Category Archives: Op-eds

Opinion: The ECHR is a “British Bill of Rights”

Following the cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, the push from within the Conservatives to repeal the Human Rights Act and remove the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights with a British Bill of Rights in its place now seems firmly in the forefront of our political debate.

The most notable change was clearly William Hague’s surprise departure from Foreign Secretary and announcement that he would stand down as an MP next year but the most significant change was the sacking of Dominic Grieve from Attorney General. Serving as the Chief Legal advisor in the government, he had provided sound …

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Monroe Palmer writes: Reform of the complaints system for the Armed Forces

British soldiers on a training mission in Afghanistan -  Some rights reserved by AN HONORABLE GERMANThe Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Bill, currently going through report stage in the Lords, has a non-snappy title clearly not dreamt up with Public Relations in mind. It is however important as it includes creation of a Service Complaints Ombudsman and reform of Service complaints system.

As we move into Report stage the Liberal Democrat team, including the valuable contributions of my Lib Dem colleague Martin Thomas (Lord Thomas of Gresford), concentrated on two amendments. One to ensure that a complaint does not disappear if the complainant dies. The second is to carry out an investigation of any allegations of systemic abuse or injustice if it appears to her/him to be in the public interest and that there should be compelling circumstances.

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Opinion: Who are the terrorists?

palestine

This sign held by a Palestinian child at a demonstration sums up the context and background of the present conflict in Gaza that has also led to violence and loss of life in the West Bank.

This simple summary of the oppressive behaviour of the Israeli government shows how it amounts to State Terrorism.  Western governments are reluctant to recognise this for what it is and our own political leaders (Cameron, Hammond, Miliband – and even our own Nick Clegg who has been much quieter than he was during the Cast Lead invasion of 2008) usually qualify any criticism of Israel with a statement that Israel has the right to defend itself, i.e. they accept at best the “justified but disproportionate” paradigm which is frankly indefensible.

Our governments have allowed Israel the means to maintain an illegal and oppressive control over Palestine.  They have refused to put economic and other pressures on Israel to change its behaviour.  They ignore the words of leaders of liberal organisations (Yachad, Jewish Voice for Peace, New Israel Fund etc.) or of liberally minded journalists in Israel (Haaretz) and other Jewish commentators like Professor Avi Shlaim and Henry Siegman, and accept the propaganda coming from Israel’s far right politicians, who they wouldn’t even talk to if they were active in the UK.

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Nick Clegg “surprisingly good at Twitter”

Whether it’s posting a selfie from a football match, posing with a Princess mug, mocking the Daily Mail or looking like the perfect domestic goddess before admitting that it was Miriam who had made the very nice looking pie (for which we still need the recipe), Nick Clegg certainly has a quirky way with Twitter that. Over at the i, they’ve recognised that today by posting these highlights, commenting that:

 He seamlessly blends being part of the liberal establishment and looks genuinely happy to be at a football match.

They added that a scene with children could look very awkward if …

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Opinion: New law needed to tackle millions wasted on public sector redundancy and rehiring

Those of us who exited the NHS as whistleblowers, given the bum’s rush and no cash, would not be expected to have much sympathy for the small army of re-tread NHS managers who have been ‘made redundant’ and then re-hired, sometimes doing essentially the same job in essentially the same area, having recently received a small fortune for notional ‘redundancy’.

3,950 NHS staff were made redundant between May 2010 and November 2013 and later re-hired, 2,570 of them on a permanent basis and 1,380 on fixed contracts. Last week’s published Department of Health accounts show that the average cost of redundancy …

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Opinion: UKIP are a blessing in disguise for pro-Europeans

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder works harder than nine UKIP MEPs put together. She speaks more sense than their entire delegation, of course, but in terms of turning up to vote, it’s official: the number of European Parliament divisions she’s taken part in since the election is more than the combined total of nine of their lot.

Since the new Parliament started at the beginning of July, MEPs have faced 39 roll-call votes in the plenary. This is where all MEPs come together to speak and vote, usually in Strasbourg. Catherine, our sole representative in the European Parliament, has voted on …

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged , and | 25 Comments

Some reminders about commenting on Liberal Democrat Voice

One of the joys of a site like this is the lively, good-natured and well-informed discussion that can be found under perhaps not quite all of the posts.

A vital part of this is the respect that is shown for our comments policy which can be summarised as: be polite, be on-topic, and be who you say you are. We have this policy because we have to take some responsibility for what appears on the site, and because this is our place to talk, not our place to indulge the most abusive people on the internet. (They have many more sites than we do.) If you disagree with the comments policy, you can comment on a post like this one, but it would off-topic on the rest.

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Caron’s Sunday Selection: Must-read articles from the Sunday papers

 

sundaypapsHere’s my pick of the Sunday papers this week. Please put your choice of must-read articles in the comments.

There are many harrowing, difficult to read accounts of the reality of being on the receiving end of the Israeli bombardment in Gaza. The Independent talks to a man who has lost two children and his 8 months’ pregnant wife:

“We didn’t know anything about this ceasefire. Just a few hours later they stopped bombing, just a few hours and we would have been all right. We don’t know why they decided to bomb our house with so many women and children. We are just poor people, we have nothing to do with politics. We did not receive any warning, why did they do it?” he asked. “Some of the family had come from another place, there was a lot of killings where they were. They thought they were safe here.

 

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Ed Miliband’s speech: tricky message, poor timing

Ed MilibandI’ve quite a lot of time for Ed Miliband. Politics needs intelligent, thoughtful folk with their hearts in the right place.

I respect, for example, that he held out last year against the superficially attractive urge to call for an in/out EU referendum advocated by more opportunistic Labour colleagues who relished the idea of stirring Tory discontent with Cameron. Miliband, rightly, decided to put national interest ahead of narrow party interest.

But there are evident troubles with his leadership, crystallised by his speech yesterday in which he acknowledged his own image problems: “I am not trying to win a photo-op contest in the next 10 months. And I wouldn’t win it if I tried.”

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

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

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

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

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Opinion: Gaza – can anyone recall the root causes?

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

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

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

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

voters left right spectrum you gov 2014

Three quick points:

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

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

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

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Full steam ahead on infrastructure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Policies aimed at everyone, but that …

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

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

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

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

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Martin Horwood writes …Tony Blair’s legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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Opinion: Sustainability, where do we go from here?

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

There are three real stumbling blocks:

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

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

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

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

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The Independent View: This is the right time to drive forward integrated health and care

nhs sign lrgThe NHS is becoming too big to fail. Like a more benign version of the banks, it has become such a vital part of our national life, with such a slick lobbying machine and such a powerful public profile that it has become hard to challenge. So when the system starts to creak, everyone from MPs to doctors immediately shouts for more money. The problem is that more money may not solve the problem, but simply allow the NHS to subsist in a state of perma-crisis.

The only way out …

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

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

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

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

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

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Opinion: Making the two-year-old programme work

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

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

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Working with the new European Commission

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

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

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Opinion: Lib Dem ‘hypocrisy’ on bedroom tax unfair

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

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

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

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Opinion: I’ve got the Orange Book blues

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

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

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

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

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

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Ed Davey MP writes…Investing in green energy

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

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

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The Independent View: Assisted Dying Bill – Open Letter to Liberal Democrat Peers

House of LordsTomorrow will see the Second Reading of Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill in the House of Lords and many Peers including Liberal Democrats have registered to speak on this issue of compassion and respect for choice at the end of life.

This Bill and its passage through your House will serve as one of the most important chapters of society’s story of compassion, we want you to know that your Party overwhelmingly supports you on legalising the choice of an assisted death for terminally ill dying people.

It has been reassuring …

photo by: ~suchitra~
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