Author Archives: A Liberal Reform Board Member

Why be a Liberal Democrat and an ‘Orange Booker’?

A recent post in the ‘Why be a Liberal Democrat?’ Christmas competition on LDV had me nodding along in agreement for the first few paragraphs (yes, Labour are hopeless, and despite this our party is in a perilous position), but the nodding stopped at the abrupt veer into advocating for getting rid of ‘Orange Bookers’ in the party.

As a board member of Liberal Reform, which (fairly enough) is regarded as the pressure group for Orange Book fans, I’ve never really understood why some party members are so bothered by us. Though Liberal Reform members tend to be quite supportive of building more homes to lower living costs (and therefore sceptical of anti-development activism), see international trade as something to be encouraged, and take a dim view of attempting to regulate lifestyles (e.g. clamping down on vaping), these views are hardly anathema to liberalism. Nor do they constitute an excessively libertarian take on the role of government. You’ll find our board members advocating for restoring legal aid funding, as well as more ‘traditional’ Liberal Reform topics like taking a more permissive approach to drug policy and using competition to lower prices.

While the author of the post was happy to say he ‘respected’ Orange Bookers, the lurid claim that the book’s contributing authors (Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Susan Kramer, and Ed Davey among others) pursued market-friendly ideas to advance their own careers was an unfortunate slight on many of our current and former parliamentarians. I have no doubt that the Coalition damaged our electoral popularity, but can’t see how the electoral math in 2010 allowed for anything other than entering government with the Conservatives, with many of the policy compromises that came with this.

What matters now is how we position ourselves going forward. Wholesale disowning of our only time in government since WW2 is unlikely to bear fruit, so that leaves promoting what we got right (e.g. the pupil premium, lifting the lowest paid out of tax, and reducing carbon emissions), and crafting new policies on matters like legal aid access and immigration policy where we gave the Tories far too much say over.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 69 Comments

London Lib Dems to debate private hire regulations – how they should get it right

Upon moving to London my first ‘culture-shock’ moment – so much as an Aussie can have them – was discovering that many black cabs only take cash payment. In 2015 it is hard to imagine another industry where a regulator must step in to ensure more than half of all operators provide a facility as basic as card payment.

This matters, as this weekend our London conference will debate a motion on Transport for London’s (TfL) recently released proposals to regulate the private hire car market. While many of the proposals are sound, several will sabotage successful business models and reduce competition, further breeding the kind of apathy to consumer preferences that sees many black cab drivers refuse card payment.

There are three proposals Liberal Democrats should be most concerned with. The first, a mandatory waiting period between requesting a private hire vehicle and pick-up, is hard to square with any consumer interest rationale. TfL is proposing a mandatory 5 minute wait, about 1.5 minutes more than the average time it takes for an Uber driver to arrive. Apparently this would reduce the risk of a customer getting into the wrong vehicle, a problem TfL provides no evidence to suggest actually exists. Even if it does, it appears not to have been weighed against the risk of extending the time in which people may have to wait alone on a street corner late at night. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Opinion: Lessons from the failure of centre-liberal politics in Australia

Australian DemocratsIn an island not so far away, in a time not so long ago, a socially liberal centrist party met its end under circumstances eerily similar to those the Liberal Democrats now find themselves in. The sudden demise of the Australian Democrats is a tale from the antipodes that holds several lessons for the Lib Dems.

The Australian Democrats were the 3rd force in Australian politics between 1977 and 2008, frequently holding the balance of power in Australia’s elected upper house and achieving election at the state and local council level. They played a lead role in many of the civil liberties, environmental protection and democratic reform battles in Australia during that time. At their height in the late 1990s, the Democrats were vital for the conservative government of John Howard to pass its legislation in the upper house.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 25 Comments
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