Lib Dems: The party of wellbeing?

Lib Dem leadership elections often bring up the same criticisms of the party:

  1. People don’t know what we stand for.
  2. We aren’t radical enough.
  3. We need to advance a “core voter” strategy based on values, not just on being “hard working local people”.

I agree with all of these criticisms, but get weary when they are repeated ad infinitum without solutions. Both Davey and Moran talk about the importance of building a distinctive liberal message without saying what this distinctive liberal message should be. What I’m seeing from both candidates is a list of reasonable policy ideas which aren’t meaningfully linked (except by the vague claim that they are “liberal” or “evidenced-based”).

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Dawn Butler incident – hopefully this will lead to review and change in the Met Police

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I have been very impressed by the calm and fair way that Dawn Butler MP has dealt with the police stop incident on Sunday. She has been very specific about the particular behaviour she is criticising.

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10 August 2020 – today’s press release

Almost 1300 drivers still on roads despite receiving 12 points or more, Liberal Democrats reveal

The Liberal Democrats have today revealed that 1278 drivers with 12 points or more on their record are still behind the wheel and called for an examination of whether persistent offenders are being properly dealt with.

Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Sarah Olney has warned Ministers that people’s safety is at risk and said, “it’s important that repeat offenders and dangerous drivers are kept off the roads.”

With a fall in car use because of the Government’s efforts to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, the Liberal Democrats believe that …

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Britain needs a Liberal party, let’s make sure there’s still one left

At the time of writing this, we have 17 days left of the leadership election and here is my confession: I cannot wait for it to be done.

Whilst we have two fantastic candidates standing for us, you would think from the comments being slung around by some members on social media that there is some vast ideological difference between the two.

I had the pleasure of chairing Liberal Reform’s Leadership Q&A this weekend and really enjoyed the debate. We discussed everything from nationalisation to the housing crisis, from party structure to the Orange Book.

And you know what? There was very little …

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Tim is right – the real housing crisis is in social housing for rent

Bravo Tim – at long last a clear and radical Lib Dem message on the scandal of social housing (Press Release 06 08 – ‘Jenrick’s planning reform won’t solve housing crisis’). We must pursue this with all possible force, because it is manifestly right and, in purely political terms, it highlights a massive void in the policies of the other two main parties.

As Tim says in his response to Jenrick’s lamentable proposals, there may be a shortage of affordable property to buy, but the real scandal concerns the least well-off. It is they who are condemned to rent insecure, insanitary, …

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7-9 August 2020 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Blocking pupil grade appeals could deny opportunities “for years to come”
  • Government should encourage universities to “exercise leniency” for 2020 admissions
  • Lack of test and trace leaving local authorities blind-folded with regional lockdowns
  • Government must provide practical and financial support ahead of schools opening fully

Blocking pupil grade appeals could deny opportunities “for years to come”

Responding to news that schools, but not individual pupils, will be able to challenge the GCSE and A Level grades awarded, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

This completely fails to get to grips with the issue. If individual pupils are not able to challenge grades which are an unfair reflection of their ability, it could seriously impact their education and employment opportunities for years to come.

It is absolutely unacceptable for any student to be unfairly penalised because of their family’s income or any other factor.

The Secretary of State needs to urgently put in place resources to ensure every child has the chance to appeal their grades and resit assessments when it is safe to do so.

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Daisy Cooper MP writes…Ed Davey is the right leader to rebuild our party

Each week, LDV invites the leadership candidates to write a post for us. This is Team Ed’s for this week. 

As a new MP, I’m passionate about making sure we build a party that can succeed in elections from 2021 and beyond. I want more people to feel the same excitement and joy that we felt when we won St Albans.

If we want to replicate the success right across the country, the job our next leader faces is huge. The election review, rightly, didn’t pull any punches: it set out in detail the big, fundamental changes that we need to make in order to rebuild the strong foundations of our party.

How we do that naturally leads to who we elect as our next leader. Who is the best candidate to implement the election review, rebuild our party from the grassroots up and stand up for the liberal, internationalist values that are so under threat today? Put simply, who is the leader who puts us in the best place to win in the future?

Like many of you, I didn’t know who I was going to support when our leadership contest started. I saw the qualities in each of the candidates, and was open to being persuaded to back either of them. After seeing their campaigns, working with them on a daily basis and listening to their plans to rebuild our party, the choice became clear and that’s why I’m backing Ed Davey.

Working with Ed since I got elected, I’ve seen up close the impact he has had. He helped create an outreach drive that made more than 100,000 phone calls to vulnerable people, he led the response to the Dominic Cummings scandal, and he forced Boris Johnson to agree to holding a public inquiry into Covid-19.

More than that, I’ve seen how Ed works to build winning teams, both in his own seat and among our MPs in Parliament, to take on big challenges and I know that’s what we need to drive our party forward. There are a lot of different characterisations of this election, but my lode star has always been which candidate will put the building blocks in place to help us win elections right across the country.  And it’s for this reason that I am backing Ed, because I know that his leadership will see us best placed for success going forward.

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Ed and Layla set out electoral reform hopes

It wouldn’t be a leadership election if we didn’t talk about PR at some point.

Layla and Ed have both written for the Electoral Reform Society setting out what they want to see in terms of changing our rubbish voting system.

Here are some highlights:

Layla

Under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats would therefore look to establish a common cross-party statement of support for legislation for PR ahead of the next elections.

The aim would be to establish a firm pre-election commitment to PR with support from across different parties. Keir Starmer has voiced his support for a fairer, proportional voting system, and it’s becoming clear that Labour is being increasingly disadvantaged by First Past the Post. This means there is an important opportunity for all those who believe in electoral reform to deliver on it.

I believe that under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats would be better placed to have these discussions with Labour and other political parties, and to help build a cross-party consensus for electoral reform.

Electing me as leader would send a strong signal that the Liberal Democrats are refreshed as a party and have put coalition behind us. That is why I am urging all those who believe strongly in electoral reform to support me at this election, so we can move forward together as a country and build a voting system in which everyone has a voice.

Ed

In respect of elections it is shameful that the United Kingdom continues to use the antiquated, First Past the Post System. I believe we should look to introduce a proportional system to both Westminster and local elections, at the earliest possible moment.

This is not just because the system is needed for both, but because the problem in some local areas is acute. There are areas which have become almost ‘one party states’ with votes for all mainstream parties being ignored and authorities left with little or no opposition scrutiny.

I am passionate about devolving power – all the more reason to make sure the scrutiny of these bodies is representative and effective. I believe there is an appetite to devolve powers from some in other parties and think making common cause on reforming our electoral process as we pursue this is a way to secure the changes we need.

Other areas around how we run elections are ripe for reform – we should introduce automatic voter registration to make it easier for people to vote and scrap the ridiculous plans to require voter ID at polling stations. The Conservatives’ desire to require ID creates another barrier and ends up with more people – likely from minority communities – not exercising their democratic right: it is indefensible.

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WATCH: Christine Jardine stand up for immigrants on Channel 4 Political slot

Channel 4 runs a regular political slot and this week it was the turn of our Christine Jardine to highlight an issue close to her heart. Our Home Affairs spokesperson made a passionate case for immigration and why we need to welcome and support immigrants. This was filmed at the height of the pandemic and she did a Zoom interview with a doctor who was working long hours and taking huge risks, yet still faced exorbitant fees and visa stress to be able to work here.

You can catch up with the three minute programme here. 

 

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Let’s become the Party of the Universal Basic Income

September will mark 10 years since I attended my first Liberal Democrat Conference, albeit this year’s Conference being entirely online. Having attended most Federal Conferences over that period I have witnessed numerous debates on topics ranging from public services to constitutional reform and from scrapping Trident to building more houses. 

Lately, several of the motions that have come to be debated at Conference have been very uninspiring; all motherhood and apple pie, while not wanting to scare the political horses too much. Can we truly call something a debate if 99% of conference goers are already in favour of it? When we look back at the party’s history, we see moments of great policy radicalism and an unflinching willingness to be the shapers of the big ideas of tomorrow. A liberal party, especially a liberal party with only 11 MPs and currently on single digits in the polls, needs to be bold, radical and imaginative in its policy development.

I was therefore delighted to see that a motion on the Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been chosen to be debated on the evening of Friday 25 September. The Universal Basic Income is the idea that all citizens should have an unconditional guaranteed minimum income. It would enshrine the principle that everyone has the right to own some capital. A UBI would guarantee a social minimum for the poorest members of society and would be the jewel in the crown of the party’s commitment to social justice. I welcome the motion’s commitment to guaranteeing continued additional income support mechanisms for people in receipt of housing and disability support payments. I also welcome a UBI being rolled out on the basis of the best available international evidence.

A Universal Basic Income would deliver essential social protection for those who fall outside traditional realms of employment, such as carers, students, parents with child caring responsibilities, as well as continuing to deliver welfare support for the elderly, the unemployed and people with disabilities. It would also help to raise the income of low-paid workers and those in precarious employment situations. It would help to remedy the injustices faced by the so-called ‘WASPI women’ who have lost out financially as a result of changes to the pension system. Finally, it would give additional financial support for those wanting to pursue a new vocation (such as becoming a musician) or to set up a new business, where there may be a significant period of time before a secure income can be received.

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Building a progressive alliance on the basis of the past, and now looking to the future

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP giving the Beveridge lecture to Liberal Democrats last week, admitted that some of his party believe that ‘labourism’ is the only progressive future. Certainly Lib Dems have to accept that Socialists who believe that Liberals will always defend capitalism against the workers will never accept us as a progressive party, and will consider any alliance as a mere tactical ploy. In a mirror image, there are plenty of Liberals who believe that Labour cannot shake off its Far-Left inheritance and will always aim for state control and management, with the soaking of the rich to enforce greater equality.

Yet if a majority of both our parties can focus on policies of social justice, full employment and moderate redistribution within the new challenge of climate change, we can surely begin to work together in more ways than is already happening in the All-Party Parliamentary Groups.

There is, as Clive Lewis said, a “shared tradition of the social liberal and the socialist”, based on “our common values embedded in our collective institutions… (and) our principled commitment to defend the human rights of all.”

For Liberal Democrats, the Thornhill General Election review instructed us that “we must reconnect with the electorate as a whole. We must give a fresh distinctive vision of a liberal Britain in the 21st century with policies that resonate with – and are relevant to – ordinary people.” Indeed, it must be the first requirement for both parties, to discover and strive to meet the needs of the electorate, among which measures of social justice and provision of jobs with fair pay will surely rank high.

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Observations of an expat: If Biden wins

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It is looking good for Joe Biden. He is racing ahead in the polls as foot-in-mouth Trump slumps under the weight of the pandemic, economic woes, legal problems and a growing credibility gap.

But what would a Biden win mean? In terms of the tone of political conversation it would mean a dramatic change. We would also see some big differences on the domestic political front. In foreign policy, an evolving international situation plus difficult to change actions which Trump has started, means shifts could be less dramatic.

Compared to Trump’s stream of consciousness rants, Biden is practically mute. Throughout his career, he has been known for his gaffes, but nearly half a century in Washington has taught him that there are times when it is best to say nothing, or to leave it civil servants to do the talking. Don’t expect a daily tsunami of tweets or cleverly-worded personal insults.

One of Joe Biden’s biggest tasks would be to close the national divide that a Trump presidency has created. He must find a way to push the hate-mongers and conspiracy theorists back into the woodwork from which they have crawled while at the same time avoiding the trap of forcing them underground.

Gun Control is a key flashpoint between the former vice-president and Trump’s dedicated base. Biden was heavily affected by the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and is a keen advocate of gun control. Among his past proposals has been a buy-back scheme for owners of assault rifles. And if the owners refuse to sell they will be required to register the weapons under the National Firearms Act. Needless to say, the powerful National Rifle Association opposes his candidacy.

Biden comes from what has been termed the “sensible centre” of the Democratic Party. The problem is that in recent years the party has moved to the left with the rise of figures such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Biden’s “sensible centre” position is looking more like that of right-wing Democrat. This could create difficulty for him in Congress with issues such as welfare and defence spending and healthcare,  even if the Democrats hold onto the House of Representatives and win control of the Senate.

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Conference agenda now available

The agenda for the online party Conference in September can be downloaded here. It is at the same time both very familiar and rather different from usual.

All the expected elements are there: policy motions (with amendments), business motions, speeches, Q&A’s, reports, consultative sessions, fringe meetings, training, exhibition stands and helpdesk. There is even a feature that enables you to network with other members at random, just as you might chat with someone while queuing for a coffee. Conference Extra and Conference Daily will be published as usual and the Conference app will be available nearer the time.

The most obvious changes from the norm are with the timing. Auditorium sessions will run between 2.15pm on Friday 25th September and 9pm on Monday 28th September, in shorter bursts than usual – presumably to avoid screen fatigue. This means that many more sessions will be accessible to people in full-time work. The (new) Leader’s speech will be at 2.50pm on the Monday afternoon.

And, of course, it will be much more affordable this time. The only cost will be the registration fee, as travel and accommodation will not be needed!

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7 August 2020 – the overnight press release

Failure to sack Cummings shows PM’s “weakness and incompetence”

Responding to a new report from University College London showing that public confidence in the UK Government’s ability to handle the coronavirus pandemic dropped sharply following news about the travel movements of the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

Millions of people across the UK have made heart-breaking sacrifices to comply with the lockdown and help keep others safe from coronavirus. They were rightly outraged when Boris Johnson’s Chief Adviser thought it was one rule for him and another rule for the rest

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6 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Welsh Government must extend shielding support to avoid cliff edge
  • Liberal Democrats: Ministers are playing fast and loose with safety of NHS staff
  • Liberal Democrats: Jenrick’s planning reform won’t solve housing crisis

Welsh Government must extend shielding support to avoid cliff edge

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for an urgent extension to the support for those currently shielding, warning people could become “cut off” when the support ends next Sunday.

Under Welsh Government plans, the support currently available to those shielding, including foodboxes, will end next Sunday when shielding is paused. Local Authorities will then assume responsibility for providing additional support upon request.

However, new figures published by Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales have revealed that 88% of those shielding are concerned about a return to work, with 12% so concerned that they have said they will refuse to go back – even if they lose their job as a result.

This creates a risky situation where thousands could face severe hardship by being cut off from existent support before they feel able to return to work and before Local Authorities can establish a proper functioning support network.

In response, Welsh Liberal Democrats have urged the Welsh Government to extend the support currently provided until the end of September, to avoid people being left isolated and give local authorities time to establish their own support schemes.

Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:

I am deeply concerned that when the support for shielding ends next Sunday we will see thousands being cut off from the support they desperately need. Although some shielders are ready to go back out into the world, many still feel it is too unsafe and plan to stay home for longer.

While some of those are lucky to have a good local support network, many sadly do not. We must make sure these people are not be forced decide between unsafely returning to work or going without basic essentials.

That’s why we’re calling for the Welsh Government to extend the support currently available to those who are shielding until the end of September. This will provide a transition period, stopping them being cut off while also allowing Local Authorities time to talk to shielders and establish their own tailored support schemes.

I am grateful to Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales for raising this issue and hope the Welsh Government will act quickly on this. We must give shielders the reassurance they deserve.

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What next?

This has been a difficult year for everybody. We have all been in lockdown, giving us all time to reflect.  This process finally enabled me to  build up the courage to leave the Labour Party and join the Liberal Democrats.

But why?

Simply as Labour is no longer a party that champions progressive politics. I do believe the Lib Dems have learnt from the coalition – but let’s be real, we are still polling at 6%.

So with all this doom and gloom why join now? Well it’s simple, now more than ever Liberal Democrats have a golden opportunity to rebuild themselves as a real political force within our country and I want to be a part of that.

Let’s look at Scotland, where Scottish Labour are the so called main progressive opposition to the SNP … well, to be frank, they leave a lot to be desired. Scottish progressives who believe in the union deserve an opposition who are actually competent. We as a party need to show that it is us who are proud to be a unionists and ready to oppose the SNP, especially on education where they are slowly destroying it piece by piece, while Labour look like headless chickens. Liberal Democrats need to show competence, unity and fundamentally show that we are leading the way on policy.

Next year we have the local elections. This will be a big test for us as a party and especially for the new leader. One thing we must remember is that being anti Conservative does not mean we are pro Labour, and if we do go into alliance with other parties in local government we do not compromise our basic Liberal Values and beliefs. We must be bold when holding Labour councils to account and ambitious in what we demand for our communities.

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Multiculturalism on the defensive

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Ever since the then Prime Minister David Cameron declared that “multiculturalism has failed” the concept has found itself on the back foot in Western political discourse. This has been a matter of dismay for many – I suspect most – Liberal Democrats, as multiculturalism is part of our DNA. This means not just tolerating but accepting difference, be it about ethnicity, religion, language, ability, sexuality or other forms of collective and personal identity.

Alas, with a few noble exceptions, political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have tapped into a seam of populist fear or resentment of The Other. This is not just a phenomenon of right-wing extremism, as represented by Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, France’s Marine Le Pen or Brexit’s Man in the Pub, Nigel Farage, all of whom have demonised Muslims and refugees. Listen to Donald Trump’s rambling speeches or read Boris Johnson’s journalism and you soon sense the undercurrent of prejudice and discrimination.

One of the reasons so many LibDems love the European Union is because the EU actively celebrates diversity. The Lisbon Treaty (the nearest to a Constitution that the EU has adopted) specifically declares that the Union respects cultural diversity and national identities. It would be nice to think that all member states treat this pledge equally seriously, and that those who don’t can be nudged back into line. Ideally, as a European Liberal Democrat I would moreover hope this could be a template for the rest of the world to follow.

However, I am enough of a realist to recognise that this is far from the case in 2020. Moreover, core European values, such as a respect for human rights and the Rule of Law, which were placed at the heart of post-War multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, no longer hold sway over much of the planet. Indeed, some totalitarian regimes argue that promoting these values is a form of neo-colonialism.

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Liberal Democrats and Socialists: can we form a progressive alliance?

Last Thursday Clive Lewis a Labour MP was the first non-Liberal Democrat to give the Social Liberal Forum’s Beveridge lecture (you can access it HERE ) entitled ’21st-century progressive alliances & political re-alignment’. Clive Lewis called for ‘a progressive alliance of the mind’, involving individuals, campaigns and movements. After outlining the great challenges facing us all today, he said that there is a crisis of democracy in our country, with people turning to the wrong solutions such as Brexit and populism.

“Liberalism”, Clive continued, “is a powerful political philosophy with important things to say about individual freedom, democratic politics and the market economy and about how these interact” (time stamp in the video: 23.18). But he said that much conservative and liberal propaganda claims socialists want to snuff out the freedom of selfish individualism and mould it into a perfect collective (27.59), as a kind of Socialist ‘Borg’ (antagonists of Star Trek) wanting to assimilate liberalism. He said this was not true as “Most Socialists want to find ways of allowing more people to benefit from and have a say in the management of the co-operative processes in which they are already engaged in almost every aspect of their lives. That sounds remarkably like freedom and equality to me” (28.38).

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Thank Goodness! The Real McCoy back – and I’m not talking about the Crisps!

I have never agreed with the debate around TV censorship, these past few weeks with the broadcasters initially pulling and then u-turning on a string of British comedy programs previously deemed offensive.

Many of you would have noticed the return of the 1990s TV Series “The Real McCoy” which was mysteriously “lost” and then subsequently “found” now being shown on BBC iPlayer. The show is a satirical take on Black British culture and the lived experiences of the children of the Windrush generation.

The BBC joined other media outlets in removing content found to be racially insensitive in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, with ‘Little Britain’ removed from iPlayer due to its portrayal of minority characters.

A 1975 episode of Fawlty Towers was also temporarily removed by BBC subsidiary UKTV for racist language, and The League of Gentlemen was taken down by Netflix over concerns about a character in blackface make-up.
As someone who grew up in 1970s Britain, watching programmes like “The Black and White Minstrel Show”, “Till Death Us Do Part” with the infamous “Alf Garnett” character; and others like ‘Love Thy Neighbour’, ‘Mind Your Language’, and “Rising Damp”, I struggle to see what this memory-holing problematic culture demonstrates other than our inability to deal with own uncomfortable past.

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Tax carbon and reduce poverty

The 2019 Autumn Conference approved a generally good Policy Motion F29 Tackling the Climate Emergency, listing actions which reduce UK emissions to net zero within a few decades. It included point 2d – “Greening the taxation system to make the polluters pay and to reward progress towards net zero.”

This appears to be a statement of intent rather than a genuine action point. I believe that we should go further, committing to a carbon tax designed to:

  1. reduce carbon emissions – globally
  2. fight poverty
  3. protect the UK economy against unfair competition from overseas polluters

This might sound a classic trilemma (three mutually incompatible goals), but one policy can deliver all three. Here’s how.

We currently have a mishmash of carbon pricing measures (Climate Change Levy, Fuel Duty, etc.) which affect specific sectors.

  • These only exert downward pressure on fossil fuel consumption in some sectors, and prices are generally too low to drive rapid reductions.
  • They are potentially regressive, impacting the poor more than the rich.
  • They risk carbon leakage – when emission reduction policies in one country lead to increases elsewhere.

The solution is a carbon tax, dividend and border adjustment.

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Our planning system is a national embarrassment

Our current government relishes declaring some aspect of the UK’s performance is “world beating”. However, when it comes to housing policy, we are mostly superlative in all the wrong ways.

Between 1970 and 2019, the UK saw the largest increase in the real price of housing of any OECD country. London is perhaps the second most expensive city in the world. “A Review of European Planning Systems” notes that “The UK stands out as a country with very high real rates of growth of house prices and low rates of housebuilding” and infers a link with our usually unpredictable and restrictive planning system.

Not everyone sees it this way. James Jamieson, the chair of the Local Government Association recently told the BBC it was “a myth” that the planning system inhibited homebuilding. He noted that 90% of planning applications are approved and that in the last decade planning permission has been given for over a million homes which never got built. 

However, there are good reasons to be sceptical of Cllr Jamieson’s scepticism. Focusing on applications approved or rejected ignores the applications that never get made. Why bother applying to build homes on land that the planning system has already allocated for a non-residential purpose or included in a greenbelt?

Plus, homes being granted planning permission then not being built is not a vindication of our planning system but an illustration of its faults. As Anthony Breach of the Centre for Cities observes: precisely because obtaining planning permission is so costly, difficult and unpredictable, developers have an incentive “to apply for more planning permissions than they can actually use.” This gives them “a safety buffer which they can dip into if one of their applications for planning permission goes pear-shaped” and thereby reduce the risk of their equipment and workforce sitting idle.

This supposition is supported by the finding of a 2014 research paper entitled the impact of supply constraints on house prices in England that areas with more restrictive planning policies saw house prices increase faster and new homes get built slower. This result should reassure anyone worried that extra housebuilding will not affect house prices: it can and it does.

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4 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Government must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year
  • Liberal Democrats back calls for Magnitsky-style sanctions against Hong Kong human rights abusers

Government must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year

Responding to news that scientists have warned that current testing and contact tracing is inadequate to prevent a second wave of coronavirus when schools in the UK reopen, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

After months being cooped up at home, millions of children are looking forward to getting back to school in September, but safety must remain the top priority.

In the absence of a vaccine, a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system is the only way to keep people safe as we reopen schools. The Government must do everything in its power to strengthen that system if we are to have any hope of a safe start to the new school year.

Equally, the Government need to be honest about the very real risk that, if they do not get the NHS Test and Trace system in order, or in the event that we see a sharp rise in infections, children may have to go back to learning from home. Ministers must put in place safeguards now to ensure children are still able to get their education in this worst case scenario.

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Introducing Lib Dem Mum

Dear Lib Dem Mum,

I am finding the leadership election very stressful. I am an Ed supporter, but my son is completely for Layla and my partner dislikes both and is disillusioned by the whole proceeding. My local party and my friends groups are similarly split, and there is so much partiality and fractiousness and bitchiness it hurts my heart. I cannot see the saviour of liberalism that my son sees in Layla, and I can’t fathom why he doesn’t understand that Ed represents the continuity and safety that we need.

It seems to be going on forever, and each day brings more arguments and things for people to be partisan about. I see people who have been friends for years falling out over this, and I worry that it will cause irreparable damage to both personal relationships and the fabric of the party. What can I do to stop this happening?

Help?

Anxious, Hampshire

 

Dear Anxious,

I think a lot of people will be in the same boat as you right now. Leadership elections always expose differences in perspective, and this one is no different. It’s a turning point for the party, as every leadership election tends to be, and we all have our own ideas as to what the best future direction is and what our party’s priorities ought to be.

My advice to you would be to always bear in mind that while this election has highlighted the differences between you and the friends, family members and party colleagues that you care about, those people are still fundamentally those same people you care about. People who share your life and hopes and goals. People who you have more in common with than differences with. You might differ on the best way to get to the future, but you all agree on a future that is worth working towards, and you all have good intentions as to how to get there.

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Layla Moran writes…The change we need to move towards racial equality

Every week, LDV gives each leadership candidate the opportunity to write an article. This is Layla’s for this week. 

UPDATE: Since writing this response, sent to the original letter writers on Sunday 2 August and posted on LDV on  4 August)  I have been involved in discussions with members, and have added my support to the Abolish BAME campaign. It’s time to end the use of BAME as a catch-all term. We can all do better on this, including me, and I hope this is the start of the change that’s needed.

Thank you for writing to me about racial equality in our country and our party. This issue must be an absolute priority and I am glad it has received such significant attention throughout our leadership contest, thanks to the work of members such as yourselves.

I would also like to sincerely apologise for the delay in replying and hope you have had the opportunity to hear about my vision during the hustings so far.

As you so rightly point out, the Liberal Democrats need to be at the forefront of challenging racism and since becoming an MP I’ve put this at the heart of my work.

Whether that’s campaigning for companies that profited from slavery to pay out and support BAME communities, leading calls for the statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed, fighting to dismantle the Conservatives’ hostile environment, or shining a spotlight on systemic inequalities in our education system, which mean black pupils are so much more likely to be excluded than their white peers.

The events of recent months have shown us why this struggle is more important than ever. As chair of the only comprehensive cross-party inquiry into the government’s handling of coronavirus, I’m committed to ensuring that the appallingly disproportionate impact on BAME communities is properly addressed and never repeated.

However, we also need to go much further, in order to build a fairer society where opportunity for all is a reality not just a buzzword. Under my leadership, I want our party to harness the energy and passion shown by the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd and champion more ambitious policies that will deliver real change.

One of the biggest issues facing BAME communities today is inequality in the workplace, which is why I’ve reached out to the Confederation of British Industry, the British Retail Consortium, and the Trades Union Congress, to help draw up legislation that would require companies to publish data on their ethnicity pay gap for the first time.

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3 August 2020 – today’s press release

BBC licence fee should be set by independent body, Liberal Democrats plan

The Liberal Democrats are to debate plans at their Autumn conference to ensure the BBC licence fee level is set independently next year after government cuts forced the BBC to end free TV licences for most over-75s.

Liberal Democrat Culture spokesperson Daisy Cooper, who will move the motion at the Party’s first digital conference, warned the Government must never again be allowed to “force the BBC into a corner where it has to choose between cuts to programming or raising these fees on the most vulnerable.”

The Party, which led a …

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged and | 34 Comments

Enough of this puritanical miserablism – I’m off out for a burger

We aren’t puritans. We aren’t miserable. We aren’t automatons. We are liberals.

So why oh why is the party resorting to wringing its collective hands about ‘unhealthy’ Eat Out to Help Out discounts?

We’ve all had a really tough few months. We all know that eating fast food every day isn’t great. We all know that the government’s message is hopelessly confused. And we know that we need to have something to say about the big issues of the day.

But why are we saying something so unutterably miserable, illogical and illiberal? We are seriously being encouraged to tell people that they …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 63 Comments

Action and Visibility – what the Lib Dems can do for you

Here in the North West, my experience as a Liberal Democrat will be like many members’: cold, wet days knocking on doors, delivering Focus leaflets and reporting that same damn pothole again week after week. For me, this is the pinnacle of local, community focused campaigning. What you’re trying to achieve is betterment of a small area and rather more cynically, get/retain Liberal Democrat seats on your local Councils.

Yet, this method of hard work, starting early if years before polling day can work wonders on a local level, sweeping up seats on councils – so, why does it not …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 5 Comments

Reducing the size of the Federal Board and giving power to the members

Last week Mark Valladares wrote an article – ‘How the Party is managed – can you be democratic and efficient’ and some in the comments called for a smaller Federal Board.

The Thornhill 2019 Election Review talks of a Federal Board of 40+ members (page 34) which is too large to be a ‘realistic decision-making body’ (page 22) and implies that during a governance review this should be reduced (pages 24 and 49).

Mark Pack in his report on the July Federal Board meeting states that the Federal Board has a membership of 43. The Constitution sets out a …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 30 Comments

3 August 2020 – the overnight press release

Liberal Democrats: Public health ignored in Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme

Commenting on the Treasury’s “Eat Out to Help Out” discount scheme for restaurants starting on Monday, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

We all recognise the need to support the high street through the pandemic, but the Government should have been more discerning with this scheme.

Obesity is already an immense challenge for people and the NHS, but the latest research suggests it also contributes to the deadliness of coronavirus. With a number of fast-food chains signing up to the scheme, it seems clear that

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

1-2 August 2020 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats: Government have deserted care homes entirely
  • Government’s planning reform shows they’re not serious about tackling housing crisis

Liberal Democrats: Government have deserted care homes entirely

Responding to the reports that the Government has abandoned their pledge to test all care home residents regularly throughout the summer, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The decision to drop the pledge to test all care home residents regularly would be a decision to desert care home residents entirely. The reports today, if true, are sadly just another example of a Government that is either woefully incompetent or one that simply

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