Category Archives: The Independent View

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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The Independent View: How Lib Dems can achieve STV for local government

STVactionMay’s elections changed the political landscape to a four-party one and, if the old two-party First Past The Post (Winner takes All) voting system looked wobbly in a three-party system, it now looks totally discredited in a four-party system.

The recent election results gave credibility to the prediction of the recent New Statesman article that the result of the 2015 general election will be similar to that of February 1974 –  most votes for the Conservative Party but most MPs for the Labour Party. The crucial difference between 1974 and 2015 is that Labour will probably not even have the slim overall majority in 2015 that it had in 1974, hence another balanced parliament.

How would Liberal Democrats react? Recently Nick Clegg said “no” to another coalition at any cost. So what are the Lib Dem conditions?

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The Independent View: Smart policy is backing smart energy

Onzo Smart Energy Meter Kit DisplayEnergy policy continues to be central to the political agenda and on consumers’ minds, with the average energy bill now topping £1300 and more than 2 million homes living in fuel poverty.

Research published this week by the Smart Meter Central Delivery Body shows the extent of current dissatisfaction with the way we buy energy.  More than half of the 10,000 respondents to our independent survey said they do not trust any energy supplier, while 41% think they are paying for more energy that they consume.

photo by: digitpedia
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The Independent View: Remembering Willy Brandt, the chancellor of change

Willy BrandtThis May marked the 40th anniversary of the resignation of Willy Brandt, chancellor of West Germany from 1969 to 1974, in the wake of a political scandal in which a close aide was revealed to be a spy for East Germany.

Despite the way in which he was forced to leave office, Brandt and his government (a coalition of socialists and liberals) left behind a legacy of radical reform that had turned West Germany into a fairer society, and remains an inspiration to progressives today.

Elected in 1969, Brandt inspired many people with his calls for greater democracy and experiments in the domestic sphere. Over the next five years, Brandt’s socialist-liberal government did much to meet people’s expectations for change.

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The Independent View: Lib Dems must defend UK climate targets

Flooding in Cedar Rapids, IAThe past months have seen an upsurge of environmental concern. Following the wettest winter ever, and the starkest warnings yet from scientists about the perils of climate change, 23% of the public named ‘the environment’ as the most important issue facing Britain – higher than at any time since the late 1980s.

But, rather astonishingly, despite mounting evidence of the urgency for acting on global warming, there are moves within Government to weaken UK climate targets.

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The Independent View: We need to talk about peace building

temple of peacePrevention is better than cure has been the guiding principle of modern medicine. This simple mantra has for some become a philosophy of how to live better – we deal with problems before they develop, avoid potential issues through careful management and plan cautiously for an uncertain future.

Government policy has never been a big fan of prevention – there aren’t always votes in solving a problem before it escalates. A bigger problem is how you measure prevention – if the problem happens anyway you will be blamed for wasting money. If you avert the problem entirely you will blamed for wasting money. In the prevention game it can often be a no-win scenario.

Conflict prevention has proven itself to have real value time and time again.

photo by: AlicePopkorn
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The Independent View: Lester Pearson and the triumph of progressive change in Canada

Canada flag License Some rights reserved by archer10 (Dennis)For many progressives, America’s northern neighbour Canada has long been associated with progressive social change, with successive governments of the past century introducing such policy innovations as universal family allowances, supplementary pensions, and free health care. 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the election of the innovative Liberal government of Lester Pearson. Holding office from 1963 to 1968, the Pearson Government implemented a programme of social reform that not only led to the emergence of Canada’s contemporary welfare state, but arguably …

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The Independent View: Positively fighting back online

Circuit Bending Orchestra: Lara Grant at Diana Eng's Fairytale FWith the seemingly endless news of global and domestic extremism –  whether about the 250 girls kidnapped in Nigeria, the 500 Britons reportedly waging jihad in Syria, or the worrying allegations made against several Birmingham schools – it is rare that a report devoted to countering extremism should fill us with positivity. However, research released last week by Quilliam about the state of online extremism should encourage us all, not …

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The Independent View: The innovation revolution: How small banks and building societies are playing a significant part in creating competition through innovation.

Obama taking donations via Square mobile payment systemUp and down the country there are small but significant banks and building societies playing an important part in the day-to-day lives of customers and businesses. Yet they are not only helping customers locally, they are also changing the way we bank. The Cumberland Building Society will be familiar to Westmorland and Lonsdale’s Tim Farron MP, and despite a relatively small customer base compared to the traditional big banks, it is leading from the front when it comes to payments innovation and technology, offering …

photo by: joe.ross
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The Independent View: Scotland, vote no and let’s all move towards a Federal UK

Brazil v Scotland 22As an outsider, analysis about September’s Scottish Independence Referendum is something of a minefield. There is space to constructively critique the SNP’s proposals, but needs to recognise that I don’t have a vote, and that Lord Robertson-style hyperbole about a Scottish “cataclysm” is not just offensive – and for unionists, counterproductive – it is inaccurate, too.

So let me begin by making clear that in my CentreForum paper analysing Scottish independence published today, I believe that Scotland is perfectly capable of becoming an …

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The Independent View: Outsourcing companies aren’t trusted – Liberal Democrats must show they are taking a stand

sick of sercoLast week We Own It released new polling which shows that outsourcing companies are trusted less than central government, the civil service, the police service and the NHS. 64% of the public distrust companies like Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco while only 21% trust them. Only 16% think there is currently adequate regulation of private companies running public services. Political parties ignore public reactions like these at their peril.

We Own It is an organisation that campaigns for public service users and for public ownership. Last Thursday Serco held its AGM and we took the opportunity to hold a protest, ‘Sick of Serco’, to show how much of the public feels about outsourcing.

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The Independent View: No One Ever Told Me About Politics

no one ever told me about politics“I’ve been wanting to be more clued-up on politics for a while – and I know lots of other people my age feel the same way – but it always seems so complicated and it’s hard to know where to start”. Kate, 25

A few days ago, a year ahead of the next UK general election, a new cross-party initiative called No One Ever Told Me About Politics was launched to tackle the pressing issue of political disengagement amongst people in their 20s and 30s.

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The Independent View: Harnessing the “BuzzFeed” effect to boost turnout in the Euro elections

Only 26% are certain to vote in the European elections, and 77% say they know less about the issues in a European election than a general election, according to the Hansard Society. At Unlock Democracy, we’ve been looking at new techniques to combat low turnout and the worrying lack of political knowledge about European institutions.

For the European elections, we worked with organisations from 14 countries across the EU to produce Vote Match Europe, an online quiz app which matches user to the parties that best represent their views in the European elections, based on the issues which they select as …

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The Independent View: Mutuals can deliver the integration needed to save the NHS

nhs sign lrgDelivering free at the point of use healthcare is rightly at the heart of the NHS. But faced with an ever-ageing population, a rise in long-term conditions and tight health budgets, radical reform is imperative to ensure the survival of our health system as we know it.

It is the rise in long-term conditions that is causing particular strain. Ranging from obesity and diabetes, to cancer and dementia, these complex and multivariate conditions affect 15 million patients in England and account for 70 per cent of total NHS spend. …

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The Independent View: New report from the Electoral Reform Society: Close the Gap – Tackling Europe’s democratic deficit

EU flagThe new report out by the ERS, written by Chris Terry, is one in which the problem of “democratic deficit” in the European Union is explored. This is an issue that pro-Europeans have traditionally shied away from. However, it is the pro-Europeans who must actually take the arguments forward if Britain is to remain in the EU. The Eurosceptics, meanwhile, simply need to hammer home the fact that, from their point of view, there are no answers other than exit.

In the report, twelve recommendations on how to …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 20th Sep - 8:13pm
    It's part of the party's commitment to paid internships. They didn't used to be paid at all.
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 20th Sep - 8:09pm
    Is there some reason why the pay is the minimum wage?
  • User AvatarRabi Martins 20th Sep - 7:54pm
    @Ruwan You know I am with yo all the way with your analysis and comment above Am right to assume EMLD is working closely with...
  • User AvatarRaddiy 20th Sep - 7:20pm
    @ Mack " Cameron’s proposals would create a number of second class Westminster MPs" Aw Diddums!! On one side of the balance we have 53...
  • User AvatarTsar Nicolas 20th Sep - 6:57pm
    If 16 year-olds are going to be given the vote, will they also be allowed to purchase alcohol and cigarettes?
  • User AvatarRoland 20th Sep - 6:48pm
    " So how exactly does a Tory dominated English assembly with the backup of UKIP benefit the Lib Dems ?" [Glenn 20th Sep '14 -...