Category Archives: The Independent View

The Independent View: Neal Lawson’s letter to Liberal Democrats

Dear Liberal Democrats,

This is one a series of letters to the progressive parties. I know you didn’t ask me to write but hope you will read it with the same emotion as it was written, a spirit of generosity, hope, realism and just a bit of frustration.

So, it’s one year on from the election and where are you? Recent results were mixed. In some councils you won back seats but in London and Wales little headway was made. Maybe bottoming out is a success – I can see that. But I can also see the potential for you to grow and be a huge part of the political and electoral force a progressive Britain needs. What is the strategy to do that?

Let me start from the fundamentals. Liberalism matters. To be liberal is to be open, to cherish freedom and start politics from the only place we can – from us as people in all our wonderful diversity. Of course liberalism can go one of two ways – you can be a neo-liberal and worship the market or you can be a social liberal and recognize that we only make sense as individuals within a social context. For me it’s the role of the social liberals that is crucial to the future of progressive politics. Indeed is there any real difference between social liberalism and liberal socialism? Someone once wrote that socialism is organized liberalism. I concur.

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The Independent View: Obscure powers secretly used to hoover up our data

 

If the question relates to section 94 of the Telecommunications Act, then I am afraid I can neither confirm nor deny any issues in relation to the utilisation or otherwise of section 94 (James Brokenshire, 18.3.2014)

As an MP, Julian Huppert spent considerable time pushing for information about the ‘astonishingly broad power’ of clause 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984, a clause which enables the Government to require telecommunications providers to cooperate with them in very broad terms. He tried to find out how often these extra ordinary powers were used and who, if anyone, was checking they were being used appropriate. He got nowhere.

As a result of litigation brought by Privacy International, the staggering use of this power has been exposed. Huppert’s suspicions were on track – GCHQ and MI5 have used section 94 to collect our data in bulk. They have been using these powers for 19 years in total secret, without even the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament having any knowledge of the use of Bulk Communications Data, or that section 94(1) was being (ab)used.

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The Independent View: Norman Lamb and Liberalism – a conversation at the Institute of Economic Affairs

2015 was a tale of two leadership elections, with the Liberal Democrat debate between Tim Farron and Norman Lamb overshadowed by the seismic shift in the Labour Party. But while Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour leadership has led to a fundamental debate on the future of the Labour Party, the victory of Tim Farron may prove the more important – particularly if the time comes for the Liberal Democrats to seize back the liberal mantle in British politics.

The Liberal Democrats, like the Liberals before them, have always held a useful counter-balancing position, able to simultaneously attack Labour for their illiberal and statist economic policies – which Jeremy Corbyn has exacerbated – and the Tories for their big-state social policy and genuflection to the security and surveillance services. Should Momentum get too much for Labour and cause splits, and should the Tories finally be split asunder over Europe (or both cast out their ideological non-believers in an orgy of blood-letting that would do la Terreur proud), the Liberal Democrats must be placed to pick up voters from both.
So, what are the Liberal Democrats for? Has the party done enough to take up the torch of liberalism? Is the party still the party of Gladstone, or has it become reconciled to playing a bit part in the great debates?

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 22 Comments

The Independent View: rediscovering Grimond’s insights

At this year’s party conference, Tim Farron and Nick Clegg both argued that a huge new swathe of centre ground had opened up in British politics, with Labour shifting to the left and a newly emboldened Conservative government moving to the right. That is a risky assertion. It defines liberalism against its opponents, rather than for itself.

For a party battered, but not dispirited, by recent election results it is important that it defines itself with a positive vision for liberalism in the 21st century, not merely against its opponents’ positions.
If the Corbyn project collapses and Labour elects a more …

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The Independent View: Trident: It’s time to make the right decision

At a time when the future of Britain’s nuclear weapons system is under intense scrutiny – not least due to the anti-Trident position of Labour’s new leader – it is good to see Lib Dem Conference once again at the cutting edge of debate on this crucial issue. In government, the Lib Dems did much to challenge the pro-Trident consensus of the main parties. It may not have been the full anti-Trident position that many of us would like, but the ‘no-like-for like’ position certainly helped open up the debate. Now it’s time to move onto the next stage. It’s a crucial time to get this policy right as parliament is expected to vote on Trident replacement in early 2016.

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The Independent View: Liberals need solutions to the migrant crisis – and conflict prevention will be key

 

So this was the tragedy of a Britain with open hearts and closed borders. The growing humanitarian crisis in Syria coupled with instability in North Africa is creating one greatest migrations waves seen since the end of World War II. Jordan alone has taken over 1.1 million displaced Syrians and is now suffering water shortages that could lead into larger migrations into other Middle Eastern nations.

The reaction to this has been largely isolationist policies, with commentators in the UK describing these migrants anywhere between ‘cockroaches’ and ‘a swarm’; the narrative media focused on dehumanising those fleeing conflict.

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The Independent View: Tim Farron’s election as leader provides hope that the party will embrace and enhance the green roots held dear by members and activists.

Congratulations to Tim Farron, an MP who has long championed environmental causes. His voting record, especially during the coalition years, was consistently green. In 2013 Farron was one of 16 Lib Dems to rebel and back a 2030 decarbonisation target. How different the energy politics landscape would look had more Lib Dem MPs (and later peers) joined him and ensured there was now a decarb target in the statute books to provide long term certainty for investors in the face of growing short term uncertainty.*

But that was then. With Tim Farron at the helm we look forward to the party adopting stronger green positions, such as Farron’s repeated pledge to oppose fracking. Most importantly – and in a move that puts clear water between him and Andy Burnham, the leading candidate for the Labour leadership – Farron’s opposition is on the grounds that burning shale gas is incompatible with tackling climate change:

Shale gas will only have a future in the UK if we abandon, or significantly scale back, our climate targets – and that’s something that I hope every Liberal Democrat would oppose

This is the sort of clear leadership sorely needed in the fight against climate change and the pressing need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Only the Greens and Plaid Cymru have made so clear the climate change rationale for opposing fracking (in addition to the more widely accepted risks to communities’ air, water and peace).

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 24 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGlenn 28th May - 11:42am
    Paul. 1) Look up the history of BBC director generals and their political affiliations. 2)Well, perhaps by that logic we should scrap ITV and force...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 28th May - 11:42am
    He will have his work cut out in South Somerset where the Liberal Democrat candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner came fourth behind the Conservative,...
  • User AvatarManfarang 28th May - 11:36am
    Peter Martin You bring back memories. Britain asked the IMF for a £2.3bn bail out in 1976 saying unemployment and inflation were at exceptional levels.
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 28th May - 11:25am
    Sorry can't count! Top would be speak to non voters.
  • User AvatarPaul Holmes 28th May - 11:21am
    My top tip would be to seek out and learn from experienced campaigners who have a track record of running winning elections. Don't think that...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 28th May - 11:19am
    Thanks to all responders, it has been a revealing debate. I am grateful to Matt (Bristol) for explaining what I really meant on the local...