Author Archives: Andrew George

Brexit will unravel

So, the children snatched the keys of the family car. They haven’t a clue how to drive it. They’ve locked the doors. You can’t make them listen. You watch helplessly. It shudders forward as they fight amongst themselves. They won’t unlock or take notice until they’ve driven it into the sea. They’re convinced it’s amphibious!

What can you do? How can we stop them driving over the cliff?

…The story of Brexit so far.

But I don’t believe the car will topple off the cliff. It’ll either run out of fuel, conk out, hit a tree or run into a ditch. The occupants may be badly injured. But letting the consequences of their naïve bluster come face to face with harsh and unforgiving reality would be far worse.

Brexit will unravel. Most but not all of the ingredients are there.

The Government will never put a figure on UK liabilities; fearing the consequences of a backlash from their own supports if the figure isn’t a big fat zero! There’s no plausible solution to the Irish border conundrum. Neither ‘soft’ nor ‘transitional’ arrangements are possible so long as the shrill voices of Tory Europhobes dominate the airwaves.

In truth, negotiations have already all but broken down. Theresa May’s European counterparts may feel genuine sympathy for the impossible position in which she now finds herself. But this’ll count for nothing during merciless deal settling.

However, many ‘Remainers’ have become ‘futile resigners’; in that they are resigned to leave and believe it’s futile to hold out hope of stopping it.

In spite of the daily diet which exposes the Brexit negotiators’ buffoonery, humiliation and chaotic ineptitude most have given up or are convinced it would be improper to deny brexiteers their entitlement… even if it’s an entitlement to undermine Britain’s economic prospects, it’s standing in the world, and to become more isolationist and inward-looking. A crucial factor favouring brexit is the persistence of public opinion which still appears to be on side.

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Andrew George writes…Can progressives unite to defeat the Tories?

The AlternativeFailure to fully fathom the ‘shy Tory’ at the 2015 general election didn’t just leave egg on the faces of opinion pollsters. It produced shock waves across the political spectrum; from a delirious Conservative party to Paddy Ashdown’s exasperated milliner.

Of course psephologists weren’t really suggesting that a significant proportion of Tory voters are bashful by nature but were perhaps politely implying there may be a sense of ‘shame’.

Politics in its most basic form is polarised between, on the one hand, those who feel ‘shy’ about their self-absorption and (when the mask slips) their distaste for those they consider are ‘low achievers’, and on the other, ‘progressives’ who seek to appeal to our better instincts (for others, a wider community, the common good, future generations, the climate etc). Less bashful ‘progressives’ may believe they are in a majority when in fact the country may be evenly divided.

Indeed, there’s an assumption amongst many ‘progressives’ that the 2015 general election represented a high water mark for the Tories; that the pendulum will inevitably swing back at the next election, and that scores of Tory marginals will be comfortably won back. A reality check is needed.

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Andrew George writes…After Coalition with the Conservative…participation in ‘Progressive Alliance’?

Should we be ‘once bitten twice shy’? After suffering the disastrous electoral consequences of Coalition with the Conservatives, should the Liberal Democrats avoid the risks of participation in any form of ‘Progressive Alliance’ with parties of the centre/left?

This year’s General Election was a triumph of strategy for the Conservatives. With accusations sticking, Labour was unable to throw off the encumbrance of perceived incompetence, crucially of economic incompetence.

Arguably bedazzled by high office, the Liberal Democrats were perceived to be naïve; not so much falling for the logic of Coalition Government, but appearing to compromise too much in what appeared to the electorate like an ultimately deadly embrace with the Tories.

All the Tories had to do was to identify and then mercilessly target a few hundred thousand ‘swing’ voters in ‘marginal’ seats with their unmatchable wealth and superior arsenal.

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Coalition-Lite – a better way of doing coalition government?

Shortly before midnight on 11th May 2010, just five days after the General Election, Liberal Democrat MPs and Party chiefs voted to enter Coalition Government with the Conservatives and to support the difficult but inescapable compromise Coalition Programme for Government.

This was a sobering moment. No jubilation. Just a recognition that we had to make this work; and determined that, contrary to past history and evidence from elsewhere, it wouldn’t inflict terminal damage on the Party.

This was, of course, a “least worst” option. The public finances were in a mess; the economy in danger of catastrophic decline. The last thing the country needed was the routine tribalism of the Westminster Village. No party had a majority. The country needed stable government. We did what had to be done.

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Andrew George MP writes…Liberal Democrats must defend green promise

It’s crunch time for parties across the political spectrum: will parliamentarians do the right thing for our climate and the UK economy or will they let the sceptics drive investors overseas?

The Energy Bill returns to the Commons next week, just as the Conservatives are retreating to their traditional political stomping grounds in the face of competition from the right. Writing in Lib Dem Voice last month, Nick Clegg noted that: “Compassionate conservatism has been sidelined…the blue team used to claim to have gone green, yet have now publicly denounced the importance of environmental protections”. It’s up to the Liberal Democrats to …

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Andrew George MP writes: Liberal Democrats are champions of green economy

Yesterday Nick Clegg set out the Government’s agenda on energy efficiency and the role of a green economy in delivering growth. Important announcements on energy efficiency, tackling fuel poverty and helping consumers find the best tariffs all caught the media’s attention. But for me the real story is that the Liberal Democrats remain the champions of plans to build a green economy.

Nick was right to attack those who say that there is a zero sum game between economic growth and protecting the environment. As the Liberal Democrats have argued for decades, it isn’t about choosing – the two go …

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Andrew George writes… A veil of initiatives

The Iron Lady cast a steely shadow over the Westminster village last week.

Memories of Baroness Thatcher’s reign of heavy metal terror still strike fear in those who inhabited the place in the days when she would mercilessly handbag anyone who dared to cross her path.

Last week, of course, her major Hollywood biopic was released. Fearing unfavourable comparisons, the PM appears to have gone into manic overdrive; launching an overlapping series of popular-sounding and eye-catching initiatives.

Having spotted that City fat cats are still awarding themselves performance-related perks, which bear no relation to their performance, the PM has become quite cross. …

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Andrew George MP writes… The NHS Bill is putting our health service at risk

Liberal Democrats can reasonably claim to have been the architects and cheerleaders of the NHS. However, we now run the risk of being cast as the office juniors and apologists for the architects of its demise.

I used these words when I addressed the Spring Conference in Sheffield this year; during the debate which soundly castigated the Government’s controversial Health & Social Care Bill and which precipitated the unprecedented ‘pause’.

Though the media didn’t give us credit, two thirds of ‘unfettered’ (by Ministerial or other office) Liberal Democrat MPs rebelled in last week’s debate and votes on the Bill.

In spite of the …

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Opinion: Bovine TB eradication must be science-led

“As part of a package of measures, we will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of Bovine Tuberculosis” – The Coalition: Our programme for Government (page 18)

The Government is now consulting on its proposal to introduce badger culling as part of its approach to tackle Bovine TB. This part of the Government’s policy is bound to generate both controversy and impassioned debate.

Last year the Government slaughtered over 25,000 cattle because of TB. The control programme costs £63 million. Yet the situation is getting worse.

There is little doubt – and the …

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Opinion: A Cornish perspective on the Budget and VAT

As MP for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives, I am fortunate to represent one of the most spectacular and attractive parts of the UK. However, it is also the poorest region in the country. So Budget proposals are critical to many of my constituents who exist with the reality of low incomes and relatively high living costs.

On a positive note, the Budget put forward by the Coalition Government has much to commend it and for the Liberal Democrats, in particular, to be proud of.

It contains policies the party campaigned for, including: an increase in …

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