We should be defending the fundamental rights of the people of Catalonia

An illegal vote. State police censoring political websites. Paramilitary police using violence against peaceful protesters. Calls from Amnesty International to release imprisoned political campaigners. The right-wing preparing to seize control of a democratically-elected government.

You might think that I’m talking about a backward dictatorship in a far-flung corner of the world. Rather depressingly, I’m not. Instead, these events are happening right now in one of our fellow EU countries.

By now, I’m sure most of you are aware of events in Catalonia. You may not be aware that this is not a sudden constitutional crisis, but the culmination of centuries of repression from Madrid and, more recently, a failure of the right-wing national government to engage in meaningful dialogue with the wealthy north-east region’s autonomous government.

Spain’s transition from the brutal dictatorship of General Franco to democracy has often been admired by foreign observers. 40 years on from the horrors of Franco’s Spain, the country is now regarded as a respected liberal democracy.

Let me be frank and shatter those illusions for you:

There is nothing liberal about national leaders refusing to engage with political problems (instead passing that responsibility to the courts and ensuring that, rather than progress reflecting changes to the political reality, the status quo is maintained at all costs).

There is nothing democratic about sending riot police in to beat peaceful demonstrators and elderly citizens to stop them from exercising the most fundamental democratic right: the right to vote.

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Universal Basic Services – an alternative to Universal Basic Income?

While Universal Basic Income is popular in principle, support for it falls sharply once increases in taxation or reductions in benefits to pay for it are included as this IPSOS Mori survey shows. UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity has just published a report, proposing what they call Universal Basic Services as a less costly alternative.

The first point to make about their proposals is that only some of them are truly universal, with others targeted at the lowest two deciles. The Royal Society of Arts, who have their own Basic Income model, have already criticised it.

The Universal Basic Services proposal concentrates on four areas:

Shelter,

Food,

Communications,

and Transport.

Shelter

They propose building 1.5 million new social housing units over seven years, funded by selling long-term Gilts. This is not really contentious, but they then advocate allocating them on the basis of need to people at nil rent and Council Tax and with an allowance for utilities costs. Potentially, there is a problem of inequity here with existing Council tenants who are paying rent, Council Tax and utility bills while receiving Housing Benefit and this does not seem to have been fully worked out in the proposals – they only look at overall costs.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Finally the Brexit spell is beginning to lift: MPs are beginning to stand against it

In Nick Clegg’s latest iNews column, he says that MPs are finally starting to flex some muscle in the Brexit process. He is as bold as to say that he believes Parliament will actually save the country from its fate. Nick’s article is important because it gives those who think that our fate is inevitable a clear route map to a better future.

He says that if Parliament votes down the deal, the two year Brexit clock will stop ticking:

Next October, Brexit Secretary David Davis will present the Government’s threadbare Brexit deal to the House of Commons for approval. This is the key vote, the key moment, which will determine Britain’s future. Vote down the deal, and headlong rush towards Brexit will come to a shuddering halt. The clock counting down the minutes to Britain’s departure from the EU will stop ticking. ‘Senior officials in Brussels last week expressed their certainty that Britain can still find a place for itself within the EU’

The government, with increasing panic, insists otherwise, and will continue to repeat its threat that by rejecting a deal MPs will be voting for Britain to crash out of Europe without a deal. This is total nonsense. For a start, Britain will legally remain part of the EU.

However, should MPs, on behalf of their constituents, decide not to go ahead with Brexit then the Article 50 process will inevitably be paused. Our friends and partners across Europe won’t shrug their shoulders and simply carry on with the process. Instead the EU will reach for the pause button. This was made clear to me by senior officials in Brussels last week, who not only expressed their growing bewilderment with the government’s approach to the Brexit talks but also their certainty that Britain can find a place for itself within the EU should it choose a different path.

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WATCH: Vince Cable talking about the Brexit Bill and how it undermines Parliament

Here’s Vince talking on the Daily Politics the other day about Theresa May’s offer to EU nationals, trade and how the EU Withdrawal Bill in its current form undermines democracy.

He emphasised that the British Government is in a very weak negotiating position with the EU.

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Martin Luther King: How the dream speech wasn’t planned

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It was one of the most famous speeches ever made and led to two major pieces of Civil Rights legislation in the USA.

Yet, in issue 1277 of the Big Issue, author Philip Collins tells how Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” on August 28th 1963 in The Mall, Washington DC, wasn’t planned as it happened.

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Cole-Hamilton: Children must have equal protection from assault

Well, this will probably be a controversial one as the issue over whether parents should have the right to hit their children for some peculiar reason always causes a big argument in liberal circles. My own view has always been that there are no circumstances in which it is justifiable to hit a child and that there is always a better way. Having children grow up thinking that it’s fine to hit someone smaller and defenceless to get your own way really isn’t a good look. Some children will grow up emotionally scarred from the experience of what some people …

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WATCH: Jo Swinson talking about her political comeback

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson was on the Daily Politics this week talking about her two years out of politics after her defeat in 2015 and what motivated her to come back. She cited the threat to liberal values posed by Brexit and Trump and the unwelcome prospect of another divisive referendum on Scottish independence as the driving forces which spurred her to contest her seat again.

Watch her discusser own comeback – and whether Nick Clegg could do the same, here:

Posted in News | Tagged | 2 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User Avatarjames 22nd Oct - 12:09pm
    @E so no 2nd referendum then? Or even any referendum?
  • User AvatarAnne Williams 22nd Oct - 11:56am
    I agree with Nick too.
  • User AvatarJennie 22nd Oct - 11:47am
    Yes, Caron, the Azure card was what I had in mind. Horrible, nasty, punitive thing.
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 22nd Oct - 11:43am
    Well said, Jennie. The Azure card scheme for asylum seekers gives a concrete example of how terrible the provision of basic services would be.
  • User AvatarE 22nd Oct - 11:38am
    Well said Jim. Whereas I agree the police response was excessive. To even consider declaring independence on the back of a flawed, illegal and unrepresentative...
  • User AvatarGlenn 22nd Oct - 11:22am
    Jennie' I completely agree.