Category Archives: Op-eds

Opinion: A liberal postcard from Athens #2

I sent a postcard from Athens to LDV six months or so ago as we waited for the Greek people to elect a new government – bringing to power the curious mix of Syriza (a collection of hard left factions that would make the People’s Front of Judea blush) and the Independent Greeks (representing the Greek chauvinistic right). This odd mix of nationalism and hard –left rhetoric has been colourfully described by one academic as “ethno-bolshevism”. Since then, it has certainly been eventful and I have been very much aware that political choices have consequences.

In the Greek election campaign, Syriza promised to free Greece to make its own financial decisions without interference form the much hated “Troika” (the IMF, the Eurozone and the European Union) while, at the same time, ensuring Greece could stay within the security of the European monetary union – even receiving debt relief from its other members. Greece duly voted to have its cake and to eat it.

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Opinion: Paddy Ashdown’s appeal to Green and Labour

 

Lord Ashdown’s call for ‘progressive forces’ to  collaborate before the next election  does not go far enough, especially now there is talk about Labour never winning again. He rightly talks about  Lib Dem collaboration with Labour and the Greens. But there can be no ‘progress’ without prior electoral reform: the alternative is the old see-saw, but worse – Labour’s Scottish  amputation has moved the pivot. ‘Progress’ demands the rout of the Tories and their money, and that can be achieved if all other parties gang up on them. That sounds unsporting, but the Tories know well that this is no game.

All those parties which together represent that huge majority which voted 2:1 against the Conservatives must grit their teeth and do the needful thing, for their several and their collective futures: they must form a Mayday Alliance: an Alliance short-lived, but irresistible as a rescue force.

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Opinion: The twin intellectual conceits that damned the Liberal Democrats’ election hopes in 2015

 

History has the delightful habit of rendering as fools those who propagate the consensus view of a contemporary event, not because the consensus is ever totally wrong, but because it is comfortable and provides comfortable answers to snuggle up to, rather than looking deeper into the harsh eyes of reality and the bigger truths that are revealed.

And so it is with the Liberal Democrat post election postmortem. The consensus view huddles around the notion that it was only tuition fees and anger about the coalition that lost it, but we knew about those from a long way out and still felt we would get more than twenty seats. Two slivers of reality that the Lib Dems could not bring themselves to acknowledge drove our total of seats down further.

The first of these conceits, and the one that is both the least contentious and the most uncomfortable, is that we were too blasé in believing that our traditional campaign tactic of talking up the local and ignoring the national would work. It has of course been effective in the past, but it was hugely conceited to assume that rival parties would not be working on ways to crack that particular code. Of course the coalition made it easier for it to happen, but we signalled what we were to do, with rhetoric in the national media about our ’57 by-elections strategy’, signposting the direction of our campaign to all.

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Opinion: Bill – A Factual Postscript

Last week you published a post from me about an elderly prisoner called Bill. In a piece restricted to 500 words some things inevitably get left out which some readers need for clarity.

To help Stuart – Mary Reid’s helpful comment pointed out that the YOI element at Littlehey opened in 2010. It closed in 2014 to allow the prison to become a full adult prison. Unfortunately the Ministry of Justice website on Littlehey was last updated in April 2013 so doesn’t help. However I am sure a phone call to the prison on 01480 335 000 will elicit the information …

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The Liberal Democrat party should be able to recall its own peers

The Independent reports that several Liberal Democrats are due to be made peers in the forthcoming dissolution honours list. Compared to votes cast before and on May 7th, we have a disproportionate amount of peers. This opens up the question: Should we, the Liberal Democrats, voluntarily sack 60 peers to make our Lords contingent proportionate to our last general election share of the vote? That would certainly be a groundbreaking move, a bonfire of ermin has much attractive about it, but I don’t advocate it.

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Opinion: Ending the northern power cut

Yesterday, Patrick McLoughlin announced what many of us had feared but were hoping would never happen: electrification of the train line between Manchester and Leeds was to be postponed, and possibly cancelled. The lynchpin of the Northern Powerhouse was pulled out and the plan predictably fell apart at the seams.

Three months ago, the Conservatives promised that £38 bn would be invested in the national rail network, mostly into electrifying the old diesel lines. This was so important to the Tories, we were told, that it was at the top of the manifesto. On page 11, the Tories outlined their plans for £13 bn for the North alone, going towards new trains, new lines, and new wires. And in one speech today, McLoughlin snuffed out the flame of hope in such a way on the Tories can.

The rail network in the North is completely dire, and bears all of the hallmarks of central government in London meddling time and time again. Serco-Abellio were awarded all but the actually profitable lines and told to run a vast network in the North using Cold War-era trains under the assumption that there was to be no growth and no investment in the Northern network. And to their credit, they’ve done a good job from what they’ve been given.

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Tim Farron’s speech to the IPPR: Liberalism: an optimistic confidence in the capacity of people to make the most of their lives

Both Liberal Democrat leadership candidates are giving speeches to the IPPR think tank over the next few days. Here is Tim Farron’s in full. 

IPPR has always been one of the leading think tanks on the progressive wing of British politics. I welcome the interest you’ve shown in Liberalism, and I hope that in the next few years you will further develop the arguments in your 2007 book on Liberalism, Beyond Liberty.

Now let me be frank. The election on May 7th was an utter disaster for the Liberal Democrats. In terms of our vote and number of MPs we are back to the level of the 1970 general election, when the Liberal Party won six seats on 7.5 per cent of the vote, compared to this year’s eight seats and 7.9 per cent.

Compared to the last election, in 2010, we lost almost two-thirds of our vote and over 85 per cent of our MPs. There is no other occasion in the entire history of the Liberal Democrats or the Liberal Party, stretching back to the early nineteenth century, on which we have lost such a high proportion of our vote or our seats.

It’s therefore entirely reasonable to ask the question: what is the point of the Liberal Democrats? Do we have a role to play in a country which appears to have rejected us so comprehensively?

It won’t come as a surprise to you that I think we do! And I’m not alone. Since the election Party membership has surged by more than 30 percent, we are the fastest growing political party in the UK – that 18,000 people have, without being prompted, had the same thought, at the same time, and then done something about it… well that’s a phenomenon, indeed it is a movement.  That’s more than just encouraging – it’s a signal that there are so many people out there who are Liberals at heart, who understand the threat that Liberalism faces, who think Liberalism’s worth fighting for and who see the Liberal Democrats as their vehicle and their voice.

Even The Guardian has now reached that conclusion. Having compared us during the campaign to ‘rinse aid in a dishwasher … probably useful, surely not essential’ – they decided after the election just three weeks later that, ‘in the absence of a liberal party, one would have to be invented – and indeed … one will now have to be reinvented and rebuilt’.

The result on May 7th might have been a rejection of the Liberal Democrats, but it was not a rejection of Liberalism. Rather, it was a consequence of our decision in 2010 to enter into coalition with our historic political enemies. We did the right thing by our country, and I am proud of Nick and all that we achieved, but our party was hugely damaged by the perceived submerging of our identity and by the tuition fees issue which undermined the electorate’s trust in us.  Our election campaign did not help too much either: a campaign which seemed to say  that we were desperate to get back into government and didn’t much mind with whom, while wholly failing to communicate what we stood for and what we believed.  We said something about what we would do, but we did not tell people who we are.

I want to be very clear, though: I am not repudiating the coalition. We were right to enter into coalition in 2010 and can be proud of what we achieved. Indeed, we proved that coalition government can be stable and successful and that people should not fear coalition in the future.  But I spoke about all this at length to the Gladstone Club a couple of weeks back, so you’ll forgive me for not repeating myself here.

In fact we achieved a lot for Liberalism in the coalition. The Agreement included: a rise in the income tax threshold to £10,000; the pupil premium to give extra resources for children from disadvantaged backgrounds; restoration of the earnings links for the state pension; a banking levy and reform of the banking system; investment in renewable energy; the immediate cancellation of plans for a third runway at Heathrow; an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes; the dropping of plans for identity cards; agreement to reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for overseas aid by 2013; the introduction of a fixed-term parliament of five years; and reform of the House of Lords.

With the exception of Lords reform, every single one of those objectives was achieved. And we managed more in the five years that followed: same-sex marriage, the world’s first Green Investment Bank, the triple lock for pensions, two million apprenticeships, free schools meals for the youngest pupils, and much more. I don’t believe any of that would have happened without Liberal Democrats.

And that’s just the positive things we achieved; I don’t have time to list all the Tory commitments we blocked. Over the next five years people will see exactly what a difference we made. In fact, the last six weeks have shown pretty clearly what an outstanding job Nick Clegg and his team did.

So why did we do so badly in the election? Ask random members of the public what they remember about the coalition, and will they list any of those achievements? While we were sweating over our best policies, people weren’t listening. Tuition fees created a barrier – like those force fields in Science Fiction films. We fired our best policies and achievements – and they were brilliant policies and achievements – and they just glanced off the electorate because the tuition fees barrier – that lack of trust – was too strong.

So we need a fresh start. We have to prove, from first principles, why Liberalism in Britain still matters. So I’ll start by defining what I mean by Liberalism – what are the underlying beliefs and values that underpin our approach.

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Opinion: The Clegg Catastrophe: What the Guardian didn’t mention

The esteemed political journalists Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt of the Guardian have made an interesting, if long contribution to the debate about how the Liberal Democrats ended up in their current predicament.

Interestingly, it says very little about the 2010-12 era when Tim Farron and Norman Lamb chaired the party’s two main committees, the Federal Executive and Federal Policy Committee respectively.  However, it does shed some interesting light on the internal debate on the central issue that caused the electoral catastrophe: tuition fees.  The tales of what might have happened had David Laws not resigned, and why fees was not debated at our Special Conference, remain to be told.

Perhaps its biggest flaw is the typically lazy conflation of the debate around the party’s as being between “Liberals” and “Social Democrats”: an analogy that should have been buried quarter of a century ago.  As a social liberal and indeed Co-Chair of the Social Liberal Forum from 2012-14 I can testify that plenty of social democrats were on both sides of the debate.

There are at least three areas where the piece is weakly researched or just plain misleading.  All are the result of relying on a relatively narrow number of interviewees.  The full account offers lessons for the new leader as to how to avoid future pitfalls.

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Liberal Democrat leadership: So what happens at a Lib Dem hustings meeting?

newcastle bridges by ratherbewalking
I was peeved when I saw that the Scottish leadership hustings were taking place this coming Saturday as I knew I had to be in London for a Federal Executive away day. In a moment of madness, though, I decided that I would make a trip to Newcastle for the hustings last Friday night. I am, after all, the FE liaison person for the North East region so it would be good to meet people there.

After a 90 minute train journey, a delicious Chicken Fajita in a place called Zapatista and a quick look at the Centurion pub next to the station to see the amazing Victorian tile work (honest), I headed to the Station Hotel a full hour before the hustings started. It was already buzzing with people. They were expecting so many to turn up that they had had to arrange a bigger room.

I managed to get one of the last seats in the room even though I’d got there so early. Strictly speaking, I might have spent too long drinking gin in the bar with my friend of two decades, Jo, where I also found out something about Tim Farron’s past that I didn’t know. I am now hunting down the evidence and when I find it, you will be the first to know. It’s not scandal, unless you count crimes against fashion in that category. 

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Opinion: Filling the gulf in British politics – making the centre ground our own

On May 8th Nick Clegg told us that fear won the election. He was right. But hope played just as important a part.

It was hope that took votes from the Lib Dems: Ed Miliband’s hope that shackling business would help the poor; the Green hope that uncoupling ourselves from our addiction to economic growth would deliver social justice; the SNP hope that a fiscally empowered Scotland could abandon austerity.

Each of these visions is as misleading as it is inspirational.

The general election amounted to a choice between firm Tory hands on the reins and the whip alike, and four loose notions of where we ought to be heading – but never how to get there.

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Opinion: Time to address our “Woman Problem”

Two out of four candidates for the UK Labour leadership are women. This remarkable fact has arisen with little comment. It seems normal and there is no suggestion that either Yvette Cooper or Liz Kendall’s names on the ballot are tokenistic.

In contrast, no women are eligible to stand for leadership of the Lib Dems as we have no female MPs. We have two strong candidates for leader in Tim Farron and Norman Lamb. I feel, however, that it’s unacceptable to have got ourselves into a position where there is no possibility of voting for a woman leader.

The front-runner to be next Labour leader in Scotland is a woman. The Scottish First Minister is a woman, as is the leader of the Scottish Conservatives. The Scottish Greens have Co-Convenors with a man and a woman jointly holding the post. So it is likely that in Scotland we will soon be the only party not to have a woman leader. Indeed, unless there is a considerable change in our fortunes  before the Holyrood elections next year we will soon have no women in the Scottish Parliament either. Our current sole female MSP, Alison McInnes, has been voted number 2 on the North East list and there is only 1 region, out of 8, where we have a woman at the top of the list.

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Opinion: I’m a liberal so why should I feel excluded?

I am a Liberal, not just a Liberal Democrat, but a deep rooted Liberal. I believe in freedom of choice, freedom of expression. I believe in an individual’s right to privacy, to making choices that don’t hurt others. I believe in the self determination of life and of the right of the individual to end that right. I believe that everyone should be allowed to choose to live the way they are born and the way they choose, and for that to change as they grow and understand themselves better.  I believe that an individual should have the right to defend themselves against accusations and the right to a fair trial that starts from the premise of innocent till proven guilty. I believe in the individual and providing an opportunity for everyone to succeed no matter their background and without having to be measured by my understanding of success.

With all of this and more I am without a doubt in my mind a Liberal and I believe that the Liberal Democrats are the right place for me to express those beliefs and to fight for those beliefs. Yet at times, recently, I have felt like an outsider and at times been made to feel like I don’t belong in this party. I’m not a new member either, I’m chair of my Local party, have been on a number of welsh party committees and spoken at a number of our conferences. So why do I feel like I’m not welcome? Because I’m a man of faith.

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Baroness Kate Parminter…What I will do as a Lib Dem Deputy Leader in the Lords

Last week I was elected as one of two Deputy Leaders (alongside Navnit Dholakia) of our group in the Lords.

We have many battles ahead of us and whilst I’m a supporter of an elected second chamber (and have long campaigned for one and will continue to do so) we Liberal Democrats in the Lords have a real opportunity to hold this Government to account. We can improve the laws that the Tories bring forward and campaign alongside others to make Britain less unjust, more liberal and greener.

I’m looking forward to working with Navnit & our Leader Jim Wallace as our 102 strong group in the Lords calls into question any illiberal moves by this Tory Government (and so far it looks like there will be many opportunities to do so). This will play a part in the Liberal Democrat fightback and keep the liberal voice loud in Westminster, helping re-build support for our party to win votes and seats right across Britain.

So what will I do?

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Opinion: The future of pensioner benefits

Our pensioners quite rightly enjoy a number of benefits and it was of course a Liberal government that introduced the old age pension over a century ago.

As part of the coalition it was a Lib Dem minister, Steve Webb, who steered through the legislation ensuring the triple lock and the introduction of auto enrolment for those workers without an occupational pension.

Great reforms, but with an ageing population there has been an increased focus on whether we can justify or indeed afford the universal payment of benefits such as Winter Fuel Allowance and free tv licences.

There is also need to focus on the issue of free transport concessions.

In my view, the starting point should be that as liberals we are committed to making sure retired people have a good level of support, but we are not about paying money to those who simply don’t need it.

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Opinion: The Commonwealth and the EU

 

Pro-Europe supporters are heading to repeat the same mistake as the Fair Votes referendum campaign by ignoring multicultural Britain’s perspectives. Should the race become neck-and-neck this could well tip the balance in favour of ‘out’.

A key difference from the electoral reform vote is that the EU ‘out’ lobby can see the value of attracting diverse communities for the Euro poll. UKIP, in particular, are pushing a pro-Commonwealth argument by claiming that Britain’s trade relationships can be switched from Europe to Asia, Africa and the Americas.

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Opinion: Bill

He was cold. His shivering was so intense it was more like a palsy. The surgery receptionist ignored his growing distress. He had been sitting in the freezing cold waiting room for over two hours. The door stood open letting in a draught that cut through his thin clothes. He was wearing three layers – all the clothes he had.

Bill was 88 years old with sores on his legs and needing to get his dressings changed. Scandalous that in any NHS run medical facility an elderly and vulnerable person should be treated in this way. In a GP surgery or …

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Opinon: #libdemfightback is for old and new members working together to rebuild the party

Aye, I can remember the good old days for the Liberal Democrats. Eighteen percent popular vote share, twenty members of Parliament including one in Liverpool. Aye, golden days indeed.

When you are the baby of your local community council and eligible for the long service award at the annual membership awards at the age of 40, it can make you wonder if it’s time for me to rest on my laurels and let the fightback be done by these new 16,000 members.  If that is the case, then I am sorry but that is not how we work because (and this may come as a surprise to our new members) this is fightback number five.

Fightback number one lasted from 1951 – 1966, a time when it was not only impossible to get people to vote Liberal but also impossible to even find someone to stand for the Liberals. At the 1955 general election, we only managed to field a hundred and ten candidates but by 1964 we were managing to field almost a full slate of candidates and in 1966 we won twelve seats across the UK, our highest post war level.

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Opinion: On joining the Liberal Democrats and being a Normtrooper

I’ve always had an interest in politics. I’ve never obsessed about it, like I’ve obsessed about football, but I’ve always read and followed political stories and I’ve certainly always voted. My vote hasn’t always been heard, but that’s another issue.

I feel strongly about environmental issues. We must take more action, and soon, to tackle climate change. We, as a family of four, only fill our black landfill bin to less than a quarter full once a fortnight, but our blue recycling bin is always full to overflowing. More can be done by our district council though. A friend of ours can put all the recyclables that we can into their bin(s), plus their recycling bins can take glass and food waste. I also believe in clean energy so choose my energy supplier accordingly, and I’m paper free wherever I can be.

About that other issue I mentioned earlier, I’m also in favour of electoral reform. I live in a safe seat that’s been Tory since it was created in 1983. As I said above, I’ve always voted, but I’ve never voted for either my current MP, or his predecessor. You might wonder what the point is in voting How can it be right that a party who only got 36.9% of the vote got 50.9% of the seats, but another party got 12.6% of the vote, and only 0.2% of the seats. In Scotland, around 50% of the electorate are represented by 56 MPs, but the other 50% are represented by just 3 MPs. The ‘First Past The Post’ system worked fine when more than 90% of people voted for only 2 of the parties, but that has changed, and so must the way we vote, to engage the electorate, and let everyone feel they have a voice.

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Opinion: It’s time to rock and roll – with Tim Farron

I watched the Tower Hamlets Leadership Hustings video last night and it compelled me to reflect on my more than 40 years’ experience of studying leadership. By studying I mean both academically and through observation, and then using this knowledge when teaching leadership in numerous public and private sector organisations throughout the UK and Europe, as well as in many well-known Business Schools, and also acting as leadership coach to countless senior managers. I am not bragging but simply ‘setting out my stall’ before making the following comments about leadership in relation to Tim Farron.

Great leaders understand, and make use of, a raft of very specific skills and characteristics. They are exceptional communicators who are able to make use of all communication channels open to them. They not only write in a language that everyone can understand, but they are also able to speak directly to people and encourage them to buy-in to what they are saying and take action as a result. Great leaders not only have a very clear vision of where they want to lead their organisation in the future but also understand how the vision links to the past, as well as knowing what needs to be done now to make the vision become a reality. Great leaders have a well balanced mix of charm, humour and wit. They take their role as leader very, very seriously but not themselves. They are usually very humble, use the ‘we’ word rather than ‘I’, and are quite happy to use themselves as the butt of their own jokes, not other people. Great leaders understand the idea that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. They are very bright yet have a common touch – they can do verbal battle with the best of them but are also able to touch the soul of the woman or man on the street.  I could go on!

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Opinion: The Tim I know and why I am backing him

It seems a long time since I sat in a Kendal pub and talked with a young 32 year old parliamentary candidate who had dreams of being our local MP. The Tories had been in power here for just short of 100 years and we thought that was enough. The District Council had a Tory leader and I was there to see if I could be persuaded to stand as a Liberal Democrat for my local Ward, to bring us a little nearer towards taking control.

It’s 13 years since that meeting, Tim’s now our MP and we run the Council. We’re building homes for local families, who previously were being forced out of South Lakeland, and we’re helping create jobs by having a strong local plan. Our targets are 1,000 new affordable homes to rent and 1,000 new jobs. We came into politics to change lives for the better and we’re doing that in South Lakeland.

We used to run many more councils across the UK, all with a good story to tell, and if we are to rebuild our party we need to take these councils back! That’s why I’m writing to ask you to join me in backing Tim Farron as our new party leader.

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Norman Lamb MP writes…We must renew, restructure and simplify the way our party works

I believe a priority for the new Leader of the Liberal Democrats is to renew, restructure and simplify the way our Party works. Some parts of the Party work well – others do not. Good practice should be shared and problem areas tackled.

As Liberal Democrats, we rightly set high standards for ourselves on tolerance, equality, openness, accountability, and diversity.  But our party often doesn’t live up to them.

During this campaign people have been telling me that there wasn’t enough accountability within the party.  People had concerns about our central message and the way we fought the election – but it felt like there was no easy channel to get those messages through.  And where mistakes were made, it wasn’t clear who ultimately was responsible.

Few party members really understand how our party works.  There are so many committees with overlapping responsibility.  The process for election to many offices within the party is arcane.  If no-one knows how our party structures work, there cannot be effective accountability.

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Opinion: 200 years on from Waterloo: democracy not dictators, unity not barriers, peace not war.

WaterlooThis week’s 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is a reminder of how far Europe has come.

At Waterloo, 65,000 men were killed or wounded in one day.  In contrast, we have now had 70 years without war in Europe.  Long may peace continue.

We enjoy secure peace partly because every country in Europe now has an elected government. There are no more monarchs or dictators seeking out war for vanity or power. Most importantly, we have the European Parliament where modern opportunities and problems, which cross old national borders, can be discussed by MEPs we elect rather than fought over by armies.

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats should debate ways of liberating our economy from the power of the banks

“Stronger Economy Fairer Society” was the strap-line that took us into the devastating General Election of 2015.  Some members wanted a fairer society that would support a stronger economy but regardless of which way we place these adjectives and nouns, it’s still unachievable without liberating the UK economy from our five major banks.

As long as our five big banks have the power to create money when they make loans, and lend it back to us at a profit, it is very difficult to see how our economy can achieve anything other than consolidating wealth into the hands of a few.  The Bank of England (BoE) and business generally is having less and less influence on how our economy expands and grows. Not only do we need to challenge this ‘status quo’, we need to radically overhaul the system and liberate the banking monopoly so that our economy functions to support our marketplace.

Properties in London have been sliced and diced according to an economic system that is essentially controlled by five big banks and this has overly inflated prices – driving up rents and sales. Homes for families are now filled with rooms for rent that are advertised as flats. We have less than 20 square meters for a bed, cooking and toilet facilities and are charged £800 per month rent. Generation rent (typically graduate students), are unable to save to buy a home due to ‘market rents’ sucking every penny from their incomes.

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Opinion: A moment of acceptance

In the election campaign I was touched, but not surprised, to see Sal Brinton post a link on facebook to an interview with Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett where he spoke of his experiences growing up gay, and self-identifying as an HIV+ parliamentary candidate. My suspicion was that many would encourage someone in Adrian’s position to “be discreet”: but seeing him being so open and the party President support him so clearly made me proud to be a liberal democrat.

From a gay perspective, it’s been encouraging in the present leadership election to see doubts over Tim’s support for LGBT people raised as a cause for concern, and to see him act quickly to counter them.

Recently I had a very positive surprise when I read an article picking up on Norman Lamb’s piece in Pink News where he moved the whole debate on a stage by saying:

until every young person is proud of who they are, who they find attractive and who they love, our fight will continue.

The shift feels significant: from accepting a minority (which keeps them as a minority whose acceptance is to be fought for) and something genuine. It calls to mind the slogan of the LGBT-majority Free Community Church in Singapore: “welcome home”

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Opinion: Non-Linear Values: The Z Coordinate

Since the General Election arguments have raged over whether we, or particular people in the party, are centrist, left of centre or right of centre, and, if so, how much left or right of centre.

I think we are getting this wrong. It is not a linear issue. If I am a kind person, am I left of centre or right of centre? If I am selfish, am I left or right of centre? Why do we limit ourselves by a linear construct?

Rather than see liberal values, and the placement of Liberal Democrats on the political map, as linear, my view is we must take a non-linear perspective. Values are overarching. Promoting liberty, equality and community might sometimes involve what might be called right leaning policy, at other times left, but whether it is one or the other or neither is immaterial. What is important is whether the policy achieves liberty, equality and community. Those overarching values should be the litmus test for any policy.

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Baroness Liz Barker writes…Why Liberal Democrats should be out and proud in 2015

Next Saturday the LGBT community will celebrate Pride in London.

There has been a kerfuffle about whether UKIP should be allowed to attend. Of course they should. In this country the LGBT community is strong enough to be inclusive, to involve all sorts of minorities.  Moreover several hours in which to challenge the absurdity of being an LGBT member of UKIP – preferably through the media of song and interpretive dance – is a gift too good to be spurned.

This year the march will be led by Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners; an organisation of which many young people were unaware until they saw the film Pride. Do get the DVD. It is well worth a watch.  The presence of LGSM (as it said on the collecting buckets) is a timely reminder of how easily political fortunes can change and memories fade.

So this year it is more important than ever that Liberal Democrats have a visible presence at Pride events around the UK.  Our record in LGBT equality has always been outstanding – even if Stonewall refuses to say so. In government we stuck to our principles and brought in Same Sex Marriage.  It would not have happened without us. In DfID, Lynne and Lindsay fought hard to make LGBT equality a central factor in UK aid programmes and foreign policy.   However, be in no doubt that, as part of their plan to eradicate Liberal Democrats in our remaining council and parliamentary seats, the Tories and Labour will airbrush us out of the picture and claim the credit.  

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For new and infrequent commenters only: What do you think of the leadership election so far?

This is one of our occasional posts where we reserve the comments for those who don’t comment very often. Anyone who has made five or fewer comments in the past month is welcome to take part.

The subject for debate today is the leadership election. Liberal Democrat Voice is taking an entirely neutral stance and are doing our best to give equal and balanced coverage of the contest.

We just wondered what you thought of it all so far.  Have you seen the candidates in action? Are they talking about the things that you want to hear about? What do you think of their campaign websites, videos and themes? Do you have any questions for them?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

If you haven’t seen the two in action so far, you can always have a look at the New Members’ Hustings. A big thank yo to James Wright, too, for pointing me in the direction of these videos shot  by his Dad Andrew Cambridge hustings last week. They are really good quality.  Here they are:

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Opinion: No change please, we’re Liberal Democrats

There is an inherent predilection in our political culture towards continual reorganisation.  A culture that often holds us back and stops valuable reforms from maturing and embedding.

This frustrating desire to manifest difference via perpetual revolution may offer some cautionary tales for our own forthcoming leadership election.

I start by saying that I am genuinely open-minded about who it is that should go on to lead our party.  However, I am concerned that two issues risk becoming  incorrectly linked in the emerging campaigns.

That the Liberal Democrats in the last election adopted a ‘centring’ approach is clear.  That the Liberal Democrats suffered a huge electoral defeat is also beyond challenge.  The question is whether there is anything in ‘centring’ that is (almost by nature) politically hazardous or whether in fact the issue was implementation of this strategy.

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Opinion: Magna Carta: Civil liberties 800 years on, under a Tory majority government

On Monday, the Magna Carta – the oldest charter in British (and indeed European) history which protects civil liberties – celebrated its 800th anniversary.

At a celebration in Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was sealed by King John in 1215, David Cameron pledged “to safeguard the legacy, the idea the momentous achievements of those barons” who first signed the Great Charter.

That’s quite a bold statement to make, especially considering he’s in the middle of damaging – not safeguarding – such a legacy by repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 (hereon the HRA).

Like the Magna Carta protected civil liberties in the face of the monarchy, so the HRA protects civil liberties in the face of our government. Consequentially, as Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder and Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld suggest in their article in The New Statesman, it’s hypocritical that the Tories should glorify the Magna Carta whilst scolding the HRA.

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Opinion: Cameron is in danger of being like Mugabe on property

Terraced housingHousing is Londoners’ top priority according to the polls. Not surprising – with problems ranging from the cost, to shortage and too often to the quality too.

Yet the Conservatives’ lead housing policy – to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants – will solve none of these London housing problems: we should make attacking it a Lib Dem campaign priority for next year’s GLA elections.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 30th Jun - 3:08am
    John, by "hard-headed" I mean "what wins sustainable votes". Regards
  • User AvatarMark Green 30th Jun - 2:07am
    I don't see that a single issue united anti-Tory party could possibly work for the reasons that Dal pointed out. And while I think formal...
  • User AvatarT-J 30th Jun - 2:07am
    There should be agreement between the parties to bring about electoral reform. Certainly, there should be a pact between the smaller parties not to enter...
  • User AvatarSammy O'Neill 30th Jun - 12:55am
    This idea is so unfeasible, it's ridiculous. If we optimistically assume the Tories didn't win, In the time it would take to amend the voting...
  • User AvatarStewart 30th Jun - 12:51am
    I'm not hugely inspired. The leaflets I've received are very telling: - Farron's has that cosy old school sandals and leather patches feel to it,...
  • User Avatarkevin 30th Jun - 12:38am
    Roger Lake What's the point of having one let alone two elections when any change in the voting system would need to pass a referendum...
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