Author Archives: Joe Otten

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.

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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

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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



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  • User AvatarSteveL 21st Aug - 12:36am
    The Thames used to freeze over. It stopped doing so long before human influences on climate change. There are points in recorded history when Britain...
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    I agree with both firstly, Andi Ali, and also Matthew Huntchback. CR deserves an apology. I hope that he will not be ostracised in our...
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    It's funny, isn't it. Pick any academic field you like - dyslexia, First World war, GM crops, whatever - and there are a host of...
  • User AvatarPeter 20th Aug - 11:44pm
    JoeBourke If I may, some final comments from me on this debate. Thank you for your courteous contributions. I suspect you have some connection with...
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    tonyhill writes: "I can’t see that UKIP stands a chance of developing a set of practical policies that can satisfy its ideologically incoherent supporters." That...
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    The article still presumes guilt, ignores the outcomes of numerous investigations. Requesting Lord Rennard to consider his position within the Party is bang out of...