Category Archives: Op-eds

Jenny Willott MP writes…Cracking down on copycat websites

imageThe internet has made life a lot easier in many ways for many people – I can hardly imagine a time when I wasn’t able to make online bank transfers, get a grocery shop delivered or book a holiday online. However, as we all spend more time online and use the internet to do increasing numbers of things, new problems and challenges arise which we have to address.

People deserve the same protection online as they get offline, and we need to make sure that we have the ability and resources to ensure this is the case.

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Opinion: Manufacturing is a growing sector in the UK and EU membership is vital

manufacturing - Some rights reserved by I-5 Design and ManufactureManufacturing has been something I have been passionate about for years now. When I was MP for Rochdale I helped to set up the all party manufacturing group in the House of Commons and then when I became MEP for the West Midlands region I jointly set up the Manufacturing Forum in the European Parliament. I have represented two areas where manufacturing has been so important. In my view, it is even more relevant today in helping to rebalance the economy and …

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There are way too many elephants in Lib Dem Members’ survey

elephants - Some rights reserved by Colin the ScotYesterday, I was delighted to receive the latest Liberal Democrat members’ survey and I quickly completed it. Once I actually read the questions, though, some things made me snort with rage. I would be very surprised if they were able to glean any meaningful data from what they asked. Yes, they may well get a few decent press releases out of “Lib Dem Members’ favourite achievements in Government” or favourite things that we have stopped the Tories doing that will be covered only …

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Opinion: Britain needs jobs, not UKIP/Tory insults

Workers bankers london bridge - some rights reserved by zoonabar

Over 4 million British jobs depend on exports to the Single Market.

Those are the words of the Centre for Economic and Business Research regarding their recent report into British Jobs and the Single Market.

When we talk about this issue UKIP and the Tory Right throw around words like “liar”. When people do that it usually means they have lost the argument.

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Opinion: Liberal Democrat support in minority and other communities

3387203709_d0349346c3_bLiberal Democrats are thought to have benefited considerably from support in Muslim communities at the 2010 General Election.

This can be attributed both to the Lib Dems being the only party to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 1993, and also to Nick Clegg being the only party leader to consistently criticise Israel for its policies towards Palestinians in the years leading up to the Election.  This has caused some concern in the party that we may be losing Jewish votes. During the period of the coalition government there has been much more …

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Jeremy Browne, South Korea and ‘Race Plan’

jeremy browne_Reform_Race_plan_coverIs Jeremy Browne really a secret lover of state intervention and a sceptic of free markets, believing in big state spending, government economic planning and regular intervention in the market? For all of the veneer of free marketeering in his book Race Plan, not to mention his choice of Reform as the publisher, it’s a question that comes to mind because in-between praising specific free market, small state policies, Browne regularly praises the results of governments such as the Chinese and the South Koreans, who are anything but.

It’s his praise of South Korea that is the most intriguing, for China can simply be put to one side as dramatic but its own unique case (though, as Stephen Tall has said, it is still an odd example for Jeremy Browne to trumpet).

South Korea is, as Browne rightly points out, seen by many developing countries as the one to emulate, transforming itself from a poor dictatorship to a wealthy democracy with globally successful industries in less than half of one person’s life time.

Also posted in Books | Tagged and | 15 Comments

Indiscriminate and insensitive overuse of benefit sanctions needs to be tackled by Liberal Democrat ministers

Benefits-welfareI came across this article about some of the circumstances which had led to sanctions being imposed on benefit claimants. Everything in the article is sourced, but I also take it seriously because it resonates with real life examples that I have heard about.

The coalition has dramatically increased the scale of withdrawal of benefit for infringing rules. A claimant can be sanctioned for not apparently looking hard enough for work, for not attending job centre interviews or for turning down job offers. The minimum period you can lose your benefit …

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Ed Davey MP writes… An onshore wind cap makes no sense

A few wind turbinesRarely a week goes by without an onshore wind story appearing in the media – normally negative, with some Conservative source trying to undermine this important source of renewable energy. The past few weeks have been no different.

First, let’s set the record straight. Liberal Democrats in Government will not accept a cap on onshore wind. Of course what other parties choose to put in their manifestos is a matter for them. But this Coalition Government is not changing tack on onshore wind or renewables and we will not …

photo by: vaxomatic
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Michael Moore MP writes… Scotland’s place in the world

scotlands futureIt is the duty of the government of any state to safeguard national security and to protect its people, territory, economy and interests from internal and external threats.

If Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom in September, there is no doubt that there would be major challenges for the national security of both Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The size and scale of our armed forces means the UK is considered a partner of choice by many countries around the world, delivering a geopolitical influence that few states …

Also posted in Scotland | Tagged , and | 30 Comments

John Leech MP writes…My Voice, My Vote

Ballot paperBritain is suffering from a crisis of alienation. Despite a wave of democratic reforms since 1997, including the rebirth of localism in 2010, the UK remains one of the most centralised European States. Even after devolution to Scotland and Wales, the majority of power is still concentrated in London and held by a narrow class of professional politicians most of whose lives seem increasingly detached from the people they represent. Local councils struggle to make an impact on their communities, and in vast swathes of the country voter turnout continues to sink as the electorate loses faith in the system’s ability to deliver the services they need.

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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
Tagged and | 71 Comments

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 | 36 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 | 59 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 | 44 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.

Tagged | 27 Comments

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
Tagged | 7 Comments

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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    I wouldn't be so sure about that, Caractacus. In Scotland, the Lib Dems have been praised by NUS for persuading the SNP Government to minimise...
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