Author Archives: David Warren

David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

An Open Letter to Luciana Berger

Dear Luciana,

As someone who spent many years as an activist in the Labour and trade union movement I follow developments in your current party closely. From what I can see you are being constantly hounded by people who currently have control of the Labour machine.

You are being attacked both for your policy positions and your Jewish heritage. The recent attempt to put a motion of no confidence in you is as I am sure you realise is a vehicle to ensure that you cannot stand as the partys’ candidate at the next General Election.

I am afraid to say this kind

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 55 Comments

Parking the bus or total football?

For those football fanatics among us tactics are something we study closely in our desire to enhance our enjoyment of the beautiful game.

Some of us marvel at a defensive approach where a team plays an unadventurous formation designed to avoid conceding goals and then nicking one at some point in the game to come away with a 1-0 victory. This is often called parking the bus and despite his protestations to the contrary it is the favoured approach of the self styled Special One Mr Jose Mourinho.

Others prefer a purist method, the most advanced version being the one used by the Dutch national team in the past and christened total football by admiring commentators. A number of teams have deployed a variation of this philosophy but few have gained the plaudits earned by Rinus Michels the coach of the legendary Netherlands 1974 World Cup team playing in those fabulous bright orange shirts.

So what does this have to do with politics I hear you ask?

Well as in football, politics is about tactics and for our party the Liberal Democrats the way we deploy our key players will be crucial to our fortunes at the next General Election.

Do we take a cautious approach and look to retain the seats in the House of Commons that we currently hold, extend ourselves a bit by trying to win a handful of target seats or be really adventurous by running campaigns wherever we are able.

There are of course many factors to consider in making a final decision, not least the strength of the opposition and the willingness of members of our team to be deployed ‘out of position’. We also have to bear in mind the fact that politics has become much more unpredictable post Brexit.

Success may well come in some unusual places.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

Paddy And Tony A Cautionary Tale

Paddy Ashdown became the leader of the Liberal Democrats in 1988. He inherited a party which was not in a particularly good place.

The merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP had been difficult, to say the least, poll ratings were low.

Worse still Dr David Owen continued to lead a separate force supported by MPs Rosie Barnes and John Cartwright.

Thatcher appeared to be going on forever, still with a comfortable Commons majority and showing no signs of going anytime soon.

Labour under Neil Kinnock was modernising a party very much on the left.

Dreams of breaking the mould seemed a long way off for the newly formed Lib Dems. However, the space for a radical party of the centre-left still exited if it could be rebuilt.

The Continuing SDP were seen off within a short period following humiliation in a byelection in which they finished behind the Monster Raving Loony party, and despite a surge in the 1989 European elections, the Green challenge came to nothing.

By the 1992 General Election, the good ship of Liberalism had steadied, and the crisis seemed to be a thing of the past.

Then two years later Tony Blair came onto the scene.

Paddy quite rightly viewed Blair’s project of positioning Labour more in the centre as a challenge that couldn’t be ignored, and he sought to build a new relationship based on cooperation.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 28 Comments

Coalition blues

Back in 2010 after a General Election that left our party with the balance of power in a hung parliament the Liberal Democrats went into coalition with the Conservatives.

Every section of the party overwhelmingly supported this move and after decades out in the cold Liberals were finally back in government.

The circumstances weren’t ideal given the dire economic situation, and for a party that faced the Tories as the main opposition in many areas, it was sure to be difficult electorally over the coming five years.

That said options were limited, Labour were the clear losers, and the parliamentary arithmetic made a deal with them impossible.

A coalition or confidence and supply arrangement with David Cameron’s Conservatives were the only realistic choices.

Liberal Democrats joined the cabinet, became ministers, and an agreement was concluded on legislative priorities.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 105 Comments

Post-war Liberal leaders in perspective

There have been ten leaders of the Liberal Party and its successor the Liberal Democrats since 1945 as follows. I have resisted the temptation to rank them 1 – 10, but my top three are revealed later. The roll of honour is as follows;

Clement Davies 1945 -56

A reluctant leader who led a depleted parliamentary party in a chamber dominated by Labour.  He was credited with keeping organised Liberalism alive during one of our darkest periods.

Jo Grimond 1956 -67

A youthful breath of fresh air who oversaw a mini-revival with famous by-election victories at Torrington and Orpington. Ultimately his vision of a non-socialist progressive alternative to the Conservatives would falter with the return to power of Labour under Harold Wilson.

Jeremy Thorpe 1967 -76

Flamboyant and energetic. At the February 1974, General Election with the country polarised and the powerful miners on strike led the party to an amazing 20% of the vote but only 14 seats due to FPTP. Eventually, scandal affecting his personal life would force his resignation.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Paddy Ashdown and the bobble hat

I joined the Liberal Democrats not long after the national coalition with the Conservatives was formed.

In 2011 my local party asked me to stand as the candidate in the ward where I lived and I accepted their offer.

The ward in question had been safely won by Labour for decades and no other party had previously campaigned there.

I wasn’t surprised to finish a poor third come polling day.

That didn’t stop me, following that election I set up the Southcote Liberal Democrats with a Facebook page, Twitter account and courtesy of ALDC a website.

Quarterly FOCUS leaflets were produced and delivered across one of the four polling districts.

Delivered by yours truly to a thousand or so addresses.

This was backed up by targetting letters to residents and surveying.

I picked up casework and ran campaigns.

The incumbent Labour councillors were not amused, they hadn’t seen this kind of activity from a rival party before.

Posted in News | Tagged | 5 Comments

Christmas competition How can we reduce inequality

Reducing inequality is something that all politicians even Conservatives say they are in favour of.

They even produce figures to try and demonstrate that government measures are having a positive effect.

The reality, of course, is that over the last forty years or so inequality has got worse particularly in economic terms.

Wealth gives access to things like better quality health and education leading on to employment opportunities that the poorer in our society can only dream of.

This is combined with a trend since the Thatcher years of a decline in access to things like relatively well-paying jobs and decent, affordable housing for the masses.

Put on top of that the cuts in welfare then you reach a stage where the United Nations commissions an investigation into poverty in the nation.

Liberals have a proud history of tackling inequality the Beveridge plan of the 1940s being just one notable example and we must now come up with a new Beveridge type plan for the 21st century.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 31 Comments

CHRISTMAS COMPETITION: LOCAL ELECTION MESSAGES FOR 2019

I for one am hopeful that we can make gains not least because the last cycle of these particular elections coincided with the last General Election and we all know how that turned out.

So what are the critical messages that Liberal Democrats must attempt to get across between now and next May?

Well, firstly the obvious one is to emphasise our commitment to community politics particularly in wards and districts where we are trying to build up support for the first time.

The slogan ‘Working all Year round not just at Election Time’ is one that sums up our approach and needs to feature prominently in our campaigns in 2019.

Our message to residents is that if they vote for a Liberal Democrat councillor, they will get a representative devoted to doing what is best for them and their area. A familiar message but one that only we as Liberals can say with conviction.

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

Taking a gamble

There has been a long running and heated debate over the controversial Fixed Odd Betting Terminals that are sited in virtually every betting shop across the country.

The debate centres arround a proposal for restricting the maximum stakes on these machines to £2 down from the current £100.

This is opposed by the gaming industry.

They along with other opponents of the reform argue that it will drive the gambling addicts to online betting and also lead to job losses due to betting shop closures.

It is a fact that the profits from FOBTs have fed the growth in shops often in areas of deprivation and a lot of the people playing them are losing money that they can ill afford to.

So simply reducing the stake may not solve the perceived problem and may also have unintended negative consequences.

Gambling attracts people from all sections of society.

However the group that is of most concern are the cash-strapped unemployed who have time on their hands and spend it in the bookmakers.

The FOBTs appear to offer a route to extra money which is so badly needed.

Posted in Op-eds | 8 Comments

COMPETITION: WHY BE A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT

As a party with a long history we embrace the principles of Liberalism and since the merger with the SDP those of social democrats as well.

Outsiders often lazily describe the party as having liberal and social democratic wings.

The reality, of course, is a lot more complicated.

Internal pressure groups like the Social Liberal Forum and Liberal Reform represent different strands of thought within the party, but they are not disciplined organised groups.

Amongst our MPs, it has been a practice to align individuals regarding their attitude to the ground-breaking Orange Book.

If you are one of those who wrote for that particular publication, you will almost certainly find yourself described as an economic liberal.

Again, that is far too simplistic.

Charles Kennedy wrote the forward to that publication, and Vince Cable was one of the contributors.

Both come from the social democrat tradition.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 6 Comments

Is It Time For Some Free Market Reforms In The Postal Sector

The Royal Mail was privatised back in 2013, in common with previous privatisations the model used was to move a monopoly type industry into the private sector at the same time leaving elements of that monopoly firmly in place.

Royal Mail was given an ongoing requirement to collect and deliver throughout the UK six days a week and regulated to ensure it did so.

In addition, competitors wishing to provide an alternative letter delivery service have to apply for a license.

The regulator also has powers to control prices and access to the Royal Mail network. In the years that have followed the …

Posted in News and Op-eds | 12 Comments

Authoritarianism with a capital A

Albania is a small European country tucked away in the Balkans but for forty odd years from the end of the Second World War its people suffered under one of the most brutal regimes in modern history.

Liberals cherish freedom and liberty, if you want to look for an example of the opposite authoritarianism with a capital A it could be found in Enver Hoxha’s Albania.

In his excellent book Blendi Fevziu paints a graphic picture of a nation in the grip of fear.

Hoxha’s rise to power was in many way accidental, he was handpicked to lead by a representative of the Yugoslav Communists sent to assist the Albanian partisans in the fight against the Axis powers.

Once secure Hoxha stayed at the top by using terror in all its forms.

Torture, execution and murder were used against anyone seen to be an ‘enemy of the people.’

Internal exile was another favoured method of persecution.

Periodic purges of the ruling Communist party were also carried out, so even those who thought they were on the inside were not safe.

Their families were also targetted for persecution.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Remembering the SDP

SDP logoThe events that led to the formation of the SDP were also formative years for me as a very young man becoming fascinated with politics.

I can recall Roy Jenkins giving the Dimbleby Lecture and the Labour party conference of 1980 when the left won every vote on key issues such as Europe and Defence.

Then the elevation of Michael Foot to the post of leader an election in which many had thought the moderate candidate Denis Healey would triumph.

James Callaghan had timed his resignation so that MPs would elect his successor before  a conference arranged to discuss changing the method of election was held at Wembley.

Callaghan knew that the conference would adopt an electoral college system widening the franchise to include trade unions and constituency parties.

This change would give a left wing standard bearer a much better chance of winning.

Healey bungled his chances by alienating key moderates and the dye was cast. It wasn’t long before he would face a strong challenge for the deputy leadership from Tony Benn.

By then Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rodgers had walked out of the party taking a substantial number of MPs with them.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 32 Comments

The ongoing fight for social justice

My interest in political history sometimes finds me searching the used sections of the Amazon website for cheap second hand books.

A recent discovery was a fascinating autobiography of Victor Grayson by Reg Groves.

Grayson a working class lad from Lancashire was elected as an MP in the 1907 Colne Valley byelection at the tender age of 25.

He was by all accounts a brilliant orator and passionate about socialism.

This was before the Russian revolution when socialist ideas were rapidly gaining popularity amongst the working classes seeking a fairer system than the one they were living under.

Grayson is particularly interesting because he fought for a seat in parliament independent of  senior Labour figures suspicious and fearful of him.

He was successful but found his time in the House of Commons frustrating, as a lone voice he was isolated and became increaingly aware of the Labour leaderships desire to destroy him.

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

The better angels of our nature

The US state of Alabama went to the polls this week in an election that can hardly have been more polarised.

In what is normally rock solid Republican territory, the GOP candidate Roy Moore faced Democrat Doug Jones. Mr Moore, a right winger opposes abortion in all circumstances, thinks homosexuality is a sin and believes Muslims should not be allowed to hold government jobs.

However Moore’s political views were not what made this race competitive.

The surfacing of allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour was the issue that dogged him during the campaign. It made his principle opponent a contender in a state that the Democrats hadn’t won for decades.

Jones, who has never held office, but is well known in the state for his involvement in a high profile prosecution of Klansmen, was sneeringly described by President Trump as a liberal Democrat in a statement endorsing Moore.

This from a man who with every passing day reminds the Stephen King fans amongst us of the megalomaniac politician, Greg Stillson, from the Dead Zone.

That said these days most Republicans are pretty scary.

You have to go back a long way to find a GOP liberal of the Rockerfeller variety.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 7 Comments

Caring, Bereavement and the Liberal Family

I recently suffered a major bereavement, an event that triggered a decline in my health.

Ten years as a carer has taught me that there isn’t much help out there. That still appears to be the case as I try to cope in a very difficult situation.

Bereavement counselling is only available from charities and there is a three-month-long waiting list.

The alternative is the NHS run Talking Therapies which takes you through several hoops before you can even get to speak to a professional counsellor!

All this whilst dealing with the arrangements for the person who has passed away, which there is no …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 9 Comments

No country for old men?

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the trend was for younger political leaders.

We had Blair, then Cameron, Clegg and Miliband.

Our American cousins elected the youthful Barack Obama as their President.

Ming Campbell one of the Lib Dem leaders in this period was thought too old by some and his age was clearly a major factor in his stepping down.

He was 66 at the time.

Oh how things have changed.

Labour’s Corbyn is in his late sixties, in the US the President is 71 and arguably his main opponent the excellent Bernie Sanders is 75!

As Britain’s Liberal party undertakes a leadership election it looks like the septuagenarian Vince Cable may be the only runner.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 30 Comments

A personal reflection on the General Election, its aftermath and liberalism

I allowed my membership of the Liberal Democrats to lapse a while back but I took that decision without rancour.

My involvement had not been passive I stood for local council and campaigned vigorously in other elections.

I liked the party, still do but I just couldn’t live with the position it had taken on Brexit.

Another principled stand by yours truly, one of many over the years.

So as the General Election came upon us my personal focus was on the need to stop the Conservatives winning.

At the start of the campaign their arrogance and swagger was worse than ever and they are pretty bad at the best of times.

My election activity largely focused around the need to get a hung parliament which would then hopefully lead to some form of PR for future elections.

Like many other carers campaigners I wanted to see the future of adult social care high on the agenda, of course Theresa May did that for us with her dementia tax proposal.

A crucial moment in the campaign which I believe contributed in no small way to her losing her parliamentary majority.
On election night itself I stayed up hoping for Tory losses.

The social media campaign to get young voters registered, Corbyn mania and what I felt was a strong campaign by Tim Farron gave me hope.

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments

To leave or not to leave – that is the question

 

The EU is in the news and is likely to stay there for many months to come.

My relationship with Europe as a political issue started way back when I was 11 years old. It was 1975 and my school organised a debate on the referendum to decide the future of Britain’s membership of what was then called the Common Market. I spoke for the NO campaign.

After reading my carefully prepared speech, my Father said he would turn me into a politician. I supposed he succeeded.

More than 40 years later we approach another referendum and I have to say I am undecided. It’s been a bit of a journey though!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

Blue Collar Liberals update

In October 2015 I wrote an article for Lib Dem Voice entitled ‘We Need More Blue Collar Liberals’. Since then I have been attempting to keep the issues raised by the article ‘live’, turning statements by leading figures in our party regarding encouraging people from lower socio economic groups to become more involved in the Liberal Democrats into concrete actions.

These efforts haven’t met with any success so far.

With the notable exception of EMLD, the dialogue has not resulted in anything concrete and a cynic might say that the party hierachy appears more than happy with the comfort zone of the status quo.

This has led me to consider launching a group probably called  ‘Blue Collar Liberals’, (although I am open to alternative suggestions), with the following founding statement:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 30 Comments

What hope for liberalism in the US presidential election?

American history and politics are a passion of mine, so I always look forward to their primary season.

A year when the incumbent President is not seeking reelection is always especially interesting because it means both big parties engage fully in the lengthy process of selecting a candidate. 2016 is such a year.

American politics is unique and finding a viable candidate from what we would call the centre left is difficult. The Republicans have been an almost exclusively right wing conservative party for decades. Even those in the establishment who have resisted the insurgency of the so called tea party can be pretty scary.

Democrats too have shifted rightwards. Bill Clinton founded the ‘New Democrats’ before Blair’s New Labour and, inspite of all the talk of change, the Obama Presidency has turned out to be pretty much business as usual in most areas.On human rights and civil liberties in particular the administration varies little from its predecessors. The prison at Guantanamo Bay remains open and the draconian Patriot Act firmly in place.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Blair’s other legacy

It is inevitable given that it became the issue that defined his premiership – the failed invasion of Iraq will be seen as Blair’s great legacy.

He got plenty of other things wrong too, but for all his words about a progressive majority, his inaction on electoral reform paved the way for majority right wing government.

Had he been brave enough to face down the conservative forces in his own party we could have seen the 1999 Jenkins commission proposals implemented.

He wasn’t.

In his excellent autobiography, Ming Campbell recalls his wife Elspeth whispering to Blair at John Smith’s funeral, ‘Don’t Forget The Liberals’. ‘I won’t’ was the response.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Let’s get some national campaigns going on issues the voters care about

Our Party is all about campaigning. It is what saved the old Liberal Party from extinction and what sustains us in difficult times. I know local parties up and down the country are running campaigns on many different issues, but we lack some important national ones.
What about Europe I hear you say, or the Human Rights Act?

Well, yes, the EU and human rights are important issues and we do have to campaign for them, but they are not high on people’s list of concerns.

Apart from Europe, we have individual initiatives launched by the leader or an MP, which is great. I am thinking in particular of Tim Farron’s prioritising of housing, and Norman Lamb on social care. However we need that little bit extra, something that really captures attention. What I am thinking of are issues where we can get out amongst the voters with a petition and potentially get lots of signature on equally important areas of policy that emphasise our social liberalism.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 18 Comments

We need more blue collar Liberals

There is plenty of debate across the political spectrum about how unrepresentative of the overall population our elected politicians are.

Much of this discussion focuses on the lack of women and BAME people in the corridors of power.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 43 Comments

Time to evaluate the privatisation of Royal Mail

The privatisation of Royal Mail was mooted by all the main political parties and finally happened under the last government.

Like a lot of the public sector, our postal service suffered from years of underinvestment and a failure to modernise.

The political consensus in the Thatcher years, and beyond, became public equals bad, private equals good.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 18 Comments

What a mess – the Labour leadership election

A lot of fellow Liberals, and indeed those from right across the political spectrum, will share my view that the current Labour Party leadership election has descended into farce.

The question is how and why did they come up with such a basket case of an electoral system.

Why not use a simple one member one vote system?

For the answer you have to go back more than thirty years to 1980 when the Labour leader was elected by the parliamentary party alone.

Following the disastrous Callaghan administration, the big unions wanted their say in choosing the Labour leader. At a conference in which they had 90% of the votes, they made sure they got it.

An electoral college was introduced with 40% of the vote reserved for unions which could be cast as block votes for their preferred candidate.

Over time this method came under pressure from both a hostile media and a New Labour leadership, determined to reduce union influence, but still get their much needed cash.

Posted in News | 45 Comments

A liberal century

In many ways the 20th century could be described as a socialist one.

Internationally parties using that label emerged gaining electoral strength, or in some cases,notably Russia, lead successful revolutions.

In Britain, Labour overtook a Liberal Party wracked by division and by 1945 they appeared totally dominant.But as the century ended the collapse of the regimes in Eastern Europe left socialism of the authoritarian variety totally discredited and the democratic socialist parties in the West struggling to define themselves.

Here Blair created New Labour, dropped Clause 4 and built a new philosophy that turned out to be ideologically hollow. A temporary rise in their electoral fortunes has now given way to what looks like another long period of opposition and the inevitable soul searching that goes with it. Their current current leadership election could even bring about a split.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 50 Comments

Opinion: The future of pensioner benefits

Our pensioners quite rightly enjoy a number of benefits and it was of course a Liberal government that introduced the old age pension over a century ago.

As part of the coalition it was a Lib Dem minister, Steve Webb, who steered through the legislation ensuring the triple lock and the introduction of auto enrolment for those workers without an occupational pension.

Great reforms, but with an ageing population there has been an increased focus on whether we can justify or indeed afford the universal payment of benefits such as Winter Fuel Allowance and free tv licences.

There is also need to focus on the issue of free transport concessions.

In my view, the starting point should be that as liberals we are committed to making sure retired people have a good level of support, but we are not about paying money to those who simply don’t need it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 32 Comments

Opinion: What if ?

In February 1974 Edward Heath called  a snap General Election in response to a second miners’ strike in three years. Heath famously posed the election as a decision on ‘Who Runs Britain’.

Despite opinion polls suggesting he would be returned to office and polling the highest number of votes, the vagaries of our electoral system meant Heath’s Tories not only failed to win a majority of seats, but actually got less than Labour. Historians suggest that the miners’ peaceful pursuit of their pay claim and an independent inquiry finding that there was justification for their dispute, dealt Heath a devastating blow.

The other big story of the election was the surge in the Liberal vote. From just over 11% in 1970, the party increased its share to nearly 20%, but again because of FPTP they only won a few more seats.

We all know what followed.

A weak attempt by Heath to remain in office, followed by a minority Labour government, and then another election which returned Wilson a small majority, the Winter of Discontent, Thatcherism, and all that followed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 9 Comments

Opinion: The Betting Industry and Animal Welfare

The proliferation of betting shops in our high streets and the associated issue of the amounts gambled on high stakes gaming machines have been the subject of intense political debate recently.

The welfare of animals in the betting industry, I am thinking in particular of racehorses, receives a lot less interest.

I have always been a very strong supporter of the rights of animals, but having developed a keen interest in horseracing a few years ago, I started to examine much more closely the treatment of the non-human participants in what is a multi-billion pound industry.

Horseracing is an international sport, with the top competitors going long distances to chase big prizes.

Two of the big welfare issues are the use of the whip and races that involve jumping over obstacles.

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