Tag Archives: featured

Money saving expert Martin Lewis on Labour’s fees policy: ‘Poorer students will subsidise city investment bankers’

Here’s part of what Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, said on the BBC’s World at One today:

This is the worse type of politics for me. It is the politics that may appeal to people on the surface but it is financially illiterate…If any other party was launching a policy that effectively meant that poorer students would be subsidising city investment banking graduates, which is what this does, there would be protests in the streets and it would be led by the Labour party. I simply don’t understand how they’ve launched this.

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Ed Davey MP writes… Green energy auction paves way for 27 new renewables projects and thousands of green jobs across the UK

A few wind turbinesThis morning I announced the results of the first auction for green energy generation. The results are impressive – more clean energy at lower costs.

Thanks to this first renewable electricity competition of its kind, I have offered contracts to 27 renewable energy projects across the UK.  Enough to power 1.4 million homes and save the equivalent carbon emissions of taking 2 million cars off the road.

The projects include offshore wind and onshore wind and solar, and will create thousands of green jobs.

photo by: vaxomatic
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The Independent View: “Bold liberal tax reforms for a stronger economy and fairer society” – a CentreForum essay by Adam Corlett

In a series of essays that CentreForum will be releasing over the next few months in anticipation of the book, The Challenges Facing Contemporary Liberalism: 2015 -2025, published today is the paper “Bold liberal tax reforms for a stronger economy and fairer society” by Adam Corlett, which can be read here. It is the third in the series; the first, On Blasphemy by Maajid Nawaz, can be read here, and the second, an essay by Tim Farron, Neil Stockley and Duncan Brack on green growth and climate change, can be read here.

Adam’s paper examines the tax system and identifies six key challenges facing any incoming government post-May 2015: simplifying income taxes; taxing investment intelligently; fixing corporate tax biases; reforming inheritance tax; taxing real estate; and making consumption taxes fair.

photo by: Alan Cleaver
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire writes….Liberal Democrats’ investment in education has been socially progressive

I took part in a five-party panel at York University the other weekend, organised by the University’s Politics Society, in front of a packed lecture hall with over 200 students.  No other panellist or questioner mentioned the subject of tuition fees, believed by some Liberal Democrat activists (and right-wing journalists) to be an issue that hangs like an albatross round Nick Clegg’s neck. The overwhelming impression I came away with, reinforced by informal conversations with several students after the meeting, was not that we face an outraged student body which can never forgive us for the tuition fees ‘betrayal’, as the NUS would like to portray it; it was of a student body which is switched off from party politics, unsure of whether to vote or not, but with some intelligent questions to ask.  ‘I wasn’t planning to vote until I came to this’, one student told me afterwards, ‘but maybe now I will.’

Since nobody else did, I addressed the tuition fee issue.  I said that we had found it impossible to persuade our Conservative partners in the coalition to pay for this, against the background of a yawning gap between revenue and expenditure in 2010, and had therefore focused on striking a deal that was as progressive in its impact as possible; that the package had ensured that graduates only start to pay back when they are earning good money; that the rise since then in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university has shown that we got that right; and that there was no no way any future government would want to take us back to free fees in the face of other competing demands for government funding.  I went on to say that we had worked in government to put money into ‘the other 50%’ – the young people who never go to university; that doubling the number of apprenticeships, paying a Pupil Premium to encourage schools to put more resources into helping those who most need it, and expanding nursery education to give children a better start in life had proved to be more progressive and cost-effective than free fees for the better-off.

photo by: flickingerbrad
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Nick Clegg on the Liberal Democrats’ vision for a world class early years education system

Nick Clegg has made a major speech on early years education and  child care to the Pre-School Learning Alliance. He pointed out that as a result of Liberal Democrat input, an extra £1 billion has been put into child-care in this Parliament and that only the Liberal Democrats would protect that level of spending in the next Parliament. In contrast, the Conservatives would cut it, at a cost of £625 per child. Not only that, but welfare cuts would affect low income families.

Here are the main points of his speech:

Over the last five years, we’ve made it one of our biggest priorities in this Government to ensure that every child – whatever their background or circumstances – gets an equal shot at the successful future they deserve.

Disadvantaged background start to bite early:

 So much so that, if you’re a child born into a poor family in this country, you will already have fallen behind a child with richer parents by the time you’re 2 years old.

That’s before you step anywhere near a classroom and it has absolutely nothing to do with your talent or potential – just the circumstances of your birth. Without focused action to change it, that gap between you and your peers will continue to get bigger as you grow up. So that when you turn up, proudly wearing your new uniform, for your first day of school, you will be well over a year behind your better-off classmates. Morally and economically, we simply cannot afford for so many children to have their future written off like that in this country.

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Willie Rennie MSP writes…You wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, so you wouldn’t put the SNP in charge of the UK

If you ask me about coalitions and the SNP, I will keep it simple.

Just as you wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, you would not put the SNP in charge of Britain. It’s not going to happen. Anyway, the SNP leader at Westminster told an interviewer from the New Statesman last week that he wasn’t interested. So, it’s definitely not going to happen.

I know from long years in politics that parlour style discussions about hypotheticals and coalitions don’t translate onto the doorsteps.

We’re in the Liberal Democrats because we want to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, …

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Opinion: Tory plans to curb benefits for obese people and addicts is the opposite of enabling people to get on in life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through charity work, in two different countries, it’s that imposing your moral code on other people simply does not work. Sometimes, people are going to do things that seem wrong, or misguided, or utterly reckless, to us. When they do, it’s our role not to judge them for it, but to give them the information they need to make their own informed choices.

That’s why I was so annoyed this week just past. In Spain, a colleague of mine told me that the media had whipped up frenzy around our organisation teaching young people to use condoms correctly. Meanwhile, back home in Britain, we have the Conservative party trying to push its own moral code through the benefits system. Both examples neatly explain what the problem is with moralising narratives in society.

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Opinion: High impact campaigning – volunteering with Team 2015

Team 2015 posterI’m looking forward to the election with a fair amount of optimism. My response to disappointing election results in May 2014 was to join Team 2015, which in August had just begun to mobilise Lib Dem volunteers in preparation for the General Election. At this point the Team membership’s infectious enthusiasm far outweighed its numbers. It has since grown to include volunteers from across the country, and this has shaped my belief that we have a chance to do better in the election than critics and pollsters are anticipating.

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Sarah Teather shows how to do an exit interview with dignity, empathy and thoughtfulness

Sarah TeatherSarah Teather’s announcement that she was standing down as a Liberal Democrat MP on the eve of our conference in 2013 did create some waves at the time. She was very critical of some of the things that the party had done in government, most notably welfare reform. Since then, she has done what she’s always done – been a strong voice speaking up for poorly treated asylum seekers and was a strong voice in the campaign against cuts to criminal legal aid.

She’s now done an interview with the Telegraph in which she talks about her time in Parliament. She’s thoughtful, reflective and does not show one trace of bitterness. In fact, she shows sympathy for Nick Clegg, despite the fact that he sacked her in the 2012 reshuffle.

Her appointment as Minister for Children meant that she could address special needs education, something which meant a huge amount to her personally:

Back in 2010, however, she found the new job a positive challenge, and felt a particular, personal, satisfaction in bringing forward legislation to transform the teaching of children with special educational needs.

“I have rather an odd educational background, I was very ill as a teenager, I missed four years of school so I suppose I have a particular affinity for children who, for one reason or another, had not found education an easy process.

“I spent a lot of that time wheelchair bound. For me it was a bit of a passion, that reform on special educational needs and disability.

She talked about her struggles over welfare reform, how she fought and won concessions and how she thought she was going to have to resign over the issue. I can understand her dilemma. I remember writing to one minister who might have gone over tuition fees to ask them to stay because of the good things they would be able to achieve for other people in their government role. For Sarah, she didn’t want to leave without making a difference for kids facing the same problems as she had.

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Opinion: Why Scots should worry about their national identity scheme

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 16.45.55One of the first things Liberal Democrats in government did was to scrap the UK wide National Identity Scheme. It would have been all to easy then for NO2ID to pack up, say job done and go home. Thankfully that didn’t happen and the remnants of the campaign instead carried on keeping watchful eye on developments of what has been coined the database state. The database state is the term we now use to describe the tendency of governments to try and use computers to manage and control society.  Another attribute of this database state is function creep. This is the phenomenon whereby a system setup for one discreet purpose starts to grow out of control expanding to be used for ever more administrative functions.

A perfect illustration of function creep can be seen with the Scottish National Entitlement Card (NEC). This card started off as a replacement to pensioners bus passes in cities like Edinburgh but quickly developed into a system for accessing Council services such as libraries. Now it has about 30 uses including proof of age,  paying for school lunches cashlessly and accessing leisure services. In all but name it is a National Identity Card.

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Nick Harvey MP writes… We mustn’t let eurosceptics spoil useful defence co-operation with our EU partners

Today in London the UK’s foreign and defence secretaries, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon, will meet their French counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian. Of course, there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about this meeting: in reality, UK and French Ministers meet frequently at various EU and NATO summits.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 8 Comments

Why the front page of our manifesto reminds me of 50 Shades of Grey

Manifesto_Covers_2015So, it’s out. The front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto gives five key policy priorities. These things are a negotiation in themselves and the version released is substantially zingier than the version initially presented to the Federal Policy Committee on Monday night. By way of example, I understand that the Five Green Laws point was initially described as a “Nature Law.” Why that makes me think of the Glee Club song “English Country Garden”, I can’t imagine.

Now, every single Liberal Democrat, being the
unique bunch that we are, will think that we could have worded these priorities much better, or we would have chosen something else. I certainly could. I’d have had housing in there and I sure as hell would not have put balancing the books as the first thing on the list. I’m not convinced of the need to do so in the next Parliament, even if I recognise that we can’t go back to the Days of Deficit Central while the economy is growing. The reason it is there, though, is because the economy, jobs and continued recovery feature highly in every survey of voters’ priorities.

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Opinion: What might happen after May 7th

This article appeared earlier as a comment on our “Electoral fruit machine” post and is reproduced here with permission from the author.

(After May 7th) I believe the Lib Dems will have more than 20 seats and less than 40, with many polls and commentators going for somewhere around the 30 mark, at the moment. From all the qualitative data I’ve seen so far that seems a fair estimate in political science. Anything less than 20 would be a shock, as Lord Ashcroft’s polling indicates that this is not going to happen.

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Liberal Democrats publish their election manifesto front page

Manifesto_Covers_2015The Liberal Democrats are today launching the front page of their General Election manifesto. The front-page will set out the five Liberal Democrat priorities for forming a government after May 7th. The Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats will also today unveil their manifesto priorities, including greater devolution of power to Scotland and Wales. Nick Clegg will launch the campaign on a visit to a primary school in the Conservative-held constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon.

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What will the electoral fruit machine* come up with on May 7th?

This post is reserved for new and infrequent commenters. “Infrequent” is defined as having posted less than five comments in the last month.

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Jo Swinson to take part in Marie-Claire election debate at 10am tomorrow

jo_swinsonAt 10am tomorrow, 11 February, our Jo Swinson will be one of five panellists taking part in an hour long Twitter election debate run by Marie Claire magazine. Here’s an extract from their blog about it:

A third of us still have no idea who to vote for in the general election in May, so many of us won’t vote at all. To help us work out who should get our valuable, individual votes, Marie Claire has invited five of the most powerful women in politics to take part in a live Twitter Election Debate. Gloria de PieroJustine GreeningJo SwinsonCaroline Lucas and Suzanne Evans will explain what their parties can do for us. In turn, we want you to fire your toughest questions at them, via a live Twitter Election Debate. If it matters to you, it matters to them.

Their profile of Jo says:

The Minister for Women and Equalities and Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs has been the MP for East Dunbartonshire since 2005. Last year, she garnered publicity for criticising a rule banning women from breastfeeding in the House of Commons. As part of her role, she oversees women and growth, women on boards and LGBT strategy. Jo was instrumental in delivering the upcoming introduction of shared paternity leave.

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Nick Harvey: ‘If you think we are going to spend another five years being shafted (this time) by Labour, you’ve got another think coming’

The Liberal Democrat coalition negotiation team leave Cowley Street HQ for the fourth day of discussions with the Conservatives May 10th 2010.

Earlier this week we highlighted Nick Harvey MP’s report “Beyond the Rose Garden”. In it, he recommends a range of changes in arrangements for any future coalition governments.

In the wake of his report’s publication, Nick has now given an extensive interview with Huffington Post

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Baroness Sally Hamwee writes…”Pesky Lib Dem” Lords win crucial civil liberties changes to Counter Terrorism Bill

David Pickett photo Scooby Doo gang PEsky LIbDems legoThey call it the heavy lifting, or – less physical, more forensic – using a fine-tooth comb.  The second chamber is where detailed and precise scrutiny of legislation occurs.  For Bills which raise vital questions about civil liberties, such as the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill this is all the more important.  It was therefore to the surprise of Lib Dems in the Lords that it was, aside from a misplaced attempt to reintroduce the so-called “Snooper’s Charter”, almost exclusively Lib Dem peers doing the heavy lifting .  At one point I passed a note to Brian Paddick and Sarah Ludford, the team with me on the entirety of it: A lot of people want to talk about the issues we’ve raised but they couldn’t be ****d (complete to taste) to write their own amendments.

Our concern, really to make sure that this sort of legislation is fit for purpose and balances the need to protect the public with precious civil liberties, is often derided.  It is important to get every dot and comma right.  It is therefore a badge of honour to be accused by Norman Tebbit of “dancing around on pins” or, in Michael Howard’s words, “the pesky Lib Dems”.

The Bill that came to the Lords was very different from when it was first trailed by the Prime Minister, speaking to the Australian Parliament about “excluding” people from the UK.  Lib Dems in Government ensured that such claims, made for electoral reasons, were not reflected in the legislation that was finally published.  This is not to say it came to the Lords in a perfect state and our work has ensured that checks and balances on the State have been increased.

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Thanks for talking #timetotalk

Time to talk 2015Regular readers will be used to me banging my drum on these pages about the work that Lib Dems are doing in government on mental health.

Mental health has been disadvantaged within the NHS for far too long, and changes like legislating for equality for mental health, introducing the first access and waiting time standards, and – in particular – confronting the poor state of children’s mental health services in many places are all incredibly important.

But something just as important has been happening here on Lib Dem Voice today.

I wrote here about Time to Talk a year ago, saying that contributions from fellow members had reinforced for me, powerfully, why I am a Liberal Democrat. Tackling mental health stigma is fundamentally about freedom – freedom from poverty, ignorance, and conformity.

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Oops! 15 Ashcroft Scottish polls published early by mistake

With a hat-tip to Mark Pack, LDV alumnus.

We were expecting Lord Ashcroft’s Scottish polls today.

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Jo Swinson MP writes….new powers for Groceries Code Adjudicator will ensure fair deal for local suppliers

Thanks to the persistent efforts of Liberal Democrats, especially Business Secretary Vince Cable, the Prime Minister has agreed to our demands for the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) to be able to impose significant fines on any large supermarkets who treat their suppliers unfairly.

The Adjudicator will now be able to impose penalties on the supermarkets of up to 1% of their UK annual turnover, dependant on the seriousness of the breach.

I was proud to build on the work of my predecessors Ed Davey and Norman Lamb, take the Bill through Parliament to create the Groceries Code Adjudicator in 2013. It was an important step to help govern the commercial relationships between the UK’s ten largest supermarkets and their direct suppliers – many of whom are farmers and small independent dealers.

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++ LibDems block Snoopers’ Charter – again

Lib Dems in the House of Lords have, once more, blocked the Snoopers’ Charter.

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Electoral forecast puts Lib Dems on 48 seats

Ballot paperThe Guardian reports the predictions of Prof Paul Whiteley of the University of Essex. His study forecasts Labour with 291 seats,  Conservatives 281, Lib Dems 48 and others 30.  The study is based on a model used by the British Election Study which came up with some pretty accurate predictions for 2005 and 2010.

The article explains:

The Essex forecasting model works by combining the number of seats won by parties in the previous election with voting intentions data from polls conducted six months prior to the election.

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Clegg on the Last Leg – first thoughts

Nick Clegg on the Last Leg2Well, I’d never seen The Last Leg before. I’ll be watching it again, though. It was very, very funny. And it’s not only trending on Twitter in the UK, it’s number 3 in the World.

There are two contradictory truths about Nick Clegg’s appearance on the show. His natural manner and willingness to engage in the banter while holding on (just) to his dignity has won him a lot of friends but I predict acres of snooty, disapproving newsprint tomorrow from people using words like “unbecoming for a Deputy Prime Minister.” Quentin Letts will probably have worked himself up into  a frenzy. I think the Cleggster has done himself a few favours though. A quick look down the #cleggleg thread on Twitter showed that he had impressed:

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Nick Clegg on The Last Leg tonight

last-leg204Nick Clegg will be appearing on The Last Leg at 10pm on Channel 4 this evening.

I will certainly be watching – in fact, I have been a fan of the programme since it first appeared during the 2012 Paralympics. After tiring but exhilarating days spent working as a Gamesmaker, it was great to flop down and watch this totally refreshing and irreverent take on the day’s events with disability at its heart. It cleared away a lot of misconceptions through its #isitok feature and the regular joshing between the three presenters, two of whom have …

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Opinion: Time to dump the 4 hour A & E target

To be frank, as a doctor, I have been underwhelmed by our Liberal Democrat offering on health issues over the years; certainly we are not as strong on health as we should be.

The almost daily drip feed from the right wing press on NHS shortcomings and failures is demoralising to staff and frightening to patients and designed to be so. It serves no-one except those who want to undermine the public’s confidence in the NHS. The service treats three quarters of a million patients every day of the year, and for most people there is no alternative.

So I am  relieved that at last we have something distinctive to offer with Norman Lamb’s ideas on mental health; parity of access and delivery, more  research and funding. This is important, and we need to ‘own’ it as Liberal Democrat policy.

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A quiet word in defence of Alex Carlile

alex carlile2 from bells yard
I fully support the decision of my friend and colleague Caron Lindsay, Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, to initiate a debate on the actions of Lord Carlile in connection with the Counter Terrorism Bill and an amendment (which apparently is still hanging over parliament like the sword of Damocles) which would effectively bring in the Communications Data Bill (or “Snoopers’ Charter”) by a back door/shoe-horn.

I strongly disapprove of those actions, taken by Lord Carlile and a few other peers.

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Norman Lamb writes … Tackling conversion therapy in the NHS

It may seem hard to imagine, but until 1992 the World Health Organisation classified homosexuality as a form of mental illness. Academic studies have shown an extraordinary prevalence, not too long ago, of therapists seeking to ‘convert’ gay people to become heterosexual – treating people’s sexuality as an illness rather than an inherent part of who they are.

In recent decades, society and the medical professions have fortunately come a long way. Most people now recognise that this as dangerous nonsense.

But there remain a few counsellors who still believe in the “treatment” of homosexuality to combat same-sex attractions.  I said nearly a year ago now that, although there was no evidence to suggest that such practices were taking place in the NHS, I wanted to do all that I could to put an end to them once and for all.

As Liberal Democrats it is incredibly important that we work to create a society which is not only more tolerant and open, but also one in which people are able to access support which helps rather than harms them when they are struggling with issues like their sexual orientation.

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Surely it’s time for the Liberal Democrats to part company with Alex Carlile

alex carlile - house of lords
After much provocation over the years, I have finally reached the end of my patience with Alex Carlile. The sooner he and the Liberal Democrats part company the better.

It was embarrassing enough to watch him give the green light to so many of Labour’s illiberal anti-terror laws, but when he supports something which threatens to scupper a key concession won by the Liberal Democrats, it is time for us to actively campaign for him to go.

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Opinion: A liberal postcard from Athens

Sunday morning in Kifissia, one of the leafy northern suburbs of Athens, and the view from my bedroom balcony is blue sky with dark clouds looming – a fitting scene for this very important Greek Election Day.

A product of the oil industry in Aberdeen, I am one of many Scottish expats supporting the oil and gas industry around the world (and lets not mention oil prices!). I have been working in Greece for a little over a year and after commuting between the Athens of the North and the real Athens for a year, I have been resident (and paying tax!) in Greece since November.

Greece has been going through a tough time in the last five years, unemployment is high and wages are low. Though there are few signs of austerity in the posh northern suburbs, my Greek colleagues (I am a lawyer) have lost faith in their politicians and their economy. Much though they love their country, pessimism is rife.

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