Author Archives: Simon McGrath

Simon McGrath is a member of the Board of Liberal Reform and Chair of Merton Lib Dems

Opinion: Vince is wrong about London

One of the oddest statements made by a Lib Dem in 2013 was surely Vince Cable saying that London was “draining the life out of the rest of the country”’.

Odd not just because Vince is MP for a London constituency but because he was so clearly wrong – far from draining the life out of the rest of the UK, London is a huge contributor. The most obvious way is financially: London subsidises other parts of the UK which would have higher taxes or less public spending without the benefits of the London

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 47 Comments

Opinion: Let’s have some facts on the ‘bedroom tax’

One of the ‘facts’ about the ‘bedroom tax’ which is becoming increasing accepted is that 9 out of 10 disabled people affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ and refused a discretionary payment are going without food.

There is a rather good graphic, much shared, on Facebook illustrating this and it has been added to the Labour rhetoric of the all round wickedness of the Coalition.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 47 Comments

Special Lib Dem Conference announced

An unprecedented alliance of groups within the Liberal Democrats have announced an agreement to turn the Spring 2016 gathering into a special Conference. Liberal Vision, the Social Liberal Forum, Liberal Left and Liberal Reform have agreed with the Federal Conference Committee that normal arrangements will be suspended in favour of a special ‘we’re sorry’ day.

A spokesman for the four groups said:

Rather than spending each Conference for years to come rejecting various policy items which the Party supported while in Coalition it seemed much easier to do it all at once .

The format has been agreed as a series …

Posted in News | 24 Comments

Opinion: People don’t care who provides their healthcare

nhs sign lrgThe publication of a new poll by ICM for Civitas on the NHS should give encouragement to those in the Lib Dems who believe that we should not be bound by a single provider approach to the NHS.  The poll shows that people are proud of the NHS but not concerned by who provides their healthcare.

The key question is:

“It shouldn’t matter whether hospitals or surgeries are run by the government, not-for-profit organisations or the private sector, provided that everyone including the least well-off has access to care”.

83% o agreed with …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 30 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Reform urge MEPs to oppose a secret vote on the EU Budget

European Parliament chamber, StrasbourgIt probably came as a  surprise to most Lib Dems to hear  that it is possible to have a secret vote in the European Parliament at all, let alone when as few as 20% of MEPs call for one. Press reports that some members want a secret vote so they can safely vote against the EU Budget are shocking, because knowing how elected representatives vote is surely the most basic piece of information required to hold them accountable.

If the EU Budget is rejected, after a secret vote, there is not the slightest doubt that it will be seized upon by those in the UK who want us to leave to leave the EU.  Not only should our own MEPs, but also ALDE as a whole, should be opposed to a secret vote in this case, and they should act to change the Parliament’s rules to make secret votes impossible.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Reform response to ‘Shares for Rights’

Liberal Reform has responded to the BIS Consultation on ‘Employee owner’ status. Like most Lib Dems we do not see that there is any need for this and it is noticeable that no evidence has been presented that this reduction in employee rights would make any difference to growth. We are also concerned that an association in people’s mind between owning shares and losing rights will put people off owning shares in their employers, through well established plans like Save As You Earn .

We believe that there are two additional questions which need to be asked:

  • How will the legislation

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Opinion: Abu Hamza isn’t Gary McKinnon but we should still be concerned about his extradition

The extradition of Abu Hamza and 4 other men to the US seems to have given almost universal pleasure and there is no doubt that he seems an extraordinarily unpleasant man, with a long criminal record and deeply repellent views.

But it is in just these sorts of cases that a Liberal needs to be careful and not just go with popular opinion. When you look at what crimes he and the other men involved are accused of it is impossible not to be concerned. It is, interestingly enough, quite difficult to find exactly what they are accused of; the best summary I have found is here.

Posted in Europe / International, News and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

Opinion: Making our party more democratic and participative

We Liberal Democrats pride ourselves on being the most democratic Party in the UK. We were the first (and so far the only) major party to have members electing the leaders in a one member, one vote, election.  Our Conference is not just a rally; it actually makes Party policy and key committees are elected by members, not appointed by the Leader.

But we are failing to make use of technology to deepen our members’ participation in the Party.

Firstly our main conference is still dependent on people travelling from around the country to stay for 5 days debating policy, but this disenfranchises many …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 28 Comments

The really important issue at Gateshead is a Constitutional Amendment

Discussion about the Gateshead Spring Conference has mainly focused on the potential row about the NHS Bill, but the Agenda also  contains a Constitutional Amendment  which could have a  huge  impact on our ability to work to with either the Tories or Labour after the next election. The Amendment is   called “Support for a Government which contains other Political Parties” and can be seen here.

This is an update of the “Triple Lock”  dating back to 1998  after Paddy was thought to be getting too close to  Blair’s Labour Party. (Mark Pack has a history of the Triple Lock

Posted in Conference and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 21 Comments

Opinion: Why won’t Nick Clegg trust the people with a referendum on Europe?

If there is one thing which Liberal Democrats need to be careful about after the tuition fees debacle, it is being seen to renege on any of our manifesto commitments. But this appears to be exactly what Nick Clegg is determined to do with the news that he has imposed a three line whip to vote against an EU referendum.

This is an area where he has a clear and very unsatisfactory track record already. The 2005 manifesto promised a referendum on the EU Constitution but when it came to a vote on the Lisbon Treaty (identical in virtually every respect …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 60 Comments

Opinion: The battle for the Electoral Reform Society – the results

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about the battle for control of the Electoral Reform Society. The results of the Electoral Reform Society Council election have since come out and they show a clear victory for the ‘reform’ slate, eight of whose 15 candidates got elected. Just four of the existing nine council members were re-elected (the Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer and Michael Meadowcroft, who topped the poll) with the other three successful candidates also being in favour of reform.

There had been talk of a legal challenge to the elections, centering on whether those given …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Opinion: Time to face reality on conference security

Lib Dem Voice has carried a number of articles in recent weeks, reflecting wider discussions among Lib Dems, about the security arrangement for the Birmingham Conference. The tone of many of these discussions has reached a quite extraordinary pitch of self-righteousness and vituperation, in many cases based on hearsay and rumour.

Perhaps it would be worth looking at some of the facts about the security arrangements.

Firstly the idea that this is a decision which Lib Dems can take on our own is simply wrong. Many others attend our conference, the media, exhibitors and the workers in the venue, who in …

Posted in Conference, Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 51 Comments

Opinion: the battle for the Electoral Reform Society

One of the consequences of the failure of the AV campaign may be radical change at the venerable Electoral Reform Society. The ERS is conducting the biennial election for its Council at the moment with no less than 53 candidates standing for election to fill 15 places. There is also a range of motions at the AGM on 3 September, some of which would make fundamental changes to the ERS.

The main prize for anyone who controls the ERS is financial – they have by pressure group standards a huge income through their ownership of Electoral …

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

Opinion: Don’t make Guido’s day

What an enjoyable holiday Guido Fawkes must be having. While he is sunning himself in France he is also managing to create a ludicrous fuss in the UK with his campaign to use the new e-petition website to ask for a vote in the Commons on Capital Punishment.

For some reason this seems to have got Lib Dems in particular into a tizzy – blogging, tweeting and generally upsetting themselves about this, to no purpose at all.

Here‘s the thing: there is no chance whatsoever of a vote in the Commons supporting the return of the death penalty. None. …

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

Opinion: London Mayoral hustings, Round 2

Having been to the London Mayoral hustings last week in Wimbledon (and written about it for LDV) I thought it would be interesting to go to the official hustings last night in central London to see how (or if) the candidates had changed. I don’t know if it was the different audience or the extra week and taking on board the various comment people made but all four candidates made better speeches and all seemed more confident of why they wanted to represent us.

By far the most improved was Lembit Opik. I could see why he has had …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 11 Comments

Opinion: Verdict from the first Mayoral Hustings – it’s a two horse race

Merton Lib Dems Mayoral candidate hustings
Photo: Mayorwatch. See also @mayorwatch‘s live tweets from last night’s event.

Merton Liberal Democrats held the first hustings of the London Mayoral selection last night with all four candidates addressing an audience from Merton and surrounding constituencies.

I had never met or heard any of them before but the one speech I was expecting to enjoy was Lembit’s. I thought that I would be drawn to him despite myself but the reality was frankly disappointing. He was the …

Posted in London | Tagged , , , , and | 40 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Democrats to hold inquiry into AV Referendum

The Guardian reports that the Party has decided to hold an inquiry, headed by James Gurling, into the Yes to AV campaign.

I wrote a piece for Lib Dem Voice back in May calling for an inquiry and since then more and more information has come to light about the shambolic and incompetent way the Yes campaign was run.

What does seem rather odd is that there has been no announcement to Party members and activists that this inquiry was taking place and asking for their input. I asked a couple of Lib Dems who had been highly active in …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 19 Comments

Opinion: However unfair it is, Chris Huhne should step down

Another morning with the papers dominated by stories about the ever more complicated driving arrangements of Chris Huhne who is now (said to be) saying he can’t remember what happened on the evening in question.

There are accounts of his ex wife’s movements that day, maps showing who was where and allegations that he has asked others to take his points in the past. Perhaps inevitably there are claims of other extra-marital arrangements in the past.

Like everyone else apart from those directly concerned I have no idea whether any of this is true but that is no longer the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 105 Comments

Opinion: we need an enquiry in the AV referendum

The Yes 2 AV campaign was a disaster. It was the worst managed political campaign since Michael Foot’s General Election campaign in 1983 and it probably means we will not be able to have electoral reform for many years.

There seems to be a growing tendency simply to ascribe our defeat simply to the lies of the No campaign but that would be too easy and in any case lies are hardly unknown in political campaigns. There seem to have been failures in the Yes campaign; from the highest level – formulating a coherent narrative about the need for …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments

Opinion: Are the poor going to be driven out of the south by the Coalition’s housing benefit reforms?

A shocking story in the Guardian this week that, not content with driving the poor out of Kensington and Chelsea, the Coalition’s cap on housing benefit would force them out of southern England altogether. Worse, this came from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), who sound like they ought to know what they are talking about.

I rang up the CIH and asked how I could get hold of a copy of the study and was surprised to hear that there has been not actually been one. They are apparently ‘doing some work for a Select Committee’ which …

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

Opinion: what can Lord Ashcroft tell us about Lib Dem voters?

Lord Ashcroft has spent some the money he acquired through not paying his taxes on a fascinating poll of former Labour voters.

The poll looks at 2091 people who voted Labour in 2005 but for other parties in 2010, 47% of them voted Lib Dem. It provides a wealth of information on the attitude of these voters who it is crucial we retain in 2015, and how they differ from ex Labour voters who choose to vote for other parties.

The first issue looked at is why did they leave Labour. They are asked to rate a number of reasons …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

10 things you may not have noticed from the Labour leadership results

Leaving aside the actual results there are many points of interest in the detail of the Labour leadership election. Here are 10 things you may not have seen…

Even her own members don’t want Diane Abbott to be leader

She has the eighth biggest party (850) but only 21% of them voted for her as Leader.

The big parties are all in London

Of the 11 CLPs with more than 800 members 10 are in London, the exception being Luton.

Union members really weren’t that interested

The union turnout was astonishingly low –overall only 8.75%. For some unions it was lower – out …

Posted in News | Tagged | 24 Comments

Opinion: TUC inequality study not all it seems

Another day, another Guardian headline about the wickedness and unfairness of the Coalition. Thus Saturday’s headlines “Coalition cuts will hit poor 10 times harder than rich, says TUC” will have made many Lib Dem hearts sink.

But as with so many Guardian headlines recently, the headlines, and the reports they are based on are not quite what they seem.

The TUC report attempts to take the value of public services and allocate them across different income groups with the aim of showing the cuts are unfairly distributed. They have done this by taking a figure for the cuts over the …

Posted in News | 24 Comments

Opinion: what happened to the Lib Dem use of Social Media?

Before and during the election there was a great deal of talk about the Lib Dem use of social media as a way of getting our message across cheaply and effectively. Since then though the Party seems too place very little importance on social media with the result that an important and effective way of communicating with our members and supporters is being ignored.

Look at the three main Social media outlets, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

On Facebook the Lib Dems official Page has 97,000 fans but is rarely updated – there have been just 5 updates since …

Posted in Op-eds | 30 Comments

Labour party ‘gerrymandering’: recalling the only occasion in a century when a party has interfered with electoral boundaries

In all the fuss about ‘gerrymandering’ from the Labour Party it is perhaps worth remembering the only occasion in the last 100 years when there has been direct political interference in the work of the Boundary Commission.

In 1969 the Commission finished a review. Since the last review in 1950 there had been huge population moves and it was generally thought that the new boundaries would favour the Tories by between 10-20 seats. The law was very clear; the then Home Secretary, Jim Callaghan, had to put the changes to Parliament in the form of a series of Orders.

Labour …

Posted in News | 55 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMark Valladares 18th Apr - 6:44pm
    @ malc, Funnily enough, I agree with you. Your support of Thomas Robinson's argument, one almost devoid of accurate fact, demanded challenge, however, as does...
  • User Avatarmalc 18th Apr - 6:19pm
    Mark Valladares Does it really matter if he's Danish or Norwegian? The point is still the same, he comes from a small country with no...
  • User AvatarPeter Watson 18th Apr - 6:13pm
    Slightly off-topic, but I would like to suggest that some who write articles for LDV should look at the site before doing so, and instead...
  • User Avatarroger roberts 18th Apr - 6:00pm
    1950
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    If we're discussing electrical power, then the usual measure of output is the kW. Not a notional "home", which could mean anything from the 0.5...
  • User AvatarRadical Liberal 18th Apr - 6:00pm
    ''Similarly, constructive debate of the highest standard requires that participants interpret each other’s arguments charitably; that is choosing the strongest and noblest of the possible...