Author Archives: William Hobhouse

Coalition: Yes or no?

Liberal Democrats quite like to be in government. We like to think that we can make a difference. So when the larger parties find themselves without an overall majority, we – as individuals – are courted.

This article deals with two aspects of the decision to go into coalition – political legitimacy and our party’s mandate to govern.

Liberal Democrats do not support the current unequal voting system. Put simply, we want every vote to be valued equally. We want the number of elected representatives to correspond to the number of people who voted for each party. So, if a party overall gets 10% of the vote, we believe that they should have 10% of the representatives.

When this doesn’t happen – which is nearly all of the time – the main question to ask is whether we make our decisions based on the numbers of representatives, or based on our vote share. For example, if we have 10% of the vote but only 2% of the representatives, do we say our mandate reflects our 10% or our 2%?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 21 Comments

The alternatives to coal for electricity generation

For 2014-15, 26.7% of UK electricity was generated from coal, 29.7% from gas, 22.2% from nuclear,19.3% from renewables and 2.1% from other sources. Coal is the most prolific carbon emitter, so the argument goes that we should replace it. The question is with what?

Liberal Democrats, and particularly Scottish ones, are grappling with the question over whether to oppose fracking outright. Leaving aside new forms of energy (and leaving aside carbon capture), the decision on how to replace coal for electricity generation seems quite simple: gas, or nuclear, or renewables; or a combination of the three.

Posted in News | Tagged | 12 Comments

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
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 1st Sep - 1:06am
    That is more like it , Tim ! I cannot believe anyone would criticise this excellent , constructive , deeply felt speech . I do...
  • User Avatarwg 1st Sep - 12:45am
    Tiresome hyperbole. 17 million people will fall into the scurrilous categories put forward by Farron; condemned for a democratic conscience that differs from his.
  • User AvatarJamesG 1st Sep - 12:16am
    Sanctimonious claptrap. Unfortunately from what I've seen he is neither tolerant nor open-minded because if you disagree with him you are lumped in the 'evil'...
  • User AvatarPhyllis 31st Aug - 11:26pm
    Hello Lib Dems, I do not frequent these spaces as I once used to but having peeked through the door, I feel I must contribute,...
  • User AvatarJohn strak 31st Aug - 11:04pm
    Sometimes the best thing to do is say nothing. I agree that the soft Brexut option can be made to work. But I don't agree...
  • User AvatarAndy Wylie 31st Aug - 10:00pm
    Southern isn't in breach of contract because the contract goalposts have been moved by the DfT to ensure it doesn't happen. It could get embarrassing...