Author Archives: Andy Boddington

Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in rural Shropshire and edits Lib Dem Voice on Fridays

Sunak and Johnson in “Barnard Castle on steroids” escape from self-isolation

You couldn’t make it up. It’s like reading the cover of Private Eye. Health secretary Sajid Javid gets a positive Covid-19 result. If the Prime Minister and Chancellor, who met with him on Friday,  were ordinary mortals, they would have been banished into the self-isolation wilderness for 10 days.

But those at the heart of government live more privileged lives. Driving to Barnard’s Castle to test eyesight. Sneaking a clinch with a mistress, though forgetting to smile for the CCTV. And now Johnson and Sunak, who must not to be confused with the comedy act Laurel and Hardy no matter how tempting that is, are on a trial. They are piloting a stop at work with Covid scheme and testing daily.

 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 34 Comments

Is Boris Johnson gambling on tonight’s Euro final to boost herd immunity?

Crowding together. Shouting. Singing. Welcome to the excitement of football. As England and Italy prepare for the Euro final, scientists are concerned that football is helping drive up Covid-19 infection rates by allowing potentially super spreader events such as the finals at Wembley and Wimbledon. It is predicted that seven million pints will be served during the Euro final tonight in pubs across the land. Health secretary Sajid Javid has suggested we might be heading towards 100,000 new cases a day. Did he take sporting events into account?

It’s coming home but could coronavirus also be coming home with the fans? Maybe Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid want that. Could the Euro final be a booster jab that gets us closer to herd immunity.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 9 Comments

Review – Vaxxers: The Inside Story of the Oxford Vaccine

Having written 150 blog posts on coronavirus since March 2020, and as a recipient of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, I was eagerly looking forward to the publication of this book. When it dropped into my Audible inbox this morning, I immediately began listening as I ploughed on with my daily business of a councillor while living in self isolation. I was not disappointed.

Sarah Gilbert is Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford University. Dr Catherine Green is also at Oxford, where she is an Associate Professor in Chromosome Dynamics at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics. Together they tell the story of how the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was developed in record time amid a pandemic that affected their lives as much as everyone else’s.

Their message is: “We went faster because we had to.” That was despite at times feeling the strain of “an unedified mix of science, politics and emotions.”

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Breaking… Labour narrowly hold Batley and Spen

Labour have narrowly retained Batley and Spen after two bundle checks. Keir Starmer has been spared the ignominy of losing a red wall seat at a time when there is talk in his party of a leadership challenge. The majority of 323 defied the doomsayers but a 7.4% reduction in the Labour vote will still lead to continued questioning of his leadership.

The Conservatives did not make ground and lost 1.6% of the vote. George Galloway came third, the Lib Dems fourth.

The turnout was 47.6%.

Posted in News | Tagged | 29 Comments

Hancock out, Javid in

Under relentless pressure after he was pictured in a romantic clinch in breach of coronavirus restrictions, Matt Hancock last night resigned as secretary of state for health. He told Boris Johnson:

The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis… We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance.

He is replaced by former home secretary and chancellor, Sajid Javid.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments

Hancock: Emergent class of rulebreakers are undermining government

Will he go or will he stay?

Can Hancock survive a sneaky snog and buttock fondle that took place at a time when he was telling us all to social distance?

Matt Hancock survived Dominic Cumming’s torpedoes and hell has no fury like a political adviser scorned. Hancock has the prime minister’s backing. Well, Johnson has had his own jolly japes.

But the media are howling for Hancock’s resignation. His behaviour and his future is bound to dominate tomorrow’s political circuit. As Ed Davey said yesterday, the real issue is Matt Hancock’s competence in his role as health secretary. Agreed. But there is growing anger among those told to obey pandemic isolation rules while ministers and advisers routinely ignore them.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Farron and Hobhouse condemn planning bill as Tories fail to vote

The Tories aren’t revolting, at least over planning. Yesterday evening, they were told not to vote in the opposition debate over the planning bill. Yet it was clear from the debate that many remained unhappy with the proposals which contributed to the historic defeat in Chesham and Amersham.

The debate lasted for just over three hours and 17 members did not get the chance to speak. All twelve Lib Dems voted for the opposition motion. There were no votes against as the Tories went into hiding at the end of the debate. Many of them might not like the planning reforms but they are certainly not going to be brave enough to defy a whip and vote against them.

Wera Hobhouse and Tim Farron spoke for the Lib Dems.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 2 Comments

Chesham and Amersham defeat leads to unplanned Tory revolt on planning “reforms”

The Tories are revolting. After Thursday’s dramatic loss to the Lib Dems in Chesham and Amersham, MPs are warning Boris Johnson that the proposed planning reforms will lose them seats. Many Conservatives didn’t like the proposals before Thursday but I suspect many MPs hadn’t paid attention amid the challenges of the pandemic and other excuses. Some in the South East had given voice to their concerns but there has been no open rebellion until now. And now that is mostly on WhatsApp according to the Times.

HS2 certainly came home to roost on Thursday. Protected areas in the Chilterns, north Bucks and Warwickshire lose out badly from this line that brings those areas no benefits. There is still time to cancel this madness and restore the landscape. But I don’t think it will happen.

The HS2 row has spilled over to into planning. The government’s proposed planning reforms strip powers from local councils. It is a Lego approach to planning. Standard blocks. No local sensitivity.

The Tories lost in Chesham and Amersham because they thought they would win against a great candidate and a great campaign. But planning is now the Tories Achille’s Heel. In many areas, it could help us win more seats.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Chesham & Amersham: Davey – it’s not a flash in the plan, we are demolishing the Blue Wall

Everyone is tired. Everyone is ebullient. Except the Tories of course. Or Labour for that matter who came fourth in yesterday’s by-election in Chesham and Amersham.

Ed Davey has been doing the rounds of media today. He said he hadn’t expected such a huge swing. The Tory obsession with the Red Wall has meant they had ignored their own Blue Wall. “Last night we punched a hole in it.”

He talked of Chesham and Amersham voters being taken for granted by the Tories. Boris Johnson is not the decent Conservative they used to vote for. The Lib Dems are making progress in the south. Conservative MPs there should be worried.

This is not a flash in the plan by-election result. It is a trend that is demolishing the Blue Wall. Conservatives in the south should be worried.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 49 Comments

Chesham & Amersham: Tories blame loss on a kitchen sink, a dog and a cat

The result was in just before 2am this morning. What a result.

Readers should beware that this post includes allegations of a kitchen sink drama and cruelty to animals. Allegations from the Tories of course.

When you read Peter Fleet’s comments – he was the low profile Conservative candidate by the way – you can understand why he didn’t win. He blamed the result on the Lib Dems working hard. Yes. That’s what we do. He hadn’t expected the result. How broken is the Tory machine that it can’t read the writing on the wall? The posters in the windows. The talk on the doorsteps. The changing demographics in a constituency.

Very broken it seems and nothing to do with kitchen sinks.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 31 Comments

Times: Lib Dems hopeful of by-election upset in Chesham & Amersham

The Times today has the headline we need ahead of Thursday’s by-election. The newspaper reports that Sarah Green, the Lib Dem candidate has 41 per cent of the vote and the Conservative candidate, Peter Fleet, 45 per cent. That is close and this long held Tory stronghold could fall to the Lib Dems. Key issues according to the Times are HS2 which is railroading through the constituency and the government’s plan to bulldoze green fields with its planning reform act.

We are almost there. A win in Chesham & Amersham would not only upset the Tory applecart. It will give our party a boost. A clear sense of winning. Delivering seats at national and local level from the growing Lib Dem surge.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 29 Comments

Backbench victory could reverse overseas aid budget cut

Rishi Sunak’s £4 billion cut to the overseas aid budget last November was a populist move, playing to the sections of the media that believe most aid is wasted and we should keep the money for ourselves. But the cut of almost a third from the budget is having an impact on relief and development projects, on education for girls and on the UK’s standing in the developing and developed world.

Backbench MPs are angry. So angry that a Conservative amendment to an unrelated bill of Monday looks like being supported, providing it is selected by the Speaker. This would reinstate our nation’s commitment to spending 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid.

Boris Johnson will perhaps spend the weekend wondering whether it is worth the damage to his reputation ahead of the G7 summit over what one of his ministers calls a “small” cut in overseas aid.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 32 Comments

Committee capers in London’s City Hall weaken Labour influence

The AGM of the London Assembly took place on Friday. Conservative Andrew Boff was elected as assembly chairman, with fellow Conservative Keith Price as his deputy. Previously, Labour’s Navin Shah and Tory Tony Arbour held the posts.

If Sadiq Khan was not happy about the Tories taking over the assembly leadership, he will surely be even less happy that the Labour group on the assembly no longer chair any of the influential scrutiny committees. Media reports suggest that Labour AMs went into a strop during arguments over chairing the transport committee and walked out.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

It was a bloke’s world in the Super Thursday elections – why do so few women stand for public office?

With thanks to the Fawcett Society and the Democracy Club, we can analyse the gender of the more than 21,000 candidates that stood last Thursday. Just one third were women (33%). Of the major parties, the Greens had the highest proportion of women at 43%, followed by Labour (41%), the Lib Dems (31%) and the Conservatives (27%).

This article sets out the data and asks why relative few women are standing for elections. It does not provide any answers.

My first thought was bias against women in the selection process. That may well exist. But of the 1,285 candidates whose description was “Independent”, and therefore were self-selected, just 24% were women.

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

The 2021 elections are over. How was it for you? Open thread for comments

I write this shortly after the polls close. Many of you be hoping for a lie in. Some will be at work. Others will be too stressed to sleep much until the results are in and for many, that will not be until the weekend.

Lib Dems have been battling for seats in the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd. We have high hopes in many local councils. We have candidates in the mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. You can’t have missed that there has been a by-election in Hartlepool.

Our candidates and supporters have made supreme efforts on Super Thursday.

Lib Dem Voice will of course be publishing comment and analysis as the results come in. In the meanwhile, this blog is a space for you comment and tell anecdotes of the day. No nastiness please. This is a space for reflection not any attacks on campaigning or people. Such comments would not be fair on candidates anxiously awaiting their count. There will be space for analysis when the results are in.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 50 Comments

Yesterday was Earth Day – was it also the day we really began to tackle the climate emergency?

Earth Day is now in its 51st year. If Donald Trump had gained a second term, it would have probably gone unnoticed in the Capitol yesterday. But Joe Biden is now leading America and he used the occasion to host an international summit and announce deep cuts in carbon emissions. Pledges came in from leaders across the world.

Boris Johnson got his pennyworth in earlier announced that he will set in law “world’s most ambitious climate change target”, cutting emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels in pursuit of zero carbon by 2050. Admirable stuff. More important than the headline figure is that the UK’s Carbon Budget will incorporate our share of international aviation and shipping emissions, which each contribute three to four per cent each to global warming.

Are we turning the corner at last in getting the political commitments we need to drive the business and societal changes needed to tackle climate change? Maybe.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

We can’t solve climate change and biodiversity loss without solving planning – a view from the grass roots

I am writing from the heart following a battering few years trying to protect biodiversity landscapes from new developments and to get sustainable transport written into housing and supermarket schemes.

On biodiversity, all we have got from developments in my expanding rural town is tokenism. Replacement trees within manicured landscapes. Not the untidy scrubby bits of landscape that are or will become biodiversity rich.

On sustainable transport, the car remains king. There are no plans for bus routes to serve four major housing developments. The out of town supermarket, with the backing of councillors and planners, doesn’t even have a bus stop.

The planning system is working against our national and international ambitions to enrich biodiversity and tackle the climate emergency.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

Escape to the country ideals don’t give a real view of rural life and don’t help us tackle rural England’s problems

Am I the only one who find programmes like Escape to the Country unsettling? The clue is in the word “escape”. That idea of rural life being idyllic compared to the nightmare of living in cities. Before anyone gets worked up, I don’t think cities are a nightmare. A buzz of life 24 hours seven days a week. Almost everything available whenever you need it. Walkable neighbourhoods.

But cities and large towns are too busy for me. All those people you don’t know rushing past not saying hello. I don’t think rural areas are a nightmare. Far from it. But people seem who escape to the country sometimes have unrealistic expectations of rural life. That could increase pressure on services and we are already seeing in rural counties like mine which has soaring adult social care costs driven by an ageing population. We will not get to grip with the gritty reality of rural life if it is portrayed is an idyll where everyone with a stash of money in the bank should live.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 6 Comments

Government tells councils they must meet in public after May local elections – that is neither practical nor safe

Local councils have been meeting online during the pandemic. After a few teething problems, the practice of meeting online has worked well. But yesterday the government declared councils must meet in public after 7 May. Many councillors think this is too early. A good many councils, including Ludlow Town Council and Shropshire Council, do not have suitable buildings to accommodate all their councillors, let alone members of the public, while social distancing remains in place.

Vaccination is under way but having kept myself safe for a year, I think this is too risky. Up to 74 councillors and at least 25 officers and public attend Shropshire’s unitary council in a chamber set out like a university lecture hall. My local town council meets in a cheek by jowl Guildhall that is socially cramped. The parish council I chair had 30 people at one online meeting recently. There is nowhere in the parish big enough for a meeting that size even in normal times.

This is retrograde move that will reduce the effectiveness of local democracy. Not for once, ministers are out of touch with reality.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

Policing by consent in question after Clapham Common, police report and government bill on crime and justice

The scenes on Clapham Common last night as the police broke up the vigil for Sarah Everard were a disgrace and undermine the fundamental principle of policing by consent. Leading Lib Dems have called on the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign. It was not a protest. It was a statement of solidarity with a woman who had been abducted from the streets of London and murdered. It was a declaration that women should be safe on the streets. Lib Dem Voice editor Caron Lindsay told of her personal experiences yesterday.

The UK’s tradition of policing by consent is being replaced by policing by authority. Legislation now in parliament looks set to reinforce authority at the expense of the fundamental right of freedom to protest.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 31 Comments

Book review: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

“So, who am I to lecture anyone on the environment?” asks a man that flies in private planes and owns big homes. Okay. He is trying to mitigate his impacts through sustainable fuel and carbon offsets. But is Bill Gates the man to tell us how to fix climate change?

Bill Gates’ philosophy is one of improving life chances and lifestyles while cutting carbon emissions. It is an unashamedly market-led approach, creating incentives through carbon pricing and reducing the cost of greening energy. His approach is to roll out new technologies for energy and food production, not to change the fundamental ways that society works.

Posted in Books | Tagged and | 8 Comments

The word “truth” is being hijacked by fake news conspiracy theorists who claim their dark ideas are light

There have been too many victims of Covid-19. People for whom coronavirus was the primary cause of death. Many others whose death was accelerated or whose recovery from other diseases was cancelled through catching Covid.

Truth has been a victim too. Conspiracy theorists and populists have been promoting a distorted review of reality. Uncertainty, crisis and threat have always been fertile grounds for conspiracy theories. But has never been so important to get the truth right.

A “truthpaper” is currently been pushed through doors around the country. Truth? Not in my book.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments

Proposed Electoral Integrity Bill will discriminate against those most marginalised in society

Voters will be obliged to show photo ID at polling stations from 2023 under legislation set to be included in the Queen’s Speech which is currently expected after the local elections in May according to media reports. Despite electoral fraud and corruption being rare, ministers are determined to make it more difficult for people to vote.

At the same time, it is reported that ministers plan to lift the 15 year limit on UK expats voting.

This is going the wrong way. We should be using resources to promote inclusion among those who rarely votes and on extending the franchise to 16 year olds, not making it more difficult for people to vote.

Posted in Election law | Tagged and | 27 Comments

We need to ban fake local newspapers, use Foci sparingly and move to being social media influencers

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Many Lib Dems here on Lib Dem Voice and across local networks have voiced outrage on the de facto government ban on leaflet delivering. Suddenly, we are seemingly blocked from campaigning because we rely on paper.

There used to be telegrams. Faxes. Remember those? We don’t use those anymore. We have the internet.

We should ban fake newspapers and wean ourselves off our addiction to Focus pushed through doors. Until we reduce reliance on paper and become influencers on social media, we will never be a major party.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 58 Comments

2020 – The year the housing was hit by a maverick algorithm 

Alongside Planning for the Future White Paper (see previous article), ministers published without fanfare a second consultation on changes to the planning system. Council housing targets will be set centrally using a crude formula that distributes responsibility for the government’s ambition for 300,000 new homes a year round the country. But the formula will allocate more housing to higher priced areas such as the south and east, while reducing ambitions for the Northern Powerhouse. A ‘short-term’ waiver of S106 requirements for most small sites could cut affordable housing delivery by up to 20%. A quarter of affordable housing delivered will be for sale at a 25% discount at the expense of social and affordable rented homes. 

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 5 Comments

2020 – The year government took planning away from the people 

2020 will be remembered for many things. The pandemic and flooding among them. It will also be remembered as the year they took planning away from the people. 

The government’s proposals in the white paper Planning for the Future and associated documents are bold. They will transfer many local planning powers from councils and communities to Whitehall and the planning inspectorate in Bristol. Ministers want planning by checklist instead of considered, albeit sometimes difficult, planning deliberations that lead to quality developments. 

There are sensible ideas in the government’s proposals but they are countered by its determination to take democracy and localism out of planning. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

The Lib Dems must abandon their support for HS2 for the sake of our economy and environment

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Today’s report from the National Audit Office contains no surprises. But it is still devastating for High Speed 2. The complexity of the project was underestimated. Costs are ballooning. Value for money is deflating. The political uncertainty surrounding the project, especially the northern sections, will load in more costs. It is “impossible to estimate with certainty” how much HS2 will eventually cost, the auditors conclude. But it will be north of £100bn. That dwarfs into insignificance the cost of a third runway at Heathrow.

The drain on public finances is not the main problem. HS2 is environmentally destructive. Far from being green, it will destroy centuries old biodiverse landscapes. It will take a century for the scheme to pay back the carbon and environmental costs of construction.

HS2 is a London-centric vanity project. The Lib Dem leadership should withdraw support for HS2 and declare it dead in a ditch.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 41 Comments

Was this the craziest election of our lifetime?

Embed from Getty Images

10pm, 12 December.

It’s all over bar the counting.

It was an election where we heard of plonkers. Joshing. Post stratification. An election where blocks of ice made more a contribution to the climate emergency debate than most politicians.

There were false facts. False fact checkers. Tony Blair unbelievably accused parties of peddling fantasies. We didn’t see much of Jacob Rees Mogg. Lifelong Tories recommended voting against the Conservatives.

This article is not about political parties and policies. It’s about political antics. Things that have caught my attention. No doubt you have your own anecdotes and experiences to share!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Op-eds | 1 Comment
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