Author Archives: Nick Thornsby

How to further improve our comments threads: your suggestions please

Fingers on keyboardHere at LDV Towers we try hard to ensure that the comments threads on the site do not descend into the angry, abusive examples that are all-too prevalent around the web. As such, we have a clearly stated policy and the LDV team takes a fairly active approach to the moderation of comments. This takes up a sizeable amount of the team’s time (not least because those who post comments that breach our policy are inevitably more likely to transfer their rants to emails to us!).

Speaking albeit not entirely objectively, I think we do a decent job of keeping the worst of comments off the site, so (we hope) people can come here without fear of being personally abused.

However, speaking personally I think there is more we can do, in one area in particular.

Posted in News | Tagged | 67 Comments

The Guardian’s “10 things we’ve learned from the Lib Dem conference”

The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow has once again collected together his thoughts on the ten main things we have learned from the last few days in Glasgow.

Here are the first three:

1 – The Lib Dems have no desire to give up power. Given that the experience of being in coalition has been so electorally catastrophic, you might expect the party to have some regrets. But they don’t, and there’s no appetite for a spell in opposition. As well as a desire for another try at government, the Lib Dems are also assuming there’s a good chance it will happen. If it doesn’t, the party is in for a psychological shock.

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Tim Farron’s “active and ambitious government” – some thoughts and questions

Tim Farron speaking - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsI am a fan of Tim Farron. His decency, thoughtfulness and authenticity add a great deal to our party and to our politics. He is also one of the party’s best speakers.

But I don’t always agree with him.

His speech to conference on Tuesday was very well-delivered. It also contained some interesting themes and observations.

I was very pleased to hear Tim defend globalisation, though it is a shame he chose to do so so briefly:

Don’t get me wrong: the rewards of globalisation are real.

The free movement of people, of capital, of ideas, have all made our society better.

And Liberals should always defend that freedom.

As I have written before on LDV, the successes of globalisation are immense, particularly in the reduction and, in places, near-elimination of destitution.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 28 Comments

Jeremy Browne’s ‘Why Vote Liberal Democrat 2015′ published

Jeremy Browne bookBiteback, the political publishing company, has just published a series of short books by figures from each of the four main parties making their case for voting for their party in next year’s general election. Dan Jarvis has written the Labour edition, Nick Herbert the Tory edition and Suzanne Evans the Ukip one (a new edition since 2010!).

The Lib Dem version is written by Jeremy Browne, MP for Taunton Deane, former home and foreign office minister and, of course, earlier this year the author of Race Plan.

Jeremy has split the book into the following chapters:

Posted in News | Tagged | 33 Comments

Why talking about global poverty reduction without talking about economic growth is a mistake

chinese by Kenno McDonnellBetween 1990 and 2010, the proportion of those living in extreme poverty around the world halved (from 43% to 21%), despite significant increases in the global population. Approaching one billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty now than two decades ago. One of the key United Nations Millennium Development Goals was met 5 years early.

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Conference agenda published; deadline for amendments and emergency motions extended

Party members should last night have received an email from David Laws with an update on next month’s conference. The majority of the agenda and the directory have now been made available on the party website (some items will be published following the rescheduled launch of the pre-manifesto next Monday).

To reflect the delayed publication the deadline for the submission of amendments and emergency motions has also been extended to Wednesday 24 September.

Here’s David’s email in full:

Important documents for the Glasgow Conference, including the Agenda and Directory, have just been made available on the party website – please click to see them.

The Pre-Manifesto, which I have been leading on as chair of the Manifesto Group, will now be published next Monday along with the policy papers on Public Services and an Ageing Society (which also include some of the same new policy proposals)

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Rennie on the SNP’s “dishonest, desperate and disgraceful” NHS scaremongering

nhs sign lrgScottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie delivered a passionate speech yesterday setting out his positive arguments for Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.

A link to the whole speech is below, but he spent a bit of time rebutting some recent scaremongering by the SNP on the issue of the NHS:

And across the UK, few things unite people like our belief in the NHS.

Founded on the principles that it should meet the needs of everyone, that it should be free at the point of delivery, and that it should be based on clinical need not the ability to pay, it remains a source of pride in which each and every one of us has a stake.

These principles are unique and they are enduring.

For the Nationalists to claim that they are under threat is dishonest, desperate and disgraceful.

It is also factually wrong.

Despite the financial pressure of the global financial crisis, the NHS budget has been protected and NHS funding in England is now £12.7 billion higher than it was in 2010.

Private sector involvement in England’s NHS is paid for with public money, meaning that the cash equivalent is protected for Scotland – and the Scottish Government can spend it however they see fit.

The publicly-funded NHS was this year ranked best healthcare system across the 11 richest countries in the world – and we are determined to keep it that way.

But five weeks out from the independence referendum, and the SNP has suddenly started to pretend that funding is in doubt.

Standing on street corners, dripping poison about the NHS into the ears of passers bye is a sign of just how desperate they are becoming.

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LibLink: Tim Farron – Where have all the political giants gone?

CO 1069-1-3. Harold Macmillan. Photo by National ArchIves UKOver on politics.co.uk, party president Tim Farron has been expanding on some of the themes of his weekend lecture. He begins with some interesting history:

When you ask me who my political heroes are, I will reel off a list of people like Beveridge, Penhaligon, Harry Willcock (the man who brought down the ID cards scheme in the 1950s) and Paddy Ashdown.  But in the last 12 months I have become attached to Harold MacMillan, when he was housing minister between 1951-1954. This admission usually raises an eyebrow or two.

Now, MacMillan is a much maligned political figure, I think that has much more to do with his association with David Cameron than to do with him. But as housing minister he was someone who, working under the post-war consensus, delivered one the best social policy achievements of the 20th century – he delivered 300,000 homes a year.

In 1951, he was appointed by Churchill to be housing minister – his task, to build 300,000 per year. It was a bold policy in the Conservative party manifesto and one many considered totally undeliverable. Famously, when tasked by Churchill, he was told: “It is a gamble. It will make or mar your political career. But every humble home will bless your name if you succeed.”

photo by:
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TTIP — the US-EU trade deal. What is it, and where is it up to?

Container Ship tradeAt last year’s autumn conference, the Lib Dems pledged to support a new trade agreement between the European Union and the United States — known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The motion, ‘Strengthening the UK Economy’ (pdf), called on the coalition to:

Increase trading opportunities by working in the EU to ensure that the success of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, doing everything possible to revive the World Trade Organisation led Doha Development Round and further integrating the EU services market.

Since then there has been significant …

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Lib Dems need to take every opportunity to get our message out there

Megaphone, some rights reserved by garrykinghtI’ve made no secret of my view that a change in leadership is likely to do little to revive Liberal Democrat fortunes at the polls given the rather more structural reasons for the decline in support for the party.

But I also recognise that to continue doing and saying the same things over and over again and expecting a different result is not only the definition of insanity but is unlikely to lead to an electoral revival:

We should not simply keep calm and carry on, but nor should we lose our heads either. The long-term success of the party is best served by

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Before learning lessons from Ukip’s success, we first have to put that success in perspective

UKIP logoMy LDV colleague Joe Otten yesterday kicked off what we hope will be a little mini series reflecting on the success of Ukip (and other extreme right parties across Europe) in last week’s European elections.

I agree with Joe that is something we should discuss with some seriousness – and I look forward to reading your contributions in the comments and in posts on the site.

But I think before we start to “learn lessons” we have to put the vote in some context.

It is difficult to think of conditions that could …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 80 Comments

Now is not the time for a bitter and bloody leadership battle

Nick Clegg addresses Birmingham Liberal Democrats conference. Photo courtesy of the Liberal DemocratsOne of the most interesting (and logistically challenging – though that’s another story) conference fringe events I have had a hand in organising through my involvement with Liberal Reform was a panel of fellow liberals from across Europe talking about their experiences of being members of a coalition.

I wanted to hold such an event to counter the all too prevalent assumption that the problems facing the Liberal Democrats are somehow unique to us. Because they are most certainly not.

Where parties enter …

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LibLink: Lord Wallace – EU membership is essential for Britain’s national security

European FlagWriting on the European Movement UK blog, Lord (William) Wallace has some interesting thoughts on the importance of European cooperation to Britain’s strategic and security interests.

Here’s a snippet:

The 2010 National Security Strategy stood out from its predecessors by its inclusion of a number of non-military threats among the most serious it sees as facing Britain: global epidemics, organised crime and cross-border terrorism , the impact of climate change, and cyber-attack.

photo by: rockcohen
Posted in LibLink | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

CCHQ seem to be misremembering again – let’s help them out

Generous-hearted souls that we are here at LDV Towers, we are inclined to think that the good people of Conservative Party HQ have been getting a little confused again in recent days. You see, to mark the end of the month, when many people will be receiving their pay slips, they have been tweeting about the coalition’s success in raising the income tax personal allowance:

This …

Posted in News | Tagged | 2 Comments

Book review: Jeremy Browne’s ‘Race Plan’

Jeremy Browne - Some rights reserved by Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeJeremy Browne spent just over three years as a government minister following the formation of the coalition in 2010, first in the Foreign Office, where his responsibilities included Britain’s relations with countries in Pacific Asia and Latin America, and latterly in the Home Office. However, reading his new book, Race Plan: An authentic liberal plan to get Britain fit for ‘The Global Race’, it does not take long to discover which of these offices had the biggest influence on his political outlook.

Because while the detail of the book focusses primarily on domestic policy, the theme that pulls it together, which provides its context, is Britain’s role in a rapidly-changing, globalising world.

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

Call Clegg: Ukraine, Europe, Boris’s mansion tax, Vince’s ‘gaffe’, collective responsibility and immigration

First up on this morning’s Call Clegg was, unsurprisingly, Ukraine. After discussing the situation generally Clegg was asked why he thought financial support for the country was a good idea. His response was clear:

It is in our interests to have a stable rather than unstable Ukraine.  It is in our interests to have a prosperous rather than an impoverished Ukraine.  Because if Ukraine is in a sense brought to its knees economically and socially never mind what the military incursions are from Russia, we’ll end up frankly paying a much higher cost in the years to come.

Next up he repeated …

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Clegg opposes ban on halal and kosher slaughter; now we need to hear his reasons

Nick Clegg has said he is “emphatically” opposed to the UK introducing a ban on the slaughter of animals in compliance with what some see as religious requirements. Slaughter of animals for the production of halal or kosher meat is currently exempt from UK regulations requiring animals to be stunned into unconsciousness before having their throats cut.

Clegg was answering a question on his weekly LBC phone-in, prompted by a recent ban on such slaughter imposed by the Danish government, where agriculture minister Dan Jørgensen supported a ban on the basis that “animal rights come before religion”.

Here’s how the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow summarised Clegg’s response when asked whether he supports a Denmark-style ban:

Emphatically not, says Clegg.

No government of which he was part would support this, he says.

He says he supports the right of Jewish and Muslim communities to decide how animals are slaughtered. That is an important liberal position, he says.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 39 Comments

Yes, food poverty is real – but the situation is complex and solutions are not straightforward

Food poverty, it seems to me, is a slightly odd term, but its apparent necessity is, I think, a reflection of the tortuous treatment imposed on the word “poverty”. Poverty now, in common usage (at least among experts in such issues), means “relative poverty”, which essentially means inequality. So when we actually want to refer to poverty as the word would historically have been understood (as being unable to satisfy one’s basic needs) we have to apply a prefix: fuel poverty, food poverty etc.

While Britain clearly has its share of poverty on the relative definition, in theory there ought to be no such thing as food poverty. A generously funded social security system should mean that anyone in danger of being in such a situation (whether in work or not) ought to be caught by the state’s safety net.

I think most can agree, though, that this theoretical scenario is not always the case in practice.

Unfortunately, however, I don’t think the agreement goes any further, particularly when we look at levels of food poverty and its causes.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 97 Comments

Ed Davey’s speech to the IPPR on climate change

Here’s how the Guardian previewed Ed Davey’s speech this afternoon to the Institute for Public Policy Research:

Britain’s climate change policy is under threat from a “diabolical cocktail” of nimbyism, denial of science and fear of Europe from politicians on the right, the energy secretary will say on Thursday.

Amid growing warnings about a potential link between global warming and extreme UK weather, Ed Davey will raise concerns that the politicial consensus about the need to tackle climate change is in danger of breaking down as some in the Conservative and Ukip parties try to discredit the science.

He will say that the actions of climate deniers are “undermining public trust in the scientific evidence for climate change” and that “we can see around us today the possible consequences of a world in which extreme weather events are much more likely”.

In his speech at the IPPR thinktank on Thursday, Davey will criticise those who seize on “any anomaly in the climate data to attempt to discredit the whole”.

Taking aim at “climate change denying Conservatism”, which he calls wilfully ignorant, he warns that it could create a diabolical cocktail that threatens the whole long-term structure of UK climate change and energy policy.

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Uncomfortable truths from the IFS on public spending and tax cuts but cautious optimism on economic growth

Last week, the highly-respected Institute for Fiscal Studies produced its annual “Green Budget”: its attempt to inject some realism into the national debate on the economy ahead of the chancellor’s actual budget in March.

The document makes for uncomfortable reading in parts, particularly as we head towards another general election in which the complicity of silence on deficit reduction is likely to be as deafening as it was in 2010.

IFS borrowingDeficit reduction: significant progress, but some way to go

Starting with the deficit, the IFS’s conclusions are stark. Had the government not taken steps to increase taxes and cut spending in the years since 2008, they estimate that the deficit would have reached 10% of national income by 2018-19. Because of the estimated 16.7% permanent reduction in economic capacity caused by the crash of 2008, 98% of that deficit would be “structural” – i.e. would not be expected to reduce naturally once growth picked up:

For an economy such as the UK, this level of borrowing would have been unsustainable on an ongoing basis. Public sector net debt would have increased markedly year-on-year, likely surpassing 100% of national income before the end of the current decade, and 200% within the next two decades.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 30 Comments

LibLink: Stephen Tall – Five predictions for 2014

Over on ConHome, LDV’s Stephen Tall has been gazing into his crystal ball.

Here are his first two prophecies:

1) The four current main party leaders – Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Farage – will still lead their parties in a year’s time. They’ll all face threats. Cameron will when Ukip beats the Conservatives in May’s Euro elections; Clegg will when the Lib Dems likely suffer another disappointing set of results in both the locals and the Euros; Miliband will if Labour gets beaten in the Euros and he is forced into an embarrassing compromise with the union paymasters at the special conference he called in the wake of the Falkirk / Unite row; and Farage will as his party and his leadership comes under closer public scrutiny (as already shown by this week’s ‘reverse ferret’ over admitting only Christian but not Muslim refugees from Syria).

2) The economic recovery will pick up pace and start to be noticed by voters. Growth is forecast to be 2% and unemployment to keep falling – that will start feeding into a more general feel-good factor. However, as real wages won’t begin to rise for another year, you can expect to hear more, much more, from Labour about the ‘cost of living crisis’. Conservatives will hail George Osborne as an economic saviour (as Geoffrey Howe was a generation before) while ignoring how he diluted Plan A when it was failing and how he has back-dated much of the public spending cuts to after the 2015 election. Whatever the facts of the matter, the politics of it is straightforward: a fragile economic recovery suits the Conservatives, who will have only to point at Eds Miliband and Balls and ask “Do you really want to hand the economy back to Labour?” The Lib Dems meanwhile will, I suspect, receive increasing traction for our ‘Stronger economy, fairer society’ pitch to the electorate, acting as a buffer between the worst excesses of either Labour or Conservative single-party rule.

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Lib Dems should aim for a budget surplus not because the Tories want to, but because it is right

All parties have a mixture of deficit hawks and doves – those who believe in balanced budgets and those who aren’t too bothered. The Lib Dems are no exception, but I think we are different in the motivations underlying these positions.

Many Tories often seem to see deficit reduction as an end in and of itself, not even necessarily because they want to see a smaller state and lower taxes, but simply because their ideology teaches that budget deficits are Bad Things.

And in recent years, some Labour figures have begun to sound like their ideology teaches that budget deficits are inherently …

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JFK: educator of the nation or a presidential achiever?

John F KennedyOn Monday 7 August 1962, Arthur Schlesinger, liberal historian and adviser to President John F Kennedy, had lunch at the White House with a friend of his, Harvard historian Frank Freidel. Naturally enough, the pair stopped off in the Oval Office for Freidel to be introduced to the president.

Among the things discussed was an article written by Schlessinger’s father, also a very accomplished historian, and published the previous month in The New York Times Magazine. In the piece, Schlessinger Sr published the results of a poll of 75 leading …

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LibLink: Stephen Tall – Who could lead the Tories and Lib Dems after 2015?

Our very own Stephen Tall has been moonlighting again for the lucky people over at Conservative Home. For this edition Stephen has unpacked his crystal ball and programmed it to Spring 2015, where he finds several possible scenarios confronting Messrs Clegg and Cameron.

Here’s a sample:

Conventional wisdom suggests David Cameron will have to win outright to be sure of continuing as Conservative leader. After all, the last Conservative leader to fail to win two successive elections outright – Edward Heath in 1974 – is not a happy precedent. Yet if the Conservatives were to emerge as the largest single party once

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 52 Comments

Clegg: Yes to intensive support for unemployed young people; no to automatic benefit withdrawal

On his weekly LBC phone-in earlier today, Nick Clegg took a call (from Lib Dem activist Linda Jack; see comments) on the proposals mooted at the Conservative Party Conference to remove the automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit from those aged under 25 and require them to be in either work, education or training.

The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour has written up Clegg’s response (which has been slightly unfairly characterised, or at least oversimplified, in the headline):

Clegg said he supported the idea that some claimants who had been on the work programme for two years should work for their dole, the proposal

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Carmichael goes sober in October

Everyone’s favourite chief whip, our very own Alistair Carmichael, has taken the somewhat drastic step (at least to those of us positioned nearest the LDV towers booze cupboard) of making October a Scotch-free zone. As MP for a constituency boasting such fine exports, one suspects that’s not a decision that will have been taken lightly, but it has been taken in aide of the best of causes, namely Macmillan Cancer Support.

Alistair’s only been on the wagon for two-and-a-half days, but has already raised nearly £200. We’re sure …

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Jo Swinson answers your questions, 2-3pm today

Jo Swinson, MP for East Dunbartonshire and a minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is taking part in a live Q&A this afternoon from 2-3pm over at the Guardian.

Here’s how the site introduces Jo:

When she took her seat in parliament in 2005, Jo Swinson was the first MP to have been born in the 1980s. In 2012 she became a government minister after the Lib Dems formed a coalition with the Conservative party.

As minister for women and equalities, Swinson has made it her mission to bring about a change in culture around women in the workplace.

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LibLink: Caron Lindsay – Why home rule would be better for Scotland than independence

Our very own Caron Lindsay has been moonlighting over at The Herald, with an excellent piece on the relative merits of independence and home rule.

Here’s a sample:

First and foremost I’m a mum. I want my daughter and her children beyond her to live in a prosperous, inclusive, progressive, liberal, Scotland.

That word liberal is a bit of a giveaway, however. I’ve been active in Liberal Democrat politics for 30 years, since joining as a curious 15 year-old during the 1983 election. I’m a federalist and my views on how Scotland’s governance should work were very neatly summed up by

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Civil liberties and social justice: the stumbling blocks to a future coalition?

One of the themes that a number of journalists decided to pursue during last week’s Lib Dem conference was the possibility of a 2015 election outcome which leaves the door open to an arrangement with either Labour or the Conservatives. The LDV team has taken the bait: Stephen has reminded us of the challenges of forming a coalition with either party in 2015, and Joe has warned of the dangers of an equidistance which seeks simply to slit the difference between Labour and the Conservatives.

But amidst the discussions of the politics and the personalities, the one thing that …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 18 Comments

Clegg pushes for transatlantic trade deal

Container Ship tradeWhen, just over a week ago, conference overwhelmingly backed motion F19, “Strengthening the UK Economy” (pdf), it voted for our party to lead the way on free trade, thanks to the following addition (in which I played a small role), which was “drafted into” the motion:

8. Increase trading opportunities by working in the EU to ensure that the success of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, doing everything possible to revive the World Trade Organisation led Doha Development Round and further integrating the EU services market.

The party’s leadership …

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