Tag Archives: evening standard

LibLink: Nick Clegg: Brexit Lords have a cheek to complain about EU democracy

Nick Clegg turned to the subject of EU democracy in his Standard column this week.

He was quick to point out the irony of members of the House of Lords castigating the democracy of the EU:

With more than 800 members, the House of Lords is only second to China’s National People’s Congress in size and is about as undemocratic: unique in Europe, its members can revise and amend the laws of the land without anyone actually being elected. It is, in short, an affront to the basic democratic principle that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those who obey the laws of the land.

Yet this obvious inconsistency appears to have escaped Lord Lawson et al when they berate the EU as “profoundly undemocratic”. I find what they do every day in the House of Lords profoundly undemocratic too.

The rest of our democracy is riddled with faults too:

Similarly, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and the other Brexit ministers appear to be entirely untroubled that they serve in a Government that garnered no more than 24 per cent of the eligible vote. Such an undemocratic outcome — wielding unchallenged power when three quarters of voters either voted for another party or didn’t vote at all — is, it seems, acceptable to these high priests of democratic virtue.

The truth is that our own democracy is in need of a complete overhaul. Westminster is hopelessly stuck in the past: MPs are not allowed to shake each other’s hands on the parliamentary estate; we can’t call each other by our names and must instead use arcane titles such as “my right honourable friend” or “the gallant and learned gentleman”. We are not allowed to clap in the Commons so we register our approval by manically guffawing and waving papers instead.

The EU has its flaws, but it’s not lack of democracy that causes the problem:

What I would never advocate, however, is that Westminster and Whitehall should be razed to the ground or that we should quit our democratic institutions altogether. Yet that is precisely what Brexiteers are inviting us to do: respond to the flaws in the EU, which are numerous, by turning our backs on it altogether.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Hypocritical Brexiteers are as much an elite as those they rage against

I reckon that Nick Clegg’s columns will be more often than not about the EU for the next few months.

This week, he’s looking into the records of those “men of the people” Brexiteers such as Boris, Farage, Zac Goldsmith and Nigel Lawson:

Well, there’s Lord Lawson, the 83-year-old former chairman of Vote Leave who was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher. He now lives for much of the year in the South of France, nurturing his climate-change scepticism and loathing of the EU from the sunny climes of the Gascon countryside.

Then there’s Nigel Farage, always ready to claim the everyman mantle over a pint of ale in a traditional English pub. Nigel had a long career as a City trader before he became an MEP 17 years ago, and has failed now on seven occasions to become an MP — hardly evidence of someone seeking to shun the Westminster establishment.

How about Arron Banks, the millionaire Conservative donor who defected to Ukip and co-founded the Leave.EU campaign? The insurance magnate was named in the Panama Papers this week as the shareholder of a company based in the British Virgin Islands.

There’s Zac Goldsmith, the Eurosceptic Tory mayoral candidate, who parades himself as a scourge of the Westminster establishment. He is the son of a billionaire whose whole mayoral campaign appears to be based on the claim that his closeness to the powerful in Westminster will help Londoners.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: We’ve made progress on mental health but there’s still work to do

Nick Clegg has written about mental health in today’s Evening Standard column.

One story illustrates different attitudes to physical and mental health:

A few years ago, I met a man called Robert at a mental health trust in Liverpool. He was in his sixties, well-dressed and with a neatly trimmed moustache that gave him something of the air of a Fifties provincial bank manager — not the image you normally associate with severe mental illness. He told me that a few years earlier he had been in hospital with a heart condition and, while he was there, he had been visited regularly by friends and family, sometimes three or four times a day. This outpouring of love was a great tonic for him as he recovered. But he was hospitalised on another occasion — this time for a mental health condition. During the five months he languished in hospital he was visited just three times. The contrast speaks volumes.

He talks about the work that the Liberal Democrats did government, and goes on to outline 3 new priorities for action:

The first is the way it is funded. Part of the reason that there have been cuts in mental health services despite the renewed focus from government is down to an important, if technical, discrepancy in the way they are paid for. A hospital, for example, is paid by activity: each procedure has a price attached to it and the more it performs the more money it gets. Mental health trusts, on the other hand, usually get a block grant. So when demand goes up, the money stays the same.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: My birthday wish is that we win the argument for staying in the EU

Nick Clegg’s first Standard column of the New Year is published on his birthday. Twitter was not exactly heaving with birthday wishes as midnight passed, but there were some:

Anyway, when he blows out the 49 candles on his birthday cake today, he’ll be wishing that we stay in the EU. I thought they weren’t supposed to come true if you told them, but there is some relevance to the paragraph he spends going on about the misery of a January birthday. What was happening around the time he was born?

On this day 49 years ago, British diplomats were preparing for negotiations with the six founder members of the European Economic Community — Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg — over our application to join. It was our second attempt to get into the European club, having tried four years earlier only to be rebuffed with a haughty “Non!” from Charles de Gaulle.

The debate about whether we should be in or out was remarkably similar to the one we are having today. People on the pro side of the argument believed it was in our economic and strategic interest to join; the antis warned it would lead to the surrender of too much British sovereignty. Plus ça change.

Posted in Europe / International and LibLink | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

LibLink: Nick Clegg: My family are up in arms over ham but I’m raging over sugar

Nick Clegg’s been on a bit of a journey on his views about sugar consumption. In an article for the Evening Standard last week, he outlined the dangers of consuming too much hidden sugar and said that he now favoured strong action to reduce our sugar consumption:

Now, finally, we are beginning to have a proper debate about what we can and should do about it. A recent report by Public Health England proposed a number of measures, as has the ever- compelling Jamie Oliver.

Reducing two-for-one deals, clamping down on advertising targeted at children, reining in the marketing of high-sugar food and drinks, reducing sugar content and portion sizes, and introducing a tax on sugary drinks and food have all been called for.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: The Tory assault on housing associations is another betrayal

Nick Clegg has a new regular Evening Standard column and in the latest edition, he talks about housing.

After a look at the history and importance of housing associations, Nick writes about how he and Danny Alexander secured assurances that housing associations would receive support to continue building more houses for rent. These assurances have now been trashed now the Tories have a majority:

Five years ago I dissuaded the Conservatives in Coalition from fiddling with social rents to cut the housing benefit bill because it would have had a disastrous effect on the ability of housing associations to raise the money

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Farron talks housing, Clegg, airports and Corbyn in first pre-conference interview

“The Tories need to be opposed in ways that are credible” says the headline to Tim Farron’s first pre-conference interview in yesterday’s Evening Standard. Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, argues Tim, leaves a big space in British politics for a responsible opposition party to hold the government to account:

Tomorrow morning he will start the #LibDemfightback, as they are hashtagging it, when he rallies the Lib- Dem faithful in Bournemouth at his first party conference as leader.

There will be “no glib slogans”, he says, but a return to grassroots campaigning. And a lot of mentions of the unlikely saviour that Farron thinks will most help the Liberal Democrats in their hour of need — Jeremy Corbyn.

Posted in Conference | Also tagged and | 10 Comments
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