Category Archives: News

Women-only train carriages are a terrible idea

Almost exactly two years ago, Jeremy Corbyn took a whole load of pain for daring to suggest that women-only train carriages might be part of the solution to combating sexual assaults on public transport.

At the time, I looked at what he actually said and decided against against castigating him – although I was and remain convinced that it is a terrible idea.

First of all, it’s pretty good to see a male politician think that the issue of sexual assault on public transport is an important one that we should do something about. Where were the other politicians, including Liberal Democrats, when the statistics showing showing an increase in reported sexual assaults came out last week?

I also gave him credit for at least saying that he needed to consult women to come up with a firm view.

Labour MP Chris Williamson has not been quite as sensitive. He’s waded into the debate, following figures which show a doubling of sexual assaults on public transport.  

He told Politics Home that

I really don’t see how it helps to segregate women rather than concentrate on changing the behaviour of the men who assault them.  Apart from anything else, the sort of low-life who attacks women in this way would be likely to assume that any woman not travelling in a women-only carriage was simply asking for their attention.

A solution which discourages women from sharing the same space as men is not in my view desirable.

I also think that those of us who use public transport should look out for our fellow travellers. We tend to bury ourselves in our now thoughts and resolutely avoid any sort of interaction with the world around us. Keep an eye out for women who look uncomfortable and intervene to help them. If you see someone being groped on a crowded carriage, get up and offer them your seat or your space and report the perpetrator. These people need to be convicted.

If you think this is somehow exaggerated,  have a read of Louise Jones’ post for Bea magazine published back in 2013. It’s a harrowing account of horrendous behaviour.

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Reversing Brexit

Once out, the pin can’t be put back in. Or can it?

Yes it can, so long as the strike lever has not been released. And that is the position we are in with Brexit. In theory, article 50 can be revoked if we act fast, but the clock is ticking. And According to both Emmanuel Macron and Alastair Campbell, editor of the New European, we have little time left. At some point, the EU will go into full self-protective mode and focus on performing a clean amputation. In grenade terms, the strike lever will have been released and the explosion will be inevitable.

That is why we have to move swiftly. According to Campbell, the time window after our August holidays will be slim. “When the political season resumes, we had better have got our act together”, he writes, ”or else this thing is happening”.

There are formidable difficulties facing us. Though we see tantalising signs of a national change of heart, a lot of energy has built up behind the Brexit juggernaut which means that simply aborting it is well nigh impossible.

Disarming the grenade

Brexit has been aptly described as an act of national self-harm, and self harm has a considerable cathartic value. It is like a wave which rears up before crashing and dissipating its energy on the beach. Anyone who has ever been distressed enough to think of harming themself will tell you that it is not much use being told “forget it, and just carry on as normal”.

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The Press Pack: A round-up of Lib Dem media comments – 22 August 2017

Here’s a roundup of  media comments made by Lib Dem parliamentarians and spokespeople today.

GP numbers

Norman Lamb slammed the Government for failing to deliver more GPs:

The government’s promise to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020 lies in tatters, with fewer GPs now than when this pledge was first made.

“The pitiful increase we have seen in recent months is nowhere near enough to cope with rising patient demand.

“This failure to recruit enough doctors will inevitably have a damaging impact on the ability of patients to access the healthcare they need.

“We are already close to breaking point, with people in many parts of the country struggling to get appointments with their GP.

“More doctors are urgently needed to guarantee a fully-staffed NHS that provides everyone with the care they need.

Swinson criticises UK support for Trump Afghanistan move

The government didn’t really get round to condemning Donald Trump’s appalling remarks in the wake of Charlottesville, but they were quick off the mark to support him sending more troops to Afghanistan. Jo Swinson said:

For once, sense seems to have prevailed in the White House.

“But to succeed in Afghanistan will require winning the hearts and minds of its people and working closely with neighbouring countries.

“On that front, Donald Trump has already done untold damage through his proposed refugee ban, Islamophobic comments and cack-handed approach to foreign affairs.

“The government’s rapid statement of support for Trump today contrasts with its failure to swiftly condemn his divisive views and actions in the past.

“Simply pouring more troops into Afghanistan will not work without a broader strategy involving careful diplomacy and redoubled efforts to build a stable government.”

Even Brussels must be tired of this waffle

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Is failure to use technology to enhance learning failing school pupils?

The format of education hasn’t really changed since Victorian times. Students are still packed into a classroom with a teacher who spends most of their time doing some variation of lecturing to the students, before they then apply whatever they’ve just heard to some real examples. This system treats everyone equally by treating pretty much everyone the same, using the same techniques and the same curriculum for everyone, regardless of their differences. Liberal Democrats tend to challenge traditional policies, and should challenge the current educational system too. We also tend to look solely to teachers for educational policy but it is also worth listening to the perspective of students.

Technology promised a revolution in classrooms, with very little change in the techniques in the publicly funded and conservative education sector. Technology has changed the way in which the teacher delivers the information to the class, allowing a little more interactivity but keeping the key parts of the teacher lecturing to the students on masse. Technology could, and should, be causing a more revolutionary change to education, like a number of charter schools are in the United States.

One charter school chain, called Summit Public Schools, has used technology to revolutionise their teaching. Students mainly learn from online courses and doing project work, supported by a teacher who moves from more authoritarian current role to a mentor, supporting students in their learning and explaining more difficult concepts. These schools save teachers a significant amount of time on marking, allowing teachers to support their students more and removing a significant source of stress. The school still requires students to cover a broad curriculum using a personal learning plan, though they are free to learn at their own pace and choose their topic at the time. 

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The Philosophy of Henry George

Liberal economic philosophy has its roots in land reform and economic justice. John Locke said that “God gave the world in common to all mankind….” Thomas Paine stated that “men did not make the earth… It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property.”

John Stuart Mill wrote: “When the ‘sacredness’ of property is talked of, it should be remembered that any such sacredness does not belong in the same degree to landed property.” Mill also wrote: “The increase in the value of land, arising as it does from the efforts of an entire community, should belong to the community and not to the individual who might hold title.”

In a free market capitalist economy markets allocate resources through the price mechanism. An increase in demand raises price and businesses produce more goods or services, but they cannot produce more land.  The quantity of products consumed by people depends on their income, but rising income translates to increased land rents when supply is static.

John Maynard Keynes challenged the idea that free markets would automatically provide full employment. He instead argued that aggregate demand determined the overall level of economic activity and that inadequate aggregate demand could lead to prolonged periods of high unemployment. Keynes advocated the use of fiscal and monetary policies to mitigate the adverse effects of economic recessions and depressions.

William Beveridge set out the framework for the modern welfare state to tackle poverty, health, housing, education and unemployment.  Following the principles of Keynes, the post-war government took control of key industries. Under this managed economy tax money could be used to keep an industry afloat, even if it faced economic difficulties and maintain full-employment.

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Brake: Cabinet can’t even agree amongst themselves, let alone win concessions from EU

Now that David Davis is re-opening the EU talks timetable again, Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake has this to say on the paucity of the Government’s performance in the EU negotiations:

David Davis promised us ‘the row of the summer’ over the Brexit timetable, only to capitulate weeks later to the EU’s preferred timetable after a disastrous general election for his party which vastly undermined their negotiating position.

To be now, a couple of months down the line, trying to reopen the issue reeks of desperation at an approaching economic storm and a cabinet who don’t have a clue.

Constant reports of cabinet spats show our government cannot even agree a position between themselves, let alone win concessions from EU negotiating teams in our country’s best interests.

Davis certainly seems to be picking fights on simplistic binary issues to hide the enormous complexity of Brexit and the disaster it is likely to bring for our businesses, our economy and, consequently, for our poorest.

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WATCH: Vince Cable’s Edinburgh Q & A

Vince Cable came to Edinburgh yesterday on his tour of the country taking questions from members.

For 90 minutes, he answered questions on such varying subjects as tackling extremism, Brexit, freedom of movement, the triple lock, opportunities for young people and the fight against climate change.

He was particularly strong on tackling inter-generational unfairness and I was heartened to see him continue to keep social justice and reducing inequality as top priorities.

He talked about the need to curb some of the privileges pensioners get – such as wealthier people over state pension age who are still earning not paying National Insurance. He said it was important to maintain the triple lock, though, because we don’t want to go back to the days when so many pensioners lived in poverty.

I was really pleased to meet so many people who had recently joined the party – some who had specifically joined because Vince was leader.

Watch most of it in the next two video clips. Don’t be put off by the sound interference at the beginning of the first one. It sorts itself out.

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