Category Archives: Op-eds

What would you do if you were Mayor of Nice?

Nice is still in shock. It’s just about a month and a half since the appalling attack which killed 84 people. That sort of carnage happening on your doorstep takes some getting over. People experience a huge range of emotions from anger to fear. What should the authorities be doing to help people through this time?

They should be reassuring people. They should be helping the whole community stand together in solidarity.

Instead, their headline response has been to pick on innocent women because of their attire on a beach. I have rarely been more annoyed by anything than the sight of a sleeping woman on a beach being surrounded by armed police and being forced to remove clothing. All this in the name of protecting women from oppression. I’m not quite sure how that works as a logical explanation.

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Renationalising the railways is trendy but not smart

Virgin trainWho should own the railways? Both contenders for the Labour leadership, Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn, believe it should be the public sector. They point to rising ticket prices., widespread industrial action and a lack of seating (or so Corbyn claims.) as evidence that privatisation has failed. The public seem to agree, with 62% now in favour of renationalisation. But is it worth it?

It certainly wouldn’t be progressive. Households in the highest real income bracket make up 43% of yearly rail journeys, with those in the lowest income bracket making up only 10% of journeys. Nationalisation would mean that low-earners who very rarely use the train would be funding through their taxes reduced ticket prices and the maintenance of rail travel for the highest earners in the country. Such large amounts of public sector finances would be far better spent on services which low earners need most.

Nor would nationalisation eradicate large scale industrial disputes. Look no further than across the Channel: in the run up to Euro 2016 the French railways endured huge strikes. Even under a Socialist government the railways were not immune from clashes with the unions.

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Are party consultations with members worth the paper they’re written on? 

At Liberal Democrat autumn conference party members will have the opportunity to debate a Federal Policy Committee policy paper and an accompanying motion laying out an overall vision for the social security system – the first such policy paper on the subject for over a decade. Sadly, however, the contents of the paper and motion are scandalous in their blatant disregard for the views of party members.

As part of the process of writing the policy paper, the working group which wrote it ran a members survey which included a question about which model should be used as the basis for social security.

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We shouldn’t criticize Jeremy Corbyn for finally doing a bit of reasonably clever “media”

Jeremy Corbyn is getting a bit hammered, particularly by Richard Branson, for a video of him sitting on the floor of a Virgin Train.

You can read the ins and outs of “Traingate” elsewhere.

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Andrew George writes…Can progressives unite to defeat the Tories?

The AlternativeFailure to fully fathom the ‘shy Tory’ at the 2015 general election didn’t just leave egg on the faces of opinion pollsters. It produced shock waves across the political spectrum; from a delirious Conservative party to Paddy Ashdown’s exasperated milliner.

Of course psephologists weren’t really suggesting that a significant proportion of Tory voters are bashful by nature but were perhaps politely implying there may be a sense of ‘shame’.

Politics in its most basic form is polarised between, on the one hand, those who feel ‘shy’ about their self-absorption and (when the mask slips) their distaste for those they consider are ‘low achievers’, and on the other, ‘progressives’ who seek to appeal to our better instincts (for others, a wider community, the common good, future generations, the climate etc). Less bashful ‘progressives’ may believe they are in a majority when in fact the country may be evenly divided.

Indeed, there’s an assumption amongst many ‘progressives’ that the 2015 general election represented a high water mark for the Tories; that the pendulum will inevitably swing back at the next election, and that scores of Tory marginals will be comfortably won back. A reality check is needed.

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The UK and the rapid deterioration in global security

Members of the Nuclear Weapons Working Group are presenting their personal views as part of a wider consultation process into the party’s future policy on nuclear weapons. The full consultation paper can be found at www.libdems.org.uk/autumn-conference-16-policypapers and the consultation window runs until 28 October. Party members are invited to attend the consultation session at party conference in Brighton, to be held on Saturday 17 September at 1pm in the Balmoral Room of the Hilton.

Trident

UK nuclear defence policy does not exist in isolation. As the Lib Dem’s Nuclear Weapons Working Group Consultation Paper makes clear, nuclear defence policy exists in the context of the UK’s broader policy on defence and foreign policy. Changes to Lib Dem nuclear weapons policy are best seen in the context of a changing defence and foreign policy environment.

From a UK perspective, the key recent shifts in the foreign and defence policy context include the continuing economic and military rise of China (and our Allies’ response to this), the adversarial turn in relations with Russia, and the rise of IS in the Middle East – together with its effects on Western Middle East policy, NATO and Turkey.

The most significant change in the foreign and security policy landscape for the UK concerns China and its relationship with the US. Up until 2013 China pursued what they called a ‘peaceful rise’ policy; rapid economic development avoiding involvements in conflict.

This changed with the new leader Xi Jinping, who, for example, announced the ‘String of Pearls’ policy, otherwise known as the ‘maritime silk road’.  This is a string of Chinese-controlled ports and associated inland infrastructure that dots the world’s trade routes, with economic investment closely followed by military investment; for example in Pakistan/Afghanistan, Djibouti/Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka.

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Brexit and the path to a written constitution

At the outset, I would like to make clear that, in writing this article, I am not lending my support to any argument that the EU referendum should be re-run or that the result should be overturned. In my view, any such argument is specious in the extreme, with its Liberal Democrat proponents appearing especially hypocritical. That the EU Referendum Bill received overwhelming support from all parties (the SNP excepted) is demonstrative of both the democratic inviolability of the outcome as well as the abject failure of Parliament to properly countenance the potential impact of an affirmative vote to leave the EU.

In presenting the question of the UK’s exit from the EU, a profound, multi-faceted and far-reaching change to the UK’s constitution, in such binary terms, the framers of the referendum question are arguably as responsible for much of uncertainty facing the nation as those on the Leave side who waged such a dishonest campaign. Indeed, the amorphous nature of the question posed unquestionably resulted in a vacuum in which the worst excesses of both sides were allowed to run wild, devoid of any common anchor to which voters could tie them. Loose talk of punishment budgets, hoards of Turkish immigrants descending upon our shores and overtly simplistic assertions on parliamentary sovereignty detracted from the very real and very significant constitutional resettlement that was being proposed. That such a complex and challenging endeavour should now be embarked upon following a relatively small and nationally disjointed majority is staggering.

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    Here is to the next ten years!
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