Tag Archives: featured

Opinion: Why it is wrong to enshrine the “triple lock” in law

pensionsOne of the now regular flow of “policy announcements” from the leadership calls for the 2010 ‘triple lock’ to be enshrined in law.  Passing for a moment over the fact that these “announcements” are of course nothing of the sort and discourteous to Conference which passes policy, (though, to be fair, as Mark Pack and others have pointed out, Steve Webb has been careful to avoid language some others have used that suggests these policies have been agreed without the party having a say), I think it’s the wrong idea.

Why? …

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Michael Moore MP writes…Securing the UK’s commitment to international development

Lynne Featherstone in UgandaI am pretty sure I have taken every chance available to enter the ballot for a Private Member’s Bill since being elected to the House of Commons in 1997.

What is certain is that I have never succeeded in securing one of the highly coveted slots that give backbench MPs a chance to pilot legislation through Parliament – until now, that is.

In the old days I am sure that those lucky enough to emerge in the “top 20” of the ballot would have learned of their good fortune by letter or maybe even messenger. By contrast, I became aware of securing the second slot by text messages and a sudden spate of social media ‘notifications’. The letter duly followed.

In the weeks since, I have had many enquiries asking which issue I would choose and have had just as many (mostly) helpful suggestions – my thanks to all who took the trouble.

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Opinion: Britain is the mother of parliamentary democracy, yet on Friday its Prime Minister voted against it

cameron-europeFor political historians, the 27 June 2014 may go down in history as the day a British Prime Minister voted against parliamentary democracy. For that is what the Juncker nomination was really all about, and which many commentators in the UK fail to understand. Comments such as “two-faced EU leaders”, “Europeans fed up with the UK”, etc, as read in several articles this weekend, reveal a lack of understanding of the process that has been building up in the EU in the past two years.

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Ladbrokes: “Five seats the Lib Dems might GAIN in 2015″

Libby - Some rghts reserved by David SpenderYes, you read the headline right. Ladbrokes’ The Political Bookie blog this week featured five seats where, based on the betting, they reckon the Lib Dems might confound expectations…

1. Montgomeryshire. Conservative majority 1,184
“Some are expecting a turnaround with a new candidate.” Her name is Jane Dodds, selected a year ago.

2. Watford. Conservative majority 1,425
“In Lord Ashcroft’s constituency specific polling, they were just 5 points behind the Tories.” It is also the top Lib Dem target from the Tories not yet to …

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For-profit schools: some evidence of why I’m far from convinced

student_ipad_school - 175Labour’s shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, this week called on Michael Gove to rule out profit-making schools, arguing “Beyond 2015, whether it admits it or not, the Conservative Party intends to introduce the profit motive into English education”.

The Tories have sidestepped the issue and instead invited Labour to turn its fire on the Lib Dems: they claim that Nick Clegg’s advisers Julian Astle and Richard Reeves were behind-the-scenes cheerleaders for profit-making schools. The mercurial Dominic Cummings, Gove’s former special adviser, has made the same allegation. This may very …

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Steve Webb writes… Lib Dems will write the pensions ‘triple lock’ guarantee into law

webb 01For decades, successive Labour and Conservative governments allowed the state pension to decline after Margaret Thatcher broke the ‘earnings link’ in 1980. The nadir of this was in the Labour years, when Gordon Brown increased the state pension by just 75p a week.

I was determined that the Liberal Democrats would do something about this appalling situation. In our manifesto in 2010 we campaigned on a ‘triple lock’ guarantee. This was a commitment that the pension would rise by whichever rating was highest in each year – by earnings, prices …

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When is someone going to do something about football culture?

Wembley Stadium photo by Brent FlandersThere’s so much going on in the world at the moment, yet much of the media are obsessed with Luis Suarez. Even Question Time and yesterday’s Radio Scotland’s Big Debate had questions about the Uruguayan player who is now serving a 4 month ban for biting a fellow player in a match the other night.

This is far from the first time that footballers have behaved badly on the pitch. I remember watching in horror as David Beckham was sent off during the 1998 World Cup? …

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LDVideo: Nick Clegg – Let’s use Pride in London to celebrate advances in LGBT rights

Pink News reports that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has released a video celebrating Pride in London, saying we should celebrate advances made for LGBT rights. It quotes Nick saying:

“It is quite fitting that on the eve of London Pride weekend we were able to announce the final, crucial steps to making equal marriage a reality. From 10th December those couples who are currently in civil partnerships but want to enter into a marriage instead, will be able to do so.

“It has been a long struggle to get here and many people have worked tirelessly to ensure true marriage equality, but it has been worth it. This weekend we will be able to celebrate the advances our society has made for LGBT people, their friends and families.”

You can watch the video here

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Antony Hook asks… Juncker nominated as next President of the European Commission – What happens next?

EU flagToday the European Council nominated Jean-Claude Juncker to be the next President of the European Commission. The heads of government of the 28 states voted overwhelmingly for Juncker. Only the UK’s David Cameron (European Conservatives and Reformists) and Hungary’s Viktor Orban (European People’s Party) voted against.

Juncker’s nomination reflects not only the European People’s Party’s status as largest group in the Parliament but also that it supplies more of the states’ heads of government than any other party. The Council’s nominee will go before the Parliament in its plenary, 14-17 …

photo by: rockcohen
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Ros Scott writes… The spirit of philanthropy

Christian Aid Week collector, WaterlooThree hours passed in the House of Lords yesterday without a single party political point made by any of the 21 speakers taking part in the discussion. The occasion for this unusual occurrence was my debate on the contribution made to society by the voluntary and charitable sector, held as one of three Liberal Democrat sponsored debates taking place yesterday.

Charitable giving from the public has held up remarkably well despite the long recession, although we should all be concerned that what my colleague Baroness Claire Tyler …

photo by: HowardLake
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The Orange Book, 10 years on: 5 thoughts on its legacy

Orange_BookToday saw what its co-editor Paul Marshall called the belated launch party for The Orange Book – such was the controversy surrounding its publication 10 years ago that the original event was cancelled. I was only able to attend one of the sessions (on public service reform) so here are five more general observations on its legacy…

1) The Orange Book remains much misunderstood, sometimes deliberately by those who enjoy internal warring, more often by those who’ve not read it (whisper it, some sections are pretty turgid) but know its reputation and assume it’s a right-wing, Thatcherite manual for destroying this country’s social contract. As Paul Marshall re-affirmed today, the aim of The Orange Book was to show how socially liberal aims could best be achieved through economically liberal means, recognising that in the real world both markets and governments fail. Two of its leading contributors are currently the most popular Lib Dem ministers in government: Vince Cable and Steve Webb. That said, it was (for both Marshall and David Laws at any rate) also a very deliberate statement of intent in 2004 that the Lib Dems needed to do more than simply out-Labour Labour by proposing new money and extra staff in every area of public service and argue that was liberalism (which is largely what the party’s 2005 manifesto did).

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Opinion: What’s going on in Brussels? Nominations to the European Commission

Charlemagne is back in EuropeFollowing on from my post last week on post-election developments in Brussels, here’s the second of two updates. Whilst yesterday’s focused on developments concerning the formation of political groups in the Parliament itself, today’s will address issues regarding nominations to the European Commission.

It now looks likely that at its meeting later this week (from 26th to 27th June), the European Council (made up of the Heads of Government from all 28 EU countries) will nominate the Parliament’s preferred candidate for the …

photos by: e³°°° & YanniKouts
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Adrian Sanders MP writes…New global parliamentary Diabetes network will ensure vital action is taken across the world

World Diabetes DayOn 2nd December 2013 at the first Parliamentary Diabetes Global Network (PDGN) meeting in Melbourne, Australia, attended by invited parliamentarians representing 50 countries, a declaration on Diabetes was agreed and signed.

Meeting in the Victoria State Parliament building MPs from across the globe reported on the state of Diabetes care in their countries, discussed how to raise the profile of the condition and agreed a declaration calling for urgent action to address the diabetes pandemic, committing the signatories to work across parliaments to help prevent the incidence of diabetes, ensure …

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Book Review: The Cruel Victory: The French Resistance, D-Day and the Battle for the Vercors 1944 by Paddy Ashdown

paddy book 2It is not like me to read books about wars and battles, but after being so moved and angered by Paddy Ashdown’s excellent portrayal of the inaugural mission of the Special Boat Service, A Brilliant Little Operation, I knew that I had to buy his next book.

The Cruel Victory tells the story of the brave Resistance fighters who briefly controlled the Vercors plateau in south-east France in the Summer of 1944. The original plan was for the Vercors to be secured to help an Allied invasion from the south, but for various reasons, the support that the fighters on the ground needed was not forthcoming. If people had been smarter in their decision making, at least some of it could have been and lives could have been saved.

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Opinion: Was there ever a child who started a war?

Palestinian Children, HebronI attended the conference to ‘End Sexual Violence in Conflict’ (ESVC) and I was horrified by the true life testimonies of how babies as young as 8 months are raped. I approached the War Child staff at the conference and asked about getting involved in their work. Today is National Refugee Day 2014. The purpose of this post is to raise awareness among Lib Dems and to urge you to factor the unspeakable horrors that children suffer into any part of your work or volunteering or fund raising opportunities. It could be that you come into contact with refugee children even in the UK.

photo by: David Masters
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Opinion: Sending more weapons to the Middle East is not the answer

iraqIt is truly saddening to read of recent events in Iraq. Seeing the horrific images that have been all over the media for the last few days, it is impossible for your heart not to go out to the millions of people in the region who have suffered for many years at the hands of oppressive governments, violent rebels and misguided Western intervention.

It is therefore maddening to see politicians in both the US and the UK suggesting that we should assist them with military aid including both troops on the …

photo by: The U.S. Army
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More powers for Scotland – guaranteed

Rennie, Davidson, Lamont More powers photo popWe brought you the joint article from yesterday’s Scotland on Sunday in which Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie and his Conservative and Labour counterparts Ruth Davidson and Johann Lamont. Now this lunchtime, the three leaders appeared at the iconic Edinburgh monument on Calton Hill to issue a joint statement.  Whether it was wise to drag journalists up there in this blistering heat will be seen from the coverage that ensues. I’ve already seen one point out that the monument was once known as Scotland’s …

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Baroness Lindsay Northover writes…Global recognition of need to tackle sexual violence must lead to action

Eliminating violence against women - Some rights reserved by European ParliamentIf you had told me twenty or even ten years ago that there would be Global Summit on combatting sexual violence against women, attended by the majority of the world’s countries, as well numerous individuals and organisations, I would not have believed you.

For ever, it has seemed, sexual violence against (mainly) women and girls has been seen as simply inevitable.  Especially in time of war.  “War, rape and pillage” just went together.

But just as in the 20th century, when genocide gave …

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LibLink…Paddy Ashdown on the abuse against children in conflict

paddy ashdown - paul walterIn a powerful article on Huffington Post, Paddy Ashdown writes in support of UNICEF’s campaign to end sexual violence against children in conflict. He writes:

During my years in Bosnia, both during the war and afterwards I heard and saw evidence of horrific stories of mass rape and sexual violence committed during the war. Thousands of women and children suffered terrible abuse and the physical and mental scars could stay with survivors for the rest of their lives. 

Years later, sexual violence still remains entrenched in conflict zones around the world and children are often the most vulnerable. Children suffering in conflicts are growing up in a world where they face the daily threat of rape and abuse and sexual violence is considered the ‘norm’. 

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Tales from the Federal Executive: The one where we discussed the elections

London December 9 2013 064 Thames Low Tide (4) ParliamentThe Liberal Democrats’ Federal Executive met last night in a Westminster Committee room looking out on a grey and brooding Thames.

The meeting had a bit of a comedy start with a last minute change of venue leaving member scurrying from one end of the Parliamentary Estate to the other.

The major item of business was, of course,  discussion about the recent elections. Several Federal Executive members had consulted widely amongst members to get their views. Only Candy Piercy, though, had been organised enough …

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Nick Clegg on the Liberal Democrats’ ‘unique mission’

Nick Clegg York Q&A Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsThis is the full text of the speech given by Nick Clegg today at Bloomberg.

The recent local and European election results were incredibly difficult for the Liberal Democrats. It’s been completely gutting to see good friends, longstanding councillors, outstanding MEPs – people who worked their socks off – lose their seats.

I’ve spent the last two weeks talking to lots of my colleagues in the party, listening to what people say about what we should do next, and I want to take a

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Opinion: The most positive change for private sector pensions in half a century

webb 01The announcement in the Queen’s Speech of a new ‘Collective Defined Contribution’ pension is an historic achievement on the part of Lib Dem Pensions Minister Steve Webb, which shows that pensions are only safe in Liberal hands. It will bring about better quality pensions for millions in the private sector workforce. It’s taken him four years to arrive at this historic moment which starts to rectify the damage the Tories and Labour wrought on the retirement hopes of ordinary private sector workers.

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Newark by-election: Tories win well, Ukip falls short, Labour dips, Lib Dems collapse

Phot @bbcalexforsyth newark by-electionA lot of politics is about momentum. At the moment it’s the Tories who have it. Not quite the Big Mo, but a Moderate Mo that’s growing.

Here are the results of last night’s Newark by-election:

    Robert Jenrick (Con) 17,431 (45.03%, -8.82%)
    Roger Helmer (UKIP) 10,028 (25.91%, +22.09%)
    Michael Payne (Lab) 6,842 (17.68%, -4.65%)
    Paul Baggaley (Ind) 1,891 (4.89%)
    David Kirwan (Green) 1,057 (2.73%)
    David Watts (LD) 1,004 (2.59%, -17.41%)
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Lord Mike Storey writes… It’s time to protect children from emotional abuse

Children Walking on TrailEarlier today, in a Speech from the Throne, the Queen announced that the Government will take forward measures to tackle child neglect. Quite simply, this is a momentous achievement.

I am proud to have supported Action for Children’s campaign to update the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, alongside other Liberal Democrat colleagues including Mark Williams MP and Annette Brooke MP.

The criminal law should be able to protect children from all forms of abuse. For too long we have viewed non-physical harm of children as …

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Queen’s Speech 2014: first thoughts

Her Majesty The QueenWell, the Imperial State Crown is on its way back to the Tower of London and the Queen is having a well earned rest after her annual trip to Parliament to unveil the Government’s Legislative Programme.

There’s something in me that thinks all the pomp is a bit strange and anachronistic but also weirdly comforting at the same time. I guess it’s like whenever I go to a Church and hear the familiar rites that I knew off by heart as a young child even though religion has no …

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Challenging the narrative: Employment

3D Employment GraphI was engaged in a twitter argument yesterday with someone who was disputing the progress we have seen in employment, putting the improved figures down to a million people enslaved on zero hours contracts.

The Office for National Statistics have provisionally estimated the number of zero hours contracts to be between 583,000 and 1.4 million. There isn’t an established data series for this that would enable historical comparisons, but there are such statistics for full time and part time workers. According to these the number of part time workers is up 356,000 since May 2010, and the number of full time workers is up 1,114,000.

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Lib Dems need to take every opportunity to get our message out there

Megaphone, some rights reserved by garrykinghtI’ve made no secret of my view that a change in leadership is likely to do little to revive Liberal Democrat fortunes at the polls given the rather more structural reasons for the decline in support for the party.

But I also recognise that to continue doing and saying the same things over and over again and expecting a different result is not only the definition of insanity but is unlikely to lead to an electoral revival:

We should not simply keep calm and carry on, but nor should we lose our heads either. The long-term success of the party is best served by

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Liblink: Stephen Williams on zero carbon homes by 2016

Stephen Williams MPThe Queen’s speech tomorrow will include a Lib Dem commitment to make every new home built in England from 2016 zero carbon. As Stephen Williams says:

This was one of Nick’s earliest environmental priorities and it has taken the combined guile and will power of Sir Andrew Stunell, Don Foster and myself as well as Nick’s dogged determination to make it a reality.

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Dick Newby writes … revisiting the Limehouse Declaration

William Rodgers, Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins & David Owen with funds from SDP supporters, Feb 1981On the wall of our downstairs loo is a framed copy of the Limehouse Declaration, issued at the inception of the SDP on 21 January 1981.

In the light of Matthew Oakeshott’s parting contention that Nick has led us as a party without roots, principles or values, I have re-read it to test his contention.

On international affairs the post-2010 Lib Dems have followed Limehouse to the letter – not just by being rooted and principled over Europe, but by our record on international development – underpinned by giving 0.7% of GDP in aid for the first time ever.

photo by: Roger Blackwell
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Kirsty Williams AM writes… Welsh Liberal Democrats oppose Labour’s e-cigarette ban

Electronic Cigarette InhalationAs a liberal I’m deeply sceptical of knee-jerk reactions to issues of public importance, especially when there’s a severe lack of evidence to support your claim. This was a view I thought I shared with the Welsh Labour Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, after he said in the debate on my minimum nurse staffing levels bill that “in pursuing public policy, legislation should almost always be a last, rather than a first resort.”

You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when the Welsh Labour Government announced plans to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places, along the same lines as the current smoking ban.

I called Welsh Labour’s plans into question as I led a debate in the Senedd on this matter earlier this month, asking the Health Minister to produce the evidence that he had to support this ban. Despite assuring me and other Assembly Members that there was “mounting evidence” which he’d make available to me “immediately after the debate”, it was two weeks until I received anything from him. This amounted to one single paper.

I’d hardly call that “mounting evidence”.

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