Tag Archives: london

Caroline Pidgeon writes…Why open government is good government and why it is time to defend the freedom of information act

The announcement this Summer that Ministers are now seeking to ‘review’ the freedom of information act had a most depressing ring to it.

For a start any fundamental review of freedom of information (FOI) legislation is hardly necessary. Just three years ago the cross party House of Commons Justice Committee, chaired by Alan Beith, carried out an extensive investigation into the operations of the Act.  It reported that: “The Freedom of Information Act has been a significant enhancement of our democracy. Overall our witnesses agreed that the Act was working well. The right to access information has improved openness, transparency and accountability.”

Few pieces of legislation get that kind of endorsement.

Indeed the Justice Committee not only defended the Act but also highlighted where it should be strengthened. For example it criticised public authorities that kick requests into the long grass by holding interminable internal reviews.

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Caroline Pidgeon expresses concern about Stagecoach involvement with LGBT Rainbow bus

Rainbow BusIt’s a lovely bright sight on the streets of London. A bus with rainbow livery to celebrate the 10th anniversary of OUTbound, the Transport for London’s LGBT staff network.

It’s a nice idea to have such a clear statement of solidarity with London’s LGBT people.

There is a cloud though, and that comes in the form of the involvement in Stagecoach’s partnership in the venture. You know, the same Stagecoach whose chairman Brian Souter took such exception to the abolition of Scotland’s equivalent of Section 28 that he spent a huge some of money on a campaign against it, sending a ballot paper to every home.

I might be prepared to dismiss it with an ironic smile – after all, doesn’t taking their money for something their chairman really doesn’t believe in is kind of funny – if it weren’t for the actual misery and harm that Souter caused.

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Opinion: Decentralisation to the London Region – the case has yet to be fully made

Before the recent Scottish independence referendum, promises squeezed out of the ‘Westminster establishment’ over more decentralisation of power to Scotland. The independence referendum was a close run thing. Now those in favour of full independence for Scotland are in a majority, and it seems that this will be reflected in the coming UK General Election.

The UK government has also conceded to a small increase in the powers of the Welsh Government.

On independence and devolution, Scotland has form, of course. But there are more modern reasons for the recent rise of pro-independence sentiment.

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Opinion: Don’t sell social housing

A Conservative housing policy is likely to exacerbate London’s housing crisis because it proposes to sell more social housing.

If we can sell homes at a discount of 70 – 80% of the ‘market value’, then what does that say about the market?  Simply put: London’s housing market is over priced – most likely by similar amounts.

At the University College of London’s seminar: “How Should we Respond to Rising Inequality” last month, political economist Will Hutton, David Goodhart and Sir John Gieve discussed reasons behind rising housing costs.

They talked about the impact of unmanaged markets, lack of supply, cartels in house building, land values underpinned by dysfunctional finance markets etc and unmanaged banking and finance systems. This is compounded by a lack of political will and vision.  Essentially, our government lacks the ability to ensure low costs housing remains in an ‘open market economy’. If these opposing forces can come together and agree, it is time housing policies do too.

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When politics, business and comedy collide with real lives


The following story is a bit like a Tom Sharpe novel. It involves an American investment firm, an estate in London’s East End, aggrieved local residents marching on Downing Street, the family firm of (reputedly) Britain’s richest MP and a famous comedian who speaks in a sort of Victorian “luv-a-duck” lingo. All that is missing, to complete the manic Sharpesque scenario, is a climactic explosion liberally showering the whole cast of characters with the contents of the local sewage farm.

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Opinion: London’s house clearing and what the Focus E15 campaign tells us

The introduction of the Benefit Cap and Housing Benefit changes is adding fuel to the gentrification of our urban centers, throwing out many small businesses that can just afford the London Living Wage, and pushing micro urban economies into a transition that will inevitably see the marginalized and low income workers evicted from London’s salubrious centre zones.

Local Authorities (LAs) are already reconfiguring their homeless departments which, if pursued to their natural conclusion, will see changes in their service delivery because officers will have to eventually move out with their service users – starting the same homeless process all over again in the outer areas.

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Stephen Knight AM writes…Putting the car first in urban areas comes with a huge cost to human life and health

Stephen Knight die inLying on a cold and damp pavement in central London as part of a ‘“die in”protest to highlight the level of deaths facing pedestrians and cyclists might not be everyone’s idea of a fun Saturday afternoon, but a couple of weekends ago that is exactly what I was doing.

The reason why?


Because the current level of road deaths – let alone serious injuries – is something we can’t continue to accept as being “inevitable”.

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Opinion: The UK is not working

WalesFor 45% of Scots and for many in the NW, the SW and in Wales (which I refer to as the devolving regions), the UK doesn’t work, and this should matter to a Unionist Party. As a Welshman who was forced, as were my parents, to spend decades working in England the reasons are only too clear.

In England we are quite often subject to xenophobia. And while our local colleagues go for exotic weekend breaks, we have to struggle back home to tend to ailing relatives via a crazy London-centred transport network that means that the quickest route from Penzance or Aberystwyth to Dover or Great Yarmouth is via the M25 or Paddington. The quickest route from Liverpool to Southampton is via the M25. And to get to Paris on the HS2 the whole country will have to stop off in London.

photo by:
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Opinion: Let’s keep social housing in London

As the ‘housing crisis’ debates continue and all political parties table motions to attract voters for the 2015 elections, we in Hackney Downs feel it’s time to raise our campaign which is in support of social housing in London.

Our bold online petition is calling for London Local Authorities and Chief Executives to publicly declare their non-attendance and to actively refrain from selling our public land for housing at the property fair in October 2014 and thereafter.  The host boroughs have already done so and it is time the remaining boroughs follow.

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Opinion: In London, community politics must be less about geography and more about life choices

bicycle route signOn September 22, my friend and London Region Lib Dem colleague Anthony Fairclough wrote in excellent fashion on these pages regarding the particular challenges, and hurdles, that are dampening the party’s prospects in many parts of London.

Anthony made many well informed and cogent points, but the one I wish to pay particular heed to is his reference to our party in the past assuming that we would win votes because we are the party of local campaigners, the party which gets casework done.

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

Opinion: Simple, liberal ideas for London

london by Harshil ShahLondon is widely regarded as a liberal city. It is not, however, a Liberal Democrat city.

The party now controls just one council and has only 6% of the councillors, as well as 2 London Assembly members. And yet, at least anecdotally, London should be our city. It’s diverse and often cosmopolitan.

One of the most striking aspects of the 2014 British Social Attitudes survey was that over half of Londoners welcomed immigration as good for the economy – almost double the number of people who did so in the rest of the UK. In Merton, a losing UKIP councillor blamed the “more media-savvy and educated” Londoners for her party’s lack of success. Although she was widely mocked for this statement, the results would suggest that large parts of London are not natural UKIP territory.

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LibLink: Robin Meltzer: Water cannon must not be allowed on the streets of London

License details  Released under the GNU Free Documentation License. (Original text : de:GNU-FDL)View moreNick Clegg made clear his opposition to the use of water cannon in London the other day on Call Clegg. He said:

Personally I think it rubs up against the long tradition of policing by consent on London’s streets. It creates an embattled sense of how police work and I don’t think it is in keeping with our long tradition.

Now Richmond Park’s Liberal Democrat candidate Robin Meltzer has added his voice to the

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Baroness Sal Brinton writes…Why we should be concerned about the Uber app

Taxis on Oxford StreetThere’s been much in the media today about the Hackney Cab blockade/strike in London this afternoon, protesting to TfL and Boris Johnson about the licence that TfL have given Uber to set up an app for hailing minicabs.

This isn’t a turf war. It’s much more serious than that, and there are some highly political issues here too that affect anyone who uses a taxi.

photo by: sermoa
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LibLink: Nick Clegg: UKIP would pull the rug out from under the City

UKIP logoIn Monday’s Evening Standard, Nick Clegg had this to say about how the diverse, modern capital would be affected if Nigel Farage and UKIP got their way. While Farage’s party offers change, it’s not the sort of change that we want:

But don’t be fooled: it’s change of the worst kind. Behind the crowd-pleasing, pint-swilling banter is a party that wants to turn the clock back. Ukip’s only answer to the complexities of the modern world is pulling up the drawbridge, shunning the outside world and hankering for some

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The Independent View: London – a magnet for talent

london by Harshil ShahVince Cable recently accused London of acting like a giant machine that sucks in all of the talent from the rest of the country. Our new report, Cities Outlook 2014, shows that London is indeed a magnet for young people from across the country. But the big question is: why does this happen, and what does it mean for policy?

First, let’s look at the key stats. Somewhat counterintuitively, overall London loses population to the rest of the country. But this is overwhelmingly to the Greater South …

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Opinion: Vince is wrong about London

One of the oddest statements made by a Lib Dem in 2013 was surely Vince Cable saying that London was “draining the life out of the rest of the country”’.

Odd not just because Vince is MP for a London constituency but because he was so clearly wrong – far from draining the life out of the rest of the UK, London is a huge contributor. The most obvious way is financially: London subsidises other parts of the UK which would have higher taxes or less public spending without the benefits of the London

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Liberal Democrat Voice is least London-centric of 3 main party blogs

A Very Public Sociologist asks “How London-centric is political blogging?” by studying posts on Liberal Democrat Voice, Conservative Home and LabourList between 10 October and 9 November. So how did we do?

Let’s start with the Liberal Democrats. Between the dates there were 84 blog posts made by 55 contributors. Of these 24 posts came from 18 Londoners. The next highest was 21 posts from the WestMids (all bar one the work of the prolific Andy Boddington). The next largest number of contributors was the EastMids region with eight. The next was the South East with seven (but 10 posts) and

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Delivering affordable homes and new jobs in London

Affordable Homes for LondonLast month house prices in London rose by 10 per cent – yes you read that correctly. Yet affordable homes, not over-inflated house prices, are what we need.

For an overseas investor in London’s housing market – and there are many – the price rises are wonderful news. They will be equally welcome by someone who has cleared their mortgage and is looking to sell up and move out of the capital. However, for most people who live in the capital or plan to move to the capital, such price rises are far from welcome.

It is not sustainable for people to ‘earn’ far more from rising house prices than working. As Vince Cable has rightly said these soaring house prices in London as “dangerous and unsustainable”. Vince is also right to express his misgivings about the Help to Buy scheme, which will almost certainly contribute to the over-inflated housing market in London and the South East.

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Caroline Pidgeon writes: Setting our cities free from the stranglehold of the Treasury

City Hall and Tower BridgeReforming local government finance – a phrase that is enough to send many of us to sleep.  But put a different way, devolving financial powers to our great cities, allowing local innovation and genuine localism, may keep your interest for longer!

May saw the launch of an excellent policy report called Raising the capital.  The report was produced by the London Finance Commission, an authoritative wide ranging group of experts from both inside and outside politics, but crucially including experts from Birmingham and Manchester.  The commission was chaired by respected Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics.

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Opinion: Changing Gear in London

fireworksThe fireworks over the Thames that signalled the New Year in London symbolically coincided with a handover of the chairmanship of London Liberal Democrats, as I ended my three years at the helm and Mike Tuffrey – until last May a leading Member of the London Assembly – took over.

My time in office was quite a roller-coaster, from the inflated national euphoria of Cleggmania just before the 2010 general election – when in the event we managed to hold on to seven parliamentary seats, but alas lost Richmond Park – to the frankly dire city-wide vote we received in the London Mayoral and GLA elections last May. At least we managed to return Caroline Pidgeon (rightly recognised in the New Year honours) and Stephen Knight to the Assembly.

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Opinion: We need all parties to work together to solve London’s housing crisis

Sarah Teather’s recent interview in the Observer graphically reminded us of the social impact of the housing crisis on large numbers low and moderate earners in London.

Vince Cable, on the Andrew Marr show, emphasised both the need to counter the tabloid rhetoric of benefit scroungers and restrain the growth in the welfare budget. Vince pointed to the urgent need to expand the provision of affordable housing in the …

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Opinion: Champions for London’s Children

The Liberal Democrat education policy, written before the General Election, detailed a strong strategic role for councils, including commissioning new schools and holding all schools to account whatever their status.

The question now is whether this is more than just a change in the mood music, and whether the Coalition is genuinely up for endorsing local authorities who seek to hold academies to account as part of a strong ‘champion for children’ role.  And moreover, whether they will give councils the teeth they need to do it properly.

Who better to rise to this challenge and make the case persuasively to government …

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Overnight counting, electoral fraud and the running of elections: a bounty of Electoral Commission reports

The last few days have been busy ones for the Electoral Commission, with most of the headlines caught by their report into when election counts should take place (overnight or the next day):

The Electoral Commission has recommended general election counts should continue to be held overnight.

Before the 2010 election, a number of councils made plans to count votes the day after polling day.

But a campaign by MPs and others resulted in a change of the law requiring counts to start within four hours of the close of polls…

Chair of the Electoral Commission Jenny Watson said: “We are rightly proud

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Opinion: Three steps to better campaigning in London

Immediately after the London Mayoral and GLA election Mike Tuffrey wrote some very shrewd observations on Lib Dem Voice. Now the dust has settled and the election results are known by ward perhaps it is time to think through the next stage of learning.

For me getting Caroline Pidgeon re-elected was always a top priority. I’m delighted that she has been joined by my long-standing friend Stephen Knight – the shame being that they are not joined by Bridget Fox and Shas Sheehan. But Stephen and Caroline will punch above their weight and the work they have already started …

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The Weekend Debate: Who’d get your 2nd preference after Brian in the race for London Mayor?

Here’s your starter for ten in our weekend slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

This Thursday, millions of voters will go to the polls to cast their votes in local elections. And although London is only one of those elections, its electoral size and the colourful prominence of its candidates means it has got the lion’s share of the media coverage.

For the Lib Dems, Brian Paddick has fought a terrific campaign. The former Metropolitan police chief only narrowly squeaked ahead of Mike Tuffrey for the party’s nomination following what Brian himself has acknowledged was a tricky first outing as a Lib Dem candidate in 2008.

This time round, however, he has more than held his own in the televised debates, while his advertising, social media and online presence has achieved real impact. As I reported last month, the Lib Dems’ London fundraising has been a huge success, allowing the party actively to compete at this election in a way that’s not previously been possible.

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The 3 Lib Dem mayoral candidates profiled

Three mayoral elections will take place a week today. Though the media has fixated on London’s Boris/Brian/Ken campaign, there are contests also to elect the first-ever mayors of Liverpool and Salford. In addition the following cities will hold ballots on 3 May on whether to adopt the elected mayor system: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield.

Here, in alphabetical order, are the Lib Dem standard-bearers to become mayors of their cities next week…

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Ken Livingstone definitely needs an accountant if he can’t count to five

Remember last week at PMQs, Nick Clegg commented on Ken Livingstone’s rather complex tax affairs:

It is worth dwelling for a minute on the explanation provided by Ken Livingstone for his exotic tax arrangements. I quote from an interview that he gave just this weekend:

“I get loads of money, all from different sources, and I give it to an accountant and they manage it”.

That is modern socialism for you.

Well, no wonder the Labour mayoral candidate needs an accountant if he can’t even cope with numbers less than the number of fingers on one hand, as this leaflet, spotted at Lib …

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London Liberal Democrats – helping those with the smallest pockets get to work

Last week Brian Paddick and I launched a fairer fares package ahead of this year’s London Mayoral and Assembly elections.

Boris Johnson has been Mayor of London since 2008. In just four years he has increased the cheapest bus fare from 90p to £1.35 – and he had planned to raise fares even further until the Coalition Government stepped in and helped limit the rise. As well as bus fares, the cost of travelling on the Tube, the Docklands Light Railway, the Croydon Tramlink and the London Overground have all soared under Mr Johnson’s mayoralty.

Of course there …

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Opinion: In the name of the Olympics

With the summer 2012 drawing ever closer, it is no surprise that the amount of column inches devoted to the London Olympics is increasing. What has surprised me, though, has been how much of this coverage has been of the controversies that seem to be multiplying around the Games, and just what may be done in the name of the Olympics next year.

Flatly, I am worried that the Government is importing dodgy methods of event management to Stratford and the rest of London. The security measures recently announced are especially concerning. I hope no Liberal in Britain is reassured by …

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Meral Hussein Ece writes: my contribution in the Lords to the riots debate

This is the speech Meral made last Thursday as part of the Lords debate on the public disorder.

Baroness Hussein-Ece: My Lords, I, too, would like to associate myself and these Benches with the sentiments that have been expressed and to extend our condolences to those people who have lost so much in the terrible events from Saturday onwards. I thank my noble friend the Leader of the House for repeating the Prime Minster’s Statement today.

There is absolutely no excuse for the terrible scenes that we have witnessed on the streets of London and beyond in our cities over the …

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    @ Eddie Sammon. Didn't he also say that he would "squeeze property speculators until the pips squeak"?
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    Perhaps not to worrying if your ambition is to see britain meshed into all those governance structures, which is fine, but would anyone elect a...
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    What I like about the Monarchy is the living link with our history. I rather like our history of the gradual evolution of an hereditary...
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    I think it's safe to say that I would have been a fan of Healey. I like Labour moderates (and radicals). This quote from 1997...
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    @ Stephen Hesketh - I certainly think we can take some voters back from The Greens & a trickle of members but most people who...