Tag Archives: featured

Cleaning up politics is about more than money

When we talk about cleaning up politics, we generally mean party funding and lobbying. There is so much more that needs to be done, though with regards to the environment in which politics is conducted.

Every week when Parliament is sitting we see the childish scenes at PMQs. We’ve had our own Julian Huppert talk about how it feels to be on the receiving end of bullying and intimidating behaviour.

The tone of debate on social media often leaves a lot to be desired, especially if you happen to be a woman in possession of an opinion. The cumulative effect of constantly being told you are evil/stupid/treacherous or being threatened  is not insignificant. I recently had a bit of a wobble after months of bombardment from cybernats, UKIP types and, even more distressingly, a small number of fellow Liberal Democrats. However much you try to ignore it, it can get overwhelming at times. I don’t have a problem with actual calm and rational debate but every single day, people cross the line into abuse and that’s just not on. I was livid with myself for getting so upset. After all, in large parts of the world, simply finding somewhere private to go to the toilet entails taking your life in your hands if you happen to be female, so it felt very trivial to almost reduced to tears by a jibe from some stranger whose good opinion mattered to me not one jot. It was utterly ridiculous, but it happened nonetheless. Of course, this is the sort of reaction these bullies want and, given that I intend to continue inflicting my views on the world, I just needed to find a way of dealing with it which mostly involved the support of good people who know who they are.  It shouldn’t be like that, though.

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Labour kicked out in Calderdale: The inside story

Calderdale CouncilThis week the Liberal Democrat group on Calderdale Council came to the decision to vote out the minority Labour administration, and vote in a minority coalition of the Conservatives and Independent Councillor. Allow me to explain why.

From 2010 we had worked in a fairly successful Coalition with the Labour party. We didn’t shut a single sure start centre or library, we opened up cabinet meetings with a public question time, and we had the highest recycling rate in West Yorkshire.

As that coalition went on it became increasingly apparent Labour wanted to control the Council alone, and to ignore the wishes of the other parties. It was harder and harder to work with them as continued to propose political motions that did little for local people, but did a lot of party point scoring. Finally last year they managed to secure the support of the Conservatives who abstained at the right votes in return for some scrutiny chairs, and Labour got their wish of a minority administration.

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The Lib Dem retreat to seat-by-seat campaigns. The right tactic, but not a long-term strategy

Stephen LloydThe Guardian’s Rafael Behr has written of his experiences in Eastbourne, a seat won from the Tories by the Lib Dems’ Stephen Lloyd in 2010. His majority, 3,435, would need a swing of just 3.9% to be wiped out. The recent Lord Ashcroft poll of Tory / Lib Dem marginals indicated an average swing away from the Lib Dems to the Tories of 3.5%. This, then, is the kind of seat within the Tories’ reach and which they need to win if they are to gain an overall majority. …

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Actually, this having the World Cup in England might be a good idea

I am not a huge football fan. Unless it involves Inverness Caledonian Thistle, I really don’t care and even then it’s more of a spiritual thing. I don’t actually need to watch 22 men kick the bag of wind around the field. But my antipathy to the game wasn’t the only reason my heart sank when I saw the new Liberal Democrat campaign, “Bring the 2018 World Cup to England” this morning.

Certainly, having just had a month of nothing but football anywhere, I was screaming for respite. It’s bad enough on the other side of the world but if …

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Don Foster MP writes… Justifiable NIMBYism?

I  suspect I’m not the only one to be delighted and relieved about the announcement this week about new protections to be put in place that will restrict “Fracking” in sensitive areas.

Geological evidence shows that fracking could lead to a significant disruption to the hot water spring waters on which the tourism of the World Heritage City of Bath depends and could damage the water pressure without which we could see buildings in the city collapse.

Even though the latest British Geological Survey Maps show that the three main areas where large amounts of shale oil and gas exists lie nowhere …

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The 21 areas where the Lib Dems and Labour agree

Miliband-CleggIt’s a few months since I first published my list of 17 policies on which the Lib Dems and Labour now agree. These ranged from including tax-cuts for low-earners, the introduction of a mansion tax, a major council house-building programme, cuts to universal benefits for wealthy pensioners, and an elected House of Lords.

One I highlighted was the likely scrapping of the Bedroom Tax, noting then: “Officially the Lib Dems are committed to an immediate review of the impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ (or ‘spare room subsidy’ as no-one calls it), …

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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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LibLink: Charles Kennedy: Why our destiny must lie with the F word

Charles KennedyThe Independence Referendum campaign continues to be depressing. The only really good things associated with it tend to come from Liberal Democrats and most especially Charles Kennedy. He’s written a thoughtful and persuasive article in the Herald about the dilemma facing Scotland beyond 18th September as, whoever wins, we’ve all lost out from increasing centralism to Edinburgh in recent years.

He outlines the problem:

In the pre-devolution days of one- party Tory domination there was much legitimate railing against the excessive concentration of power within Whitehall. The centre accrued and amassed while

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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:

Posted in Op-eds and Polls | Also tagged , , and | 58 Comments

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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Julian Huppert writes … The first Girl Summit

girlsummitlogoToday London hosts the first Girl Summit. Liberal Democrats in Government across every department have made the issue of gender inequality a priority. We understand that none of us can move forward if half of us are held back and this means tackling inequality and violence against women and girls wherever we find it.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage are two of the oldest and most extreme ways girls are stunted and harmed for life and we have made a commitment to work with Governments across the world, NGOs, faith leaders and communities to end these abhorrent practices.

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TTIP — the US-EU trade deal. What is it, and where is it up to?

Container Ship tradeAt last year’s autumn conference, the Lib Dems pledged to support a new trade agreement between the European Union and the United States — known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The motion, ‘Strengthening the UK Economy’ (pdf), called on the coalition to:

Increase trading opportunities by working in the EU to ensure that the success of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, doing everything possible to revive the World Trade Organisation led Doha Development Round and further integrating the EU services market.

Since then there has been significant …

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My pick of 15 top books to read this summer

reading summer - photo by hans van der bergThe newspapers are awash with summer best-reads at the moment, as well-known writers pick the books to relax with by the pool. You know the kind of thing: “It’s at this time of year I typically embark on re-reading Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, translating it into Russian (which I’m learning to relax as I prepare for my Grade 8 piano exam) from our rustic cottage in Tuscany.” Or, alternatively: “Here’s a book written by my mate.”

Always eager to copy a …

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Tim Farron’s Beveridge Lecture in full: “Let’s say a huge yes to active, ambitious, liberal government and build a new consensus”

Tim Farron MP speaks at the rallyLib Dem party president Tim Farron delivered the Beveridge Lecture at this weekend’s Social Liberal Forum conference. Here’s what he said…

William Beveridge never led our country or our party. But he changed both in a spectacular way.

He was a humble man, a good man and so I am going to make an assumption that he’d want to know what social Liberals plan to do next, rather than hear us eulogise about him.

It’s a massive honour to be asked to give this …

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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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LibLink: Danny Alexander: We want a fair housing benefit system for every tenant

speech danny alexander 6People wonder why Liberal Democrats supported the Bedroom Tax in the first place. Well, I spent 4 yesrs sitting beside a Liberal Democrat MP when maybe 5 families a week would  come to us and say that they were stuck in a house that was way too small. Their kids had nowhere to study or play. That was what was foremost in their minds when they agreed the Bedroom Tax. They wanted to make it easier for those families. That was their motivation even though I think the …

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++Breaking…Clegg: “We must axe Bedroom Tax”

I got wind of this about an hour ago.

Here is tomorrow’s Daily Mirror front page.

Clegg axe bedroom tax

More to follow. In the meantime, have a read of my post from earlier.

That’ll be number 22 on Stephen Tall’s list of policies that we share with Labour…

Update: 22:47.

This email has just been sent from Danny Alexander explaining the party’s thinking. We’re not going for abolition, but for a great reform which means that nobody would have to pay unless they had turned down an offer of a smaller property which ticks a lot more of …

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Michael Gove: The Case for the Defence. And also the Case for the Prosecution.

Michael GoveUnlike most Lib Dems, I am not a Gove-hater. But nor do I share the adulation those one on the Right bestow upon him. The man we must now call the former Education secretary was more complex than his critics allowed and more flawed than his fans admitted.

No-one should doubt Michael Gove’s passion for schools reform, nor his sincerity. For him it is much more than political: it is also personal. Two men have shaped much of the education agenda in the last 15 years: Gove and Labour’s Andrew Adonis, …

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It’s Party awards time!

key_awards1It’s that time of year again when members decide who should be in line for an award at Conference.

It could be someone who has worked tirelessly in their local area to elect Liberal Democrats or implement our policies or someone who has given years to our cause by working hard as councillors or candidates.

Maybe a political assistant to a councillor or someone who has supported a local MP in the hard work that they do.

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Reshuffle: One Nation Toryism has gone to meet its maker

David Cameron - Some rights reserved by The Prime Minister's OfficeDavid Cameron’s extensive reshuffle of the Tory ministerial ranks will continue today. Last night we learned of the casualties; today will be dedicated to the winners. But there’s no doubt at all about the biggest casualty: moderate, One Nation Toryism.

Ken Clarke, famously dubbed the sixth Lib Dem cabinet member, has gone. Too sensible to be left in charge of the Justice ministry he was exiled to the Cabinet’s fringes in 2012; now he has been retired completely. William Hague – transformed …

Posted in News | 30 Comments

Opinion: DRIP under the microscope – should Liberal Democrats support this Bill?

Samsung Galaxy Note 3Unusually for me, I’m starting writing this piece without knowing what conclusion I’ll come to by the end of it. Normally it’s straight forward enough to marshal evidence, decide on view and then write it up (unless the curse of writers’ block strikes of course).

But the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) takes the usual perils of journalism turning most stories into a simple good versus bad dynamic, throws in the paucity of expert mainstream coverage of many technical issues and adds a dash of juggling different uncertainties.

Certainly if …

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Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 28 Comments

A longer read for the weekend… Edward Lucas on the threat posed to peace by Russia and what the West should do about it

edward lucasEdward Lucas worked for Paddy Ashdown, has helped at by-elections, and was active in the National League of Young Liberals (NLYL) and the Union of Liberal Students (ULS). He’s better known, though, for being a senior editor at The Economist and an expert on energy, cyber-security, espionage, Russian foreign and security policy and the politics and economics of Eastern Europe. In 2008 he wrote The New Cold War, a prescient account of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. In 2011 he wrote Deception, an investigative account of east-west espionage. And earlier …

Posted in Europe / International, News and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 64 Comments

Baroness Sarah Ludford writes…How not to use Brussels for policy laundering

Racks line photo by Tristan SchmurrThe new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Bill responds to the European Court of Justice annulment of the 2006 EU Data Retention Directive.

The government asserts that the DRIP Bill only confirms existing law as it is broadly the same content as the 2009 regulations implementing the EU Directive. But as that Directive has been swept away, DRIP provides a new legal basis, and this will in fact be the first time that legislation to regulate retention of phone, email and internet records has been generated …

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Julian Huppert: This is not Snoopers’ Charter. It’s what we had already plus additional safeguards

Data CenterWe’ve been asked to reproduce Julian Huppert’s email with the details of the new legislation in a separate post so that people don’t have to go through the mammoth post to find it, so here it is. Now, because people are clearly wanting the debate to stay in one place, we’ve closed off comments. If you have a point to make, please do it on this post here.  We’re not doing it to be evil and awkward but because people have criticised us for having too many threads going

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Posted in Op-eds | Comments Off

UPDATED: (Not) The Snoopers’ Charter: Where we are, how we got here, what we should look for and what should happen next

The Houses Of ParliamentI’m feeling slightly nervous this morning. As I was going to bed last night, news came through that apparently a deal had been struck to introduce emergency legislation on communications data. The Guardian has the details.

The government will announce that it is rushing through emergency legislation underpinning the state’s right to keep personal data held by internet and phone companies.

Labour is expected to accept the bill on the basis that it will simply restore what the government believed to be the law before the European Court of Justice ruled in April that an EU directive on privacy retention had over-reached its powers and amounted to an invasion of privacy.

But, as part of the deal, the opposition has won agreement that ministers will launch a review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act passed in 2000. The act is seen as the source of excessive surveillance by the security services.

Hang on, what was that last sentence again? “The opposition has won agreement that Ministers will launch a review of RIPA.” Let’s just remind ourselves who was in Government when RIPA was passed? Ah yes, that authoritarian, illiberal Labour government that thought it was ok to lock people up for 90 days without charge.  Our MPs have been going on about reviewing RIPA since it was passed. It’s really important that Labour don’t get to claim that ground.

photo by: garryknight
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Baroness Joan Walmsley writes…The NSPCC does not go far enough

Children Walking on TrailThis morning the BBC had an exclusive story from the NSPCC. They have at long last shifted their position on making it a crime to cover up child abuse and have come out with a very half-hearted and confusing policy. I call it “safeguarding light.” Instead of making it the duty of everybody with the care of children in a regulated institution (like a school) to report to the Local Authority any child abuse or serious suspicion of child abuse, as I am advocating, they are saying that …

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Making the pursuit of happiness as important as GDP

cf reportOver the past 12 months I have been working with mental health experts and the think-tank CentreForum, grappling with the challenge of how we can improve mental health care.

Today sees the publication of our final report, The pursuit of happiness: a new ambition for our mental health. It reflects the expertise of many, makes a number of recommendations to transform not just health services, but the mental health of the nation, and it has one overarching call – that the pursuit of happiness should be a priority …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAlex Dingwall 2nd Aug - 1:49am
    From the Scottish Government: Question: Will universal postal services be maintained in an independent Scotland? Answer: Yes. This Scottish Government recognises the importance of postal...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 2nd Aug - 1:44am
    @Mark Did you notice that your three-word sentence can have several meanings? Maybe if you do, you might start to understand how awful the piece...
  • User AvatarMark Valladares 2nd Aug - 1:21am
    Richard, I think not.
  • User AvatarRob Parsons 2nd Aug - 12:50am
    Mark, part of the problem is that there is so little big print to read. As GF notes it took stern action to get even...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 2nd Aug - 12:47am
    I support Eddie's motion for a group hug. Let's not turn it into a confirmation bias session though, as I think I said once before....
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 2nd Aug - 12:47am
    Richard, that's a bit better. Anyway.