Author Archives: Andy Boddington

The Environment Bill takes the emergency out of climate emergency and is full of holes

As the Brexit skirmishes continue, it is easy to lose track of other important pieces of legislation struggling to get parliamentary time. One of those is the Environment Bill. The second reading of the bill on 23 October was abruptly cancelled to make way for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. That’s ironic as a large part of the Environment Bill is concerned with reinstating the environmental protection the UK will lose if it ceases to a member of the EU. The bill aims for a lot more, including a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, measures to improve air quality, and rules to ensure biodiversity net gain from housing and some other developments. 

It’s a great forward looking bill. At least, that’s what ministers say. In practice the bill is colander bill. It is full of holes. It fails to incorporate the principle of non-regression into law. It sets 2037 as the earliest date for any environmental targets and those targets are at the behest of ministers. It allows environmental policies to be watered down by ministers at a whim, including the target for biodiversity gain. It is a bill that takes the emergency out of the climate emergency. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 7 Comments

Joe from the Windrush Generation helped shape my liberal life

Today is the anniversary of MV Empire Windrush arriving at Tilbury Docks.

This is a personal story. It is also a story about how my liberal views came into being. Above all, is a story about Joe. He died long ago but he still lives in my life. I want to tell this story because the Windrush Generation was so important. To me at least.

We are travelling back to 1962. I was seven and a sicky child. I was the weakest kid on the street. But when an ambulance drew up outside our council house, kids rushed to wonder at my sudden importance. I was taken to a sanitorium that seemed so far away. There I made my first black friend. A friendship that endured for years. Joe had come on a boat from Jamaica. The Windrush Generation.

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The loss of Adonis is a second blow to the county’s growth plans. Who will replace him?

Few voters will notice the resignation of Andrew Adonis as chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). Not many will know what NIC did. More people will have heard of Lord Heseltine, though outside Manchester and Liverpool, few may understand how important he has been to regeneration of urban areas. He was sacked for disobeying Theresa May over Brexit. Adonis resigned over Brexit and his disillusionment wit May’s government.

This country is rapidly running out of expert champions for regeneration, building infrastructure and growing the economy.

Surely the needs for regeneration and housing should rise above day-to-day political infighting?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 30 Comments

Michael Gove is Britain’s environmental champion – no one is more surprised than me

In yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, Michael Gove sets out his plans for an environmental watchdog post-Brexit. As education secretary under David Cameron, he was seen as a career hungry politician willing to risk quality education in a drive to create academies, open creationist schools and dictate what was taught in lessons. He was marginally better as Justice Secretary, but not much. Now, he is well on the road to becoming Britain’s leading environmental champion.

This is not the first conversion on the environmental road to Damascus but it could be one of the most important.

It is even more surprising because Defra …

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Gove governing Defra is a bad move for the environment

Michael Gove now oversees environmental policy, food, farming and fisheries. His arrival in the cabinet is part of Theresa May’s struggle to avert a leadership bid. More than ever, we need an independent government-backed assessor for the environment, biodiversity and wildlife.

Politically, we live in curious times with no certainty that the government will be stable or strong enough to survive the Brexit process. Theresa May has reappointed most of her pre-election cabinet, but she moved Andrea Leadsom from Defra to become Leader of the House of Commons. Michael Gove has been brought back to cabinet as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We have gone from a barely noticed Defra Secretary to one that will crave attention by swinging a wrecking ball through environmental regulation.

Andrea Leadsom was a climate change sceptic and even asked Defra officials whether climate change is real. Apparently convinced by them that it was, she nevertheless supported shale gas extraction through fracking. She also backed foxhunting and selling off forests.

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Australian charity workers or local Tory activists? Shropshire Tories struggle to tell the difference

This is from the “Department of You Couldn’t Make It Up”.

With less than a month to go to the May local elections here in Shropshire, the county Conservative group has had to halt delivery of its election manifesto. This came after we discovered the image of local activists at the head of the manifesto was lifted from the website of an Australian mental health charity.

Posted in Op-eds | 15 Comments

Brexit – it could be the Lib Dems’ finest hour if we act now

So much has been said. So much more will be said about last week’s referendum result. But what concerns me greatly is hearing Lib Dems speak in anger. If we allow anger to dominate our agenda and the way we react, we will let the people of Britain down.

We Lib Dems are the true Europeans. We think as internationalists. We now have an opportunity to become the steadying, wise voice on Britain in a post-EU age.

The grim reality is that voters did not back our arguments. But this is not a time for licking our wounds. It is an opportunity for us to grab the agenda.

Tim Farron has struck a bold tone with his commitment to battle the next election on a remain in EU ticket. That election could be as early as November, depending on what happens within Labour during the next 48 hours. (Elections are now triggered by a 75% parliamentary majority, or a simple majority in a vote of no confidence and a failure to form a new government within 14 days.)

But that election might not happen and we need to prepare to champion our principles of freedom and fairness within an Article 50 context.

Posted in Op-eds | 26 Comments

Opinion: Cash in your pocket or green fields on your doorstep?

Cash in your pocket or green fields on your doorstep?

Does anyone think the planning system is working? I don’t and neither do many communities and local councils. Ministers certainly don’t think so. Buried in the National Infrastructure Plan published on Tuesday are proposals for more planning reform (pdf). They are bad proposals.

One plan is to set up a specialist court to deal with planning disputes. That’s a good idea, but as with so much legislation under this government, the detail undermines the principle (for example, the Lobbying and Antisocial Behaviour bills). What the government is really aiming for here …

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Opinion: Women must stop stepping into the political shoes of men

It’s a cute piece of research for two reasons. It sits comfortably with what so many of us think, even if we don’t say it out loud. Yet it challenges every one of us.

University of Pennsylvania researchers have shown that women’s brains are wired from left to right – that’s linking logic with intuition. In men, the neural connections go from front to back. That strengthens their spatial and motor skills. This research suggests that those age old stereotypes are true. Overall men are better at reading maps and being single-minded when tackling a problem. Women are in general …

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Opinion: After 150 years, the Gettysburg Address still matters

LincolnIt was just ten sentences long. A mere 273 words delivered in less than three minutes. Yet the Gettysburg Address has resonated through history, finding relevance in every age.

In May 2003, I was researching history in Los Angeles. The news channels had cleared the decks for just one story. One hundred or so miles to the south, President George W. Bush trying to define his own place in history.

The USS Abraham Lincoln was stationed off San Diego after a long deployment, including action in the Bush/Blair war in the Gulf. Beneath a banner of “Mission Accomplished”, a jubilant Bush told the assembled crew and an attentive nation that major combat operations in the Iraq War had ended. In a speech that lacked humility, he said: “We have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world.” Bush boasted of the precision of war, of how “new tactics and precision weapons the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.” Seemingly oblivious to the huge cost in human life, he declared that war against terror, against Al Qaida, was being won.

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Opinion: Lib Dem Voice compromised its independent voice with Heathrow sponsored post

LDV Heathrow advertLib Dem Voice got it wrong yesterday publishing a propaganda article on behalf of Heathrow Hub. It compromised its integrity. It undermined its independent voice.

In my view, it is wrong in principle and wrong in practice to take the corporate shilling for editorial content.

The post on Lib Dem Voice yesterday came just three days into Heathrow’s big money PR offensive on “the plan for a quieter Heathrow expansion that isn’t being heard”, which began with a full page advertisement in the Sunday Times. Advertising is fine. But advertorials in a political context are not. They distort the editorial process because “he who pays the piper, calls the tune.”

Posted in Op-eds | 65 Comments

LibLink: Julian Huppert calls for greater public scrutiny of spying

Julian Huppert Sherlock HolmesWriting in the Guardian yesterday, Julian Huppert called for greater public scrutiny of national security. It was not just the work of the intelligence services that was scrutinised in parliament last Thursday, he says, but secretive intelligence and security committee which oversees the services.

This sort of public scrutiny is exactly what we need to restore confidence in our intelligence service, whose work keeps us safe. It does make you wonder why this should have been such a massive event: shouldn’t public scrutiny be at the heart of the way our intelligence and security service operates anyway?

Huppert says that he is not asking for details to be discussed, just principles.

Posted in LibLink and News | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

LibLink: Are the Liberal Democrats a Lea & Perrins party?

Liberal Democrat Political SauceIn today’s Telegraph, Isobel Hardman says that Nick Clegg is targeting the green, metropolitan  middle-class “who fret about whether they are doing the recycling properly.”

Work is being done on the “repeal” sections of the party’s manifesto, explaining how the Lib Dems will reverse certain Coalition reforms, including the unpopular employee shares-for-rights scheme. But, Hardman says some party figures want more distinctive Lib Dem thinking:

To avoid being seen as a Lea & Perrins party – one that is capable of improving any government, but shouldn’t be taken alone.

Posted in LibLink and News | Tagged | 11 Comments

Clegg condemns sneering Paxman and tussles with terrorism prevention

Nick Clegg LBCThey are a way of dealing with a “dilemma”. That’s Nick Clegg’s view of TPIMs after the escape of Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed. He was being challenged on his weekly Call Clegg phone-in on LBC 97.3. He went on to blast Paxman as a taxpayer funded broadcaster who “sneers at politics.”

Clegg defended the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures as essential where people can’t be prosecuted or deported:

What do you do about people who you can’t get on a plane to deport them but you want to keep an eye on them? There is this dilemma.

He said that TPIMs are the toughest regime in the world he knows of for dealing with “this category of characters.” People absconded under old system of Control Orders, which were riddled with problems because they were “constantly being shredded by the courts.”

Posted in News | Tagged and | 56 Comments

We need to embrace Russell Brand – he’s the new political messiah

Cow votingHe’s not going to go away. After all, celebs rarely do, even after their stardom has faded. My instinct is to ignore him. But I’ve talked to young friends. And they tell me my instinct is wrong.

They are saying to me that even if I can’t embrace the anarchic politics of Russell Brand, I should at least try to understand why he is so in tune with the next generation of non-voters.

This whole fuss started with Brand editing an edition of the New Statesman, then throwing Paxo into a state of complexity on Newsnight. Our media, bored to its teeth with the professional dullness of today’s politicians, drooled on every rebellious word.

Yesterday, Brand was back on ebullient form in the Guardian:

I’ve had an incredible week since I spoke from the heart, some would say via my arse, on Paxman. I’ve had slaps on the back, fist bumps, cheers and hugs while out and about, cock-eyed offers of political power from well intentioned chancers and some good ol’ fashioned character assassinations in the papers.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 47 Comments

David Steel on the Scottish referendum and reforming the House of Lords

David Steel 200Yesterday evening, Lord David Steel delivered a lecture on Lords reform and the forthcoming Scottish referendum. He called for a wide constitutional overhaul, including reforming the House of Lords into an indirectly elected chamber.

Speaking earlier to Scotland Tonight, he called for a grown-up debate about whether Scotland wants to be a separate nation or not. He rejected David Cameron’s assertion that an independent Scotland would be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that fuel bills will come down, saying such comments obscured the real issues of the campaign.

Posted in News and Scotland | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

The biggest urban myth: the Tories have a birthright to the Shires

Countryside Alliance web shotgunChampions of the Countryside Alliance boast that it is the voice of rural Britain. I disagree. It is just one voice within rural Britain. It’s like saying that the Tories are the voice of the Home Counties and Labour is the voice of the Industrial North. That’s just lousy stereotypical language. There are many different voices within rural England.

I am forever angry that the London press, especially the right leaning press, routinely trots out stereotypes about life in our rural areas. They seem to believe that “Escape to the Country” is something authentic. It’s a reality show, no more.

One reason why rural areas get such a bad deal in public policy is that London journalists rely on urban myths about the countryside rather than trying to understand rural reality. This reality game is not without victims. The media’s glib characterisations of country life distort discussions of pressing issues like rural funding, schooling and a working landscape. And most of all, the need for jobs and decent housing in rural areas.

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Boris Johnson is not the only politician to stand up for immigration

boris and cameronThe Telegraph reports Boris Johnson’s claim that he is the only politician to stand up for immigration.

I’m probably about the only politician I know of who is actually willing to stand up and say that he’s pro-immigration.

Nonsense. I can only guess that Boris doesn’t know many politicians. He even jokes that the only party backing immigration is the Greens. That’s not right and I am sure he knows it. The Lib Dems are the party that takes a positive attitude to immigration, and unlike the Greens, we are part of the government.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

Tim Farron on leading the Lib Dems and the coalition’s record on social justice

Tim FarronThe Huffington Post today carries a frank interview with Tim Farron by Mehdi Hasan who asks whether he a a Lib Dem leader in waiting.

Farron tells Hasan he is a social liberal not a classical liberal and, making the distinction between free markets “with a referee”, which he supports, and “laissez faire”, which he dismisses.

On energy, Tim admits he is uneasy with the decision to approve the Hinkley Point reactor:

The most fundamental thing is that we keep the lights on and so that the investment is justifiable in that sense. Personally, I don’t think the time has come for us to go down the nuclear route again.

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Our politicians should be dull, worthy and never seen wearing a leopard print bra

Nelson TorsoWriting in today’s Daily Mail, Dominic Sandbrook rages against the cult of celebrity and declares that “the lines between politics and show business have become dangerously blurred.” Is he right?

Today is Trafalgar Day, a celebration of the victory of our nation’s greatest celebrities, Horatio Nelson. Many may be surprised to hear Nelson described as a celebrity rather than a hero, but a celebrity he was, and he so knew it.

When, on 14 September 1805, Nelson arrived at Portsmouth to board the Victory, he could not make his way to the ship due to the pressure of crowds who wanted to cheer off their national hero. Nelson did not misjudge his own fame. He was loved by the nation and he loved their adulation. He told Thomas Hardy as he left English soil for the last time:

I had their huzzas before, I have their hearts now.

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Vampire railway: High Speed 2 to suck life out of local economies

HS2 Distortion 200The case for High Speed 2 is looking more and more like a Tonka project – a big showy toy that politicians can brag about, but will do little for the UK’s economy. And it is not an equitable project. It is set to damage the economy of areas like east of England and boost London at their expense.

It’s not long since KPMG published a report claiming that the line could boost the economy by £15 billion a year. Now BBC’s Newsnight reports that the KPMG report left out data on those areas that stand to lose out from the project.

In cash terms, the BBC lists Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray  as faring the worst, losing £220m a year by 2037. But local economies are different sizes, so it helps to look at percentages.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 37 Comments

Caron Lindsay defends Jo Swinson’s right to stand

Jo Swinson GlasgowThe government has been introducing a lots of “rights to” of late. Communities have rights to bid and to build. Individual have rights to buy and to personal budgets. After the last 48 hours of media coverage, it may be that we need to bring in a “right to stand.”

The story runs like this. Jo Swinson arrives for Prime Ministers Questions at a point when the house is already crammed out. She stands for a while and she’s happy with that. The political editor of the Spectator, James Forsyth however was horrified and tweeted.

Quite remarkable that no MP has offered Jo Swinson, who is seven months pregnant, a seat. Really shocking lack of manners and decency

The Daily Mail then took up the case. Caron Lindsay took that newspaper to task last night, concluding:

I find the Mail’s attitude to women much more offensive and harmful to society than anything that happened in the House of Commons yesterday.

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Nature can’t be shuffled around like politicians or for profit

lichen - ramalina siliquosaBiodiversity offsetting? It sounds as interesting as a ministerial reshuffle. But a reshuffle is here today, gone tomorrow. The government’s proposal to allow developers to build over wildlife spots providing they ‘recreate’ them elsewhere is more than a minor change within the incomprehensible thicket of environmental rules. Biodiversity offsetting could threaten our fragile biodiverse landscapes.

Owen Paterson told the Independent:

For the developer there are massive advantages. You’d have certainty, you’d have clarity, and you’d have speed and a massive reduction of cost. But you’d also leave the environment in a better place than you found it for the longer term.

Wildlife groups are nervous.

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Jeremy Browne talks to the Times on his sacking and not being a Tory

Clegg and BrowneIn today’s Times, Jeremy Browne reveals that he has been approached by senior Tories, including Grant Shapps, who “he suspects were seeking his defection” (£). He describes his sacking from the Home office as disorienting, puzzling and painful. He says that he received a black mark over the Go Home poster van row. The Telegraph’s Benedict Brogan, however, has tipped Browne for defecting and joining a future Tory cabinet.

Talking to the Times, Browne signals his dismay with Clegg’s effort to distance the Lib Dems from the Tories. He urges the party to take credit for the government’s “central pillars”: reducing the deficit, crime and education reforms, and also curbing immigration.

He says the party is a “shopping trolley that defaults to the Left” and accuses a “substantial number” of Lib Dems of being happy as a “peripheral force that campaigns against the Conservatives.”

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 43 Comments

Employment: Jobs are growing – but there is a long way to go

Employment trendsA million more people are in work compared to early 2010. The number of unemployed people in the UK has dropped by 18,000 in the last three months. And the number of people in jobs is at the highest level ever, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Liberal Democrat minister Steve Webb says:

The Liberal Democrats in government have helped business create more than a million private sector jobs, and now we are working to help create a million more… There is a long way to go, but the economy is on the mend and jobs are crucial to building a stronger economy in a fairer society that allows everyone to get on in life.

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Casked Crusader battles zombie enterprises over “Great British Pubco Scam”

The Casked CrusaderBeer. Don’t you love it? I do.

In the last 40 years, the brewing and pub industry has failed to be a drinker’s best friend. Small brewers built near local monopolies and went national. Prices went up, landlords got poorer, and the beer fouler. A quarter of a century ago, the Beer Orders were launched to breathe new life into our pubs. But the orders led to the loathed zombie pubcos, which have eaten away at the viability and traditions of our locals.

Enter Greg Mulholland, the Lib Dems pub and beer champion – also dubbed the Casked Crusader by the Sun. He took to the floor of the House of Commons on Monday night to continue the his crusade against the pubcos.

Not taking the right action now would be a disaster not only for many pubco publicans and the communities that stand to lose their local pubs, but for the recovering UK economy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 17 Comments

Want to buy a bandstand? Bracknell Lib Dems have one for sale on ebay

When I joined the Lib Dem Voice editing team, I knew I would have to edit and write about a huge range of politics, skulduggery, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Never once, not even in my dreams, or even nightmares, did I think I would write about a bandstand.

Or for that matter a bandstand put up on ebay for sale by Lib Dems. Here is the billing:

Bracknell Bandstand ebay

Now this bandstand has history. It’s is fair to say that Bracknell is not the most vibrant or attractive of …

Posted in News | Tagged | 7 Comments

Has Eric Pickles destroyed the government’s role in communities?

Pickles Hot AirEric is clearly bored out of his mind. He’s been raging around about parking, yellow lines, even about bin collections in Wales – but then he likes to bash the Welsh. In my mind, he is truly the minister of hot air and no substance.

In recent months he has taken meddling in applications for really rather small gypsy and traveller sites. Now he has somewhat imperiously declared that he will call in planning appeals for small renewable energy projects for his own decision (£). When he first came to office, Pickles said he would only use this right occasionally. Now, it seems, such call ins are becoming his hobby.

I can only guess Pickles is doing this because he is bored. He claims he is doing so because he wants:

To give particular scrutiny to planning appeals involving renewable energy developments so that I can consider the extent to which the new practice guidance is meeting the government’s intentions.

Nonsense.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

Norman Baker talks about immigration, conspiricies and taking on Teresa May

Norman BakerThe Independent today carries an interview with the new Lib Dem Home Office minister, Norman Baker. You know, that minister of conspiracy theories according to some media wags.

In his interview, Baker comes across as eminently sensible and defiantly Liberal. He is poised to reign in Teresa May’s excesses and tells the newspaper that has been told by Nick Clegg to range across all policy areas to “make sure there is a liberal voice clearly heard in the Home Office.”

Posted in News | Tagged and | 8 Comments

The Lobbying Bill – How Lib Dem MPs voted

The controversial Lobbying Bill got a clear majority on its third reading has now moved to the Lords. The current text of the bill was robustly defended by Tom Brake in the Commons but many MPs expressed their dissatisfaction with the current drafting, especially Part 2 which constrains the freedom of charities to campaign in election periods.

Forty Lib Dem MPs voted for the bill. Seven voted against: Greg Mulholland, John Pugh, Alan Reid, Adrian Sanders, David Ward, Mark Williams and Roger Williams.

Here is our team voted on the third reading:

Posted in News | Tagged | 27 Comments
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