Author Archives: Adam Bell

Opinion: Atlas Wussed

Capitalism is in crisis, or so the enthusiastic chaps of the Occupy movement would have us believe. I find doing so somewhat difficult, as I work in central London, and am positively surrounded by capitalists with flashy cars, sharp suits and a taste for champagne. If this is a crisis, it’s difficult to see how it differs from Capitalism Triumphant.

However, the truth is that the classic right-wing Atlas Shrugged mode of capitalism is in crisis. The Government has cut corporation tax, is cutting back regulation and has just lowered the 50p income tax rate. This is the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 35 Comments

Introducing… Lib Dems Against Factionalism

Today marks the foundation of Lib Dems Against Factionalism, a place for all Liberal Democrats who believe that the current upswing in sub-party organisations that purportedly represent ‘differences of opinion’ is a menace to all right- thinking undifferentiated Lib Dems everywhere.

We have formed this new group because we believe the following to be true:

  • That the public have a clear and coherent understanding of what the Lib Dems stand for and will in no way be confused by a new group putting clear tangerine water between itself and the rest of the party, and besides, the public loves internecine conflict;
  • That our

Posted in Humour and Op-eds | 33 Comments

Opinion: We need a general right of information

The call made by Mark Pack, amongst others, for suggestions for media reform is both timely and important. For the majority of the country, the media represents the most important source of information we access on a daily basis. As a result, it cannot help but shape our opinions and inform our democratic decision-making; it is a key part of our national discourse and must be seen as such.

And yet the phone hacking scandal has demonstrated that we cannot rely wholly on journalists to hold themselves and their colleagues to account for their own ethical transgressions. A press …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

Opinion: The Lib Dems should work with unions

One of the most egregious arguments put forward by the No2AV campaign has been that the adoption of the alternative vote will necessarily lead to more coalitions. This is to overlook the somewhat obvious fact that all three main political parties in the UK are already coalitions – the Tories representing an alliance of the remnants of the squirearchy and wealthy metropolitan property owners, Labour the remnants of the working class solidarity movement and the Fabian tendency, and the Lib Dems the alliance between the Liberal Party and the SDP. There are multiple factions I haven’t mentioned – sometimes it’s …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 21 Comments

Opinion: Redefining Fairness

Our political discourse has become increasingly dominated by insubstantial ‘buzzwords’ like ‘fairness’ and ‘progressive’ to the point where discussions about politics have begun to focus less on policy differences and more on how these words are to be used. Truly, British politics has entered an era in which the works of Wittgenstein are more relevant to the debate than any properly political philosopher or theorist.

This is perhaps exemplified by the debate within our party over the meaning of the word ‘fairness’. Prompted by Nick Clegg’s Hugo Young lecture, the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) recently wrote in an article here on LDV concerning this subject, and claimed that it means:

“…that society is fairer when absolute poverty is eliminated, the gap between rich and poor is reduced and where people can rise (and fall) through the income hierarchy regardless of their starting point.”

On this definition, fairness is a question of outcomes, rather than principle. It is a term subsidiary to the moral principles that dictate which outcomes are to count as good, and which assign values to the decisions made by individuals inasmuch as they move towards those outcomes.

I am going to argue that this definition is incorrect, that it speaks to an undeveloped concept of liberalism, and that adherence to it will result in our subsumption into a Labour Party moving inexorably rightwards. I will then sketch out a new definition of fairness that aims to avoid these consequences.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 19 Comments

Opinion: educating Mr Cable

Vince Cable is, if you’ll pardon the pun, deep in the Browne stuff. Lord Browne’s proposed reforms to higher education funding – and overall rise in tuition fees they represent – have quite understandably upset a significant portion of the party. Cable’s whole-hearted endorsement of them has led to the accusation that we’ve gone back on one of our core principles in the name of political expediency. This accusation is not without merit, but let’s map out the situation as best we can.

Significant cuts are in the pipeline for higher education. Already this year restrictions have been placed on the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 8 Comments

Opinion: Why Lib Dems should have no reservations about campaigning for AV

Lib Dems are necessarily an introspective bunch, given to minute analysis of the implications of our own policies in order to ensure they’re entirely fair & liberal. As a consequence, the compromises involved in the coalition agreement (and the practices thereof) have come as something of a brutal shock to many party members – most significantly over the VAT increase. I still find that unbelievable – why on earth would you raise a transaction tax when demand is weak? However, that’s not the issue at hand, which is the Alternative Vote.

The Alternative Vote works by enabling the voter to rank …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 22 Comments

Opinion: To STV, and beyond …

Like many Lib Dems, the prospect of bringing in a fairer voting system makes me all a-flutter. We know that first-past-the-post is unrepresentative, and the recent impetus towards reform (if I may put it so tacitly) has opened the door to the overhaul of our electoral system.

However, it appears as though the door has been partially blocked by the baby gate of Alternative Vote Plus, the brainchild of the Jenkins Commission. Akin to a less proportional version of the Additional Member System used in Scotland, Wales and in London Assembly elections, AV+ would make our voting system slightly more representative – but not to the point where it would frighten Labour and Conservative MPs raised on a diet* of safe seats.

Since this appears to be the best offer on the table, our Take Back Power campaign has endorsed it, with the disclaimer that we’d really rather have STV.

However, what we’re not doing at present – and I would claim we need to do – is directly challenging the findings of the Jenkins Commission that led to them rejecting STV as a possibility in the first place.

The Commission considered STV as it works in Ireland, with large multi-member constituencies aimed at ensuring that there is at least one Teachta Dála for every 25,512 people. Given the comparative population of Britain and Ireland , the Commission claims that the expansion in parliamentary numbers required to facilitate this would be unacceptable to the public, and instead considers STV in the context of constituencies containing on average 350,000 people. This is one MP per 87,500 people, assuming a similar number of parliamentarians to at present. The Commission claims the length of the ballot paper needed to serve such large constituencies to provide ‘a degree of choice which might be deemed oppressive rather than liberating’ – which anyone who voted in the recent European elections will, of course, know to be true, and in no way an unproven assertion by a parliamentary commission. I myself found my 3-foot ballot paper so oppressive that I voluntarily surrendered my freedom of speech for the entirety of polling day.

Aside from a few more niggles around complexity and suitability (look out for the part where the Commission comes close to asserting that the views of politicians are more important than the public when it comes to voting reform), the meat of the Commission’s objections to STV came in the form of the political realities into which it will be placed.

The Commission argued that STV constituencies on the Irish model would work well in big cities, but in the countryside would cover huge geographic areas to incorporate the approximately 350,000 people necessary. If 3-member constituencies were reduced in size in the countryside, this would give the Conservatives a massive inbuilt advantage, owing to their rural base. A hybrid STV/AV system, with STV constituencies in the cities and AV in the countryside would disadvantage Labour – the Tories would get seats in the cities, while Labour would be unable to similarly capitalise in the countryside.

This is a serious objection – some of the Highland constituencies are already enormous, and this would lead to a single constituency covering much of Scotland . Attempts to hybridise the system on the lines that Jenkins proposes would reduce the very proportionality that STV is meant to achieve.

So how can we counter this?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

What’s going on in Maidenhead?

If, like me, you find polling numbers oddly fascinating, then you’ll love Google’s Trends feature. It allows you to compare and contrast the frequency by which certain phrases are entered into Google’s search bar. This provides a picture of the relative curiosity about a particular topic among Google users over time.

It is, however, not an exact science. This is because search terms do not necessarily reflect the intention of the user inputting them. For example, if we look at the figures for ‘Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats’ over the last 12 months, we get:

Chart of Google search terms by party

Now, even given that Labour’s in government, it seems rather odd that Google users are so significantly more interested in them than any other party. However, if we look at the searches that are associated with ‘Labour’, we get:

chart2

It would therefore seem probable that people googling ‘Labour’ are perhaps more likely to be concerned with giving birth than receiving updates on the glories of faux socialism.

Let’s refine our search a little:

Posted in News and Online politics | 1 Comment
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMichael BG 25th May - 1:29am
    Joseph, Philip Alston states in his report, “the fact that a fifth of the population of the United Kingdom lives in poverty, despite record employment...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 25th May - 1:29am
    Michael BG, it is not a question of differing on how much the economy can grow by each year and how much extra government revenue...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 25th May - 12:34am
    David Raw, I am not against higher taxes. I just think Land Value Tax on communaly produced increments in rental values is a more effective...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 24th May - 10:41pm
    John (Marriott), Yes I do like getting my hands dirty. And have done regularly. I do want us to be part of a Government again....
  • User AvatarMichael BG 24th May - 10:06pm
    Joseph, It is really good to read that you support that basic rates of benefit should be increased to the poverty level as defined by...
  • User AvatarDavid Chadwick 24th May - 9:05pm
    Thank you Bernard. I studied in Den Haag for three years and several of my friends are active within D66. They’re a well-organised, friendly bunch.