting carbon-based fuel out of the ground, which is wrong. Now I respect people who want a total ban on fracking out of concern for the local environment, or to keep the carbon in the ground. I happen to accept the evidence that it can be done safely, and that the gas has an important role in replacing dirtier coal, running standby plant for wind turbines and weakening Putin’s influence in the world.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 82 Comments

LibLink: Paddy Ashdown derides Cameron’s refugee offer

David Cameron has highly developed skills in the art of following where he should be leading. And so, after being taught an excruciating lesson in compassion, decency and leadership by Angela Merkel, and sensing himself behind opinion again, he has produced a plan to take in 20,000 refugees – over five years. Nothing better shows the PM’s tone deafness to the urgency of the situation than to announce this headline figure, and then add that it will take five years to implement.

My emphasis.

Posted in LibLink | 15 Comments

#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 | 24 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 | 8 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 | 129 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

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 26th Nov - 3:02am
    Found an English speaking security expert saying what I've been thinking: "the Nusra Front is a wolf in sheep's clothing" and "al-Qaeda is al-Qaeda". Assad,...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 26th Nov - 2:40am
    I tell you what I wouldn't vote for: the strategy that looks the one preferred by English speaking security experts, especially some of the hawks:...
  • User AvatarAndrew McCaig 26th Nov - 12:48am
    The UK is already doing plenty of "heavy lifting" against IS. According to this we had flown the largest number of sorties (up to...
  • User AvatarHoward 26th Nov - 12:45am
    Peter, it is a great pity that the Great British electorate saw fit to vote UKIP at the last EU election. Voting UKIP is a...
  • User AvatarJonathan Brown 26th Nov - 12:21am
    While I'm not hugely convinced by the need for a new group, I very much agree that we ought to deliberately reach out to social...
  • User AvatarGeorge Kendall 25th Nov - 11:53pm
    @John Marriott I think Greenfield may just be pointing out that the priority is to get PR. I agree splitting after would be unnecessary. But...