Category Archives: The Independent View

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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The Independent View: Lessons for Clegg – we need to be more innovative on maternity and paternity pay

Nick Clegg in a London schoolLast week, Nick Clegg gave a speech at the launch of the Cityfathers, a network of working dads based in the Square Mile and Canary Wharf. In it, he focused in particular on changes to parental leave coming into force next year, which will allow couples to transfer a portion of their maternity leave entitlement to fathers after two weeks. While the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has argued that we should go further, creating a ‘use it or lose it’ block of leave for fathers, in general the Coalition’s move has been regarded as at least a first step in the right direction for parental leave policy.

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The Independent View: Removing the ‘right to have rights’

LibertyWhile the Commons grappled with the latest wave of backbench Euroscepticism, quietly and without fanfare the Home Secretary introduced an amendment to the Immigration Bill which strikes at the heart of our national conscience.

The impetus for this power came not from the urgent necessity of fighting terrorism, but is rather the result of a six year legal battle. In October last year, the Supreme Court held that the executive could not remove British nationality from an individual where to do so would render him stateless.  A frustrated Home Secretary now seeks a broad, discretionary power to remove what Hannah Arendt so memorably described as “the right to have rights”.

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The Independent View: The case for ‘bedroom tax’ reform is clear – the test is for Lib Dems to take it up

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 15.25.47In physics the conservation principle dictates that in closed systems, energy can neither be created or destroyed, but only turned from one form to another. New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation examining recent welfare reforms suggest that a similar law applies to housing support costs.

Applying size limits to social tenants – better known as the spare room subsidy or ‘bedroom tax’ – aimed to do three things. Reduce costs; ease overcrowding and introduce greater fairness into the system. Specifically, if you were a social tenant with extra space that you didn’t strictly need you should pay for the advantage like all other people with housing costs.

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The Independent View: Without thriving city economies, there can be no sustained national recovery

New Skyscraper Under ConstructionThis year, George Osborne delivered his Budget against a backdrop of better than expected growth, higher than expected employment, and a deficit reduction plan that exceeded previous OBR forecasts.

His speech, unsurprisingly, made much of the success of the “long-term economic plan delivered by a coalition Government and a Conservative Chancellor”. Yet the fact that our cities still lack the powers they need to fulfil their economic potential, and drive growth locally, will constrain future growth for large parts of the UK economy.

photo by: Martin Pettitt
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The Independent View: Improving the lives of disabled people is essential for a stronger economy and fairer society

The role that Liberal Democrats play in drafting their party’s manifesto is unique in British politics.  So is the party’s approach to disability.

At the 2010 General Election the Liberal Democrats were the only party to produce a manifesto for disabled people. This pledged better employment support and improved recording of disability hate crime.

And in Government, the two Coalition Ministers responsible for social care reform are from Lib Dem benches – Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb.  Their commitment to improving social care support for disabled people has been clear.

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The Independent View: Pensions reform – the right to advice is right

citizens adviceDuring the Budget last week George Osborne announced the right to free and impartial face-to-face advice in the context of pension reforms. On a day where we saw other good news — such as encouraging growth forecasts and falling unemployment figures — it was a poignant reminder of how vital advice is for anyone facing major life decisions at any time in their life.

We know more than most how invaluable quality advice is. This year is our 75th anniversary and, over the past 12 months, Citizens Advice helped more than …

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The Independent View: Clegg can’t just take on Farage – he also needs to spell out his own vision for EU reform

Like all political obsessives up and down the country I’ve stocked up on popcorn ahead of Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage’s upcoming duels over Europe in anticipation of some captivating political theatre. However, from my more sober perspective as a political analyst, such a binary, ‘all-or-nothing’ debate over Europe is fundamentally flawed as it does not speak to where the majority of the British public are at. Polls have consistently shown that when respondents are offered options beyond staying in on the current terms or leaving altogether, the option of staying in a reformed/slimmed down EU proves the most popular across the political spectrum.

People hold different views about how they would like to see the European Union develop. Which of these statements comes closest to your view?

Graph

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The Independent View: Rooting out criminal landlords

Landlod and tenant License Some rights reserved by umjanedoanIn his recent article, Julian Huppert MP declared that “landlords should have to compete on quality not just on price.” The Residential Landlords Association agrees. The question is how to achieve this.

Many councils have chosen some form of licensing to identify the ‘rogues’ who over-crowd homes and rent sub-standard properties.

The problem with licensing schemes is they identify the good landlords who sign up but fail to find the crooks. Even Newham, the most pro-active borough in this respect, has failed to reach the hardcore of 20% of rogue landlords after a year’s intensive enforcement.

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The Independent View: Keep academy freedoms – and extend them to all schools

schoolsignThe question whether to curtail or extend academy freedoms to state-funded schools was resurrected last October in a speech by Nick Clegg. The answer he put forward was to extend academy freedoms to all schools, albeit in a limited form. Clegg would like to claw-back the freedoms academies have over unqualified teachers and the curriculum, but to extend the remaining freedoms to all state-funded schools.

 Clegg’s new-found middle way is based on a belief that guaranteeing high standards in education is best achieved by curtailing autonomy. In October 2013, he said: “There is nothing…inconsistent in believing that greater school autonomy can be married to certain core standards for all.”

 Yet high levels of autonomy and accountability are conducive to high pupil attainment. The Deputy Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, Andreas Schleicher, has said that England’s multiple measures of accountability, along with a “high level of autonomy and discretion at the front line”, are key to success in education.

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The Independent View: Censorship is not the way forward in countering online extremism

Earlier this month, the Government reiterated its intent to censor online extremist content through ISP filtering systems. This has largely been in reaction to fears over radical jihadi videos coming from Syria and has been heightened due to recent estimates of 2,000 European fighters travelling to Syria. There is particular concern over the influence foreign fighters may have on the young and impressionable upon their return to their countries of origin.

Though well-intentioned, government-controlled filtering is problematic for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it raises big questions about what can be deemed ‘extremist’ in theory. Secondly, current filtering technology …

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The Independent View: London – a magnet for talent

london by Harshil ShahVince Cable recently accused London of acting like a giant machine that sucks in all of the talent from the rest of the country. Our new report, Cities Outlook 2014, shows that London is indeed a magnet for young people from across the country. But the big question is: why does this happen, and what does it mean for policy?

First, let’s look at the key stats. Somewhat counterintuitively, overall London loses population to the rest of the country. But this is overwhelmingly to the Greater South …

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The Independent View: The crisis in Egypt is not in anyone’s interest

egypt fistsThe reaction of the US and EU governments to the crackdown on protestors in Ukraine has been swift. EU governments seem to be considering possible sanctions on Ukrainian officials, the US warned the Ukrainian Government of “consequences” on relations, and the Prime Minister of Ukraine was not allowed to speak at the World Economic Forum at Davos. This stern reaction comes as up to five protestors have been killed in clashes with the police in Kiev over the past week.

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The Independent View: Vince Cable should make sure all companies are bound by new transparency law

Consider this question – what is the difference between a T-shirt from Tesco and one from TopShop? Lib Dems will undoubtedly have their own style preferences.

But for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Minister Vince Cable there’s an important distinction. Cable is seeking to weaken proposed EU rules that would require companies to report annually on risks their operations pose to communities and the natural world, such as accidents, pollution and human rights. The new non-financial reporting directive could be a game-changer on a path towards more sustainable production.

It should ensure that a firm like Tesco, as a large …

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The Independent View: Clause 118 of the Social Care Bill must be defeated

nhs sign lrgIn the post-Lansley NHS the Secretary of State for Health no longer has the duty to provide a comprehensive health service. Such responsibility as remains has been handed to the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CCGs do not have a responsibility for everyone in the neighbourhood – there is no universal state responsibility to provide us with healthcare any more – but they do at least have the responsibility for commissioning the care needed by their own registered patients.

The Clinical Commissioning Groups are about to be undermined.

When Jeremy Hunt, the current Secretary …

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The Independent View: Transparency in Government

This week the Liberal Democrats face a test of their commitment to transparency in government when the House of Lords considers Part 1 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. Bizarrely for a Bill with transparency in the title, it will provide the public with less information than we already have under the discredited system of self-regulation.

Last week the BMJ published details of the way the drinks industry had lobbied government to drop the commitment to minimum alcohol pricing including 130 meetings, few of which were in the public domain. This is not about …

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The Independent View: Lobbying Bill protects multinational corporate interests at expense of charity campaigns

The Robin Hood Tax campaign is facing a tough opponent – not just from the usual source of the financial sector and their allies, but from legislation currently going through the House of Lords.

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill is due to go to its report stage next week. The Robin Hood Tax campaign cannot support it for a number of reasons, and we urge peers of all political colours not to rush the bill through just to get it passed in time for the 2015 election. The legislation would hamper our campaigning abilities whilst empowering …

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  • User AvatarCaracatus 22nd Oct - 2:38pm
    I believe Ryan Coetzee actions may be in breach of the Lib Dem code of conduct. Either the leak is deliberate or it is accidental....
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    Andy Graham could point to @Caractacus at rather a lot of things the Liberal Democrats are doing to help ordinary people for example cutting income...
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    Good to see Andrew out campaigning - even I didn't brave Clacton! However in response to the negative comments, Andrew's main point is that we...
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    Matthew Huntbach 22nd Oct '14 - 10:39am Who knew Matthew could write poetry? Poetry aside, exactly what I thought when I read the article Judders...
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    Bit worried about the 'even' in that sentence, Tim13. I hope I haven't come across as one who held back from criticism of the leadership...
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    Sorry, but millions of people who used to vote for your party will never do so again. Now that you're polling lower than the Greens...