Category Archives: Op-eds

Stephen Lloyd MP writes… Can good Religious Education build better communities?

lessons from quran, drasIn the UK we benefit from a truly diverse and multi-cultural society, yet we continue to be bombarded with distorted images of nationality, customs, faith and belief in the mainstream media and the internet.

Sadly some of these myths and stereotypes have become embedded in the national psyche, making it harder for our young people to make important ‘informed’ decisions around faith and belief and distorting perceptions of some minority groups.

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Danny Alexander writes… Direct community engagement on Scotland’s future

TGOC 2011: NW Highlands (gp027)When Russell Johnston, that stalwart of liberal democracy, first ran for parliament for Inverness in 1964 he made a point of holding public meetings across the constituency. And when I first met him, in the 1980s, he was still following that old tradition – small gatherings, inviting all-comers to engage in open debate, determined that he could persuade the communities he served so energetically to follow him on the best path for the Highlands.

Over the subsequent years, politics has perhaps lost a little of that traditional engagement.

photo by: Ted and Jen
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Opinion: Liberalism – it’s not a set of policies, it’s a state of mind

8-5-10: They didA couple of things have struck me in the wake of the publication of Race Plan, Jeremy Browne’s personal liberal manifesto.

Don’t worry – this isn’t an article about the book itself. We’ve had enough of those over the last few days (as I write this, the top 5 most read articles on LDV are about it!) – I’d wager there have been more angry comments about the book on LibDemVoice than there are people who have actually read the thing.

Rather, this article concerns the nature of Liberalism.

photo by: James Bowe
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Opinion: A liberal case for Regional Ministers

Over the past week or so there have been a number of newspaper reports about Labour planning to bring back regional Government Ministers if it becomes part of a new Government next year.

Though some have attacked this idea, I believe there is a liberal case for regional Ministers. A progressive Government of Labour and Liberal Democrats could work on such a project together, building up the various regions of the UK to ensure that all of our regions can compete in the global economy, as well as making sure that all of our people have a chance to make the most …

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Opinion: Police use of the TASER – what counts as ‘reasonable force’?

Holstered taserMost of us have an idea of what is, and should be, understood by the the term ‘reasonable force’ – presumably, that which a reasonable person would consider reasonable in the circumstances, and generally the lowest amount of force necessary to achieve the desired objective.

However, in the heat of the moment, what one may subjectively regard as reasonable in the circumstances may not be judged by others as acceptable after the event.

As a now ubiquitous piece of police equipment, the TASER is marketed and deployed as a ‘less-than-lethal’ weapon

photo by: Doctor_Q
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Opinion: Regina v Nigel Evans should wake up MPs

Statue of Justice - The Old BaileyNigel Evans’s acquittal on charges of rape and sexual assault has triggered various expressions of concern.
Those expressed, trenchantly by some, are:

    1. The Crown should never have prosecuted him because the evidence was weak.
    2. The Crown treated him differently because he is an MP.
    3. The case shouldn’t have relied on alleged victims who did not consider themselves to have been victims.
    4. Nigel Evans is left with a huge bill to pay his defence.

“The Crown should never have prosecuted him because the evidence was weak.”

Also posted in News | Tagged , , and | 35 Comments

Opinion: The Scottish independence referendum – a lack of wisdom in the pro-UK camp?

September 14th "Welcome to Scotland"In September 2014, the Scottish public will vote on independence from the rest of the UK. As of mid-April 2014, the opinion polls suggest that the pro-UK camp is ahead, but over the past few weeks the pro-independence camp has been fast catching up. Why?

One reason seems to be the spat between the London-based UK administration and the Scottish National Party (SNP) over the role of Britain’s sterling currency. All three main UK national parties stepped in behind a sudden policy of non-cooperation with an independent Scotland …

photo by: amandabhslater
Also posted in News and Scotland | Tagged , , , and | 22 Comments

Jeremy Browne’s ‘Race Plan’. I’ve read it, so here’s my review…

Jeremy Browne bookThree points to make right from the start about Jeremy Browne’s new book, Race Plan.

First, it’s a wholly Good Thing that a Lib Dem MP is choosing to think aloud, to set out clearly his views. Nick Clegg having decided that he did, after all, like one of the Beecroft recommendations and decided to fire-at-will his home office minister, Jeremy could have slunk away, tail between his legs, to nurse his bitterness. He’s chosen a rather more constructive outlet for his disappointment. By which I mean this book, rather than his short-lived, C.19th-throwback, gap year beard.

Secondly, there is a fundamental problem with the central conceit of this book: that Britain is in a global race, and that if we don’t get fitter, we’ll be overtaken by or competitors in the coming Asian Century, fall behind, and become poorer.

Also posted in Books and News | Tagged , , , , , and | 58 Comments

Paul Burstow writes: Standardised tobacco packaging – a step in the right direction

cigaretteAs Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on smoking and health, I welcome the publication of Sir Cyril Chantler’s review of the public health case for introducing standardised packaging for tobacco products.

The Review is a thorough assessment of the public health evidence, particularly as it relates to marketing smoking to young people. One of the key objectives of the all party group is to help prevent the next generation of children and young people from taking up the habit.

photo by: SuperFantastic
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I don’t care where Alex Salmond lays his head – but does he have to be so evasive about it?

The Benjamin HotelBuckwheat or memory foam, or water. Those are some of the pillows Alex Salmond could have had, according to the Telegraph when he stayed in New York’s Benjamin Hotel in 2007 when he was there on official business. But, do you know what? I’m not really that bothered. Yes, luxury hotel suites are expensive but in the world of international diplomacy and business, it’s pretty much par for the course. Sure, some people would be happier to see our politicians stay in a Bed and Breakfast with squeaky, staticky, purple nylon sheets and those duvets with flowers on that were so popular in the 70s, and a bit of thrift never goes amiss, but I’m not going to get in a lather about it.

photo by: Reading Tom
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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.

Also posted in The Independent View | Tagged and | 42 Comments

Jeremy Browne and his plan for the privileged

Eton college sign. Photo by Paul WalterOver the last couple of days, discussion of Jeremy Browne’s new book has caused, it’s fair to say, a bit of controversy on this site. Race Plan, contains ideas which make some liberals dance with joy and others wince. We previewed it yesterday and Nick Thornsby has produced an extremely well written review. You might well disagree with it, but he presents his arguments knowledgeably and respectfully.

I have not read this book. I probably will, but it’ll take a wee while before it gets anywhere near the top of my “must read” list. I do, however, feel that I know enough of its contents from Jeremy’s Daily Politics video, various press articles and, of course,  Nick’s review.

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Book review: Jeremy Browne’s ‘Race Plan’

Jeremy Browne - Some rights reserved by Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeJeremy Browne spent just over three years as a government minister following the formation of the coalition in 2010, first in the Foreign Office, where his responsibilities included Britain’s relations with countries in Pacific Asia and Latin America, and latterly in the Home Office. However, reading his new book, Race Plan: An authentic liberal plan to get Britain fit for ‘The Global Race’, it does not take long to discover which of these offices had the biggest influence on his political outlook.

Because while the detail of the book focusses primarily on domestic policy, the theme that pulls it together, which provides its context, is Britain’s role in a rapidly-changing, globalising world.

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Edward McMillan-Scott MEP writes…Brussels Conference on Food and Climate Change

VärtaverketTHERE is justified concern over the growing reliance on food banks in the UK and across the European Union. We should consider it as a symptom of a broken food system which requires a complete overhaul. We need a sustainable food policy across the EU, where often prosperous farmers will get €350bn over the next seven years, while the most deprived get a meagre €3.5bn.

On March 30, a further report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that the impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible”.

photo by: arvidr
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Maria Miller resigns – but is that all that needs to happen?

Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and SportThe writing was on the wall for Maria Miller in the 33rd second after she began her grudging apology last Thursday. Even if she had shown the required amount of contrition, the very fact that a system which allowed a committee of MPs to water down the Standards Commissioner’s judgement looks, even if it isn’t, motivated by self interest, by the privileged protecting their own.

At no point did she, or David Cameron, show any signs of “getting it”, of showing any understanding why the original issue was a serious matter.

By allowing it to become a battle between the Conservative leadership and the Tory right, one in which the latter has triumphed, Cameron has weakened his own position.

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Opinion: The first of the big four commitments for the front page of the manifesto

Lib Dem manifesto WordleTime and again we have been asked what four key commitments we should make in our manifesto for the next General Election.

I am of the opinion that, whilst until recently the idea that Liberal Democrats could go into a General Election campaign with the simplification of the tax regime as a cornerstone of our manifesto would have been laughable, as we near the end of our first term of Government in over 70 years that should be where we find ourselves and what’s more it should be a key commitment in our manifesto.

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Opinion: End this taxi madness

TAXI SPOTI climb into the driving seat of a taxi to respond to a call.

I pick up my passengers; it’s a school run. Halfway to school the phone rings again. I have an earpiece so I answer it. It’s another job, so I grab the radio and send another driver.

We’re nearly at the school now. The roads are busy. I’m concentrating, but the phone rings again. This time it’s a booking for later today, and I can’t write it down at the moment so I try to keep it in my head.

While I’m trying to make a mental note of those details, I can see another call waiting in the background. I hang up and that call comes through. Someone wants a quote for an airport run, and since I can’t write their number down and get back to them, I try to recall the price from memory as best I can.

photo by: ErrorTribune
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Opinion: The Generation Gap

Day 46: Generation GapThe generation gap used to refer to the differing attitudes of young people and their elders to sex, drugs and rock and roll. For young people today, it has come to mean what the American author of the article linked below describes as “the economic hellhole our parents have handed us.”

Earlier this year, Rolling Stone magazine published an article under the title Five economic reforms millennials should be fighting for.

photo by: quinn.anya
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Opinion: Smog and why we need the European Union

Smog from Primrose Hill LondonWe have suffered poor air quality across south east England for days. The authorities warned older people and people with cardiovascular problems to stay indoors. Ambulance call-outs in London rose by 14%, and David Cameron abandoned his usual morning jog, describing conditions as, “Unpleasant, but it’s a naturally occurring weather phenomenon.”

Although worse in urban centres, poor air quality has been a concern for years in some villages on major roads in West Sussex; air pollution is widespread.

photo by: Luton Anderson
Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Baroness Sal Brinton writes…Disabled rail travel: We’re not just treated like second class citizens, we’re treated like packages

Link is Very Friendly to WheelchairsWhen people in wheelchairs meet one another, disabled travel experiences are a frequent topic of conversation. Rail, buses or taxi we have often encountered brilliant helpful staff, but frankly, sometimes appalling service.

My train commuter run to Parliament from Watford Junction to Euston is usually very smooth, with unfailingly helpful London Midland and National Rail assistance staff, but both stations are staffed for as long as trains are running. Unstaffed stations can be really patchy.

photo by: Oran Viriyincy
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Alison McInnes MSP writes…The Scottish Justice Secretary is wrong to say stop and search is an operational matter

Police stop and search1st April 2014 marked the 1st anniversary of Police Scotland, a single national police force that replaced our 8 regional forces.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats were the only group in the Scottish Parliament to oppose the national force from the outset.

One of the key strengths of Scotland’s policing up until then had been its local foundations.  Funded by local councils, managed by local officers and officials, accountable to locally elected representatives, responsive to local needs.

photo by: Tony Austin
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Norman Lamb MP writes: Ending face down restraint

Department of health, mental health care reportI am sure that many of you will remember the stories about the Winterbourne View scandal a couple of years ago.  Vulnerable residents with autism and learning difficulties were subjected to shocking abuse from those who should have been protecting and caring for them.  The review that was carried out into the scandal highlighted the widespread and inappropriate use of physical restraint, including dangerous face-down restraint, at the hospital.

As a Liberal Democrat I am committed to tackling poor quality care, and ensuring that everyone in …

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Opinion: I will not hide…

rainbow flag on white background  : harvey milk plaza, san francisco (2012)Boy, has this been a tough week. This week I suffered some homophobia. This is tough to write.

It came in the form of an e-mail from someone who should know better, but sadly doesn’t.

Someone who believes their faith gives them the right to put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad) and accuse me of being immoral.

I’ve been lucky since I came out as a gay man, in 2011, in that I’ve faced very little homophobia (at least that …

photo by: torbakhopper
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Opinion: Nick v Nigel – Cheer up Liberal Democrats (and other pro-Europeans)

Farage cleggSome Liberal Democrats, and other pro-Europeans, seem to be rather down about the outcome of the Nick v Nigel debate. Certainly it is depressing to see your fellow citizens support a man who professes admiration for Vladimir Putin. But Nick Clegg really was up against first-class populism on Wednesday night. Farage dropped every conceivable fear or concern about the modern world at the door of the European Union. Would you like an end to war, waste, politicians, people speaking foreign on the train and every problem the outside world bothers …

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged and | 37 Comments

Opinion: Lib Dems help end roaming charges, UKIP back higher phone bills

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 18.00.12Another week, another success for Lib Dems in the European Parliament. This week it was hammering the final nails into the coffin of mobile roaming charges in Europe. From the end of next year, the extra fees for using your mobile phone in another EU country – already reduced significantly in recent years – will be scrapped entirely.

It’s another practical, common sense measure which means good news for consumers – despite resistance from the telecoms sector.

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Opinion: Crimea/Palestine – unfavourable comparisons

As a Liberal Democrat one is appalled by the heavy handed way that Russia has moved into Crimea with an apology for a referendum. It may be the wish of the majority but this invasion is totally against international law and indeed tears up the post-Soviet treaty between Russia and Ukraine. The criticism of Russia is led by the USA and strongly supported by the rest of Europe. Many in Europe and the Middle East are wondering why the same critics have been so mute in the face of not dissimilar aggression and occupation of Palestine by …

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Opinion: Towards a sensible welfare system

Piles of money. Photo credit: czbalazs - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1236662Where is the development of Lib Dem welfare policy? It’s hard to see any. Even the recent living standards policy paper (pdf) said “we do not believe that this paper is the appropriate place to determine a Liberal Democrat approach to welfare reform. this is an area that needs further debate within the Party.”

We all want a society in which technology, employment, education, high pay, low inequality, progressive taxation and cheap homes reduce the need for means-tested benefits, but this long-term …

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Opinion: Our survival lies on the back of moderate Conservatives whether we like it or not

True blue supporterFor many of our voters the Lib Dems have always been a party to the left of British politics. A party who has more in common with Labour than the Tories, and who sees their chief enemy as the Conservatives. However, our survival now rests on winning over the very people who many of us once wrote off as true blue Tories.

The fracture on the right of British politics gives a significant opportunity to unite around a fiscally conservative but socially liberal banner: the same banner which is being …

photo by: pigliapost
86 Comments

Nick v Nigel: What the commentators say – and don’t say

Farage cleggWell, there’s a surprise. After last week’s largely positive stories, the headlines aren’t so good this week. It’s interesting to see that those who called for Nick to be more passionate and to go less on the detail weren’t satisfied when he did just that. I wonder if last week’s coverage prompted too much of a strategic rethink to an approach that was working fine. In my opinion, the only thing that needed changing from the LBC debate was a stronger answer on the referendum question, especially as it …

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Opinion: The reason an EU Referendum is a bad idea is one that no politician dare utter

European Union flagWe are constantly told that we “need” a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. Here’s the thing: we don’t. We don’t actually need a referendum on anything just now. Referenda are, in general, actually a bad idea.

They are vital every once in a while: the vote happening in Scotland on September 18th of this year is a good example. The government of Scotland is made up of nationalists who want to make Scotland an independent country. To legislate directly for this would be unthinkable, so …

photo by: YanniKouts
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarHelen Tedcastle 16th Apr - 10:46am
    Phyllis " it comes across to those of us who are in minority faiths as incredibly patronising" I have to disagree. As a member of...
  • User AvatarMack (Not a Lib Dem) 16th Apr - 10:39am
    Oh Come on! All Clegg did was wish the Jewish people a happy Passover. At Christmas he can still wish everyone a happy Christmas and...
  • User AvatarMatt (Bristol) 16th Apr - 10:38am
    "I have no problem at all with being in a party with a wide range of views. I do have an issue with the implicit...
  • User Avatarmatt 16th Apr - 10:30am
    @Simon Shaw You are being very pedantic and argumentative again. I think the ladies have been quite clear in what they have said. It was...
  • User AvatarMatt (Bristol) 16th Apr - 10:29am
    This is in more or less the same category as the attacks on Harriet Harman and has (some of) the same qualities of ambiguity, ie:...
  • User Avatarmalc 16th Apr - 10:22am
    Phyllis: I just don't think Simon Shaw will ever get it. He seems to thinks it's the job of the voters - you in particular...