Author Archives: Andy Boddington

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

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?

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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

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 …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 16 Comments

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 …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

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 …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 47 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 6 Comments
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