Author Archives: Cara Jenkinson

2018 Brighton Conference – Reporting by Journalist

John Crace of the Guardian made a snide comment on Monday – in his piece about Gina Miller’s speech he said we took a “two-and-a-half-hour lunch break. Presumably, because there wasn’t much more business to discuss.”

I couldn’t disagree with him more – and that’s not just because I’m a member of the Federal Conference Committee. Of course, there was plenty to say on Brexit, where Tories and Labour are tearing themselves apart. However, we debated so many other important issues – how we enable people to thrive in a world of rapid technological change, how we address increasing inequality through wealth …

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Of chocolate and jobs

Last month I visited York’s Chocolate Story, a visitor attraction in the centre of the city of York. A very lively tour guide told us about the Quakers who established the chocolate industry in York, and we saw how filled chocolates are made (and got to eat some) and made our own chocolate lollies (and got to eat them too). The other visitors included several grandparents, who seemed to be enjoying the experience at least as much as their grandchildren!

As the UK population gets older, the leisure industry has observed that we are becoming far more interested in acquiring ‘cultural capital’. Since 2009 household spending on recreation and culture has risen faster than total household consumption (VisitEngland, 2013). Older people, whilst more numerous, are getting ‘younger’ wanting to undertake new experiences and acquire new knowledge and skills – whether it’s baking, gardening or learning about history or art.

This creates new employment opportunities that we should be actively promoting.  Rather than working in yet another retail mall, young people can acquire knowledge that they can then share. Enriching an older person’s life is far more rewarding than stacking shelves or driving a delivery van. Of course there are concerns that these will be low paid jobs. However older people, whose incomes have been protected most in the years since the recession are likely to be able and willing to pay, and indeed this could be a good transfer of cash from the old to the younger generation.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 16 Comments

We shouldn’t bomb Daesh in Syria even with a UN resolution

It looks like there could be a vote to bomb Syria within a couple of weeks. Whilst I too was horrified by what happened in Paris 10 days ago, I am not convinced that the UK should be joining this mission.

Most defence commentators agree that the purpose of an air campaign is to prepare for a ground campaign – air strikes alone are not enough to degrade Daesh. So who are the ground troops? The Kurdish soldiers will certainly take back some land currently occupied by IS but will stop at the borders of their desired future …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 32 Comments

Working together in North London

haringey lib dems

The campaign in Hornsey and Wood Green this year to keep the wonderful Lynne Featherstone as MP was the biggest we in Haringey have ever fought.  One of the really gratifying aspects of the campaign, despite the disappointing results was the way in which other North London parties came to help. Whether it was knocking on doors, writing blue envelopes or running fundraisers for Lynne, the support from our neighbouring parties was fantastic.

After Lynne’s defeat came the depressing task of closing down the constituency office and laying off staff. The local party looked hard at party finances and decided that the only way forward was for us to pool resources with other parties nearby. So we started discussions with Camden and Islington about sharing office space and an organiser. Three months later we have a new office, smaller but better located than our previous office and a new organiser who is shared between the three local parties.

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

Opinion: Why I would be wary of another coalition with the Conservatives

As the speculation continues on the make-up of the next government, I have been thinking a lot about the prospect of another Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

We went into coalition in 2010 for three main reasons 1) because the country needed a strong, stable government to sort out the economy which was in crisis 2) to stop the Tories from doing nasty, right-wing things, and 3) to get our own great policies, such as pupil premium implemented.

So where are we in 2015? We do not have the same level of economic difficulty as we did in 2010. The deficit is halved, our GDP growth is the highest amongst developed countries and we have record employment. Whilst it’s true that we cannot take the economic recovery for granted, we are not in crisis.

As to being able to stop the Tories’ right wing agenda in 2015, I doubt that we will be able to do that as effectively. It is likely that any Conservative/Lib Dem/DUP coalition will have the smallest of majorities. This will give those ‘swivel-eyed’ right wing conservatives a lot of power. In this parliament, the Coalition had a decent majority and the more extreme Tories could be safely ignored – that won’t be the case this time. And just to get a flavour of some of the policies on offer in the Tory 2015 manifesto – 500 more free schools, removing JSA for 18-21 year olds, requiring 40% turnout for strike action, ending any subsidy for onshore wind,  lowering the benefit cap, capping skilled migration, scrapping the Human Rights Act and introducing the snoopers charter – nice!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 76 Comments

Opinion: Are we transforming rehabilitation?

On Tuesday the London ‘Standard’ had the depressing headline “Rioters in new crime wave”. According to official statistics 1593 of the 3914 people charged or cautioned by the Met following the riots in August 2011 have since reoffended.

At our Autumn Conference in the month following the riots, I raised concerns as a Haringey magistrate that a knee-jerk approach was being taken to sentencing, with courts sitting overnight, dishing out custodial sentences as fast as they could. Prisons became overcrowded, sometimes with three prisoners sharing a cell meant for one; and precious little rehabilitation was going on.

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

Opinion: Insulation not fossil fuel subsidies

Earlier this week parliament overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill calling for a moratorium on fracking.

The challenge that the UK faces is that we are particularly dependent on natural gas. The vast majority of us have gas boilers and heating makes up much of the gas used in the UK. Weaning ourselves off gas boilers isn’t easy. There are renewable alternatives such as heat pumps but these only work in very well insulated homes. And there’s the rub. Around 70% of homes in the UK are still not well insulated, and a good portion of those have solid walls which are difficult and expensive to insulate.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 46 Comments

The place to go for all things Education – LDEA’s new website

If you are a parliamentary or council candidate and you want to find out more about Lib Dem education priorities and 2015 manifesto policies, you can now go to the shiny new Liberal Democrat Education Association (LDEA) website.

Whilst we have achieved a lot in this government including £2.5billion of pupil premium, free school meals for infants, a new progress-based measure to replace the A*-C metric and our programme for 2-year olds, many challenges remain. Teacher morale is low, mainly as a result of the Govian years of a lack of trust and respect for the profession coupled with a target-driven, data-led culture which has increased workload substantially. Although standards have risen in some areas, provision in many rural areas and seaside towns is poor. A punitive approach by Ofsted has made the role of headteacher even more demanding and contributes to recruitment challenges for senior positions. Education funding remains under threat, with neither the Tories nor Labour committing to protect the schools budget.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Democrats must prioritise skills development

One of the depressing facts that came out from last week’s Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty is that only 1 in 5 of low paid employees have left low paid work completely ten years later.  Also in the news recently were reports of severe staffing shortages of skilled staff in several sectors including construction and health/social care, leading to major recruitment drives overseas.   There is a real problem with skills development in the UK.

There are several reasons for this.  Since the recession companies have cut back on investment, and that includes training.  The increase in outsourcing in our public services has had an impact; some private providers have good long term training programmes, whereas others take a much more short term approach, particularly if they are fighting to win government contracts on cost. Another cause is the rise in self-employment – 15% of the UK working population is now self-employed compared to 13% in 2008.  Many of these self-employed are rehired to their original organisations but without many of the benefits including a training budget.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 19 Comments

Opinion: Let’s tell the truth about EU budget surcharge

Euro by Alf MelinOver the last couple of days I have been disappointed that the Lib Dem leadership has seemed to go along with the Osborne/Cameron version of events with respect to the ‘reduction’ in the £1.7 billion owed to the EU.

On Friday, Osborne claimed that through his tough negotiations the UK would only be paying £850 billion.  However reports later on explained that the only deal done was over the timing of the payment, and that the reduction was simply due to the UK’s EU budget rebate being applied.

Posted in News | Tagged | 32 Comments

Opinion: Tackling tax avoidance should be a top manifesto issue 

pre manifesto documentIn the flurry of press coverage over recent UKIP success, the steady rise of the Greens is usually ignored (including by the broadcast media who are excluding them from the pre-election debates).

The Greens have taken the left-wing protest vote which of course we used to get.  On the doorsteps in Hornsey and Wood Green, disillusionment with politics is clear to see – not because of immigration or Europe, but because the burdens of austerity are not seen to be shared equally.  One of the main sources of outrage is tax avoidance.  Major corporations are still paying minimal amounts of tax, and this means that the Exchequer is getting many billions less than it should be.  Local government spending continues to be cut, public sector pay continues to be almost flat, and the pressure on benefits for those of working age remains.

The Conservatives have made considerable noise on the subject of tax avoidance.  But as of 2013, the UK’s top 100 companies still had over 8000 subsidiaries in onshore or offshore tax havens, and the ‘tax efficiency’ industry continues to flourish.  The lobbying by large corporate donors to the Conservative party means that although some of the more outrageous tax avoidance schemes have been shut down there remains a huge discrepancy between the profits made and the tax paid by many companies. There is some good news on a proposed ‘Google tax’ which aims to clamp down on companies shifting profits between different countries; however the danger is that it will be significantly watered down after the big corporates have had their say, in the way that the new General Anti Abuse Rule (GAAR) has been.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 42 Comments

Opinion: Our seaside towns and the challenge of UKIP

Clacton beach huts photo by Nick PageIt now looks set that Duncan Carswell will win the forthcoming by-election in Clacton and become the first UKIP MP. Whilst enjoying the Tory discomfort, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we need to do to counter UKIP and their simplistic appeal.

In a poll last weekend, immigration was identified as the top concern by 57% of people who intend to vote for UKIP in Clacton. As with many of UKIP’s other target seats the number of immigrants living in Clacton is actually very low – just 4%. What there is in Clacton though is a struggling local economy, high unemployment, low pay, former B & Bs being used by the Council for temporary accommodation and poor educational achievement.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 28 Comments

Opinion: If we remove prison as an option for drugs possession, savings must go to boost probation service

Wormwood Scrubs prison - Some rights reserved by TheGooglyAs a magistrate in North London, I welcome the recent Liberal Democrat proposal to remove prison as a sentencing option for drug possession. I have seen so many defendants who are in and out of prison, never breaking the depressing cycle of re-offending. However to keep drug addicts out of prison we will need to make sure that the alternatives work.

Currently it is very rare that first time offenders accused of drug possession would be sent to prison With first time offenders, the …

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

Opinion: Making the two-year-old programme work

Teacher Tom at Canterbury994I’m a governor at Seven Sisters Primary School and South Grove Children’s Centre in Tottenham, where we’ve been running a programme for two-year-olds from deprived backgrounds for the last three years. We’ve tracked the progress these children make, and it’s clear there are real benefits. This is a good Lib Dem policy, aiming to break down the barriers that hold back children from poorer families.

In September, the eligibility criteria for the programme will be widened, so that around 40% of two-year-olds become eligible. In Haringey, that means that …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

Opinion: Making property tax fairer

Mansion Only - Some rights reserved by Gerg1967One of the issues that we heard frequently on the doorstep in Haringey in the run-up to the Council elections was fear over the mansion tax. Many of our wards are in nice leafy areas, where the ridiculous rises in house prices over the last year have left some relatively modest family homes pushing up to the £2m barrier. A retired builder who had bought his home for under £50,000 forty years ago told me that he would never vote for us …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 35 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAlex Macfie 5th Dec - 5:53pm
    Andrew T: Actually we have a tight targeting strategy. as reflected in constituency polls indicating large surges in seats we are targeting (e.g. F&GG, Esher...
  • User AvatarJames Brough 5th Dec - 4:25pm
    My thanks to Ollie for an interesting and thoughtful article. Great shame that some prefer to rest on their laurels and criticise, rather than offer...
  • User AvatarMatthew Huntbach 5th Dec - 4:24pm
    Peter Theresa May managed to preside over a completely shambolic attempt to deliver the referendum result. then The call for a second vote was yet...
  • User AvatarJohn Hall 5th Dec - 4:21pm
    Let us not forget that the Thatcherites quietly introduced PR for local elections into N Ireland to give minorities a fair voice, well before being...
  • User AvatarAndrew T 5th Dec - 4:14pm
    I'm dreading party infighting over a "poor" result. FPTP and the fact we are miles behind in all but a handful of constituencies combined with...
  • User AvatarPeter 5th Dec - 4:03pm
    A referendum is a mechanism for letting the people decide on an important single issue in an unambiguous way. It is normal convention for parliamentarians...
Tue 10th Dec 2019