Author Archives: David Howarth

Opinion: What does the evidence tell us about our strategy should be?

evidence of organized lightAs a party committed to evidence-based policy, we should be asking what the evidence tells us about the questions of strategy and leadership we now face. The discussion is currently impressionistic and getting fixated on the past. We need instead to stick to the evidence and to what it suggests we should do in the future. There are many examples one could give about the leadership issue, but here is one about strategy.

Nick Clegg has explained the party’s strategy like this: ”

We said in 2010 we were going

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 56 Comments

Opinion: What does ‘bringing the party into disrepute’ mean?

The suspension and threatened expulsion from the party of Chris Rennard for ‘failure to apologise’ takes the Rennard affair into a new and much darker place. Even those of us who think Chris should apologise should stop and think about where this is taking us.

Alistair Webster’s statement seemed to me to be entirely sensible, but there was one issue Alistair should have said more about, namely what can count as ‘bringing the party into disrepute’. That issue is crucial because on it depends the rights of minorities in the party to stay within it. If, for example, disagreeing with the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 116 Comments

Opinion: Have we changed our policy on an in-out referendum?

In Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics interview with Danny Alexander, Neil asserted that we have changed our policy on an in-out referendum. Is he right?

Our position in 2008, when we walked out the Commons after being refused a debate on an in-out referendum, was that we wanted a referendum to decide whether the UK should stay in the EU in the light of the Lisbon Treaty. The Conservative position was that a referendum should decide the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty itself. The difference was perhaps subtle, but it was important. If the public voted no in the Conservative referendum, …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 12 Comments

David Howarth responds on the question of secret courts

Tom McNally has expanded his Brighton speech in favour of the Justice and Security Bill on Liberal Democrat Voice. He makes several assertions and assumptions that simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

  • The main objection to closed material proceedings is not, as Tom (and most of the media) claim, that they are ‘in private’ but that they are one-sided. Not only the public but also the other party is excluded. Even the other party’s lawyer is excluded. The other party is ‘represented’ by a special advocate who is not allowed to reveal the precise facts in issue.

Posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 42 Comments

David Howarth writes… The Public Bodies Bill is sloppy, lazily drafted and must be radically amended

On Friday, Mark Pack wrote on Lib Dem Voice about Public Bodies Bill – Abolition of Parliament: it was wrong then and it’s wrong now – highlighting how some parts of the Public Bodies Bill echo the proposals previously made by Labour and against which David Howarth led the opposition. Now David Howarth gives his take on the Bill:

The Public Bodies Bill gives ministers powers to abolish, merge, reform or change the functions or financial arrangements of public bodies (i.e. quangos). Ministers will be able to use these powers by issuing unamendable statutory instruments that require a single vote …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

David Howarth writes … Now is the time to reform our penal policy

Last month the Howard League for Penal Reform launched its Take Action 2010 campaign, with the general election in its sights. The campaign reflects a growing consensus among experts and campaign groups that penal policy has reached a crisis point.

The Howard League’s campaign covers four policy areas – investment in the community not prison, ending short prison terms, justice for children, and creating a scheme of real work inside existing prisons. All four of these themes echo Liberal Democrat thinking and I very much welcome the campaign.

Billions of pounds are spent on maintaining our prisons and …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 1 Comment

David Howarth MP writes… My top priorities as Lib Dem shadow secretary of state for justice

The main responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice are the criminal justice system, including prisons and probation, and constitutional reform. Crime has not been seen as a political strength for us in the past, but I believe that it could be, because we have very distinctive things to say. Constitutional reform is one of our traditional strengths, but the task there is to make it relevant to current politics.

There is a crisis in the criminal justice system of staggering proportions. The prison population is at a record high, and is eating up £ billions in public expenditure. 70% of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 5 Comments

David Howarth MP writes… How to reform party political funding

This country faces a crisis of confidence in democracy just as profound as the crisis of confidence in the financial markets. Both are ultimately about trust – trust in the quality of what is being sold in the one case, trust in what political leaders say, and what their motives are, in the other.

The series of scandals about party funding – from cash for honours to the Ashcroft affair – damage democracy deeply by sending the constant message that politics is not about values and ideas, but about buying power and access, and if you are not a rich donor …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 16 Comments

Opinion: Why Lib Dems Need To Reinvent The State

The new book Reinventing the State is an attempt to update social liberalism for the present day. The origins of social liberalism lie in the party’s re-creation of itself in the early 20th century as a party not just of political reform but also of social reform, when radical Liberals added a commitment to social justice and democracy to the older Liberal commitments to expanding civil and political rights. The question is what that tradition means now.

Unlike socialists, liberals never allowed the desirability of greater equality to undermine their …

Posted in Books and Op-eds | 8 Comments
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