Category Archives: Op-eds

Ed Davey writes… Delivering on climate change & delivering on fuel poverty

Ed Davey - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsI write this while on a visit to India. A few weeks ago I was in the US, and I’ve just left China. Why? These three countries are the world’s biggest emitters and the series of meetings I’m having all focus on paving the way for a global climate change deal next year. In the UK, and with our partners across the EU we are gaining momentum for an ambitious deal, which I hope will result in a domestic …

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Opinion: It is the end of the two-state solution that will bring peace to Gaza

There are many times throughout history where man has stood by and allowed inhumanity to win the day. One of few positives that can be taken from these days is that human behaviour can be observed, patterns emerge and those that are left can begin to understand, to learn. But there are times when lessons are forgotten. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is humanity’s greatest forgotten lesson. It is time to face up to hard truths and if we fail to do so we legitimise the deaths of thousands more men, women, children, Israeli and Palestinian. Liberal Democrats were strong advocates for a two-state solution, long ago when the facts was shrugged off by Labour and Conservative administrations. We should not succumb to the same mistake.

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Opinion: Gaza – can anyone recall the root causes?

Gaza Burns - photo by Al Jazeera EnglishIsrael’s current actions – indeed its actions since 1948 – are based on three core drum-beat principles; it has a right to exist; it has the most moral Armed Forces in the world; and it is surrounded by enemies intent on its destruction, But there is a fourth ‘truth’, never acknowledged by Mark Regev or other spokespersons, that Israel itself caused all of the current conflict decades ago by taking more land than the UN allotted to it in 1948 (1), and driving out …

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Good news: Voters places themselves and the Lib Dems in the centre. Bad news: that doesn’t mean they’re liberals

“There’s no future for the Lib Dems as a party of the centre,” goes the cry from radicals on both wings of our party. So I was interested to see this polling data from YouGov (hat-tip Adam Corlett) looking at where voters place themselves on the left-right axis and where they place the parties and their leaders. And yes, I know we don’t buy into the idea of a binary left-right axis, but it can’t be entirely dismissed.

As YouGov explains, “tracking data compiled over as many as 12 years gives a clear sense of how the main parties and their leaders have been perceived as shifting on a left-right scale. The two charts below shows mean scores based on 100 being “very right-wing” and -100 being “very left-wing”.” I’ve super-imposed onto YouGov’s graphics where, on average, voters currently place themselves:

voters left right spectrum you gov 2014

Three quick points:

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Opinion: Alice vs the System: Lessons from a lifetime of “help” from public services #2

Bubbles. White rabbit. Photo by jay turnerThis is the second article in the series about Alice and her experience of “the system.” The first can be found here. Alice didn’t legally become my sister until she was 3. Alice’s adoption was the white rabbit, I guess, that we chased for the next three years.

I was too young to fully understand the nature of the legal wrangles over her adoption. From conversations with my mum and dad, the issues were twofold. First, that as foster parents it wasn’t so easy to …

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Full steam ahead on infrastructure

Tim Farron Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterOne thing that struck me about Tim Farron’s Beveridge lecture last Saturday was the scale of his ambition for investment in infrastructure.

Conservatives have often talked about their admiration of Victorian values – if only they really did admire those values, because Victorian values included ambition to build an infrastructure, to create a transport, communications and logistics backbone to our economy, to make a difference, to see a problem and not worry about whether fixing it would fit with your ideology, but to just get on and fix it.

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The Gender Agenda #3: Is there such a thing as “Women’s Policy”?

LDW stallI was long-winded last time so let’s try brevity: yes, and no.

When people talk about ‘women’s policy’ they usually mean one of three things:

1. Policies which only affect women directly: men (apart from trans men) do not, for example, suffer FGM or need access to abortion, so they will only ever be indirectly affected by policy on those issues.

2. Policies were your gender directly determines your rights and treatment in society: that includes gender separation in schools or prisons, or access to parental leave.

3.  Policies aimed at everyone, but that …

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Opinion: Beware conflating offence with racism – Don’t demand David Ward’s expulsion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently saw for the first time the new monument commemorating the sacrifices paid by the men of RAF Bomber Command during World War II. It was a moving memorial, as well as an interesting one. We don’t celebrate the deliberate firebombing of German cities these days: we are thankfully queasy about the thought of the mass targeting of civilians. But the erection of this monument shows that although we – uncomfortably perhaps – understand that those fighting that awful war were compromised morally by their actions, we nevertheless sympathise with those who believed that the missions they flew had some military and economic justification.

I ask people to bear this in mind when considering whether or not David Ward should have the whip withdrawn for his tweets expressing sympathy with Gazans (some of whom are) firing rockets at Israeli cities. Some – many – will find the implications of what he says offensive. But we should be careful about citing offense as justification for the sacking of our political representatives. Especially as liberals.

As others have said, we would not call for the expulsion of an MP who expressed sympathy for Israelis motivated to extend their period of military service in reaction to the rockets fired from Gaza. We do not call for the expulsion of MPs who defend sales of British arms to Israel, even though we know there is a strong likelihood of their being used against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories.

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged , and | 39 Comments

Martin Horwood writes …Tony Blair’s legacy

Tony BlairTwenty years ago yesterday Tony Blair became Labour Party Leader. The man who delivered a landslide victory for Labour in 1997 is now seen as a polarising figure in British politics.

Blair loved to be seen as a ‘modernising’ force in his party. Whether it was the abandonment of Clause 4, the drinks receptions for celebrities or leading a Government which was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, this was a world away from ‘Old Labour’.

As Prime Minister, however, there is no doubt it was his approach to foreign policy that defined his premiership.

Britain’s involvement in the illegal war in Iraq left a particularly indelible mark. Blair seemed to offer Parliament a choice. But his case was built on sandy foundations: his personal word that the intelligence case presented to MPs had not been exaggerated or ‘sexed up’.

Blair had used his own personal charisma to defeat opposition to his changes to the public sector and indeed to the Labour Party itself. He used this tool once again in making the case for the Iraq invasion, alongside a particular brand of political ‘spin’ that grew to typify Labour’s approach in office.

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Opinion: Sustainability, where do we go from here?

Economy-in-the-UKOur party is not addressing continued economic growth. Our leaders talk about growth solving our problems and recovering pre 2008 living standards, rather than about creating prosperity without growth. Growth through conspicuous consumption is still being sold as the road to recovery.

There are three real stumbling blocks:

  1. High living standards and rising prosperity extolled by almost all parties are only possible by expropriating the living standards of the world’s poorest.
  2. We depend heavily on the rest of the world, especially developing countries, for food and are still reducing farmland in the UK.
  3. Our energy supplies depend on unstable regimes in the Middle East and Russia and we have not begun to address self sufficiency in basic energy.
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Stephen Lloyd MP writes… The jobs agenda – a lot done, more still to do for single parents

Budding Artists Create Holiday MasterpiecesIn my constituency of Eastbourne, one in four households with children is headed by a single parent. This mirrors the diversity of modern families across Britain, where families come in all shapes and sizes, and reinforces my commitment to support and promote policies which enable each and every one of these families to balance work with bringing up their kids.

I am proud of the coalition government’s record on job creation and bringing down unemployment – reflected in the latest statistics out last week which showed that unemployment had fallen to its lowest level in nearly six years – but recognise that there is still more for us to do to ensure that everyone is able to benefit from the economic upturn.

This week, single parent charity Gingerbread has published a new report, Paying the Price: The long road to recovery, which highlights single parents’ experiences in work and of finding work. In reading the report, I was struck by how motivated single parents are to work and support their families – indeed 60% of single parents are already in work – a fact which is reinforced by the stories I hear from the single parents I meet at my constituency surgeries.

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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 …

Also posted in The Independent View | 13 Comments

Liberal Democrat amendment making revenge porn a crime to be debated today – watch Hannah’s story

"Frozen Poetry" - Houses of Parliament, LondonThis afternoon, an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill in the name of four Liberal Democrat peers, Jonathan Marks, Olly Grender, Liz Barker and Sal Brinton, will be debated in the House of Lords. Its effects would be to make it an offence to publish a sexually explicit image of a person without their consent, punishable by 6 months to a year in prison.

photo by: Gaurav Pradhan
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Opinion: Is the rethink on the Bedroom Tax too little, too late?

Clegg axe bedroom taxThe Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy (the ‘bedroom tax’) has not met its intended outcomes. This has led to an apparent U-turn by the Liberal Democrat leadership, based on evidence published in the interim policy evaluation. This report highlighted the economic hardship experienced by those affected and that the accelerated demand for downsizing has been difficult to meet.

It is to be applauded that Liberal Democrats appear to have responded to evidence which suggests that the policy isn’t working. Also to be welcomed is the intention to …

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Opinion: Making the two-year-old programme work

Teacher Tom at Canterbury994I’m a governor at Seven Sisters Primary School and South Grove Children’s Centre in Tottenham, where we’ve been running a programme for two-year-olds from deprived backgrounds for the last three years. We’ve tracked the progress these children make, and it’s clear there are real benefits. This is a good Lib Dem policy, aiming to break down the barriers that hold back children from poorer families.

In September, the eligibility criteria for the programme will be widened, so that around 40% of two-year-olds become eligible. In Haringey, that means that …

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Working with the new European Commission

Charlemagne is back in EuropeWhile the UK media has been focusing on Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle and what it means for the Tories’ 2015 election strategy, an even bigger shake-up has been taking place in the running of the European Union. A bit like during the Lib Dem European election campaign, the most frequently heard words this week in Brussels and Strasbourg have been “jobs, jobs, jobs”, and this time it is all about our own.

The last time we were in Strasbourg two weeks ago the Parliament sorted out who got what …

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Opinion: Lib Dem ‘hypocrisy’ on bedroom tax unfair

Axe the bedroom tax - photo by Funk DoobyI have to defend accusations my party is being ‘hypocritical’ over its stance on the Bedroom Tax.

Thanks to Liberal Democrats being in control in Stockport we were able to introduce a local policy with our hardship fund that meant our residents would not have to pay retrospectively if there was nowhere to move into. Therefore according to Chris Bryant or Labour’s definition there is no bedroom tax in Stockport.

In Stockport the Lib Dem-led Council used the powers at its disposal …

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Opinion: I’ve got the Orange Book blues

Orange_BookThere have been many articles in LDV on the recent ‘Orange Book Two’ conference but I wanted to comment, by way of reflection a month later, on the sum of the more classical liberal ideas presented at the conference, particularly my slight feeling of, well, perhaps ‘emptiness’, as I left the conference for a flight at Heathrow.

The presentations and speeches were polished, interesting, stimulating, and full of fact-based insights especially on issues such as the dangers of an overbearing government and how the sheer volume of economic regulation …

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Opinion: How many all-male panels will there be at Autumn Conference?

Guardian 2 photo by Liberal democratsPersonally, I’d like there to be none. And that’s why I have today written to Tim Gordon, CEO, and Tim Farron, party President, asking for a message to be sent to all internal and external organisations holding fringe events at Autumn conference, to remind them of the need for diverse panels, including gender balance. I’ve also asked that the same be done for all local parties who will soon be electing their Executives.

A while back, Mark Pack announced his decision to decline invitations to sit on …

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Ed Davey MP writes…Investing in green energy

offshore wind farmToday I published the Government’s first ever ‘Energy Investment Report’.  It shows how Liberal Democrats in Government have delivered on jobs and investment in energy – particularly green energy – and shows the plan we now have for this to continue for decades to come.

Let me be clear – investment in the energy sector has not been a ‘nice to have’.  We inherited a legacy of energy underinvestment from Labour and we’ve spent the last four years turning this around.   The sheer scale of the investment has already …

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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 …

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The Gender Agenda #2: Helping women climb the rungs of the activist ladder

Womens shortlistsI think we all got into politics for one of three reasons: principle, policy or people. When it comes to joining a political party, most Liberal Democrats reading this will know which category they fall into. Maybe it was the idea that ‘no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity’; for some it was policies born from those principles, like electoral reform or fairer parental leave; and for others, it was the local councillor who took the time to get to know them and help when they needed …

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Opinion: Assisted suicide – why the Falconer Bill must be rejected

Parliament Sunset - Photo by Greg KnappThe issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia has been presented in the media in a highly emotionally charged way in recent years, with several ‘hard cases’ of non-terminally ill people wanting to die. This has resulted in confusion over what exactly is at stake in the forthcoming Falconer Bill and of course, hard cases make bad law.

In the sad case of Tony Nicklinson, lawyers argued that he had Article 8 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (respect for private life and family). In their view, …

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Opinion: Help stop lives being ruined by abusive practice of revenge pornography

UW-Madison Teaching Learning SymposiumNext Monday, two amendments to criminalise revenge porn will go to the committee stage in the House of Lords.

For those who don’t know, revenge porn is non-consensual pornography. It’s where a person uploads an explicit image of somebody without their permission. Often the victim’s name and contact details are attached. Not only is it humiliating but it has the potential to reach out of the screen and destroy people’s lives.

The first amendment was submitted by a group of Liberal Democrats in the Lords. It states that ‘a person …

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Michael Gove: The Case for the Defence. And also the Case for the Prosecution.

Michael GoveUnlike most Lib Dems, I am not a Gove-hater. But nor do I share the adulation those one on the Right bestow upon him. The man we must now call the former Education secretary was more complex than his critics allowed and more flawed than his fans admitted.

No-one should doubt Michael Gove’s passion for schools reform, nor his sincerity. For him it is much more than political: it is also personal. Two men have shaped much of the education agenda in the last 15 years: Gove and Labour’s Andrew Adonis, …

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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 …

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Progress in Magna Carta’s Birthday year

Magna Carta by EteeIn a week when the big news is about changed faces in government, there is also much manoeuvring in the political undergrowth about the rules which govern government:  our constitution.

The House of Commons Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform (P&CR) has launched a debate on a written constitution for the United Kingdom.  This has been a Liberal and Liberal Democrat objective for all my time in politics, but the question has always been how such a document would be drawn up, agreed and entrenched beyond the usual …

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Opinion: Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill – A measure of humanity

Sunset @ Adyar:When Lord Falconer put forward his Assisted Dying Bill, I had no idea it would generate so much interest. Similar bills have gone before the Lords before, and similar bills have failed, by a wide margin.

However, this bill is gathering a remarkable head of steam ahead of its second reading in the Lords this Friday, 18th July .

The Church of England’s General Synod’s decision to reject the bill and call for a Royal Commission is reasonably predictable, but it’s becoming clear that opposition to the bill is far from …

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Opinion: Violence And Peace In The Middle East – There Is Something We Can Do

Gaza Burns - photo by Al Jazeera EnglishThe recent murders of the Israeli and Palestinian children were in themselves terrible crimes but they also served to ignite the latest round of brutal violence in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Some media commentators are tempted to suggest that this is inevitable and un-resolvable but I don’t believe that to be the case.

I was surprised recently to discover – and then to find that I greatly admired – the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine’s 9 point plan for peace and the three principles that inform …

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Opinion: Assisted dying

LilyThe Assisted Dying Bill returns to the House of Lords this week following high-profile interventions by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby , and his predecessor-but-one, George Carey.

While the bill may receive a second reading in the Lords, it stands little chance of progressing in the Commons. This is because key MPs, including David Cameron and Nick Clegg, are firmly against it. I respect the sincerity of Cameron and Clegg’s concerns, but I also believe their stated views show that they have not approached the issue in the right way. It is vital that any debate in the commons is open and honest, and not skewed by prejudice or emotion. MPs could do worse than begin the debate by considering the views of the two archbishops, which actually advanced the quality of the public discourse quite significantly.

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