Author Archives: William Hobhouse

Steel, nuclear and graphene – a new industrial strategy?

It seems a long time since Vince Cable was leading the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. During his tenure, one of his greatest achievements was the Industrial Strategy. In automotive, aerospace, nuclear and renewables, long term partnerships and structures had been set up to ensure that UK manufacturing stayed at the cutting edge of R&D and that we grew the skills and capacity to manufacture the next generation of products.

The visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to the UK has clarified the new government thinking. Taking three industrial issues in turn:

Steel: everyone knows that steel prices go up and down and competitive advantage changes with exchange rates and oversupply. At a time when the automotive industry in the UK is flourishing, the closure of steel mills demonstrates that government sees no link between a UK steel industry and UK automotive. We can, the argument goes, quite happily import steel at the cheapest price at the time and retain our long term success in automotive. The counter argument is that we will not retain our leadership in the industry if the next generation of cars uses steel technology developed in Germany or China – because other things being equal it would be better to assemble the car closer to the supply chain.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

It’s time to change the distinction between voting and non-voting members at Conference

A couple of years ago, when we moved house and constituency, I had the new experience of going to Conference with a second class label hanging around my neck. I did what I could to carefully adjust my pass so that my picture and name was facing out. But these passes have always had a mind of their own and I would walk from Hall to Fringe all too often as someone labelled as ‘Member’ rather than the important or well-connected ‘Voting’ people.

And now we have thousands of new members, some of whom will be looking forward to their first conference. Pretty well all of them will be unable to vote. Nor will a good chunk of the party’s activists who have stood locally in May.
This distinction between voting and non-voting members doesn’t separate the activists from the sleeping members. It seems primarily to protect privilege, to protect the well connected, those with the ear of the constituency officers. It is a privilege in a thoroughly conservative sense.

Posted in Conference and News | Tagged and | 20 Comments

Opinion: A challenge for LDV readers

The BBC has a Hung Parliament Coalition Builder, based on various projections of seats, and different possible outcomes depending on small voting shifts in the handful of marginal seats.

The challenge is to get a coalition without the Lib Dems. It is almost impossible!

There is an assumption this election –the Lib Dems are going to be at the negotiating table on May 8th.

But, given the likely outcome for our party, what if we start from the assumption that we will not be at the negotiating table, and we will go into opposition and oppose any and all Queen’s Speeches? What would our red line(s) be?

I have one red line – PR – and the argument is for good government and a fair democracy:

The Conservatives will get 33% of the vote and nearly half the MPs. Labour will be similar.

The Lib Dems will get about 9% of the vote and anything from 3 – 5% of the MPs depending on how effectively we can work in the next two weeks.

Posted in News | 160 Comments

Opinion: Getting ambitious on renewable energy

The debate on fracking and renewables is warming up. Ed Davey’s LDV article on renewables set the scene, Norman Baker contrasts renewables and fracking, and my article from August – Renewables not Fracking — remains relevant.

There are some Lib Dems who support fracking. In response to that, I set out here a vision for sustainable energy in the UK, a vision that, in the long term, does not include any fossil fuels.

Renewables currently supply about 15% of UK electricity supply. By 2020, Ed Davey’s aspiration is 30%. With a clear political vision, electricity from renewables can grow by 3 – 4% a year and there is no obvious plateau point.

This means 30% electricity from renewables in 2020, 60% electricity from renewables in 2030, 90% in 2040, 120% in 2050, and 150% in 2060.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 37 Comments

Opinion: Generating electricity – why we should push for renewables, not fracking

Green wind farmThis article is about how we generate electricity in the UK, and makes the case for electricity generation to be 100% carbon-neutral, and to be frack-free.

Climate change remains one of the greatest risks of our age. We know that the climate is changing: we can either accept the risks and take what comes, or we can mitigate the risk by using technology to end our dependency on fossil fuels. Liberal Democrats campaign for the latter.

In 2013, figures for the UK and the whole EU for electricity generation are as follows:

energy sources

On these figures, we have some catching up to do. Many would think that given the particular advantages of wind and tides our islands have, we would be doing more than catching up – we would be leading.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 80 Comments

Opinion: Good co-ops, bad co-ops and the funding of the Labour Party

imageWe Lib Dems do not need persuading of the merits of the Co-operative Movement. Founded in Rochdale in the 1840s, it continues to this day to provide an alternative model for business.

However, it cannot be said that there are many takers for this business approach. Apart from a good number of small co-operatives, there are two dominant players. The John Lewis Partnership, which is owned by its employees, and the Co-operative Group, owned by its members.

John Lewis is a success. It is often cited as an example for others. Not so the Co-operative Group which seems to go from one crisis to the next.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 30 Comments

Opinion: Time to rethink Co-operation

When we moved to Rochdale in 1999, we could hardly fail to take pride that the town was not only the birthplace of Gracie Fields, but of the Co-operative Movement. Moving our banking to the Co-op seemed the right thing to do, and national events a few years ago reaffirmed our commitment to being part of a movement that did things differently.

It is only in the last few years – well before the latest scandal – that I have become disillusioned with the business that purports to have inherited the values and practices of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 48 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMick Taylor 14th Feb - 4:47pm
    Eric was a great Liberal, who I knew from 1960 onwards as he was a friend of my late parents. He championed causes he believed...
  • User AvatarLorenzo 14th Feb - 4:17pm
    Rsf7 Very good arguments .I in a million years would not have proposed the policy , not because it is daft , it is not...
  • User AvatarRsf7 14th Feb - 3:59pm
    @malc I think I'd prefer they got community service and were forced to work cleaning the streets rather than sitting around for 12 weeks at...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 14th Feb - 3:56pm
    Sorry about the double negative! Nobody is perfect, least of all the Lib Dems!
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 14th Feb - 3:54pm
    Mark, You are deluding yourself if you don't think our party has no internal problems. As for all party members being 100% behind the Yes...
  • User AvatarPaul Hunt 14th Feb - 3:50pm
    Eric was an inspiration for so many Liberals and he will remain so. He was a stalwart supporter of the Orpington Dinner at the National...