Reflections on Rotherham (2): Scapegoating one person misses the larger point

The first thing to say is that the report into child exploitation and the failures of the local authority in Rotherham are tragic and a huge stain on not just Rotherham Council but local authorities generally.

Some will argue that it is completely inappropriate to make political hay with such a story and I am inclined to agree with them. When last year some Labour politicians, including Ed Miliband, used a tragic suicide to score points over the ‘bedroom tax’ I thought it was disgusting. So it’s important to see my comments below in that context: I do not intend them as political point-scoring.

I have concerns about the scapegoating of the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, Shaun Wright. The logic of the argument is sound. He was the chief decision-maker for Rotherham Children’s Services for a five-year period during this scandal.

However, there are two difficulties with this.

Posted in Op-eds | 13 Comments

Reflections on Rotherham (1): How one community in Rochdale took control to protect its children and young people

Initially the report on Rotherham came as a shock to me – 1400 children raped and abused in one town. Then I read the report and the figures on an annual basis are very similar to those in my home town of Rochdale. But do I believe that things are any different in Oldham, Bolton or Sheffield? These are all similar towns with similar issues. I am clear that just because a town has not identified a problem does not mean that it does not exist.

Moreover, the one lesson that many council chief executives and leaders will have learnt from Rotherham is not to commission an independent report. The second QC’s independent report into child abuse in Rochdale has already been put on hold. For the local police, social services and councillors there is a real incentive to brush things under the carpet. This alone is sufficient to justify national government intervention and leadership. Separate but related to the child abuse situation is the record number of children being taken into care. Rochdale alone has 450 now in care.

Posted in Op-eds | 1 Comment

Opinion: 19th September – now what?

imageLooking ahead: It’s 19th September, and Scotland has voted “No” to independence. Thank goodness for that! The uncertainty is over. The people of Scotland will continue to have their say in how the whole of Britain is run; will still use the pound (and still have their say in how it is managed); will, without the need for difficult negotiations, still be part of the EU and still have the whole of NATO ready to protect it; will still be both British and Scottish, without having to choose one or other; will still have representation on the UN security council. And the Union will not have to endure the pain of partition – which a century of evidence from countries like Yugoslavia, Sudan, India and even Ireland tells us can be very great indeed.

The Union has survived, but it was close, and there’s still a problem. Nearly half of Scotland’s population is so unhappy with the way that it is governed that it was willing to turn its back on the benefits of being part of a long-lasting and successful union. Clearly something needs to change, if this widespread discontent is to be contained.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

++ Coup for Ukip as Tory MP Carswell defects, triggers by-election in Clacton

Douglas Carswell, elected in 2010 as Conservative MP for Clacton, has today announced he’s joining Ukip and will fight a by-election under his new party’s banner.

In one sense, the news isn’t a surprise. Carswell is a member of the Tory awkward squad, its sixth most rebellious backbencher according to Revolts.co.uk, having defied the party whip on 46 occasions during this Parliament.

But on another level it’ll be a real shock to the Tories: Carswell’s right-wing brand is much less swivel-eyed than that of many of his fellow rebels like Philip Hollobone and David Nuttall. He’s generally a thoughtful, independent-minded …

Posted in News | 56 Comments

The Independent View: Let’s talk about it

Techno teenagers photo by Leinard John MatthewsDavid Laws has this week committed to compulsory sex and relationships education echoing the views of young people. Last week IPPR’s polling of 18 year olds showed that more than eight out of ten young people agree that sex and relationship advice should be taught in schools. But schools need to be more effective in commissioning and providing high-quality content, delivered by experts.

Our concerns are not new but the rapid expansion of technological possibilities has changed the nature of the debate. Young people are revealing ever more information about themselves, and traditional ‘offline’ occurrences such as bullying, relationship break-ups and social pressures are magnified and recorded online. Relationships can be more intensive, with more opportunities for contact and less visibility or moderation by adults, and relationships and friendships often create permanent digital content. Sexting is part of many teenagers’ everyday lives. Access to adult or extreme material is now fundamentally different and much easier. And quality information, clear social norms and opportunities for redress are less present online.

Posted in The Independent View | 1 Comment

Better Together can always make a better ad. Alex Salmond can not give us a better currency option than we have being part of the UK

20 pound note. Photo courtesy of steved_np3 on Sxx.huWhat’s the last thing you would want to happen on postal voters’ polling day? How about your own side putting out a broadcast that is beyond terrible? Better Together’s latest effort, showing a woman’s two minute clumsy, contrived monologue as she makes up her mind to vote No. It was Rosie Barnes and her rabbit without the political intelligence.

I’m willing to accept that I may not be its target audience. After all, I am a thoroughly committed No voter and this will have been aimed at undecided women in the largely Labour voting central belt of Scotland. I’m not sure I’m meant to absolutely hate it as much as I do, though. There are ways of appealing to a segment of the population without really annoying a similar group of people.

Calling a broadcast “The woman who made her mind up” as if this was some flight of fancy is the first major error and it doesn’t get much better.  That it was shared more on social media by Yes campaigners than pro UK supporters tells its own story. They have made hay, contributing to a #patronisingbtlady thread on Twitter which, to be honest is just as patronising and sexist as the original broadcast.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 40 Comments

Happy Birthday to us: 8 years old today

libdemvoice8 years ago today LibDemVoice appeared for the very first time. The first story? ‘Hughes certain to be challenged for party Presidency’. He, erm, wasn’t.

But, still, the site soon established itself as a fixture in the Lib Dem blogsophere thanks to the early efforts of the founding team: Rob Fenwick, Mark Pack, Ryan Cullen, Alex Foster, Will Howells and Richard Huzzey (Ryan and Alex are still with the site to this day).

There was a brief wobble in May 2007, when Rob announced his departure. But a new team stepped up — that’s when I joined — and over the years the team has included a further 14 editorial contributors, all listed here.

Posted in Site news | 4 Comments

LibLink: Maajid Nawaz: Why Islamists beat liberals in the Middle East

Liberal Democrat PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn Maajid Nawaz has been setting out for War on the Rocks why Islamism has become so prevalent in the Middle East and what those who want to see a secular, liberal society need to do about it.

First of all, he outlines some key factors that have driven the growth of Islamism:

Put simply, it comes down to five structural distinctions that make Islamist movements so potent in ways that their secular, liberal competitors are not. When combined, these tools create Islamism, this blatant manipulation of religion, an attractive ideology that will almost inevitably supersede the appeal of its secular, liberal rivals.

What are they, then? First, it is the basis of their political motivations, the idea that drives them: Islamism. Here, I am referring to the desire and perceived imperative to enforce a version of Sharia as law.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged , , and | 24 Comments

Opinion: Crown Prosecution Service is wrong not to prosecute undercover police officers

It is now widely-known that the Metropolitan Police Force has engaged numerous undercover police officers in covertly infiltrating various organisations which ‘might be’ dangerously subversive over many years. Several such officers have’deepened’ their cover by forming sexual and emotional relationships with memebers of the organisations concerned and have even brought up young children in these circumstances: two such officers have now been named in court proceedings and the existence of almost a dozen others has been acknowledged.
Although private civil prosecutions are proceeding against both individuals and the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service has recently published statement that there is not sufficient evidence to obtain a reasonable chance of a successful prosecution in a prosecution for ‘misconduct in public office’ and a number of other potential offences.
Much of the evidence of the women concerned is already in the public domain and it is totally clear (and not contested) that there was no possibility whatsoever that they would ever have commenced any sexual ‘relationship’ (sic) with any person who revealed to them that they were a member of a clandestine police surveillance unit. It is also clear that there was no reason whatsoever why the police officers involved ‘needed to’ form such ‘relationships’ in order to continue to perform their covert work. The formation of such ‘relationships’ although they may well have deepened the ‘cover’ and ‘trust’ in which the officers were held, was created by the police officers concerned for their own comfort, convenience and sexual gratification after manifesting to the women concerned, over a prolonged period and in a sustained way, the premise that they had a genuine wish to create a genuine relationship with them. This latter premise is demonstrably-false:the entire persona presented to the women by each of the officers concerned was a deliberate deception. They knew that no such relationship could be sustained once the truth emerged.
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments

Carmichael and Crockart rock at the Ice Bucket Challenge

Two very different but very funny takes on the Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon from the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West.

Mindful of some concerns of wasting water, Alistair Carmichael did his with iced sea water from the beautiful Tingwall Pier near his Orkney home. He started with a  thinly veiled threat of terrible revenge on those who nominated him and then:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 5 Comments

Opinion: A ringfence is not enough for the science budget

The party has recently been trailing hints of the content and priorities of the new manifesto. One released last week was an announcement touting a ringfence of the science budget. They write:

The manifesto plans include ringfencing the science research budget and introducing a green innovation arm to the British Business Bank.

It’s great that the manifesto team have chosen to flag investment in science and innovation as a reason to vote Liberal Democrat in the 2015 general election, but what a meagre and unambitious announcement this was. One worrying sign is the wording mentioning only the ‘research budget’, which raises the concern that this ringfence might be a fig leaf hiding underspending in capital investment for science, as we saw in the early years of the current coalition government – though the 2014 budget went some way towards plugging the gap in capital spending in the sector.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

Liberal Youth Elections 2014 – nominations close at 8pm TONIGHT

It dawned on me yesterday, my wedding anniversary, that a baby born on the day I was married would, as of now, be ineligible for automatic membership of Liberal Youth, having reached the age of 26 years. That is a very scary thought.

It’s been a very long time since I was eligible to stand in Liberal Youth elections, but I am now their Returning Officer for their annual elections.

This is a reminder that nominations for their Executive at Federal level and for Liberal Youth England close at 8pm tonight. You can see details of all the posts available and how to apply on their website

Posted in News | Tagged and | Leave a comment

The Gender Agenda #4: The Liberal Democrats are a feminist party

Feminist fist by Eva the WeaverThe Liberal Democrats are a feminist party. When I first wrote that down I knew it would be a controversial statement among a minority, but right now I think it’s going to cause a wider stir.

It shouldn’t. When I first read the Lib Dem constitution, it seemed obvious that liberalism as it is expressed there, is feminist.

Feminism as I understand it describes a movement that aims to achieve true equality of opportunity, as reflected in more equal outcomes between genders. My support for that movement is why I joined a party that rejects ‘all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.’ (Ok, so I’d prefer if that said ‘gender’ not ‘sex’, but it’s a much bolder statement than the other parties are making).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 28 Comments

Opinion: The argument for devolution

Yorkshire DalesThe British economy and hence the politics of Britain are London-centric. Of this there is no doubt.  Gross Value Added figures, which show the value of goods and services produced by the different regions of the UK highlight this perfectly. The Gross Value Added figure for London is in excess of £37,000 per head of the population. The only other region which gets above £20,000 is the South East.

The gap between London, the South East and the other regions of the UK in terms of economic power and hence influence, is widening by the day. Government after government have used the trickle-down economic argument for saying a strong London means a strong UK. Time after time, this argument fails.  A radical change is needed if this process is to be arrested – or even slowed. The UK needs ALL its regions to be buoyant, efficient and net contributors to its economy.

photo by: tejvanphotos
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 28 Comments

Opinion: A hundred years ago…

Rt. Hon. H.H. Asquith  (LOC)1910 was a momentous year for Liberals in UK government, with a long-desired end to bitter struggles with the Conservatives over House of Lords reform arriving at a  triumphant conclusion. Now a House of Lords of whatever persuasion would no longer be able to resist indefinitely progress for the vast majority of democratically drawn-up Parliamentary bills, and Asquith, Lloyd George & co could take much credit for this. Only four years later, however, the country slipped into a war, the wastage of human life caused by which remains unrivalled in the history of western and of European civilisation. What could have gone wrong?

1910 also marked the beginning of  – and 1914 the near-culmination of – a slide in Liberal fortunes which within a decade of the second date would see a national institution reduced to a crowd of irrelevant backbenchers. Asquith was still leader; did he any longer have any party to follow him?

photo by:
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Opinion: Why I’m supporting all women shortlists

three_women_standing_togetherAs the dust begins to settle from the Rennard affair we must now reflect on how our party can stand up to liberal values when it comes to gender equality. It is welcome that, following a review of the procedures of the case, the party now no longer needs a criminal burden of proof in internal disputes of this kind. We can, and should, be proud of the fact that we have changed protocol in light of the failures that have occurred; not every party is so open and willing to change when things go wrong. However more still needs to be done on the wider issue of how we improve the engagement of women in the party.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 34 Comments

Zero hours contracts – closing the loopholes

Vince Cable at Social Liberal Forum conference 19th July 2014 - photo by Paul WalterYesterday was a public holiday (except in Scotland, where they have more important things to think about), but it seems the party never takes a holiday.  It chose a wet and windy Bank Holiday Monday to announce that Vince Cable was crowd-sourcing loopholes in zero hours contracts. He is specifically concerned about those that require an employee to work exclusively for the one employer, even though no work is guaranteed.

Vince is launching a consultation and inviting employers, unions …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Opinion: Compulsory political education?

Ballot boxAs a 17 year old Lib Dem, who has campaigned with two local parties and experienced my first election campaign last May, lowering the voting age is obviously of real importance to me. The party’s long term support of this policy (as well as its unique opportunities for young people) were key factors in my choosing to join the party, aged just 16, last year.

The issue is about to see a bump in publicity via the Scottish Referendum next month, and with the general election approaching there’s the real potential that any government involving Labour or the Lib Dems (or both) will legislate for the change post-May. Labour have recently adopted the policy, and supporters of the campaign “Votes at 16″ include Liberty, The Co-Op, Barnardo’s and the Electoral Reform Society.

photo by: FutUndBeidl
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 26 Comments

Opinion: Put revenge pornographers on the Sex Offenders Register

Smartphone bar.Facebook has just been served with its first revenge porn lawsuit. I can’t comment on the particulars of the case in question but it does appear that revenge porn is an issue the law has yet to catch up with. In my opinion, the law should be changed to allow those convicted of distributing revenge porn to be put on the Sex Offenders Register. This requires further clarification of the distinction between legal and illegal pornography.

Once explicit material is published it becomes pornography. If the individuals in the films or photographs do not consent to having the material published, even if he or she consented for the material to be made for another purpose, then it should be classified as illegal pornography. Illegal pornography should also include incidents where material has been accessed through devices without the explicit consent of the individual who owns the device and the participants in the explicit material.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 16 Comments

Opinion: The UK’s takeover laws and short-termism

London Stock Exchange photo by Jam_90s

In the rest of the world hostile takeovers are uncommon or even unknown. Britain is alone in its belief in the benefit of hostile takeovers, a belief which is not supported by the evidence of its large current account and fiscal deficits.

Vince Cable on 13th July wrote on this website that changes are needed to Britain’s takeover laws.  However, the problem is that Britain, unlike for instance Germany and the USA, doesn’t really have any takeover laws.

photo by:
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

Caron Lindsay on this evening’s referendum debate

caron lindsayOver on STV, our own editor, Caron Lindsay, has been making some predictions about the Salmond/Darling debate this evening.

Alex Salmond goes into tonight’s debate as the underdog.

The Yes campaign is behind in the polls and he knows that he failed to make a convincing case for independence three weeks ago.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged | 17 Comments

Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #387

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 387th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (17-23 August 2014), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

Posted in Best of the blogs | 3 Comments

Nicola Sturgeon challenges Nick Clegg to do the Ice Bucket Challenge

ice bucket challenge photo by University of Central ArkansasWe can’t look at our social media at the moment without coming across an avalanche of videos of our own friends or celebrities doing the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease and raise money for its charities across the world.

I have to say that I have actually refused to do the challenge. I am too much of a free spirit, I suppose. I don’t think I have the right to tell someone which charity to donate to or publicise, nor do I like being so told myself. This doesn’t make me a wimp (although I do not deny that I am about most things), or lacking in a sense of humour or heartless. I just don’t like the peer pressure element of it and I think it’s ok to say that you’re not going to conform. I felt particularly strongly about this after seeing one person say in their video that if those nominated didn’t do it, they didn’t care  and were basically evil.

I also have a bit of a worry about so much water being wasted. In so much of the world it’s such a precious commodity. I wonder what people in parts of the world where it is so scarce think of the waste.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , and | 7 Comments

LDV’s Sunday Best: our 7 most-read articles this week

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the 13000 visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

Lord Rennard’s membership of the Liberal Democrats reinstated by Party Committee (61 comments) by Caron Lindsay

Statement from Lord Rennard (51 comments) by The Voice

Post Rennard, what should the party do? (43 comments) by Linda Jack

Posted in Site news | Leave a comment

The ‘Favourability Index’: the Tories and Cameron lead, Lib Dems half as popular as Ukip

I’m a fan of polling firm ComRes’s ‘Favourability Index’ which asks of political parties and their leaders ‘How favourable or unfavourable are you to X?’ For sure it’s a simplistic binary. But, then, so’s voting.

It gives a much more accurate read-out of perceptions, I think, than asking (for instance) if people think X is doing a good job as leader of Y. After all, it’s quite possible to think that Nigel Farage is doing a pretty good job for Ukip while still never, ever wanting to vote for him.

The latest index has been published today across the Independent and Mirror. The (perhaps) surprising result is that the winners are the Conservative Party and David Cameron, both viewed more favourably than their rivals.

The bad news for Lib Dems is that the party is viewed favourably by just 13% of voters, half the proportion which view Ukip favourably.

Posted in Polls | 20 Comments

Alison Goldsworthy quits party saying it’s no place for “women who want to deliver change”

In an interview with The Times newspaper (£), Alison Goldsworthy said that she had resigned from the Federal Executive of the Liberal Democrats, of which she was Vice Chair. She has since confirmed to us that she had resigned from the Party. This means that none of the four women who made allegations of improper behaviour against Chris Rennard  remains a member of the party. Chris Rennard denies the specific allegations but issued an apology to the women in May in which he expressed his “his regret for any harm or embarrassment caused to them or anythingwhich made them feel uncomfortable.”

Alison described the events which led to her complaint:

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , and | 76 Comments

Opinion: Restructuring is important but the General Election is the priority

Liberal Democrat Conference 2011There has been a lot of talk recently about the way the Party nationally is not accountable to the members enough and also that there should be early warning systems in place to pick up on anything that could be going wrong .The Federal Executive whose members are directly elected by the Conference representatives every two years is the body that is in effect responsible for the internal administration of the Party and is chaired by the President.

As one of the candidates for the post of President I thought I would set out some initial thoughts. I believe the Federal Executive should be restructured to make it more accountable. The fifteen elected members should be given specific portfolios which cover the HQ directorates. In this way there would be a great deal more liaison between the elected executive and the Party staff. The Federal Executive member would be responsible for reporting back to the Federal Executive on key areas of concern that they have. It would be a way of not only alerting the Party quickly if there seems to be a problem but would also give support to the staff themselves.

photo by: NCVO
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 36 Comments

Opinion: an open letter to Tim Farron – “And who made you King, anyway?”

imageIn his recent article in Liberal Democrat Voice, the Liberal Democrat Party President, Tim Farron, refers to a review of the Party’s disciplinary procedures, carried out by a senior barrister, Diya Sen Gupta, and goes on to say;

She has now made recommendations to us and I am determined that we will implement these as quickly as possible.

Now call me a stickler for process if you will, but where does Tim get off making such a statement?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 33 Comments

What’s being debated in our members’ forum this week?

members forum wordleLibDemVoice has two parallel sites. The first is our public blog, the thing you’re reading now. The second is our private members’ forum, which only current Lib Dem members can access.

If you’re a member and want to chat with fellow party members about any issue that’s on your mind, then why not sign up? In addition, you’ll be included in our regular surveys’ of party members’ views.

Here’s some of the most active discussions this past 7 days:

Posted in Site news | Leave a comment

Opinion: Scotland’s Future – a view from the Gallery

I’ve recently had the chance to work in the Scottish Parliament during August, and it’s been a really great experience. On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the final debate before recess, courtesy of Liam McArthur MSP. By the wonders of technology, you can watch it too.

It was an interesting experience. Alex Salmond took the opportunity to note all the good things the Scottish parliament had done, and attempt to be fair to other parties. He did actually manage this; however, his argument that the parliament has done some great things and made some mistakes could apply to every parliament across the world, including Westminster.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarLiberal Al 29th Aug - 12:22am
    This is truly scary news. When I first heard that a Tory had defected to UKIP and chosen to take a by-election, I chuckled, naviely...
  • User Avatarmuxloe 29th Aug - 12:01am
    @malcolmwood Many people in England don't want regional devolution but that doesn't mean that it necessarily follows that they are content with the west lothian...
  • User Avatarmuxloe 28th Aug - 11:55pm
    @johnmc No party has offered that possibility. (And no mainstream party will; its againstTory instincts while Labour and Lib Dems need the celtic votes) Why...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 28th Aug - 11:52pm
    It's very simple. You check until you are satisfied that you can take full responsibility for the decisions you make and the reliability of the...
  • User AvatarPatrick McAuley 28th Aug - 11:39pm
    Danny I hope I was clear at the start of the piece that this is a stain on all Local Authorities and we all need...
  • User AvatarPatrick McAuley 28th Aug - 11:37pm
    Richard you are right, the issue is to what end do you take your checks. Undermining a qualified professional with more experience and knowledge than...