Author Archives: Nick Thornsby

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 | 86 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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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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LibLink: Anuja Prashar – At the heart of why Europe matters

Operation Black Vote has an interesting interview with Anuja Prashar, Lib Dem Euro candidate in London, covering a whole range of issues, including her views of the future of the European Union.

Here’s a sample:

Prashar, an OBV graduate from the 2011 Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme, is rapidly making her political presence be felt. Having shadowed Baroness Ros Scott, former President of the Liberal Democrats with who she has maintained a relationship, Prashar feels she was given a unique and exceptional opportunity on OBV’s scheme and was surrounded with like-minded people.

During my time talking with her she consistently reiterated the need for our

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Why we should consider the detention of David Miranda and destruction of the Guardian’s data as distinct issues

The conflation of the detention of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, and the story of the Guardian having destroyed the computers on which a version of the data released by Edward Snowden was stored was perhaps inevitable, and has certainly been encouraged by the Guardian. But we should avoid considering the issues as a single whole, for there are separate arguments at play in each in relation to the actions of the state and others, particularly when it comes to the actions of Liberal Democrats in government.

I have relatively few concerns about the state’s actions regarding …

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Immigration, Asylum and Identity consultation paper now available

The working group focusing on the party’s policies on immigration, asylum and identity, chaired by Andrew Stunell MP, has just released its consultation paper ahead of next month’s conference.

The paper’s introduction sets out its aims thus:

1.1.1 The policy working group Immigration, Asylum & Identity aims to craft a practical, liberalpolicy which rebuilds public confidence in an immigration system that should be robust, efficient,and fair.

1.1.2 This consultation paper focuses on the future of migration as it affects the UK, theoperation of the asylum process in the context of our obligations under international law, and theintegration of immigrant communities and new citizens

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Falling living standards are a problem of Labour’s making

Making use of the slowest news month of the year, the Labour party has released details of a report which (shock horror) has shown that living standards have fallen as a result of the financial crisis and subsequent recession.

Of course, they don’t put it quite like that, choosing to blame the coalition rather than the bust they promised would never come. Here’s Chris Leslie, Labour’s shadow financial secretary to the Treasury (presumably Balls is on holiday…):

David Cameron will go down in history as a disastrous Prime Minister for people’s living standards. He is totally out of touch, his economic policies

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 40 Comments

Clegg: I’m perfectly relaxed about my staff wearing shorts to work

VANCL-Hawaiian-Beach-Shorts-Men-s-Yellow-White-SKU_6609665.bakHad all those staff cooped up in 70 Whitehall who are responsible to the deputy prime minister been listening to LBC 97.3 this morning (which I’m sure they weren’t of course; far too busy) they would have heard their boss announcing a dispensation from the usual rules of Whitehall attire, and giving them permission to turn up to work tomorrow in shorts.

The DPM didn’t even lay down any ground rules, so it seems it really is dress-down Friday time. Hawaiian shorts. A classy little three-quarter length denim number. And of course flip-flops and sandals. Or perhapsa less revealing pair of espadrilles.

Posted in Humour and News | 8 Comments

Clegg: Party funding reforms “cannot go forward in this Parliament”

For over a year, David Laws, Lib Dem chief executive Tim Gordon, Francis Maude, Conservative Party co-chairman Lord Andrew Feldman, ex-cabinet minister John Denham and former Labour Party general secretary and current whip Lord Ray Collins have been engaged in cross-party talks to attempt to secure a deal to reform party funding.

Today, Nick Clegg announced in a written ministerial statement (pdf) that those talks have collapsed:

Following the publication of the 13th Report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) in November 2011, I convened discussions between the three main political parties to discuss possible reforms to party funding.

Representatives

Posted in News | Tagged | 12 Comments

Party groups respond to the Spending Round

Here’s your usual round-up of comments from Lib Dem party groups following yesterday’s spending round announcements.

Both Liberal Reform and the Social Liberal Forum issued press releases. Here’s what the SLF said:

Danny Alexander MP will tomorrow announce details of capital spending plans, a result of hard-fought negotiations led by Vince Cable and others. The Social Liberal Forumm recognises that further cuts to current spending in the Chancellor’s Spending Review today are unlikely to repair public finances in the absence of robust economic recovery. Today’s announcements are insufficient to tackle our real economic challenges following the banking crisis and the alarming collapse

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Interview: Nick Clegg on the economy, welfare, Cleggism and the “superb” Kung Fu Panda films

CleggWe brought you a taste of the Voice’s exclusive interview with the deputy prime minister yesterday. Here is the full interview, covering the economy, welfare reform, pensions, Cleggism, our approach to the manifesto, Kung Fu Panda and Clegg’s cooking.

Nick Thornsby: What’s your take on where the economy is now, three and a bit years into the coalition?

Nick Clegg: My overall assessment is that it is healing. There are signs of confidence slowly seeping back into the sinews of the economy. Some of the latest data on consumer confidence are better …

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Clegg shares his concerns over legal aid plans – full transcript

I spent half an hour on a train with Nick Clegg yesterday, chatting to him about a range of subjects for an interview that will run on the site later this week. After the interview I tweeted about Clegg’s interesting answer to my question to him on legal aid, and a journalist I know from the Mail on Sunday got in touch to say the paper was running a story on the subject and would be interested in seeing his answer. Here’s the Mail’s take:

A cabinet split over plans to cut legal aid deepened last night as Deputy Prime

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Local Government Conference live blog

Good morning from the Mercure Hotel in Manchester, where Liberal Democrats from around the country are gathered at the Local Government Conference jointly organised by ALDC and the Lib Dem contingent of the LGA.

The agenda for the day is here (pdf). I’ll cover as much as I can of some of the talks, as well as some comments from Don Foster, Gerald Vernon-Jackson and others. There will be a bit of a break mid-morning while I interview Nick Clegg for the site (we’ll publish the interview this week).

I’ll also try and post on the Lib Dem Voice twitter account

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TOMORROW: Join us for coverage of the Lib Dem Local Government Conference

The Local Government Conference organised jointly by ALDC and the Lib Dem LGA group takes place tomorrow in Manchester. As you can see from the agenda (pdf) there is a packed schedule, with numerous MPs including Nick Clegg, Tim Farron and Ed Davey in attendance.

I will also be there, covering things for the site. I’ll have a live blog running here where I will bring you coverage of some of the talks, and hopefully some interviews from some of the participants. I’ll also try and tweet, both from my own twitter and the Lib Dem Voice account.

If you …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 2 Comments

The Syrian civil war is a humanitarian disaster: the time has come to intervene

There are few things about which we can be certain in the Syrian crisis, but there are some. We can be sure that brutal, unspeakable and unimaginable things are happening on a daily basis, particularly and most distressingly of all to the country’s children. We can also be sure that somehow, someday the war will end.

When it will end is anybody’s guess. How it will do so is a slightly easier to guess at. We know that Bashar al-Assad is militarily strong, thanks to the supply of weapons from Iran and Russia, and soldiers from Lebanon’s Hezbollah. We know that …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 36 Comments

Obama to Clegg: “It’s good to see the better looking half of the coalition”

Clegg ObamaNot content with insulting the chancellor by calling him Jeffrey on three occasions at the G8 summit, President Obama also dealt a blow to the prime minister’s vanity, via his deputy. The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn reports:

In a second diplomatic gaffe on the same day, Mr Obama said Nick Clegg was more attractive than David Cameron. He told the Deputy PM: “It’s good to see the better looking half of the Coalition.”

Ouch.

Posted in News | 7 Comments

“I refute these allegations” – no, you don’t

I blame the lawyers. It seems to be standard practice for those in the public eye accused of wrongdoing, or their lawyers, to make public statements asserting that they “refute” whatever allegations are being made.

But while they might deny them, or reject them, or dispute them, they do not “refute” them.

Here is the definition of that word:

Verb

  1. Prove (a statement or theory) to be wrong or false; disprove.
  2. Prove that (someone) is wrong.

As the lawyers that make these statements know, denying something is not the same as proving it to be wrong. So I urge my fellow lawyers: stop this assault …

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarManfarang 17th Apr - 4:59am
    Better a proper separation of Church and state. The disestablishment of the Church of England is long overdue. We don't need bishops in the House...
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    Helen. Please re-read my comments carefully and you will observe that I do not make the sweeping conclusions you allege. Nowhere do I imply that...
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    It is a good thing that unemployment has fallen to 6.9% and this means 2.24 million people are out of work looking for employment. However...
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    I agree with those who say that the Student Premium has not been explained very well. However to those who say we can’t afford to...
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    'He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against...
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    Gojam, isn't it also clear that Jack McCann and the Labour Party were also aware of Smith activities. The RAP article suggests McCann got Smith...