Category Archives: The Independent View

The Independent View: Ministry of Justice costs reforms undermine Vince Cable’s aim of tackling rogue directors

Statue of Justice - The Old BaileyA key message the Business Secretary Vince Cable has been keen to stress during his time in government is the need to tackle rogue directors: he’s announced plans to produce “stronger deterrents” and “more robust sanctions” to quash ‘dodgy directors’. Dr Cable’s – and insolvency minister Jo Swinson’s – policies on protecting creditors from rogue directors are certainly worth developing, but they are at risk of being undermined by policies being put forward by the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice has been seeking to tackle the costs of litigation, but its reforms will end up having a big impact on the insolvency profession’s ability to combat rogue directors and will have disastrous and costly consequences for small business creditors and the taxpayer.

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The Independent View: The Liberal Democrats and civil society

It’s been a tricky 18 months for Lib Dems and charities. Of course the party has traditionally been close to the voluntary sector. Many current parliamentarians previously worked in it. But the Lobbying Act opened up a serious rift. Charities are now suffering the consequences of this illiberal and undemocratic limit on their free speech. With an election fast approaching, how has the party tried to heal the wounds?
This year at ACEVO – the social leaders’ network – we decided to do go beyond the usual third sector manifesto-writing and ask a range of Lib Dems to set out in detail their vision for civil society and politics. The result was The Yellow Book of the Voluntary Sector, a book of essays we published at conference in Glasgow. Its contributors show promise in their view of the voluntary sector, but there’s still some way to go.
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The Independent View: Banning wild animals in circuses – a popular law whose time has come

adi-logo_2There was a time when the UK led the world on animal welfare issues. We were one of the first to ban the use of animals in cosmetic product and tobacco tests, and end fur farming. Sadly though, we have lost our global leadership on other animal issues, most spectacularly on animal circuses. A total of 27 countries have now introduced measures prohibiting such acts, leaving the UK lagging way behind.

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The Independent View: Baking the UKIP Cookbook

UKIP-cookbookWe live in baffling times. Who, for example, can explain why Boris Johnson is still a thing? And why has no one told Ed Miliband that continually addressing a large number of strangers in a room as “friends” is just the sort of weirdness that someone whose weirdometer needle is already hovering over the danger zone should really avoid doing.

And then there’s Michael Gove.​ Just baffling.

But nothing is quite as baffling as the appeal of UKIP. That a bunch of fear-peddling, isolationist, blame-everyone merchants seem attractive to a large minority of the British public is not just confusing: it’s embarrassing.

So we’re doing what any sane, politically-aware progressives would do: we’re writing a spoof cookbook about it. Obviously.

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The Independent View: Liberal Democrat vote on flooding shows politics of climate change is shifting

Liberal Democrats have this morning voted to protect hundreds of thousands of households from flooding and climate change.

The welcome move is thanks to the passage of a policy motion, tabled by Lib Dem activists Duncan Brack and Neil Stockley, that calls on the Government to “Ensure flood defence spending is kept in line with that needed to protect against climate change impacts”.

Current flood defence investment is far below what’s needed to keep pace with our changing climate. As heavy rainfall increases and sea levels rise, numerous experts have urged that Government investment in flood protection should rise correspondingly. The Environment Agency made such recommendations in 2009, but these were ignored by Chancellor George Osborne, who cut the flood defence budget by £100million. The Committee on Climate Change calculates that a huge shortfall of £500million has now emerged between what’s being spent and what’s needed.

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The Independent View: Constitutional reform is back in fashion

ERS logoFor so long, those who care passionately about political reform have been told there are more important things to worry about – that tax, welfare and housing will always take precedence over the constitution and questions of process.

The Scottish independence referendum has almost put an end to that kind of talk. As the Liberal Democrats have always known, politics and the constitution fundamentally shape the collective decisions we make, and are therefore of the utmost importance. The referendum also undermined the old put-down that no one cares about constitutional reform. Try telling that to the 97% of Scots who registered to vote, or the 85% who went to the polls. When the stakes are high enough, people will get involved.

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The Independent View: IFS Director Paul Johnson – Balancing the books: some unpalatable choices

Paul Johnson is Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. He will be speaking on ‘Balancing the books – tax and spending choices in the next Parliament’ alongside Ian Swales MP and Anne Fairpo of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, with BBC Scotland’s Business and Economy Editor Douglas Fraser in the chair, at 6.15pm on Tuesday at the SECC (Dochart 1). All conference attendees welcome.

We weren’t supposed to be here. When George Osborne delivered the Coalition’s first Budget in June 2010 the plans he set out suggested that the job of rebalancing the nation’s finances would be more or less …

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The Independent View: Bridging the gap between rhetoric and reality before May 2015

A few weeks ago the Liberal Democrats announced the five green laws they would introduce if they remain in Government after May 2015.  The detail from their pre-manifesto will be debated at Conference this week. As a staunch greenie, is it always nice to see a party putting the environment at the centre of their party’s pledges. At the last election, Friends of the Earth praised the Liberal Democrats for having the greenest manifesto of the three main parties (pipped to the top spot by the Greens).

But after nearly one term in office, there is now a big question over the party’s green credibility.  So there are three key questions on their green laws that the Liberal Democrats need to provide the right answers to – pronto.

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The Independent View: Liberal Democrats – Please make compulsory Sex and Relationships Education a red line Issue

Women’s organisations gave a huge welcome to David Laws’ announcement in August that the compulsory teaching of good quality Sex & Relationships Education (SRE) from age seven onwards will be in the Liberal Democrat manifesto. And we hope to hear this policy cheered loudly at Liberal Democrat conference this weekend.

Is it not shocking that in 2014 this subject is not compulsory in schools? All schools are currently statutorily required to do is teach the biological basics of reproduction by the age of 15, and schools can choose to insert the teaching into any subject they choose (science, RE, PSHE if it is taught at their school – it’s not compulsory either).

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The Independent View: It’s time to rethink Trident

Last year, Trident was a huge debate at the Lib Dem conference. It was an open, vibrant, genuine debate where differing views were passionately put. This year, Trident is nowhere to be seen in official conference business – even though the parliament elected in just a few months’ time will decide the future of Britain’s nuclear weapons system.

This seems a glaring omission for a party which has such a strong track record of engaging with this most important of Britain’s strategic defence questions. Indeed it is the only major Westminster party that – like the majority of the British population – recognises the importance of changing Britain’s nuclear weapons posture. And it has fought hard to do so. I’m sure no active Lib Dem member needs to be reminded how the party struggled to ensure that questioning the future of Trident was part of the coalition agreement and how Nick Harvey, as Defence Minister, made sure that alternatives to Trident were actually reviewed.

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The Independent View: The need for a new economic alternative

Mountain roadThe social impact of the measures introduced by the Coalition Government, as I highlighted in a previous article, has demonstrated the failure of a strategy based primarily on austerity, and lends credence to calls for an alternative economic strategy close to the heart of the rank and file of the Liberal Democrats, based on encouraging growth through measures such as tax cuts and increases in the minimum wage to stimulate consumer spending, and investment in public works such as roads, hospitals, and schools to create jobs and boost industrial activity.

Criticisms have been levelled against those who call for expansionary, Keynesian-style measures to encourage growth, arguing that the additional output generated would not yield enough tax revenue to finance tax reductions or higher government spending.

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The Independent View: Politicians don’t do enough to find out what we really want

The Scottish referendum was an important debate for the people in Scotland to have as it affected the future of Scotland and the UK as a whole. It got the whole country involved – which isn’t always the case with politics. However I don’t think I was alone in feeling like I had heard enough of the seemingly endless campaigning.

People always talk about what women voters want, and the referendum was no different, but it sometimes seems like while the politicians talk about what we are interested in they haven’t really bothered to ask us.

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The Independent View: Looking at ways to help student entrepreneurs

The slogan ‘Stronger Economy, Fairer Society’ is only as strong as the policies that support it.

We, at the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), are pleased that the Liberal Democrats, in partnership with the Conservatives, have introduced a series of measures to put meat on the bones of this catchphrase.

Vince Cable’s Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) department has been busy beavering away on initiatives that help small businesses, including young entrepreneur start-ups. Young people like Arnold du Toit, who is worth £8 million in his mid-twenties after inventing a motorised golf trolley, and Jamal Edwards, whose YouTube videos progressed to a TV channel, show the kind of innovation Britain needs more of.

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The Independent View: The Coalition Government’s economic strategy – time for a rethink?

Credit: Freefoto.com

The global financial crisis of 2008 has left Britain facing one of the most difficult periods in its economic history, as characterised by falling real wages and deepening poverty amongst the poorest members of our society. The actions taken by the Coalition Government since taking office in 2010 have arguably done little to tackle the social consequences of the economic downturn and have, in fact, exacerbated these problems, casting doubts on the validity of the government’s economic strategy as a whole.

Business groups have expressed a lack of confidence in the Coalition’s shambolic handling of the economy during much of its time in office. In November 2012, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation awarded the government 5 out of 10 points in its record on creating jobs and opportunities, noting that the government’s decision to cut back on work experience in schools and careers advice could reduce the prospects of young people entering the workforce, while a senior Conservative politician in April 2013 accused George Osborne of caution and timidity by not taking bolder measures in restoring the country’s economic health. The Coalition’s economic strategy also came under fire a year ago from the IMF, which drew attention to the country’s lacklustre economic performance, with output 3% less than it was in 2008.

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The Independent View: Government can ensure that the election debate on welfare and tax reform is informed as well as impassioned

HBAIThe changes to taxes and benefits that came into effect in April 2013 are the Coalition’s most important single package of work and welfare reforms. Some, above all the bedroom tax, have provoked fierce opposition. Others, like the replacement of council tax benefit by council tax support, have impacted millions.

But April 13 was also the moment when the income tax personal allowance went up by the largest amount ever, returning £5 a week to the pocket of anyone earning between about £9,500 and £41,000 a year.

Add in the fact that the knock-on effects of reforms as time passes are not always the same as the immediate ones and it is clear that this package of changes will have had complex and often contradictory effects, especially at a time when the economy itself had once more started to grow again steadily.

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The Independent View: Why Lib Dem conference should vote to protect the country from climate change

Flooding in Cedar Rapids, IAYesterday saw the publication of the agenda for Liberal Democrat conference – including a particularly welcome motion on protecting the UK from the impacts of climate change.

‘Adapting to climate change’ (Policy Motion F19, debated at 9am on Monday 6th October) calls on the government to “Ensure flood defence spending is kept in line with that needed to protect against climate change impacts”. This is a vital commitment that we sincerely hope Lib Dem conference will support. It will directly help protect hundreds of thousands of households …

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The Independent View: Will Liberal Democrats remain the greenest party?

Since 2010 it has been clear that energy and the environment are policy areas where the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have distinct views and voices within the coalition. The recent reshuffle of blue ministers, removing one of the Tories’ few true renewable energy supporters in Greg Barker, gave further evidence of this differentiation.

Now, as we look to the next five years, it is time for the parties to be clear on their commitment to a greener economy. The major renewable energy trade associations – representing wind, solar, biogas, hydropower and more – have launched a series of manifesto tests which will determine whether the parties are committed to decarbonising our energy system.

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The Independent View: Liberal Democrats back industrial action by midwives

Midwives in England are in dispute right now with their employers after the rejection of a 1 per cent pay rise, recommended by the independent NHS pay review body. It is the first time in our 133-year history that the Royal College of Midwives has balloted members over whether or not to take industrial action.

Eighty per cent of the British public would support giving NHS staff the 1 per cent rise, according to a ComRes poll we commissioned to gauge public opinion. Opposition stands at just 9 per cent (11 per cent answered “don’t know”). Despite this, the recommendation has so far been rejected by NHS employers. Full details of the poll’s findings, including data tables, are available at the ComRes website.

Regardless of how one divides up those who took part in the poll – by gender, age group, whether they work in the public or private sector, which party they support, or which region they live in – there is an absolute majority in favour of the recommended 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff being implemented.

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The Independent View: What are the most ‘Ukip-friendly’ Liberal Democrat seats?

revolt on the right ukipIn our recent book, Revolt on the Right, we compiled a list of the most demographically receptive seats in the country for Ukip. This allowed us to rank all seats in the country according to how favourable their populations are for Ukip, using the most recent census data.

The ideal seats for Ukip share key characteristics: they have lots of ‘left behind’ voters who we also know from our research are the most receptive to Ukip and its policies. These ideal seats also have very low numbers of voters who have, instead, tended to remain resistant to Ukip, including university graduates, ethnic minorities and people in professional and economically secure occupations. This is a useful first exercise in filtering through all seats to find those where -if Ukip stood a strong candidate and knocked on plenty of doors – they would probably find the most voters receptive to their message.

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The Independent View: Free school meals is universalism at its best – all children benefit, but low-income children benefit most

school mealsSo the summer is over and it’s back to school time. But there is a silver lining to the autumnal clouds: free school meals. On their first day back at school, all infants school pupils (4 to 7 year olds) should be able to sit down to enjoy a free, nutritious meal.

This is one of the rare occasions when politics visibly touches normal family life, saving harassed parents the need to make a packed lunch and saving them money at the same time. Families will save almost £10 a week on average for every child benefiting from the policy.

Families up and down the country for years to come will benefit from the leadership of local and national politicians of all parties in helping to make this happen. From the previous government and local authorities for piloting and taking it forward at a local level, to Michael Gove for backing the idea in principle, to Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats for getting the Coalition to implement it. And now the Liberal Democrats have gone even further pledging to extend it to all primary school children if they are in government post-election.

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The Independent View: Let’s talk about it

Techno teenagers photo by Leinard John MatthewsDavid Laws has this week committed to compulsory sex and relationships education echoing the views of young people. Last week IPPR’s polling of 18 year olds showed that more than eight out of ten young people agree that sex and relationship advice should be taught in schools. But schools need to be more effective in commissioning and providing high-quality content, delivered by experts.

Our concerns are not new but the rapid expansion of technological possibilities has changed the nature of the debate. Young people are revealing ever more information about themselves, and traditional ‘offline’ occurrences such as bullying, relationship break-ups and social pressures are magnified and recorded online. Relationships can be more intensive, with more opportunities for contact and less visibility or moderation by adults, and relationships and friendships often create permanent digital content. Sexting is part of many teenagers’ everyday lives. Access to adult or extreme material is now fundamentally different and much easier. And quality information, clear social norms and opportunities for redress are less present online.

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The Independent View: An Arab EU could be the answer the Middle East needs

The Islamic State is a symptom of a much wider and more dangerous split in the Islamic world between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities across the Middle East. Whatever action Western governments undertake to stop the Islamo-fascists ISIS, more must be done to mend an age-old split between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

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The Independent View: Could the USA’s November mid-term elections herald the return of the long-fabled “Liberal Hour”?

USA Flag - Some rights reserved by freefotoukThe November mid-term elections in the United States will be vital for the future of the Democratic Party, as it not only seeks to retain its control of the Senate, but possibly reclaim the House of Representatives after four years under Republican control.

If it wishes to do so, the Democrats must be clear in what it stands for in social policy, and carry out a programme of major liberal reform that fulfils the promises of hope and change that Barack Obama evoked amongst so …

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The Independent View: Norman Baker’s move to cutting edge science will benefit Britain

Norman Baker’s calls for an end to animal testing were dismissed as “short sighted” in Alasdair Hill’s Lib Dem Voice article (‘Why a ban on animal testing is short-sighted and bad for our knowledge-based economy’).

But the comments made by the Liberal Democrats’ Home Office Minister are welcomed by the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) which has long championed moves towards modern science, benefiting humans and animals alike. However, progress away from animal tests will falter while researchers are working within an outdated system that hinders scientific progress and keeps animal experiments hidden from public scrutiny.

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The Independent View: “I’m a believer in the benefits of well-managed immigration” says Clegg

Nick CleggOn Tuesday, in a speech in Manor House in north London, Nick Clegg gave a major speech on immigration. Like the immigration speech he gave last year, hosted by CentreForum, his recent speech will be hotly debated and greatly misrepresented.

The speech was clearly an attempt to provide reassurance to the British public that the Lib Dems wanted a fair immigration system that enabled “the brightest and the best” to come to work and study in the UK but was robust in stamping out cheating and abuse. Nick believes this is important because:

… being a nation at ease with diversity and difference does not happen by accident. Successful immigration systems have to be managed. People need to see that they are good for society as a whole. Otherwise all you do is create fear and resentment – you give populists an open goal.

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The Independent View: This is the right time to drive forward integrated health and care

nhs sign lrgThe NHS is becoming too big to fail. Like a more benign version of the banks, it has become such a vital part of our national life, with such a slick lobbying machine and such a powerful public profile that it has become hard to challenge. So when the system starts to creak, everyone from MPs to doctors immediately shouts for more money. The problem is that more money may not solve the problem, but simply allow the NHS to subsist in a state of perma-crisis.

The only way out …

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The Independent View: Assisted Dying Bill – Open Letter to Liberal Democrat Peers

House of LordsTomorrow will see the Second Reading of Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill in the House of Lords and many Peers including Liberal Democrats have registered to speak on this issue of compassion and respect for choice at the end of life.

This Bill and its passage through your House will serve as one of the most important chapters of society’s story of compassion, we want you to know that your Party overwhelmingly supports you on legalising the choice of an assisted death for terminally ill dying people.

It has been reassuring …

photo by: ~suchitra~
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The Independent View: The pupil premium may be starting to deliver – but beware false dawns of the past

student_ipad_school - 175Today Ofsted deliver their verdict on the Liberal Democrats’ pupil premium policy, four years into its existence – a pledge which was on the front page of the party’s manifesto. In straitened times, this was a welcome commitment to focus limited resources on poorer children, and an explicit attempt to break the cycle of poverty.

There are positive signs that the additional resources being put in through pupil premium are being used better to improve the education of children from low income backgrounds, but not yet evidence that they are …

photo by: flickingerbrad
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The Independent View: Lib Dems have cause to be concerned about the data retention bill

web snoopers charterMany Liberal Democrats are congratulating themselves on a ‘sensible compromise’ on the emergency data retention bill, DRIP. I am afraid they are deeply wrong, and want to explain a little about why.

The first, most important point, is that DRIP doesn’t answer any of the points made by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) about data retention laws. Most importantly, they ask for an end to blanket retention, saying that retention must relate to specific threats, and be confined by specific criteria, such as a time period, …

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The Independent View: Ending female genital mutilation and early marriage will also help tackle HIV

Youth group, SRH, BangladeshThe leadership shown by the UK government – and in particular the Liberal Democrats and Lynne Featherstone MP – on ending female genital cutting or mutilation (FGC/M) in a generation has been ground breaking and inspiring. The upcoming Girl Summit is a timely opportunity, hot on the heels of the recent Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, to promote girls’ and women’s rights to live free from violence and discrimination and achieve their potential.

There’s no doubt that ending child, early and forced marriage and female …

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Recent Comments

  • User Avatarlloyd 25th Oct - 8:07pm
    When the answer to the question is Gordon Brown as one Labour MSP who appeared on the news thought you have to worry how much...
  • User AvatarRichard 25th Oct - 8:07pm
    Why is Alastair Darling's name never mentioned as possible leader of the Scottish Labour Party. Is he too sane?
  • User Avatarpaul barker 25th Oct - 7:48pm
    An interesting article but I dont think British Politics has been moving to the right for the last 35 years; its actually much more complex...
  • User AvatarStephen Hesketh 25th Oct - 7:45pm
    As I commented at the time of the survey, I was extremely disappointed we were not offered a regional devolution question or option. Thinking about...
  • User AvatarJohn Grout 25th Oct - 7:44pm
    Christine, in this context BT stands for 'Better Together' not 'British Telecom'. :) Here's a link to the advert from the Better Together channel on...
  • User AvatarHelen Tedcastle 25th Oct - 7:40pm
    Charlie ' Much protest comes from people who do not want to make the effort to be useful. If one really wants to be be...