Category Archives: Op-eds

The Africa Liberal Network launches new youth network in Nairobi

It’s an old and accepted wisdom that Africa’s progression – in fact the world’s – is dependent on investment in its young people. With over 70% of the population across the continent aged 35 and under, it couldn’t be clearer that Africa’s challenges and its priorities, must be those of its young people.

Despite this, leadership in Africa is on average 10-20 years older than leadership in Europe and America, despite the western world’s older populations. The Africa Liberal Network (ALN) itself, despite progress in this area with, for example, the appointment of the liberal politician Sidi Toure to the position of Minister for Youth in Cote D’Ivoire, is dominated at the leadership level by politicians over a certain age.

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Lynne Featherstone writes: Smart consumers: the bedrock of the clean energy revolution

“Our roofs will power our washing machines. Our cars will be charged at home. Our homes will be warm without turning the heating on. Our energy will be British, it will be clean.”

This is the vision Tim Farron set out as part of our strategy for Britain to lead the clean energy revolution.

A smarter energy system is a key piece of the puzzle, which will mean this vision can be delivered.

Academics such as Professor Dieter Helm have frequently talked about the potential of this change to improve how our energy systems work. Not only will smarter energy benefit our environment and help to reduce our carbon footprint, but it will support economic growth, innovation, competition and choice in the energy market.

Today, our interaction with energy is simple. We pay for the energy we use, often sticking with the same energy supplier for many years.

Many consumers pay far too much for their energy as a result.

But how we buy energy could be very different and lead to far cheaper bills.

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From selfies with Clegg to the Glee Club stage – my first Liberal Democrat conference

I am currently in my first year at the University of Leeds, studying Politics and Parliamentary Studies. I officially became a party member in November 2016, but I have always been a Liberal Democrat at heart!

Last weekend was my first time at a party conference and I can honestly say it was one of the best weekends of my life. I did not really know what to expect, but I certainly did not expect to get to meet Nick Clegg on the first day! This was a pretty momentous occasion for me as you could call Nick my ‘Lib Dem hero’ given that he was the main reason I first became interested in the party.

My experience of conference undoubtedly proves that I joined the right party. What other party would have the unique event that is Glee Club? Slightly bizarre at first, but after a couple of G&T’s my (not so) secret love for karaoke shone through. Anyone who witnessed my attempted parody of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse can vouch for this (along with the fact that I am a terrible singer). 

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Willie Rennie goes all Alice in Wonderland AND uses the F-word

Have you ever thought that what Parliament really needs is a few more Alice in Wonderland references?

This afternoon the Scottish Parliament started a two day debate on whether to call for a Section 30 order, the device that would enable them to hold a second independence referendum. Theresa May has said that “now is not the time” in much the same tone of voice as she said “brexit means brexit.”

It’s funny, because, as Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles pointed out today, they’ve managed to clear 2 days of parliamentary time for this (although the length of the debate was something we agreed with) at a week’s notice and put so much effort into setting it all up, yet we’ve gone 445 days without a mental health strategy. Priorities, and all that.

I started watching the debate as Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale started speaking. Of all poisoned chalices, hers is the biggest. She’s one of the most caring, articulate, engaging politicians I’ve come across, yet she’s lumbered and with and constantly undermined by Corbyn. During the last referendum, I watched her speak particularly to women’s groups and she was fantastic at putting across a positive case for the UK. She and Willie Rennie are both very good at that but they were both sorely under-used on the national stage.

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Brian Paddick writes…A government without a moral compass was always going to end up on the rocks.

Like a dog that has been let off the lead after five years under Lib Dem restraint, this Conservative government is all over the place with its legislative programme and that’s before we even start on Brexit.  To add to the list of obnoxious new laws such as the new offence of ‘driving while being a suspected illegal immigrant’  and giving the police unfettered access to innocent people’s web histories, the Tories have waded into the swamp of online pornography and they are completely out of their depth.

The Digital Economy Bill, another universal answer to everything they couldn’t get through when we had one hand on the reins of power, professes to protect children from online pornography.  Even those like me whose access to porn when I was younger was the top shelf magazines in the newsagent, know that, as with other forms of prohibition, those determined to get their hands on it will succeed.  It is far better to educate children how to deal with online pornography when they come across it rather than, Canute-like, trying to keep it away from them.

Nonetheless, if we are to prohibit access to online adult material unless there is an age-verification solution in place, the privacy of those who are being forced to part with their sensitive personal information in order to verify their age, must be protected.  We have already seen user databases for a couple of major porn sites, containing sensitive personal information, being hacked and the details traded on the dark web.  When details of users of the Ashley Madison site were leaked, it reportedly led to two suicides.

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Are all the Brexit Tories rock solid for the “precious union”?

Theresa May was in Wales this week, talking of “our precious union.” I imagine she is genuine in her wish to maintain the United Kingdom, if for no other reason than avoiding her place in history as its last prime minister. Enough of my cynicism. Better we assume history’s verdict is not her prime motivating factor. That it is indeed “our precious union.”

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Here we go again…

 

We all know about the announcement from Nicola Sturgeon. Some have written here in support of Liberal Democrat leadership figures maintaining a staunch unionist position, to the extent of wishing to block an independence referendum in the first place. Others have written in support of the Liberal Democrats crossing the divide and actively backing Scottish independence this time around.

I have made no secret of the fact that in 2014 I was a reluctant Yes voter. I am also open about the fact that in the next referendum, the only thing that will have changed for me is my increased certainty that independence is the least worst option on the ballot, in the wake of Brexit. However, many others within the party will be similarly convinced of their position behind a No vote.

In the wake of the recent Northern Irish election, I remember reading a Mark Pack article asking what lessons Liberal Democrats could learn from our Northern Irish sister party, which had enjoyed a strong result. The Alliance Party exists as a cross-community endeavour to defend and advance liberalism, tolerance and understanding across sectarian and nationalistic divides. Crucially, it does so without declaring either the British union or a future reunion of Ireland as the correct context to achieve those goals in.

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