Author Archives: Ben Andrew

Why Lib Dems should be proud

At Spring Conference last March, Tim Farron set the bar high – calling on us to replace Labour as the official opposition after the next election. With this in mind, I understand why some Lib Dem members may be angered by our performance last Thursday. It’s true that our national campaign failed to get off the ground, and that it added little value to our hard-fought local victories. But despite this, I think the party should be proud of how we fought hard, targeted well, and avoided a disastrous result.

We were never going to become a national force again on the back of a menu of carefully thought through policies on health, education and drug reform. With our Parliamentary team so diminished, we had no choice but to pile our chips against one defining issue, and hope that it would catch on. I think that we were right to make this cause our opposition to Brexit. Brexit is the biggest issue facing our country, our position on it is unique, and it is completely in line with our values as a party. It’s just unfortunate that when this snap election was called, opposing Brexit was not the main issue on voters’ minds. It’s been a year since the referendum, and leaving the EU hasn’t really affected most people’s lives at all. Compared with austerity and the decline of our public services, Brexit seemed like a side show. Corbyn’s vision was much more in line with the public mood – and he gained momentum at our expense.

It’s easy to blame the Lib Dems for not getting Brexit higher on people’s priority list, but there was only so much we could do. Parties with 9 MPs don’t get to shape the agenda. They can only respond to it, and capitalise on the public mood as much as possible to regain popularity. With the effects of Brexit still not being felt, it’s no surprise that most people were primarily concerned with other matters. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 22 Comments

In defence of the “second referendum”

When Farron announced that we were pushing for another referendum on Europe, I agreed with those who accused the Lib Dems of ignoring democracy because we didn’t like the result. While I still sympathise with these criticisms, I have eventually come around to the party’s position. Or at least – I think that there is a strong principled case for it (I still have some practical questions).

This case is based on accountability. Election results are not the be all and end all of democracy, they are part of a wider process. In a General Election, this process involves political parties making their case to the British people, and the public choosing which party they like best. Crucially, the people then judge how well that party has followed through with their promises, and hold them to account at the next election (as we know only too well in the Lib Dems).

Of course, I understand that you can’t have referendums every five years, but there still has to be some mechanism of accountability to make a vote democratically viable.  Otherwise, campaigners can just say whatever they think will get people to vote for them, whether it’s achievable or not. The alleged “£350 million for the NHS” was the most infamous case of this, but Leave campaigners also hedged their bets wildly on the single market – much more significantly in my view. The Remain camp lied too (Osborne said that he would introduce an emergency budget after Brexit, Cameron said that he would stay on as Prime Minister) but as we lost anyway, these lies aren’t as pressing from a democratic perspective, as we know they didn’t change the result. 

Posted in News | Tagged | 29 Comments

Brexit and Trump: The result of cynicism taking control

Opinion pieces attempting to explain why people voted for Trump or Brexit have become a cliché in the progressive media. But no matter how many soul-searching articles I’ve read on the subject, none of them address one important question. Whether our condemnation of mainstream politicians has gone too far, and if it led to these troubling outcomes.

Now I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be sceptical of politicians – of course they should. As an American and British dual citizen, I can think of many times that my representatives have let me down: the expenses scandal; deadlock in congress; continuing wealth inequality and public sector cuts all being good examples. And sometimes politicians do live up to their stereotype. Sometimes they lie; sometimes they cheat; sometimes they break their promises.

But a lot of the time they don’t. Many great achievements have come out of politics: the NHS; gay marriage; economic growth; basic welfare. These are all things which help millions of people, and which were pushed through by politicians for no personal gain. Whatever their faults, I just don’t believe the cliché that most politicians are power-hungry mercenaries who have no deeply-held beliefs. No one has ever given me a reasonable explanation for why people would subject themselves to a job which involves constant scrutiny, long hours and frequent public condemnation – apart from the fact that most of them really do care about creating change. But condemnation of the political class has become so widespread and automatic, that many people ignore the examples of politicians fighting for what they believe in, and fixate on cases of their dishonesty. 

Posted in Op-eds | 8 Comments

Remainer myths and post truth politics

Like most Lib Dems, I think that Brexit will be a total disaster. I think that it will vandalise our economy, damage our universities, and give us less influence on the global stage. However, the response of many Lib Dems and other Remainers to the referendum result has left me a little disheartened. And I’m not talking about this “referendum on the terms of the deal” – which I’m a bit on the fence about, but I do see some reasoning for. I’m talking about the nonsense claims bouncing around our echo chamber, which exist purely to make us feel better about this horrible referendum result.

The one which I hear most often is that, having seen what Brexit really means, those who voted Leave have decided that this isn’t what they wanted after all and that they now wish to turn back the clock. This is a fantasy. Poll after poll after poll has shown that Regrexit doesn’t exist – that no more Leavers than Remainers have changed their mind in the aftermath of the referendum. But people ignore this, and instead believe the latest leftie clickbait served up by The Independent. And even if Regrexit does exist in a few polls – is it even relevant? Do we reverse election results if people regret them a few months down the line? Would we accept the same argument if Remain had won, and people wished they had voted for leave? Of course not. These arguments are ridiculous. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 106 Comments

Why we need UKIP in the fight for Electoral Reform

 

Pursuit of electoral reform was once a defining policy of the Lib Dems, and it remains one of the key reasons why I am a member of the party. But the disastrous AV referendum in 2011 seems to have kicked the issue into the long grass. I have the same hangups about that referendum as many other Lib Dems do. Labour’s support was non-existent; the Murdoch press spread lies; and the vote was used as a way of punishing Nick Clegg. In short – the establishment pulled rank.

One popular observation about electoral reform is that no party in Government would ever support changing a voting system which had just given them power. I don’t think that this argument is as tautological as many claim it is, but it’s certainly a major concern.

However, none of this hides the fact that voting reform has never gained much support from the general public, unlike other anti-establishment causes. Electoral Reformers are in the uncomfortable position of being hated by the establishment but treated with disinterest by the wider electorate too. It is so often seen as peripheral issue, which only middle-class policy wonks from the liberal elite can be bothered to care about (a problem which the Lib Dems are oh so familiar with).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 44 Comments

Why criminal records have to go

If you ask Lib Dems whether they suppport prison reform, they will say yes. A general chat about rehabilitation, drug laws, mental health funding and Scandenavia usually ensues – all of which I wholly endorse. But if we are really going to address our prison crisis, then criminal records are the elephant in the room.

Rehabilitation is about allowing people to become productive parts of society after they leave prison, and discouraging reoffending. One of the best ways to do this is to help people find employment (as page 8 of the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Rehabilitation document confirms). If someone lands a stable job after leaving prison, then of course they’re less likely to reoffend. Employment gives people structure, income and purpose. It’s common sense that it helps them reintegrate into society.

But if ex-prisoners have to disclose their criminal records as soon as they apply for a job, why are we surprised that so many of them remain unemployed? What incentive do employers have to take a chance on them, when the job market is so tough as it is? We seem to paradoxically believe that it’s important for ex-offenders to find work, but that no employer should have to risk hiring them. Employers might feel safer being able to sivve former criminals out without hesitation, but it’s agonizingly counter-productive for society. Poor rehabilitation leads to an increase in crime, and puts all of us in danger. Freezing ex-offenders out of the job market makes everyone less safe.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 22 Comments

Labour did not crash the economy

 

After the financial crash, the Tories persuaded the public that they were the only party who could be trusted with the economy. Osborne’s message went something like this:

“Labour crashed the economy. They did this by spending too much, borrowing too much, and letting the budget deficit get too large. In order to create a strong economy, we need to get the deficit down. And the only way to do this is to implement spending cuts until our deficit reaches zero again.”

This narrative was a huge political success. Even now that we have a new Chancellor, and a supposedly new approach, the Conservatives still hold onto the reputation of being the only economically sensible party, built on the foundations laid by so-called Osbornomics. The problem is that it is absolute nonsense.

Their economic narrative is flawed in three ways.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 125 Comments
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  • User AvatarPaul 24th Oct - 7:34am
    There is a Liberal response to finding decades old social media posts never intended for public consumption. The thing is I don't think this is...
  • User AvatarEd Shepherd 24th Oct - 7:22am
    There can be no excuse for agents of the state to have used violence against people queuing up to vote. The people were justified if...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 24th Oct - 2:04am
    Glenn I do agree on the economics and policies. But not the acting. Kings Row was more than you say, but am glad you see...
  • User Avatarjames 24th Oct - 1:37am
    Catalonia produces a fifth of Spain's wealth. My advice to the Spanish government is to suggest another referendum, free and fair and independently monitored.
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 24th Oct - 12:09am
    I cringe at the ideas, both of Universal Basic Services and Universal Basic Income. They are top-down, paternalistic, reductionist ideas which offend my Lib Dem...
  • User AvatarGlenn 23rd Oct - 11:26pm
    Lorenzo. I was thinking more of voodoo economics and social division. I place him as the architect of much of the very damaging modern economic...