Author Archives: Adam Killeya

Your Liberal Britain: It’s not about the words: it’s what we mean by them

Your Liberal BritainA Liberal Britain has to be three things

It has be free, is has to be tolerant, and it has to be fair.

But those are dangerous words. Not because people disagree openly with them, but precisely because hardly anybody does. They are safe happy fluffy words that everyone nods along to, but then take to mean many different things and can use to justify more or less anything.

So what do I mean by them and what do they look like?

Freedom clearly must include a lack of state interference in area where the state has no business, like reading my emails or dictating my lifestyle choices, for example if I want to choose to use cannabis, or to choose to end my life, or indeed to eat sugary food. I should add in fairness that eating sugary food is the only one of those choices that I intend to exercise whilst writing this article, but that is not the point. We must allow people choice and not insist that everyone values the same thing or pursues the same goals.

However this negative freedom, the lack of legal limits to actions that primarily affect yourself, isn’t enough. A liberal Britain must also value positive freedom, tackling Beveridge’s five giants of poverty, idleness, ignorance, disease and squalor so that everyone has equal opportunities. This requires a government role: a locally accountable education, a National health service, a rehabilitative justice system. A Liberal Britain must not fall prey to the temptation to radically strip back the state on the grounds that it increases choice. For many people it doesn’t.

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Opinion: Float like a butterfly, vote like a xxx?

Having spent the last few days canvassing (what else would a Politics teacher do during half-term?) I have been playing the usual ‘what does it all mean?’ game, trying to make sense of the Green-Liberals, red UKIPs, soft Tories and probable Mebyon Kernows. Even making sense of those categories though requires being able to spot them, and there are days when I long for the simplicity of a ‘damned if I know’ option on Connect.

I do understand why there is no ‘don’t know’ ‘undecided’ or ‘genuine floater’ category. Firstly it would be far too tempting for canvassers to label everyone who didn’t immediately disclose their voting intention as a ‘don’t know’. The follow-up probes about who they definitely wouldn’t for, voted for last time, and might their lend vote to would be too likely to be forgotten.

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Opinion: The two party system is dead

And then there were lots

The two party system is dead. I’ll come back to that.

I am currently off work following an operation and, with time on my hands and limited physical options, I have been passing the time analysing Ladbroke’s constituency odds for the general election to work out the national picture from the ground up. Clearly this isn’t what the odds are designed for, and they reflect the betting market as well as the bookies predictions, but they are a much better reflection of reality on the ground than say the old BBC swingometer based on the convenient fiction of a uniform swing between two parties. Moreover, even if the concept of spending hours analysing bookies odds on constituency results appals you, the results are fascinating.

Posted in Op-eds | 39 Comments

Opinion: In for a cent, in for a Euro?

Euro by Alf MelinThis is probably a stupid idea.

I thought I’d get that in before you do, because it probably is, and even it’s not you’re probably still going to think that it is. Nevertheless I’m going to say it anyway because frankly right now British politics is somewhere up a creek and Nigel Farage is running off with the paddle.

How about we hold an in-out referendum on European Union membership on the first Thursday in February?

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Opinion: Our radical edge

University Life 13Amongst the many issues raised by our performance in the European Elections one that troubles me greatly is the loss of young voters to the Green party. Amongst 18-25s of my acquaintance who might be considered centre-left and politically aware, and having taught Politics A Level for 9 years and kept in touch with most of my students this is a reasonable number, many more voted Green than Lib Dem. This trend was somewhat masked by a slight overall drop in Green votes, which can partly be ascribed to …

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Opinion: A poor careers move

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable at a factory 2 - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsMy name’s Adam and I’m a careers teacher. This presents something of a challenge because it turns out that as a teacher I know nothing about careers.

I must say before continuing that I am a fan of Vince. On the credit crunch, on banking regulation and on bonuses I not only agree with what he says, but also with how he says it. This is part of why I was so surprised, and not a little bit irked, that he said of teachers “They know how universities work, they know what you have to do to get an A-level, they know about UCAS forms – but they know absolutely nothing about the world of work. They don’t know how to direct people to apprenticeships or traineeships which we’re now doing as a first stage for people”.

I am fully aware of the way that the media often quote people out of context so I have taken great care to read what he actually, and there is no way around it: he was clearly referring to the fact that most teachers are graduates and that is what he said.

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Opinion: Henry Ford and the coalition’s ‘localism’

Brent Town Hall. Photo credit: stevecadman on FlickrFord famously commented that customers could have any colour they like as long as it’s black. It feels to me that at the moment we can have any localism we like as long as it’s blue.

Two particular events have provoked this thought. The first is that that council tax bills are about to go out and, under localism, a council cannot raise council tax significantly, including to protect services, without holding a referendum. However they can cut council tax and services without any such requirement. Furthermore, as councils have to pay for the referendum themselves, increasing council tax by a little over the limit is not financially viable. Therefore the referendum rules do not give local people more control so much as force councils to subscribe to Conservative ideas about the balance between services and taxation.

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Opinion: Nick, Nigel and the Hokey Cokey party

In common with many Lib Dem activists I have ambivalent feeling about Nick Clegg. I don’t feel that there is a strong case to either say that that no good had come from the coalition or from his leadership, or alternatively that it’s all been peachy. In my view it’s actually a case of what you think the balance has been between successes and disappointments, a debate where I sit roughly in the middle.

However Nick’s latest move – challenging Nigel Farage to a public debate on Europe – has my unbridled admiration, both morally and politically. Morally not only because …

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