Author Archives: Brian Paddick

Brian Paddick writes…We need to reassure people that Liberal Democrats remain the most accepting of all the political parties, whoever you are and whatever you believe

I write as a gay Christian about the tightrope between freedom of speech and religion and prejudice and discrimination.

One of the fundamental principles of Liberalism is to allow people to do as they wish provided it does not harm other people.  When it comes to religion, what appears to be a simple enough principle becomes complicated.

Many religions, including Christianity, require its followers to proclaim “the good news” of their particular religion to non-believers.  There are interpretations of many religions that say intimacy between same sex couples is wrong, indeed that any sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.  The question then becomes, does proclaiming such ideas contravene the Liberal harm principle?

There are people who think religion is at least, mumbo jumbo, and at worst, damaging and divisive, and that whatever God, his Son or his prophets may or may not have said, it’s all nonsense, in which case, no harm done.

There are others who do have a faith, who are from sexually and gender diverse groups or who love those from such groups (family members, friends, allies), for whom it really matters what their religion says on these issues and who are seriously harmed by such declarations.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 21 Comments

Brian Paddick writes…A gap has opened up and we need to exploit it

Following on from Theresa May’s promise of a free vote to lift the ban on the cruellest of hunting with hounds, allusions to country sports seems to becoming increasingly apt.  On Monday, it was alleged that she had “shot our fox” by changing the Conservative manifesto to include “consultation on an absolute limit on what people need to pay” for their own social care.  In fact Theresa May has shot herself in the foot.

If we had deliberately set an ambush for the Conservatives, we couldn’t have done a better job.  The Tories had already broken a promise in their 2015 manifesto by not implementing the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission.  Instead, what had been agreed across all political parties, to put a limit of £72,000 on what any anyone would have to contribute to their social care was deferred until 2020.  Even then, £118,000 of assets would be protected.

Instead, in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, the Tories say they would introduce a “dementia tax”, where all your assets, except the last £100,000, could be taken to fund your social care, including your home.  Those lucky enough to be amongst the 1 in 4 who need little or no social care would be able to pass all the benefits of a lifetime of work to their children, while the 1 in 10 whose social care costs exceed £100,000, could be left with little for their loved-ones to inherit.  Instead of society sharing the risk, those unlucky enough to get dementia would have to bear the whole cost of their care without limit.  In the face of mounting criticism, until yesterday, the Tories were “strong and stable” – when asked specifically whether there would be a cap on individual contributions to social care, the answer was a definite “no”.

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Brian Paddick writes…A government without a moral compass was always going to end up on the rocks.

Like a dog that has been let off the lead after five years under Lib Dem restraint, this Conservative government is all over the place with its legislative programme and that’s before we even start on Brexit.  To add to the list of obnoxious new laws such as the new offence of ‘driving while being a suspected illegal immigrant’  and giving the police unfettered access to innocent people’s web histories, the Tories have waded into the swamp of online pornography and they are completely out of their depth.

The Digital Economy Bill, another universal answer to everything they couldn’t get through when we had one hand on the reins of power, professes to protect children from online pornography.  Even those like me whose access to porn when I was younger was the top shelf magazines in the newsagent, know that, as with other forms of prohibition, those determined to get their hands on it will succeed.  It is far better to educate children how to deal with online pornography when they come across it rather than, Canute-like, trying to keep it away from them.

Nonetheless, if we are to prohibit access to online adult material unless there is an age-verification solution in place, the privacy of those who are being forced to part with their sensitive personal information in order to verify their age, must be protected.  We have already seen user databases for a couple of major porn sites, containing sensitive personal information, being hacked and the details traded on the dark web.  When details of users of the Ashley Madison site were leaked, it reportedly led to two suicides.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

Another day, another database, another threat to privacy

Databases containing personal details are honey-pots for hackers, with the potential for sensitive information to end up in the hands of criminals or in the public domain. Hot on the heels of the Investigatory Powers Act, which now requires your internet service provider to store your web history (Internet Connection Records) for 12 months, the Government now wants to create more databases containing highly sensitive personal information.

Liberal Democrats did everything we could to stop the worst attacks on individual liberty and privacy in the Investigatory Powers Bill but with Labour support and little help from the media, every significant measure passed into law. No doubt emboldened by the absence of an effective Official Opposition, the Digital Economy Bill brought forward by Government has the potential to create massive databases containing the details of every adult in the UK who, quite lawfully, wants to access adult material on the Internet.

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

Brian Paddick writes: Swearing an oath to British values would be superficial and divisive

At the weekend the Conservative Government proposed that civil servants and other holders of public office should be required to swear an oath to “British values”.  I suggested that such a move would be superficial and divisive and here’s why.

This is a reaction to ‘The Casey Review: a review into opportunity and integration’ where she found small pockets of minority communities who were not integrating with the rest of society.  These people represent a tiny proportion of the UK population but the report had the effect of further demonising minority communities generally and the Muslim community in particular.  Of course, we should do everything we can to encourage people to integrate.  We need to provide English language courses for those who find it difficult to communicate and we need to tackle the racism and xenophobia that makes some people feel unsafe in their own communities.  Promoting “British values” is not the way forward.

For a start we are the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  Apart from the far more encouraging tone of a being a United Kingdom, and not excluding Northern Ireland, I personally find Great Britain has echoes of the inglorious past of the British Empire. While this may  not be relevant to many young people today, it may be significant for older generations whose origins are in the Indian sub-continent.  Some “British values” from colonial times are ones we have thankfully left behind.

The Government has not yet defined “British Values” but they say they include democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.  These are not uniquely British and you do not have to delve too far back in our history to discover that some of them were not very British at all.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

Brian Paddick writes on efforts to protect our civil liberties

Today the Investigatory Powers Bill overcame its final Parliamentary hurdle before becoming law. In the end the issue that held it up for a while was press regulation, not the powers of the state to intrude into our privacy.

In line with party policy, agreed at Lib Dem conference, we tabled dozens of amendments on significant issues that went to the very heart of the bill – while trivial Labour and Government amendments simply tinkered around the edges. Despite the Government’s best efforts to close down the debate, we fought hard and achieved close and careful line-by-line scrutiny of …

Posted in News and Parliament | 4 Comments

Uncrossing the wires in the IP Bill

The average age of the House of Lords is about 70 years old. Yet it has been left up to us to scrutinise, amend and improve the highly technical and technological Investigatory Powers Bill after its easy ride through the House of Commons.

Today, in the Bill’s Second Reading, I urged peers from all sides to not shy away from the technical nature of the Bill and to tackle the issues it raises head on and with gusto. Fundamentally this Bill will govern what powers our security services and law enforcement agencies have, under what circumstances they will be allowed to use them and how the use of these powers will be overseen. In all of this there is a balancing act to be done – it is the responsibility of the police and the security services to ask Government for the powers they believe they need in order to be effective and it is the responsibility of Parliament to balance those requests against the tests of necessity and proportionality.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

Brian Paddick writes… Chairman Mao might have backed Labour’s ID card plans, but Lib Dems won’t

In the House of Lords today, Labour tried to resurrect the National Identity Card scheme with some support from the Conservative benches. The Government Home Office minister countered that it was too expensive and ineffective in that those we would most want to carry an ID card are the least likely to carry them.

Liberal Democrats object to the compulsory carrying of identity cards on principle, as an infringement of the liberty and the right to privacy of those lawfully going about their business but there are other reasons why a national identity scheme should remain dead and buried.

Not one of the tragic deaths or horrific injuries inflicted by terrorists in recent times in the UK could have been prevented had a national identity card scheme been in place.  The identities of the bombers and would-be bombers of the London transport system in 2005 were quickly established. The identities of the murderers of Lee Rigby were never an issue.

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Lord Brian Paddick writes…Standing up for evidence-based policy on drug laws

Yesterday in the House of Lords I called a vote to change the government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill. The Conservatives and Labour refused to support the change and we lost the vote 314 votes to 95, which was a great result. So how can such a crushing defeat be good? Because we established, on the record, that neither the Tories nor Labour support a scientific, evidence-based approach to reducing the harm caused by drugs. And here’s why.

The Tory government, supported by Labour, is pushing through a draconian, authoritarian law that would ban any substance that changes the way you think or the way you feel (your mental functioning or emotional state). There is no doubt some of the substances that the legislation covers are highly dangerous, but Lib Dems do not support a blanket ban that could do more harm than good. Things normally consumed as food and prescription medicines are not covered but tea, beer and cigarettes would all be banned except for the fact that caffeine, alcohol and nicotine (and only those three things) are specifically listed in the bill as being exempt.

The government has made it quite clear that they do not intend to add anything else to the list of exemptions and the law also prohibits anyone from removing ‘the establishment’s drugs of choice’ from the exempt list. So despite the wealth of scientific evidence that shows how much more dangerous alcohol is than, say, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), both in terms of the harm it causes to individuals and to society, the government intends to use this Bill to ban it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Lord Brian Paddick writes…Lords debate Anderson Report – you have to know your onions

GCHQ Bude by Paul WalterDavid Anderson, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation’s recently published report on investigatory powers was debated in the House of Lords last Wednesday.  Anderson was tasked with advising on what should replace the Communications Data Bill a.k.a. the Snooper’s Charter and other, existing legislation, that allows the state to invade individual’s privacy for the purposes of terrorism and crime prevention.

The Government Minister and other leading Tories talked-up the threat posed by terrorism.  I told the House we should listen to Anderson who said in his report ‘claims of exceptional or unprecedented threat levels – particularly if relied upon for the purposes of curbing well established liberties – should be approached with scepticism’.

Lib Dem Peer, Paul Strasburger led the charge with a comprehensive critique of the existing legislative framework and how the police and security services had been caught misusing existing powers.  Whatever follows must include greater safeguards and more effective scrutiny so as to ensure public trust.

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Brian Paddick writes… Are We Confusing Anti-politics with Anti-Westminster?

I have just been watching Marr on BBC1 and there appears to me to be a theme developing.

In the paper review, Trevor Phillips said the rise of UKIP was really about voters´ perception that “Westminster politicians” were not listening to their constituents. He also suggested immigration is not the real issue for many British people but fear of change. He claims that rapid change is unsettling for people and a party that represents the past like UKIP is understandably popular. I guess a progressive, forward thinking and radical party like ours might be unpopular for the same reason.

Next up is Douglas Carswell, former Tory, now a UKIP, MP. He talks like a Lib Dem. He is clearly a dedicated constituency MP, just like a Lib Dem, who does not take his constituents for granted, just like a Lib Dem, and he sees representing his constituency as far more important than what happens at Westminster. He appeared to me to be so unlike a Tory MP or a Labour MP in a safe seat and so like a Lib Dem.

Posted in Op-eds | 66 Comments

Lord Brian Paddick writes… Is it reasonable to ban runway expansion across the UK?

Runway photo by Today is a good dayThis Conference we will be debating our Pre-Manifesto.  Of the huge number of policy proposals there is one likely to incite a great deal of considered debate within the Party – the commitment to no net increase in runways across the UK.  The pre-manifesto bans any expansion at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick and it prohibits a new airport in the Thames Estuary.  Is this a reasonable position to take?

I am a loyal Liberal Democrat and like most of us, I am conscious of the need to protect our environment.  I don’t have a car.  My world is my Oyster Card and unless I’m late for a very important date, I take the bus, train or tube everywhere.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 47 Comments

Lord Brian Paddick writes: The difficult balancing act between privacy and security

Data storm byt Dave HerholzAs a Liberal former police officer I am acutely aware of the difficult balancing act the government has to perform between keeping us safe and keeping our personal data safe. At the same time I see both the anxiety that those concerned with civil liberties have over the new legislation and the Government’s need to act to prevent a valuable crime detection tool slipping from our grasp.

So why the need and why the rush?

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

Brian Paddick writes…We must challenge UKIP on the facts

Turning point in politics?So where are we?  The UK and the rest of Europe have lurched to the right.  People and countries are becoming more insular and less internationalist, less tolerant of difference and are looking for “others” to blame.  Almost inevitably during times of austerity, people do not like those inflicting the pain, however necessary.  Of course, some will argue that the cuts in public spending are not necessary, are not fair, are not reasonable, do not need to be so severe or all of the above.  The fact is, for years the UK has been spending more than it earns in taxation

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 57 Comments

Brian Paddick writes… The curious case of Chris Rennard

For the record, I abhor anyone who uses their power to take advantage of others and that includes men over women, let alone men who are in positions of authority. Chris Rennard denies any wrongdoing and an independent review of the evidence has concluded that there is less than a 51% chance that the allegations could be proved beyond reasonable doubt. As I still hold the record as the highest-ranking openly gay police officer in the UK, hopefully people will accept a degree of neutrality in my observations.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 55 Comments

Brian Paddick writes… A seat in the House of Lords

When Nick called me to ask if I would be a Peer, he said, amongst other things, that it was time I had my own political platform. So that got me thinking about what my political platform might look like. Here are some initial thoughts.

I know we are in Coalition with them but I can find few redeeming features in Tory economics. Of course work should pay more than benefits but have benefits really have reduced to the level where families have to resort to food banks? Are those with disabilities having to give up independent living and are families …

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Brian Paddick writes… Policing the riots

I am on the horns of a dilemma. I served Londoners in the Metropolitan Police for more than 30 years and loyalty to my former colleagues runs deep. As a sergeant, I faced bricks and petrol bombs on the streets of Brixton in 1981. So I know what officers went through during the recent riots. I later became one of a small cadre of advanced trained public order senior officers who took charge of policing protests and big events in London. So I know the strategies and tactics for dealing with riots. Yet I, like most Londoners, was disappointed by …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Brian Paddick writes: Building a better future for Londoners

Since I retired from the police I have not had a car. Since then ‘the world is my Oyster card.’ I rely on trains, tubes and buses to get around London and I’m appalled by what I see.

Vanity projects and electoral gimmicks like the new Routemaster and replacing bendy buses are soaking up millions of pounds of the transport budget. The new Routemaster will cost nine times as much as a conventional bus – never mind the millions spent on development! On the right routes and properly regulated so they don’t end up stuck together, bendies do a perfectly adequate …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 3 Comments

Brian Paddick writes: What we need to do in the wake of the riots

There are serious social issues that need to be addressed in the wake of the riots. The problem for politicians faced with situations like those we have seen over the past 10 days is the need to be seen to be doing something positive about it. Talk about long-term problems requiring long terms solutions just doesn’t cut it with the voters, even if that is the answer. Yet it is the responsibility of the Mayor to show political leadership, to inform, persuade and facilitate these long terms solutions, even if he has not direct power to do so.

Young people are …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

Brian Paddick writes: Lessons from the Tottenham riots

What can be learnt from the riots in Tottenham this weekend?  There have been many controversial police shootings in recent years but this would not appear, on the face of it, to be one of them.  The matter is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and from my experience that might be part of the problem.  There are also deeper issues that need to be addressed.

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Brian Paddick writes: Reaching out to every community in London

One thing is for sure, if we are to improve on our position in next year’s elections for the Greater London Authority, we need to appeal to every community in London. If the MPs’ expenses scandal didn’t put people off politics, the perception that no one voted for the Coalition Government we now have, might well do the trick.

Too often, people view politicians as remote and out of touch, unable to understand their needs and act in their interests. That’s why, as well as getting our traditional vote out, we must appeal across the political divide and demonstrate that we …

Posted in London | Tagged | 10 Comments

Brian Paddick writes: What’s good for the Metropolitan Police is not good for politicians

The evening after the Metropolitan Police shot an innocent Brazilian at Stockwell I went and saw the then Deputy Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson. I asked whether it was true that the Commissioner had barred the Independent Police Complaints Commission from their legal duty to investigate the death. He said it was. I told him I thought it was the most stupid decision I had ever heard of (I knew by then that we had made a terrible mistake). He smiled and said “It’s my job to support the Commissioner.” I was concerned from then on that Stephenson might be giving …

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Brian Paddick writes: Housing is the most important issue facing London

When I told the BBC’s John Sopel, minutes after the result of the last London Mayoral election was announced, that my second preference vote had gone to the ‘Left List’ candidate Lindsey German, he would not believe me. There were many of her policies I did not agree with but her party was passionate about building more social housing in London. In every debate during the campaign I found myself in agreement with her and disagreeing with the other candidates on that issue.

I believe housing is the single most important issue facing London and this is why.

Quite rightly a priority …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 22 Comments

Brian Paddick writes: The Lib Dem Guide to phone hacking

Uniquely perhaps, I was a victim of the News of the World’s private investigator, Glen Mulcaire, when I was a senior police officer at New Scotland Yard, working along the corridor from the officers who conducted the first phone hacking inquiry in 2002. But they never told me I was victim.

It was only a couple of years ago when my solicitor received a call from a Guardian journalist, that I knew Mulcaire had my name and mobile phone number in his notebook.

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Brian Paddick writes: Why I want to be Lib Dem candidate for London Mayor in 2012

There were three necessary but not sufficient conditions that had to be fulfilled before I could declare myself as a candidate to be nominated as the Lib Dem Candidate for Mayor of London in 2012. That I honestly believed that I had the support of a wide range of people from both within and outside the party, that I could do a better job than I did last time and that I was able to offer something other candidates could not. I believe those conditions are now met, which is why I am, here and now, declaring myself to be …

Posted in London | Tagged | 25 Comments

Brian Paddick writes… I’m not a celebrity: should I have got me in there?

If there is a consistent theme throughout my life, it is following ‘high risk strategies’. Joining an overtly homophobic police service knowing I was gay, suggesting the police took a more liberal stance on illegal drugs, challenging Sir Ian Blair over the Stockwell shooting, and giving evidence for the family in the De Menezes inquest, were not the easiest or safest routes to take.

Having been approached by both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats to be their candidate for the 2008 Mayor of London election, following my conscience, my passion and my deeply held beliefs, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments
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