Author Archives: Charlie Murphy

Mothballing the UK’s amphibious assault ships would be short-sighted and foolish

Image available with for reuse under the OGL (Open Government License).

At a time when the world is at its least stable, possibly since the end of the Cold War more than 30 years ago, the mothballing of two of the Royal Navy’s most critical assets is under open consideration by the Tories.

The Government are once again considering mothballing – ie. indefinitely laying up – both HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, two amphibious assault, command and supply ships operated by the Royal Navy. These are the only two ships of this type which are still in operation in the fleet, capable of operating with hundreds of Royal Marines onboard and carrying a well-equipped landing force. Both of the ships would otherwise have service lives well into the 2030s.

These ships are critical for the kind of security environment we are approaching. The effects of climate change will be profound across the globe, and these effects are already springing new threats and conflicts, including in both Syria and Nigeria. Some significant states are critically exposed to security threats around climate change, and some are already perilously close to state collapse. If there has ever been a moment we have needed the kind of ships that allow us to operate in theatres outside of our immediate neighbourhood, it is now.

However, not content with short-termist policymaking applying to the NHS, planning, housing, local government, and virtually every other area of the public realm, something as fundamental as defence and security is now in the crosshairs.

Even if we park the point about security for a second, these ships are mainstays of our international capacity. As a party we firmly believe in our responsibility to offer humanitarian assistance and international aid, which must in turn commit us to resisting the apparent fate of these ships. HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark have been essential for British humanitarian efforts across the globe, with deployments around the world, including to the Mediterranean during the climate-induced civil war in Syria.

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‘Crisis’ doesn’t cut it anymore: Britain’s housing is breaking us

The term ‘housing crisis’ has been in the political lexicon for a long while – it first entered Hansard, the record of speeches and debates in Parliament, in 1919. This gives us some sense of normality when we discuss it as a party and when we consider policy approaches to housing, even in the current crisis which is rooted in the 1980s.

Familiarity with the term ‘housing crisis’ is harmful to how we view the scale of the problem. Housing has been a ballooning problem for decades, arguably the label of a ‘crisis’ has been justified for much of this time. Though we are now reaching a cataclysmic level of housing stress which is severely damaging our living conditions, our economy and our politics. We all recognise the symptoms: a low growth, high-cost economy with stagnant real-terms wages and a perilous public purse.

For some time, Brits have endured some of the most cramped living conditions in Europe and North America. In England specifically, the average home is 71.9 square meters – Canadians typically live with double this space at 150 square meters. On mainland Europe homes are more modest but still considerably larger than the average English home – Italians see an average of 108 square meters. We can do better than this.

There’s an engine driving British homes ever smaller and it is one you will probably recognise from a leafleting round almost anywhere in the country. Properties which used to be a family home are now two or even three front doors or doorbells to the same building, often as flats or increasingly as HMOs. The rise of HMOs being a response to acute housing stress, often resisted by local authorities with a keen eye on the number of licenses they will grant. 

As our homes grow smaller, we see ever more stories from the rental market about families sharing desperately inadequate rooms, often impossible to heat and sometimes caked with mould. Yet constricting the supply of HMOs or subdivided homes is to constrict the market even further for young people desperate for a place to call home, it limits even the short-term pressure valve on the simple problem that there are just not enough places to live.

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Young Liberals launch annual freshers campaign

The Young Liberals have launched their annual recruitment campaign which will feature in universities all over the country, leading with a “Stop Brexit” campaign.

The Liberal Democrat youth wing produces materials for students to launch into a year of campaigning on their campus, and to recruit new members at university Freshers Fayres.

This year, the Young Liberals will be campaigning on ‘Stop Brexit’, ‘Demand Action’ , ‘Demand Dignity’ , and ‘Teach Love’ . The youth wing will be running the period poverty campaign on university campuses which do not already provide free menstrual products, and the LGBT inclusive education campaign on campuses which do provide such products.

In addition to these, the state and London bodies of Young Liberals are also running campaigns this year, in Wales on expanding the provision of the Welsh language on campus (‘More Welsh’), in Scotland on the reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (‘Trans Rights are Human Rights’), and in London welcoming the Freshers who will be studying in the city at the time of the mayoral election (‘A Mayor for You’).

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Liberal Democrat MEP candidates must be clear: Now is Europe’s moment

From Whitehall to Warsaw we see populists on the march – they decry the European idea which so many have fought for over the past century. The dilemma? They’re right to.

Tim Martin, the pro-Brexit Wetherspoons boss, told crowds in London that the European Union was undemocratic. The reality is (and bear with me) that he’s not far wrong – the EU has long faced the idea of a democratic deficit. Our MEPs in the European Parliament deserve more power as the voice of 500 million people. We deserve the right to choose the President of the European Commission, an effective figurehead for Europeans who’s directly accountable. We can explore similar ideas for the President of the Council, such as their election depending on a weighted vote of national parliaments. The answer to the democratic deficit? It’s not to leave the union, it’s more union. We must stop tip-toeing around the idea of Europe and unapologetically bring it closer to the people it serves.

Trying to defend the European Union in its current form won’t work, because even we know it’s broken. What can work is calling for reform, and evoking our friends and allies across the continent who know the same. Europe’s broken, but it can be fixed – it must be fixed.

The UK is slipping down the international rankings of global economies, but the European Union? It still remains $2 trillion larger than the USA and the largest free trade area in human history. In the near future the centre of gravity for global economic and political power will continue to shift, but without more cooperation, it will shift further away from Europe. Successive US Presidents have had their eye move from Europe, Trump’s no coincidence and he won’t be the last POTUS to look elsewhere. Our strategic problem isn’t going away. The answer again is reform.

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This weekend’s march is about so much more than a vote on the Brexit deal

Brexit March Brexit March

In Parliament, MPs have been debating on (and rejecting) this botched Tory deal. Beyond Parliament, young people have been watching on in horror and disbelief. As a wealthy Brexit elite, red in the face, tell themselves to hold their nerve, it’s clear that they’ve got no regard for our future.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn? They just aren’t listening – they are completely detached from reality. They’re causing embarrassment on an international scale, the world over the country we love is a laughing stock. It’s shameful, and history will look harshly on the perpetrators of this chaotic mess.

I’m 20 years old, less than a month off of voting on the 23rd of June 2016. There are almost 2 million like me who can now vote. The fact is that the UK does not want Brexit anymore, and young people just like me deserve a say on our future. The British people deserve the right to a final say now we’ve got a deal on the table, and not some fanciful, wildly unrealistic ideal.

Before our very eyes, my generation is seeing jobs and investment sapped out of the UK. We’re seeing our futures – lives that should be spent with the right to live, love and work freely across 28 nations, the largest free trade area in human history – all being snatched away from us. It would be dystopian if the last three years hadn’t numbed us all to this warped reality.

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

We must claim back Europe’s role in the world from populist Eurosceptics

Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Dauntless in the Mediterranean Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Dauntless in the Mediterranean

We must claim back Europe’s role in the world from populist Eurosceptics

Image: Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Dauntless in the Mediterranean (Royal Navy, used under the Open Government License)
When campaigning for Europe, we must be unapologetic, and we must be frank with our stance. Europe as an idea and the EU as an organisation are both under enormous pressure from within and without. To recognise Europe’s value, we must avowedly call for reform, and we must be the dynamism needed for change.

One of those changes must be the capacity to defend itself and its neighbourhood.

This week, Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed her successor’s plans for Europe, including a seat at the UN’s top table and a European aircraft carrier. The carrier plans are a following from France and Germany’s program to procure a new European fighter jet.

In 2016, Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs that soft power is not enough. He told us all that analysis shows up to €100bn in savings are possible via closer cooperation. Americans operate one variant of Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), we Europeans operate a staggering 19 – the inefficiency is widespread, and it’s understandable for all to see. European defence is too fragmented, and it’s costing us all money and international clout.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 17 Comments

Young Liberals launch Young & Winning 2019 to support young candidates

It’s no secret that this year is going to be big for us Liberal Democrats, and the Young Liberals are no exception.

Last year, we provided thousands to young candidates across the country. We contributed to getting some fantastic young councillors elected, now serving their community.

In 2019 we’re doing the same with more support to elect young councillors. The aim is to give young people the community voice which they deserve and need.

This support can range from grants for literature to subsidised action days and more.

In 2018, we supported almost every candidate that applied. In almost every case, young candidates we supported saw increase in vote share. Many were successful in their bids, some came within less than 10 votes of taking their ward.

It’s clear to me that we need more young voices in local government. It’s clear that we can make that happen, and it’s imperative that we do.

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Young Liberals launch the biggest recruitment campaign of the year

Every year, the Liberal Democrats turn to the Young Liberals to launch and run one of the party’s biggest recruitment events – the Freshers campaign.

In this campaign, Young Liberals (formerly Liberal Youth) across the country will descend upon their Students Unions to attend Freshers Fairs and recruit new young and student members. Our largest branches enjoyed hundreds signing up for mailing last year.

Posted in Campaign Corner | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Recent Comments

  • Martin Gray
    Exactly Mary...The rest (apart from the local businessman) were uninspiring. Of course the dummy comes out from the mainstream parties . It's odd that those p...
  • Mary Fulton
    George Galloway won because his message attracted the support of more voters than the messages of all other candidates. That is how democracy is supposed to wor...
  • Mary Fulton
    @Michael BG Poverty is not just caused by too little income. It is also caused by people with enough income who choose to spend that income in such a way as to...
  • Nonconformistradical
    How much of a democracy do we have left, bearing in mind
  • Steve Trevethan
    And lo, here is an attachment with a full and feasible list of tax efficiency savings which would do wonders for our mutilated infrastructures!