Author Archives: Paul Reynolds

Going forward, it’s all incredibly important to ordinary people

cf fringeOuch ! Don’t we sometimes cringe when we hear political or bureaucratic jargon during conference debates and fringe meetings?

Here are some of my favourite high-cringe-factor beauties…just a bit of fun….

1. Engaging with the public

Paints a picture of the general public and a political elite going out to meet ‘ordinary people’ (see below). Why not say ‘conduct research’, ‘find out what people want’, or just ‘meet people’.

Posted in Humour | 10 Comments

Opinion: Why the Lib Dem membership should strongly oppose the UK’s new Iraq-Syria ‘bombing war’

iraqBeheadings, women buried alive, executions for being in the wrong tribe ? This is not the democratic peaceful Iraq promised in 2003. But just 3 years after the US withdrawal, they went back again in early August with a bombing campaign, and now the UK is joining them.

The Prime Minister’s intent to bomb Syria as well as Iraq is the subject of apparent disagreement between the Foreign Office and Downing St. The flaky legal justification is that Syria is unable to prevent fighters from crossing the (unmarked) desert border into Iraq. However, since the US has declared the Syrian regime illegitimate and has supported anti-government rebels, it has contributed to that ‘inability’. That explains the Foreign Office reticence.

photo by: The U.S. Army
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 46 Comments

Opinion: Constitutional Change? Not so fast…

On the subject of Post-Scottish-Referendum constitutional reform in the UK, I wish to counsel my fellow Liberal Democrats with a  call for sobriety and modesty.

Sure, we  are the party which is most in favour of constitutional reform and the Tories and Labour are clearly, by comparison, the parties of the constitutional status quo.

Before we get too excited that the public and political pundits will rush to support us, because now everyone is playing to our agenda, we should look to our own policies and assess what WE also need to recast in the light of changed political circumstances. Let us not fall into a trap of our own making and mistakenly believe that our long standing or more recent policies are a 100% fit with the public mood for constitutional change. Nor should we assume that we are automatically well-placed to capitalise politically on the recent ways in which the public have expressed anti-Westminster-elite  sentiments.

Constitutional reform in the UK is very complex and there is much scope for officials to tie politicians in knots, and to ‘Yes Minister’ us into contradictions that will result in minimal change. One reason for this is the fact that we are one of only three countries in the world without formal special (‘superior’) constitutional law, and parliamentary sovereignty makes it almost impossible for us to adopt such laws in peacetime.

Posted in News | Tagged | 10 Comments

Opinion: The power of the state to confiscate your passport and citizenship

The British Prime Minister has explained that there is a significant risk to our security, due to Muslim residents of the UK travelling to fight with IS/ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and returning radicalised to the UK.

The remedy, supported by Lib Dem parliamentarians, is for the government to follow the USA and give itself the power to stop people travelling out of the UK, and to generate ‘no fly lists’.  In addition, it has also been explained that the UK government is seeking the power to strip people of their acquired UK citizenship, if you travel to Syria or Iraq with the potential intention to fight.

The rationale for these sweeping authoritarian powers for the state, seems pretty flaky. Why does it apparently apply to Muslims travelling to Syria and Iraq and not the more numerous other religious zealots travelling to other countries to fight ? How is ‘intention to fight’ defined, even if it can be ? And are we to believe that persons travelling to countries they have no connection with to die for their religion are not already radicalised ?

The problem we are told is global jihad. But why commit people to legal limbo in countries abroad where they are prey to all sorts of folk ? If we know who they are, isn’t it better to have them identified and under watch in the UK after they return, than getting up to who-knows-what in the Mid East ? If such returnees commit terrorist acts in the UK won’t that be an intel failure ? But if they cannot be identified in the first place then all these new measures are useless anyway.

As eminent senior counsel at BIICL’s Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law have shown, such powers are routinely used more widely than intended, and in this case it is likely that they will eventually be used against those merely disagreeing with the UK’s foreign policy, rather than militarised religious extremists.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 24 Comments

Opinion: I’ve got the Orange Book blues

Orange_BookThere have been many articles in LDV on the recent ‘Orange Book Two’ conference but I wanted to comment, by way of reflection a month later, on the sum of the more classical liberal ideas presented at the conference, particularly my slight feeling of, well, perhaps ‘emptiness’, as I left the conference for a flight at Heathrow.

The presentations and speeches were polished, interesting, stimulating, and full of fact-based insights especially on issues such as the dangers of an overbearing government and how the sheer volume of economic regulation …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Opinion: Six reasons why Lib Dems need to support the leader

Nick Clegg Q&A 8(Warning. This is not comfortable reading)

The decline in popular support for the Lib Dems since 2010 has been painful, culminating in Sunday’s near-wipeout in the European elections – and being beaten in the popular vote by the Greens.

We are a year away from the general election. The improving economy and Lib Dem policy successes like the Pupil Premium and larger tax allowances have not fed, so far, into electoral success. Can and should anything be done to recover the situation in the coming year ? Is ‘holding one’s nerve’ (or as critics might say, ‘doing nothing different’) a viable option ?

There have been a few calls for the leader to resign.  Uncomfortable though the reasons are, here are six why the leader should stay beyond the general election:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 44 Comments

Opinion: An open letter to UKIP voters

Letters Play Important Roles in our LivesDear UKIP voter

Although you are probably not an avid reader of the Lib Dem Voice website, this letter may get to you through the usual ‘viral’ internet ‘system.

The opinion surveys suggest that there are three main reasons for people like yourself voting UKIP.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 107 Comments

Opinion: The Scottish independence referendum – a lack of wisdom in the pro-UK camp?

September 14th "Welcome to Scotland"In September 2014, the Scottish public will vote on independence from the rest of the UK. As of mid-April 2014, the opinion polls suggest that the pro-UK camp is ahead, but over the past few weeks the pro-independence camp has been fast catching up. Why?

One reason seems to be the spat between the London-based UK administration and the Scottish National Party (SNP) over the role of Britain’s sterling currency. All three main UK national parties stepped in behind a sudden policy of non-cooperation with an independent Scotland …

photo by: amandabhslater
Posted in News, Op-eds and Scotland | Tagged , , , and | 22 Comments

Opinion: York conference debates tough UK approach to Ukraine crisis

shekhovtsov_ends_468wAt our spring conference in York, there was an emergency ‘Topical Debate’ on the Ukraine crisis.

The debate reflected United Kingdom attitudes to the Ukraine crisis, but there were some far-reaching implications for some of the views expressed. Importantly, the UK was a signatory to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, whereby Ukraine gave up its massive nuclear weapons stockpile in return for full guarantees of its territorial integrity – an agreement now clearly breached by one of its other signatories, the Russian Federation.

Today, the UK has military surveillance aircraft flying along the Polish and Romanian borders with Ukraine, monitoring Russian military activity, and military assets also monitoring Southern Ukraine including Crimea, and its Russian borders. If diplomacy fails, the UK would almost certainly be involved in any military measures that follow.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 25 Comments

Opinion: Shocking complacency in UK banking reform

In British politics there is one area of policy where popular sentiment and dire need strongly coincide. Banking reform.

Opinion surveys seem to suggest that it is Chancellor Osborne’s ‘Achilles Heel’. Indeed, senior ‘expert’ LibDems have expressed concern over the last three years about the pace of reforms. Now Labour has jumped on the bandwagon, and may reap electoral benefits. YouGov polling of a few weeks ago found…

… 67% thought was ineffective. Only 18% were confident that changes to the banking sector over the last few years were enough to stop a repeat of the banking crash. The

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Opinion: 1914, 1973 and the lessons for an EU exit?

1973The hundredth anniversary of the start of World War One has led to historians tortuously drawing parallels with the global rivalries of today. For Britain, the useful lessons from WW1 lie in European policy – and the rather lame campaign to stay in the EU.

After decades of anti-EU vignettes in UK newspapers, often with scant basis in fact, much of the British public have become emotionally negative towards ‘Europe’. There is receptiveness to the EU being blamed for all manner of problems; from perceived ‘illegal immigration’ to bureaucratic over-regulation.

The anti-EU camp has achieved an astonishing supplementary victory – confining the debate about the negative consequences of EU exit to a few ‘economic technicalities’. Investment curtailed? A million jobs lost? Claim and counter-claim fudge public perceptions on the possible economic downsides of EU exit.

What is surprising is that the in/out debate is conducted as if we were Iceland or Liechtenstein weighing up joining EFTA or the EU. It is also conducted as if it was still 1973 (when the UK joined), there were only 6 members, and we have 14 days to cancel.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 30 Comments

Opinion: Planning a new constitution for the United Kingdom

This is the time of year when there is much political reflection. The Queen’s Christmas message this year was one of Her Majesty’s best. Whilst not everyone listens avidly to our Monarch’s words, the tone and its conciliatory notes encourage sanguine thoughts.

I wish the Queen long life and look forward to a reign that significantly exceeds that of Queen Victoria, or even Louis le Grand.

The effects on the psyche of the United Kingdom of the Queen’s long reign undoubtedly run deep, especially in providing a canopy of permanence and stability. In today’s ephemeral world of celebrity, it is almost certainly fair …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 14 Comments

Opinion: Political deference to today’s orthodoxy is the UK’s economic problem

All three main political parties in the UK today broadly accept the Bank of England’s (BoE’s) programme of buying the paper ‘assets’ of banks with printed money – worthless and valuable alike (quantitative easing – QE). There are few dissenters, but I am one of them.

My dissenting post-2008 remedy was a managed partial default/bankruptcy of the UK’s insolvent banks with a quick operational reboot, on the grounds that it would be cheaper than a printed-money ‘bankers subsidy’. The quantity of intricately interwoven bad assets was unknown, and thus the UK government was subsidising a pig-in-a-poke, I believed.

But hey ho we …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 26 Comments

ALDE Congress passes UK Liberal Democrat motion calling for a halt to drone attacks

On 28th, 29th, and 30th Nov, the Annual Congress of European liberal parties in the European Parliament and beyond, (ALDE) met in London. The ‘pan-European’ liberal manifesto was agreed for the upcoming Euro elections, (no mean feat !), and several other resolutions were passed.

The UK Lib Dems had one motion on the agenda. This was an emergency motion on armed drone attacks, put forward following new on-the-ground data from the UN and others on civilians being killed, and following a European defence meeting which failed to address the illegality of the attacks, instead focusing on the capacity of ‘Europe’ to …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 16 Comments

Opinion: The Egypt crisis and the role of the UK

For the benefit of Lib Dem members who read LDV I thought it useful to offer up a perspective on the current crisis as a contribution to understanding on the topic – especially important from a Coalition perspective given the UK Foreign Secretary’s recent highly controversial pronouncements.

Historically the military has had a major role in Egyptian society and its age-old pursuit of autonomy & independence – from the centuries of Mamluks to the post-independence military governments, and President Mubarak’s Western-backed thirty-year de facto military rule. The state, whilst strong on ‘security’, is generally incompetent and corrupt, such that it is …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Opinion: The 2015 manifesto – the need for a certain … clairvoyance

Political parties the world over are often accused of ‘re-fighting the last election’ when they develop their manifestos. This is by way of a plea to all UK LibDems to be mindful of the need to avoid this tendency.

In practical terms this means thinking about the ‘record in government’ we wish hypothetically to be able to put together at the end of 2019, ready for presentation to the electorate in the run up to a 2020 election.

But hold on a minute – that means predicting issues in 2019 and the preceding 4/5 years. Exactly. I will suggest a few.

Constitution
By …

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

Opinion: Welfare reform and poverty

Recently on Lib Dem Voice I wrote a short article arguing for equal reform emphasis between poverty alleviation through welfare, and longer term actual poverty reduction including inter-generational poverty reduction . It seems to me that in times of budget squeeze, the means for reducing the need for welfare  – social safety net – in the first place, are worth re-thinking. (To pre-empt objections I am not arguing against the provision of welfare, or for a reduction in weekly welfare payments, or for exclusionary policies).

The really difficult challenge for policy in reducing poverty and the need for welfare is …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

Welfare Reform – are we missing the Big Picture?

The welfare system is a vital part of any modern democracy. The general UK public want people protected from absolute poverty. We invented it – arising from our liberal reformist abhorrence of concurrent poverty and extreme wealth. Unfortunately it became central to big-state socialists’ social engineering policies. It has become a vast industry, with such complexity that its original aims have been all but lost. Amidst the financial crisis it falls to us, its inventors, to overhaul the sprawling system and propose major post-Coalition reforms..

Current Tory reforms aim to reduce complexity and cut the size of the welfare bill – …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 13 Comments

Opinion: UK democracy and political parties – as seen from space

EarthHow would non-partisan observers see the condition of UK democracy over the decades as viewed from above the  stratosphere ?

With Labour they might see a political party that replaced the Liberals as the party of reform in the 1930s and after WW2, based on representing the ‘working class’ – then working mostly in industry. They might contrast this with today’s Labour party – now mostly funded and controlled by public sector unions – both a strength and weakness in terms of the progression of democracy. A public sector union is a very peculiar animal. Without the constraints of industrial competition, and with senior ‘two-hatted’ civil servants facing conflicts between the public interest and the interests of their unions, one can understand why the Labour party has certain weaknesses as part of the democratic system. Hence their conflation of the public interest with ever-expanding public employment, usually couched in the language of additional benefits to the public, (and a policy cohabitee with Tory centralization). Therein lies Labour’s key weakness as well as its strength.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Opinion: We await the lessons of Iraq while new conflicts loom

It is ten years this week since I agreed to act as lead independent political and governance adviser in Iraq, primarily in the British-controlled Southern Provinces – despite my known anti-war views. It was a harrowing experience, risking the ultimate on a daily basis, appointing directly the first regional government in Basra by way of negotiations with largely hostile tribal, political and religious groups, and then working on other problems.

There has been much reflection in the media in the last few days over the failures of the conflict, its illegality, and lessons for the future, notwithstanding the absence, as yet,  …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Opinion: We shouldn’t be shy about political failure over the economy

Last week was, behind the scenes, an important one for the future of UK economic reforms. Four reports were published which were, one might say, bang on for the new mantra of ‘re-balancing the economy’.

The first was Lord Heseltine’s report on the role and methods of the UK government in ‘achieving’ economic growth. The other three were reviews conducted via the Bank of England in response to criticisms of its handling of the financial crisis – specifically its bailouts, and its evident surprise in 2007 that much of the UK banking system would collapse without such bailouts.

The Heseltine report was …

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Opinion: The importance of party unity over the economy

There has been a rise in factionalism across the Liberal Democrats during their time in the Coalition Government – with the Liberal Left, Social Liberal Forum, Liberal Reform and other groups, all promoting their different perspectives. At Party Conference a left/right divide over economics and fiscal policy was very noticeable.

My thesis is that this divide is a serious one which is widening, not narrowing, and without measures to halt the fragmentation,

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 127 Comments

Opinion: Understanding the housing policy buzz

It has been widely suggested that a government-engineered housebuilding boom may end the recession and bring electoral success to the Tories or LibDems in 2015 (depending on who gets the credit for it). Experts have been scrambling to answer the question of why there is such a shortage of housing, what the obstacles to housebuilding really are.

The Coalition government has so far focused on schemes to help first time buyers and provide housebuilders with finance. These approaches tend to assume that the major obstacle to expanded housebuilding is lack of loan finance due to a banking system still in …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 79 Comments

Opinion: Should we be selling state assets to reduce debt and create jobs?

One of the unexpected by-products of the controversial privatisations of the 1980s was the discovery of shockingly poor real estate management by state bodies – a rare glimpse of a problem only brought to the surface when the need for proper balance sheets arose.

UK government departments and agencies have since been shown to exhibit appalling asset management, as any sweep through Public Accounts Committee (PAC) or National Audit Office (NAO) reports will demonstrate – stories of unused land & buildings, ‘forgotten’ landholdings, leases on punitive terms, opaque sale of land at below market prices. Government departments also own very large …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Opinion: ‘Economic growth you can believe in’ – towards The British Growth Model.

Economic growth still eludes the Coalition. The development of a convincing analysis and programme for (fiscally sustainable) growth is essential for the second half of the Coalition’s life up to 2015. The Lib Dems must take a lead role in developing it.

Before the economic crisis started in 2007 the signs of ‘systemic financial sector failure’ were all around us. Few spotted them, however. Several simplistic economic tenets have since been jettisoned, as politicians have learned about the economic concept of ‘systemic financial failure’.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Opinion: Time to move on from the sterile debate based on misinterpretations of Keynes and Smith

Is Europe, including the UK, destined to drown in a sea of irreconcilable debate over austerity versus growth, whilst the economic answers watch despairing from the shore ?

It may well be so. The election in France of President Hollande, and the success of anti-austerity parties and groups, seems to point that way.

There is no middle ground here. Only a different way of looking at the problem.

To get there however, I first wish to take you back, dear reader, to the mid-1970s when political criticisms of Keynesian demand …

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

Opinion: the undignified spectacle at the G8

Imagine the scene. It’s a dirty whitewashed three-storey government building in the capital city, surrounded by high walls with US helicopters parked around. Inside sit several US generals and two Europeans, in the dusty heat. The war they are there to discuss is secretly assumed to go on for 25 years. They all know they cannot win it despite superior air power and unlimited cash. They had all given it their best shot with use of terrible weapons. Neighbouring countries have been mercilessly bombed, and ushering in governments very unfriendly to the US and the West.

It was time to find …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

Opinion: Pupil Premium. Extend the concept?

The Pupil Premium (PP) is great politics. As a way of increasing funding for schools with more pupils from poorer backgrounds, with all the incentives that implies, is has laudable political features. It contrasts us well as ‘pro-poor’ relative to the Conservatives. It is a kind of remedy for the ‘student fees’ debacle. And it is simple – easy to understand and to implement.

It is worth having a closer look at its features and context. Are there any broader lessons for the Lib Dems?

First, what is it? In effect PP is an additional dimension to the way that central government …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

Opinion: A bad election result – what now ?

The Liberal Democrats took another slap round the chops from the electorate on the May 3rd local elections. Yes, there were a few bright spots, especially those ably pointed out by Jeremy Browne MP, but the overall picture was still grim.

Of course it was not unexpected, and neither has the leadership’s response been – hold the course, reiterate what we have achieved and will achieve, compare our policy successes with those of the Conservatives, and emphasise that it was Labour who got us into the financial mess we are in. And so on. All good stuff, and well executed. …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 26 Comments

Opinion: are we participants in ‘elective dictatorship’ ?

A formula. Politicians who are weak, plus ‘Sir Humphreys’ who are strong, equals elective dictatorship.

It was Tony Blair who introduced the idea to the British public of politicians who see themselves primarily as spokespeople for the decisions and interests of officials. With Blair and his New Labour concept, it became more obvious that there was a new class of ‘professional’ career politician – seeing their role primarily as spinning-for-the-state and controlling public opinion.

A little-noticed last phrase in a BBC news item last week may be another symptom of a weakening democratic system of elected politicians – those who used …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid-1 1st Nov - 2:08am
    Paul Barker will be surprised; ostensibly, at any rate.
  • User AvatarT-J 1st Nov - 12:58am
    Sorry, David, I thought I was responding to anecdotes of your experience of LibDem internal politicking with anecdotes of my experience of the Greens. Having...
  • User Avatarmalc 1st Nov - 12:01am
    The bookies now have the LibDems at odds on - 5/6 - to get less than 25 seats at the next GE - I doubt...
  • User AvatarSesenco 31st Oct - 11:55pm
    For me, the most telling observation about the Rochester & Strood byelection thus far is that Labour, if it is to form the next government,...
  • User Avatarmalc 31st Oct - 11:47pm
    The best odds on the parties to win Rochester: UKIP 1/11 Tories 10/1 Labour 80/1 Greens 500/1 Britain First 750/1 LibDems 1000/1
  • User AvatarRoland 31st Oct - 11:27pm
    @Stuart, I get your point of view and broadly agree with your assessment of the news worthiness of a public figure's sexuality. However with respect...