Category Archives: The Independent View

The Independent View: What’s the crack?

As more countries and jurisdictions are relaxing their laws around cannabis, many questions have arisen. Will legalisation affect potency? Could some types of cannabis actually reduce psychosis? What are the choices in cannabis legislation, is it just prohibition or legalisation? And if cannabis is legalised, will everyone start using it? These are just a few of the questions answered by myself and two other researchers from King’s College London in the fourth episode of a new podcast; What’s the Crack.

We created the podcast with an aim to improve public awareness of the complexity and reality of addiction, policies, stigma surrounding drug use and drugs scandals in the newspapers by exploring the evidence base. We are all passionate about the drugs and addiction research field and every episode draws upon our collective knowledge and experience, addressing the health, criminal justice, social and individual side to a story. The podcast links the academic world to the public, bridging the gap and filling in the blanks with research evidence that the media have left out. Previous episodes have covered Dry January, Fabric nightclub in London, drug consumption rooms and now it tackles cannabis legalisation.

This episode introduces different policy options of cannabis legislation, providing alternatives to the usual dichotomous choice of prohibition (possession and supply is illegal) or legalisation (cannabis is freely and widely sold). Alternative legislation is discussed; decriminalisation (it is only illegal to supply) and regulation (a government monopoly). In addition, various factors in the legalisation debate are considered, such as psychosis and THC (active chemical that make users feel “stoned”)/CBD (cannabinoid with various potential medical applications) levels and the impact of legalisation on these. Cannabis is made up of the chemicals THC and CBD and emerging evidence suggests that cannabis high in CBD may mean that people experience fewer psychosis-like symptoms when using the drug. Arguably an incentive for controlling the THC/CBD ratios.

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The Independent View: Urgent Call for European Commission to reconsider its Dublin Transfer recommendations.

In the same week that the world marked Human Rights Day, the European Commission announced plans to resume the so-called “Dublin transfers” of refugees back to Greece. If this recommendation is adopted at this week’s meeting of European leaders in Brussels (commencing in February of next year) EU member countries will start returning refugees who arrive on their territory back to the country of their first entry into the European Union, wherever that may be. Dublin transfers to Greece from other Member States have been suspended since 2011 following two judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which identified systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum system. I have seen with my own eyes the desperation of the situation in Greece and it is far from pleasant. For the last year I have been been volunteering on the Aegean Island of Samos in Greece, I can confirm that to reinstate the Dublin transfers could result in a catastrophic degeneration in conditions which are already unsanitary, unsafe and badly over crowded. Grassroots organisations and volunteers on the ground in Greece are very concerned about these findings for a number of reasons outlined below.

Despite the EC’s claims that “significant improvements have been made in the reception of Refugees in Greece’’, in fact many sites in Greece remain badly overcrowded and unsanitary, with inadequate , shelter, food or medical provision, not to mention provision for minors and vulnerable groups and child safe spaces and psycho social activities. As the UN high commissioner Filippo Grandi highlighted in August, all of the EU member states need to do more to Help Greece help to manage the impact of the refugee crisis  “The challenges ( in Greece) are very serious, and we need to continue to address them together,” Grandi said. “Especially the living conditions, security in the refugee sites, and terrible overcrowding on the islands. These are all issues for which we continue to be at the disposal of the Greek government.” He also stressed the need for EU member states to speed up legal options such as family reunification and relocation through the EU’s official relocation programme.

The report stated that “with Dublin transfers suspended, there is an incentive for asylum seekers who arrive irregularly in Greece to seek to move irregularly on to other Member States (known as ‘secondary movements’), in the knowledge they will not be sent back to Greece.” However it is completely unfair that only one mechanism of the Dublin ruling which is being applied, when no moves are being made to force the schengen states to make good on their commitments to receive a quota of refugees. So far only 3,054 refugees have been relocated from Greece to other EU member states, while another 3,606 are scheduled to depart in the coming months. Still, support lags as member states have pledged only 8,003 spaces out of 66,400 committed. If the transfers are restarted Greece will once again be bearing the burden for the refugee crisis completely unsupported by other responsible Schengen states. This ‘pull factor’ ascertain is very tiring. I feel it would be far more pertinent to prioritise processing people’s asylum claims more quickly and efficiently rather than wasting time and money on sending people back to Greece, only to be processed again. It is my firm held belief that if they do this refugees and asylum seekers won’t be forced to move ‘irregularly’.It is the terrible, unsanitary and inhumane conditions in Greece & the lack of income supplement, social welfare, inadequate medical care and the glacial asylum processing system is what propels people to move illegally rather than waiting it out. I feel that authorities must work instead to speed up the relocation and family reunification transfers & to improve living conditions in Greece.

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The Independent View: Making tax digital

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a £1.3 billion investment programme intended to transform the tax system in the UK, making it more effective, more efficient and facilitating payment of the right tax at the right time.

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) shares the government’s ambition for the UK to have “the most digitally advanced tax administration in the world” but like many interested parties we believe the timescale for achieving this is now very challenging.

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The Independent View: Making common ground

We’ve lost a battle. But there are many more to come. We must not lose them all.

To win, we will need to fight more smartly than we did in the past. We must understand why we lost. The government – and Stronger In, which was in Downing Street’s pocket – had no vision for how Britain could help lead Europe. It had no vision for how to make Britain fairer either. It just had a boring case for the status quo.

To understand why we lost, we have to reach out to Leave voters. To understand why many feel left behind and left out. To make common ground with them. Because there is much that unites us.

We can make common ground on the need for a fair society. Where the economy works for all, not just the few. Where migration works for all, not just the few. The vast majority of the British people want that. We are a nation that wants unity not division. We want to share the fruits of progress.

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The Independent View: Time for Liberals to embrace pledged taxes?

conscienceHypothecation – the act of reserving a specific tax for a specific purpose – is making something of a comeback under this Chancellor. The question is how should Liberals respond?

The treasury only has one commandment “Thou shalt not hypothecate”.  However, George Osbourne, forever a political Chancellor, has been busily pledging taxes for a number of worthy causes such as women’s charities (Tampon Tax) PE in schools (Sugar Tax) and flood defences (Insurance Premium Tax)

The Chancellor knows that linking taxes rises to specific benefits offsets some of the political damage caused by hitting tax payers in the wallet. It’s also good for voters and it helps keep the Chancellor honest, and makes sure that tax rises remain accountable to the electorate.

Conscience: Taxes for Peace Not War is an organisation that has long argued that the right of conscientious objection should be extended to tax payers. It seems that whilst our bodies are free from conscription, our finances are not. Every bullet, bomb and soldier trained and deployed in war-zones overseas are not there by accident, but because we paid for it.

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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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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRuth Bright 25th Mar - 10:24pm
    Tony I don't think you actually read the post - it was about keeping going and that London has seen it all and so much...
  • User AvatarTim13 25th Mar - 10:16pm
    Peter, I am surprised you say you haven't met anyone who likes closer integration or ever closer union. There are many of us - certainly...
  • User AvatarTony Greaves 25th Mar - 9:56pm
    What gets me about this debate is not that the party has a laughable policy (fortunately no-one outside cares too much at present about our...
  • User AvatarTony Greaves 25th Mar - 9:48pm
    One deranged idiot armed with a car and a knife...tragic for the dead and injured but hardly a cause to appeal to the "blitz spirit"....
  • User AvatarMartin 25th Mar - 9:00pm
    Thanks for the ramble, Red Liberal, you give a pretty comprehensive list. I would query item 4: is it true that most European Liberal parties...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 25th Mar - 8:33pm
    Anyone who sings "Rehab" at their first Glee Club has got to have star quality.