Category Archives: Op-eds

Tim Farron MP writes…Green Climate Fund shows this government is leading the world

We often forget to say thank you, because we’re straight on to the next thing. But today, I want to say thank you to everyone – from  our members, activists, staff, councillors, MPs and Peers to Ed Davey for the success we’ve seen as a party on the Green Climate Fund. Even if climate change doesn’t get your heart racing, if you want evidence that the Lib Dems in the Coalition are alive and kicking – look no further. Cameron’s “green crap” attitude hasn’t stopped us leading the world on climate change. We’ve got a lot more to do – but this is good news that should give us confidence.

Set up five years ago at the Copenhagen climate conference, the Green Climate Fund is designed – over time – to replace the spaghetti system of existing funds, and become the main channel for finance to help developing countries reduce emissions and protect themselves from dangerous climate change. It was one of the outcomes which saved the Copenhagen climate conference from complete failure.

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Opinion: Sticking up for the entrepreneurs of the future

I spoke at a Global Entrepreneurship Week event at the University of Exeter last night, and I was asked to define the qualities of an entrepreneur.

It was an event for more than a hundred or so eager undergraduates who have already decided that the corporate world is not the life for them, and who were trying to gather as much information as they possibly could, to help them start their own entrepreneurial journeys, post-graduation.

University entrepreneurship isn’t limited to Exeter, universities all over the country have growing entrepreneurship societies and NACUE (National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs) have done fantastic work promoting them.

Whilst entrepreneurship societies thrive on campus, Lib Dem University societies struggle having taking much of the frontline flack for the tuition fee compromise.  In a previous post for LDV, I drew comparisons between the values of an entrepreneur and Lib Dem members. I think we’ve got even more to say to entrepreneurial students who are making their own way in life.

But how do we say it?

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Opinion: TTIP and the inversion of the Free Trade debate

The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership provides an interesting case study as to how the very meaning of ‘Free Trade’ is changing. The treaty itself is on the rocks with increasing opposition from France and Germany alongside a powerful combination of unions and anti-globalisation advocacy groups. Nothing about that is particularly unusual but a crucial difference is the arguments these groups are making. For the first time they are talking about consumers.

Traditionally trade deals meant hitting producers to help consumers with the abolition of tariffs, subsidies and protectionist legislation. Although there is an element of this in the TTIP the majority of it is actually about the harmonization of consumer standards and it is this which flips the traditional free trade debate so firmly on its head.

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Baroness Olly Grender writes…Tales from the Rochester campaign trail

image004Sometimes being a Liberal Democrat is like walking into a bitterly cold prevailing wind with soggy leaflets in one hand and a disappearing map in the other. By-elections can be the epitome of that experience. Especially by-elections where our vote is being squeezed ‘til our eyes water. Which makes every person who turns out in those battles a hero in my eyes. Yes yes we can all cheerily dry out our wet socks on the piping hot radiator of victory at an Eastleigh experience, but it is Rochester that’s character forming!

The team in Rochester are out every day building up a campaign for the future. They are in a part of Kent where UKIP are on the rise but every day on the doorstep they are hearing the message “anything but UKIP”; we almost need a new column on the connect data. And let’s face it, our party is the opposite of UKIP in almost everything we stand for. Last weekend YouGov published a poll which showed that people understand with absolute clarity that the Liberal Democrats are a party that is vastly different from UKIP (see chart below).

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Opinion: Is the First World War a reasonable subject for a supermarket advert?

Tyne Cot cemetery Ypres First World War by fdecomiteThis Christmas is the 100th anniversary of the so-called “Christmas truce” in 1914 when some First World War troops gathered in “No man’s land” on the battlefields of the Western Front to greet each other and share gifts. It is therefore, perhaps, understandable that Sainsbury’s have collaborated with the British Legion, historians and a leading film-maker to produce a beautiful 3’41” video featuring the truce, which is being used to present shorter TV adverts.

And yet, it is difficult not to feel somewhat uneasy as this advert is repeated many times on our screens.

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Lord Roger Roberts writes… We must abolish the Azure card now

Azure_card_thumbRefused asylum seekers are being forced to endure destitution and humiliation at the hands of the Azure card. Together with the Red Cross, I am calling for the government to put an end to this cruel and unusual system.

On the 20th of November the House of Lords will debate the Azure card. I ask my colleagues and other noble members not to remain silent on this issue.

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Vince would have put Myleene Klass in her place on the Mansion Tax

It’s not every day that you wake up and find that you’ve been quoted in the Daily Fail. The story starts late last night when Ed Miliband got into an argument with Myleene Klass over the Mansion Tax. You can see here on ITV Player how he got his backside handed to him on a plate as Myleene took him to task over his policy. Well, actually, it’s our policy. He nicked it. Maybe if he’d had his own policies, he might have been better at defending them.

Myleene was absolutely and utterly in the wrong as far as I’m concerned. If people are privileged enough to be able to afford a £2 million property, then they should be able to afford a relatively modest tax on that significant wealth.  Forgive me for not having much in the way of sympathy for those rich folk who complain about having to find an extra couple of grand a year. The poor have already been squeezed more than they should have been, by successive governments, including the one of which Ed was a member. If we’re going to be a fairer society, then the rich have to pay their share. It’s a total no brainer. It should absolutely be a no-brainer for the leader of a party which claims to represent the workers of the country.

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Simon Hughes MP writes… We need to take Bill Gates’ advice on aid and fight against Malaria

Last Monday evening I was privileged to attend a Bill Gates lecture in the House of Lords.

Bill Gates made a compelling case for the use of aid to make a real and tangible difference to the world’s poorest people. Rightly, the UK has a long and proud tradition of doing this, but we can do so much more.

There is no better case study for this than Malaria – one of the world’s oldest and deadliest diseases and which kills a child every minute of every day. That’s despite the fact that the cause is preventable and costs less than the price of a cup of tea to treat.

My family take a particular interest in this issue after losing our oldest brother Richard to Malaria contracted in Kenya during his honeymoon some years ago.

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Opinion: The UK is not working

WalesFor 45% of Scots and for many in the NW, the SW and in Wales (which I refer to as the devolving regions), the UK doesn’t work, and this should matter to a Unionist Party. As a Welshman who was forced, as were my parents, to spend decades working in England the reasons are only too clear.

In England we are quite often subject to xenophobia. And while our local colleagues go for exotic weekend breaks, we have to struggle back home to tend to ailing relatives via a crazy London-centred transport network that means that the quickest route from Penzance or Aberystwyth to Dover or Great Yarmouth is via the M25 or Paddington. The quickest route from Liverpool to Southampton is via the M25. And to get to Paris on the HS2 the whole country will have to stop off in London.

photo by:
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Opinion: There is a reason banks aren’t lending enough to small businesses – the regulator is to blame

Lloyds Bank, Leighton Buzzard - Some rights reserved by dlanor smadaSince the banks were ‘bailed out’ with taxpayers money, a regular refrain from across the political divide has been that the banks are doing decisive harm to the country by refusing to lend to small businesses.

If this refrain were accurate, banks would be denying capital to the businesses that create the jobs to engender a sustainable recovery, instead choosing to deploy the capital in complicated financial instruments that create little value, or pumping up housing markets, or in paying enormous bonuses to bank employees.

This latter is an argument that Vince Cable in particular was vocal in espousing, and as soon as the real state of the bonus culture, now much more shares based than cash based, becomes apparent, he will doubtless claim the credit for that.

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Opinion: The legalisation of drugs – let’s not take the line of least resistance

drugsIt’s 1977…. a hot summer evening in Chicago (no – this is not the start of a Raymond Chandler novel). I’m getting a lift back from an outer suburb to the city which takes around an hour on the freeway. It’s late. The driver is going illegally fast. He’s desperate to get home he tells me – so he can smoke some dope. I am desperate to get back in one piece.  I suppose the only thing that might have made his driving worse is if he had actually already smoked the stuff. But that’s what addiction does – it makes people a bit desperate. And make no mistake, cannabis can be addictive.

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Opinion: UKIP fails to win in London because it fails to understand its communities

nigel farageIn this week’s New Statesman, when confronted with the fact that most in London do not share his “uneasy” feelings towards immigrants speaking in their mother tongue, Nigel Farage launches another attack on the capital’s so-called “commentariat” who are “caught in the whirlpool of London thinking”. It’s his typical accusatory anti-liberal, anti-elitist, anti-London rhetoric, and so you’d think it would register just as a minor tremor on the UKIP-irritation seismometer. But it wasn’t. This was a good 7, at least, on the personal Richter Scale.

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A couple of thoughts about the proposed counter-terrorism legislation

I’ve got to be honest, I can’t share Malcolm Bruce’s cautious optimism about the Government’s proposed counter-terrorism measures. Denying our own citizens the right to come back to our country without much mention of testing the evidence against them seems pretty drastic to me. When you consider that it’s likely that some of that evidence is likely to be held in secret and therefore not challengeable by the accused person. We could have situations where young muslim men are denied the right to travel or to return to this country unfairly.

Malcolm says that nobody will be made stateless – but what are they supposed to do with themselves for a couple of years. I suspect there may well be young people who go over there and are so sickened by what they see that they have seen that they want to get back to their family. Being with their family may well be the best place for them.

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It’s been a really good week for Kirsty Williams

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams gives her keynote speech to the Welsh Conference today. She’s had a barnstormer of a week.

First of all, on Monday, she gave a speech to the Electoral Reform Society in Wales in which she called for more Assembly Members and for Assembly Members to be subject to recall, resulting in this very on message headline:

More AMs for stronger economy

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Malcolm Bruce MP writes…Dealing with British citizens who fight for Islamic State

According to Benjamin Franklin’s over-used phrase, those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety.

However compelling this pithy quote is, it masks the fact that you can increase both liberty and safety at the same time. This isn’t an easy task. I don’t think that anyone doubts the extraordinary pressure that Nick Clegg and other Lib Dems in government have come under when they deal with the Tories. But I certainly think that we have managed to do both.

Thanks to the Lib Dems, this is the first government for generations to increase our civil liberties – introducing a Freedoms Bill, scrapping ID cards, reducing detention without trial, ending fingerprinting in schools and improving oversight of the intelligence agencies.

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Vince Cable writes… Remembering Alan Turing

IMG_0923Today sees the general release of the film The Imitation Game, a dramatic portrayal of the life and work of Alan Turing.

By all accounts the film, with the leading role played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is set to be a great success. Oscars are already being talked about.

But why am I drawing attention to this specific film?

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Paul Tyler writes… Voter engagement and Votes at 16: progress!

Today, the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee is doing something I don’t recall any other Committee doing before it. It is publishing a report in draft, and asking for public feedback before making final recommendations.

In announcing this initiative Graham Allen, the Committee’s Chair, writes, “we raise issues around re-building our political parties, their funding, conduct of MPs, how the Media can work to improve public involvement, and how we can restore a sense of excite around our democracy”. These are all clearly crucial issues for Liberal Democrats.

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Opinion: EU court gives lie to Cameron’s free movement scaremongering

It’s probably fair to say that the European Court of Justice is unused to tabloid adulation. But this week’s ruling in Luxembourg on the case of a jobless Romanian woman in Germany led even the arch-anti-EU Daily Express to hail ‘a rare outbreak of common sense’.

The judgement by the EU’s highest court that the right to free movement does not equate to a right to free access to benefits was warmly welcomed all round, including in Germany – which has higher rates of migration than the UK. Even David Cameron called it ‘good news’.

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Opinion: Have we forgotten the basics of community politics?

Do we still do community politics? “Of course we do,” all Lib Dems will say, particularly after press comments on Lorely Burt’s “dog poo” speech at a conference fringe meeting. But I’m not so sure.

A while back when I advised residents to use the local Text the Council number to report flytipping etc, my colleague, a hard working ex-councillor was horrified. ‘Don’t do that,” he told me, “get them to text you so that we get the credit for reporting it.”

And of course we do that all the time and it earns us votes.

But wasn’t part of the point of community politics, as set out in the 1970s by the ALC and the Young Liberals, to create an empowered citizenry, to help residents to take responsibility for their neighbourhoods and hopefully absorb Liberal values in doing so?

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Ed Davey MP writes….The politics of renewables

Yesterday I was in Manchester speaking at the RenewableUK Annual Conference, and then on to see a fascinating energy efficiency project led by students in Parrs Wood School in John Leech’s constituency.

My Manchester speech focused on the politics of renewables – both the good news and the bad.

The good news is that renewables investment is in great shape. Since 2010, an average £7 billion a year has been invested – more than double that under Labour’s last term in office.  We are now seen as No.1 in the world for attracting investment in offshore wind, wave and tidal.

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Norman Lamb writes… NHS needs an extra £1.5 billion

nhs sign lrgFor too long mental health has been seen as a second-class issue in the NHS and I am determined to change that.

Today I’ve called for up to an extra £1.5 billion to be invested in the NHS next April. A significant amount of that money would go towards improving mental health services, especially for children and young people.

At our party conference in Glasgow, Nick Clegg said the Liberal Democrats will spend at least £1bn extra on health and care in each year of the next parliament, including £500m each year for mental health.

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes… We need to act now to protect elephants

ELephants Bostwana Sedudu Photo by Mp3iefEvery 15 minutes an elephant is killed for its ivory. This rapid rate of human destruction has seen the population of African elephants plummet from 10 million in 1910 to a low 434,000 now.

If we want to protect elephants from being confined to the history books we need to act now.

That’s why this week I called for an EU Action Plan to stamp out the illegal wildlife trade in a letter to the new European Commission, co-signed by 82 fellow MEPs from 24 countries.

The joint campaign with the Sunday Mirror and Born Free has already attracted broad-based support from all of the party groupings in the parliament. Many of my colleagues can see that we can no longer dilly-dally if we want to halt and reverse the terrifying trend which sees many creatures firmly on the road to extinction.

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Opinion: The High Street Is Dead…Long Live the Retail Park!

Retail park by crabchickThe high street, as we know it, is in its death throes and I, for one, will not be mourning this loss. The reason for its demise is not, as many may think, the capitalist bad boys of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s et al. but the refrigerator. Yes, you heard me correctly, the humble fridge. My grandparents didn’t own a fridge for most of my mother’s childhood. My grandmother walked to the nearest town (just under 2 miles away) most days, except Sunday, and then back again with her shopping. She would deliberately plan and buy different food for Sunday to account for a lack of means to store perishables.

Women were not freed from this daily task until refrigerators became widely affordable, which meant women were able to get jobs instead.

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Opinion: Why the First World War matters for government for,and by, the people

Lloyd george public domainIn this 100th year since the Great War’s outbreak, and especially around Remembrance Day, we have all been united in sorrow for the pain and loss of life, respect for the ultimate subordination of self to a common good, and gratitude that war on such a scale has been unknown to us for decades and may, with wise leadership, never be seen again.

There is sometimes a view that the First World War was a pointless slaughter. That analysis is too simplistic, in my view. At university, I was privileged to spend a whole year looking at primary sources on British political, economic and military strategy in the First World War. The strategic picture reveals what was at risk in 1914-18. Beyond the pain there was a reason and a purpose.

Today, we see the First World War through the prism of the Second World War, which appears a blatant struggle between good and evil.

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Is John Hemming right to seek guidance on when children can be left home alone?

I was interested by this report in this week’s Sunday Times (£) concerning John Hemming, a long-standing campaigner against overbearing child protection policies and practices and secretive family courts. I’ve seen enough instances in my time where social workers have made serious errors, causing horrendous distress, to make me glad that he’s on their case.

He’s tabled a Parliamentary Question asking the Government for guidance on the age at which a child can be left at home alone after being approached by a mother who was given a police caution some years ago for leaving her then 6 year old in the house while she went for a driving lesson. That caution has been held against her as she now wishes to train as a mental health nurse.

I have to say that I have absolutely zero sympathy with anyone who thinks that it’s ok to leave a 6 year old in the house rather than cancel a driving lesson. The last time ROSPA had the funding to collect statistics on home accidents, they found that 120 children died in a year as a result of an accident in the home. The whole list makes sobering reading. More recent research looks at the reasons behind child hospital admissions and deaths.  So I think it was right that she received a police caution. Whether that should stop her becoming a nurse now, many years on, is a different matter. One stupid mistake shouldn’t automatically blight a whole career choice.

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Lord Roger Roberts writes: Peers must resolve crisis of democracy in Wales

This afternoon, with the full support of all the main parties in the Welsh Assembly, the House of Lords will debate cross-party amendments to the Wales Bill, designed to radically improve voter engagement in Wales. The UK Government will instruct Coalition Peers to vote against them. How can we arrive at such a situation?

There is a crisis of democracy in Wales which the UK Government and The Electoral Commission have stubbornly, and repeatedly, refused to acknowledge.

Despite the sterling efforts of some Electoral Registration Officers (EROs), only 51% of our youngest citizens are registered to vote. And, in 2011, only 35% of 18-24 year olds voted in Welsh Assembly elections. If this status quo persists much longer, than less than half of young people in Wales will have an opportunity to voice their opinions at the ballot box on 7 May 2015.

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New report highlights need for action against homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

If I saw a transgender person, I’d kill them.

That happened. A young transgender person heard that fall casually from the lips of a classmate one day in class. The classmate didn’t know they were talking about someone not three feet away from them, but that’s not the point.

Even though my young acquaintance knew that they weren’t in the wrong, it was still a huge dent to their confidence. A blatant attack on your right to exist is never going to be easy to deal with. All school pupils, staff and parents should know that homophobic, transphobic or biphobic abuse will never be tolerated. That threat of physical harm in that example of hate speech was particularly appalling but those phrases like “You’re so gay” are just the stop of a slippery slope and need to be challenged by education from the earliest age.

It’s been good to see the Government, in a move personally championed by Nick Clegg and Jo Swinson, ensure that £2 million has been allocated specifically to combat this abuse. Jo said:

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Opinion: Jewish and Muslim voting intentions

The Independent on Sunday headline on 9 November suggested that Jewish donors were deserting Labour because Miliband and Alexander have been so forthright in their criticism of Israel over the Gaza invasion this summer and their strong support for recognition of the state of Palestine.  A day earlier Jewish News published the results of a poll carried out within the Jewish Community.

The headline was that Jewish voters were 30% less likely to vote Labour because of its leadership’s stance.  What was much more interesting was that 19% say they would vote Labour compared with 15% who actually voted Labour in 2010 – i.e. at a time when the Brown/Blair governments had been pretty slavish in their support of Israel even during previous Gaza conflicts and the invasion of Lebanon.  Could this perhaps show that the most vocal leaders of the Jewish Community are out of step with the masses and that significant numbers in that Community in fact would rather support a Party that is highly critical of the present government of Israel?

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Opinion: Equality – a suggestion

Parliament square by Paul Walter

We have seen the application of the women’s Leadership Program.  This became necessary due to historical disadvantages.  If we could have trusted the political system, there would be no need to introduce such measures to achieve better representation for women.

I suggest we can achieve similar Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic representation, by learning from experiences and voting progressively.  Allow me to share…

I had a fantastic time running for Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PCC).  I crammed national policy into five days and along with dedicated enthusiasts, undertook the assessment day.

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Speaking up for the civil liberties of dogs

HazelAfter the Federal Executive meeting this week where we discussed preparations for the election campaign (heartening to see so many people coming forward to be approved as candidates), arrangements to implement the One Member One Vote decision at Conference (and good to see that Mark Pack and Duncan Brack who proposed the amendment passed are to be invited in to work on that), the implementation of the Morrissey Report (amazing progress made, driven forward by our fabulous Pastoral Care Officer), we headed to the pub.

I was talking about my excitement/slight apprehension about picking up our new puppy the next day. The picture on the right shows little Hazel, who is now happily settled and busily involved in training us to meet her needs.

Anyway, Martin Tod reminded us all that he had once spoken up for the civil liberties of dogs in response to an animal welfare debate at Conference in 2003. He and Mark Pack wondered how it would look if the motion applied to humans. He posted the speech on his blog last year and here’s a snippet:

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  • User AvatarSesenco 23rd Nov - 3:19pm
    If the information given in this post is correct, the following should be done. (1) Cornwall Council should dismiss Mr Kerr and the officer(s) who...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 23rd Nov - 3:19pm
    Stephen, ... and in the links at the bottom of the article.
  • User AvatarNigel Cheeseman 23rd Nov - 3:17pm
    Thank you, Tony, for your input. Although my family rely substantially on benefits, they are administered by HMRC rather than DWP, so my views on...
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    In recent months we have not shown ourselves to be masters of due process in this regard. Now there is a chance to get it...
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    (Thanks, David, typo already corrected.)
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    Stephen, It's Alex Folkes and he is "A Lanson boy, " a derivation from Launceston where he is councillor. And I support him totally. David