Author Archives: David Boyle

David Boyle writes… The missing explanation of public service failure

The doyen of Liberator magazine, Simon Titley, just sent me through a cutting from the Leicester Mercury which gives us just a glimpse at the reasons why public services became so expensive under New Labour.

The report tells us of the unused regional fire control centre for the East Midlands, standing empty in Castle Donington, but still costing £5,000 a day to run, with burgeoning interest accruing in the PFI contract. It wasn’t just the dream of regional government, or the manifest problems of PFI, that caused the problem here. It was another example of a huge …

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

Opinion: Only two cheers for community politics

I wasn’t there to hear the Birmingham conference back the community politics motion on Tuesday. I had meant to be but had to go back to London early.

It was one of those pieces of sacred Liberalism that you daren’t speak against, but I would have done. I’m not sorry it was passed but the party must also understand that there is another side to it.

Community politics may be a revolutionary doctrine, but BAD community politics – and we have practised some of that occasionally, let’s face it – damages the party and damages the political process.

I know I’m …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Opinion: What we should do if the USA defaults

You can’t use the phrase ‘perfect storm’ these days.  It is a cliché. But how do you express, with sufficient clarity, the phenomenon of a financial tsunami and a financial hurricane happening at the same time?
 
Because we need to start asking how we might cope if the very worst happens – as well it might – and both the US government and key European nations default on their burgeoning debts at the same time?
 
The euro has been rescued by the latest bail-out, but an American default would unravel that and cause a second banking crisis, far more …

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

Opinion: Time to publish the magical ratio

A week is a long time in politics, but it also sometimes seems to move at a glacial pace.

It is now two decades since Bill Clinton won the presidency on the slogan that ‘trickle down economics’ doesn’t work. Yet even a couple of years ago, there was Labour’s Peter Mandelson being ‘relaxed’ about people getting ‘filthy rich’.

Well, finally things seem to be shifting. Even Max Hastings, of all people, writes in the Financial Times that “gross disparities seems likely sooner or later to promote an upheaval, perhaps graver now than most western societies can now envisage.”

It certainly seems to …

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

Opinion: It’s all my fault!

For the past half century, the party has been growing steadily in influence and numbers. There have been electoral set-backs (1970, 1989, and now 2011). The question is: is this our nadir?

And what will decide if this is really the low point, or if we are doomed to carry on sinking in the esteem of the public?

Most commentators have talked this question in terms of short term issues, like how the party manages to play the coalition. But actually there is something far more fundamental that requires attention.

It is whether we can …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 46 Comments

Opinion: The next big idea – humanity

The cacophony from Facebook, the blogosphere and all the rest of the Twitterati sometimes drives out what is most significant.  But every so often someone writes something that you know is important for the future.

Neal Lawson is an indefinable character.  His Compass campaign group is a fountain of new ideas designed to revitalise the Labour Party.  He is no friend of the Liberal Democrats, but neither is an enemy or party to the destructive game of name-calling and innuendo that characterises the Labour campaign in Oldham East and Saddleworth.

I also believe his article in the Guardian, with a slightly …

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

Opinion: RBS bonuses this year. Don’t.

If there is one issue where destiny seems be demanding the Liberal Democrats to be bold, it is the issue of Britain’s dysfunctional banking system. Ninety per cent of the banking industry goes through the Big Six in the UK, some of which are not actually UK banks at all – and, in those circumstances, it is hardly surprising that they don’t do the job that needs doing. Funding local enterprise.

A fortnight or so ago, things were looking quite bleak, at least for the coalition’s will to act. George Osborne had indicated that he wasn’t going to force the banks to be transparent …

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

Opinion: Cleggmania in reverse, or the right side of the revolt

You only had to open last week’s Observer to realise what a lot the party leader has on his plate at the moment. As well as dealing with the ‘Petition of 104’, the constant repetition in the paper of the ‘liar’ tag was pretty unpleasant.

Nick Clegg has managed to survive the battering with great dignity so far. But it is hardly surprising that the commentariat are currently writing off his party.

I think they are wrong. But the health of the Lib Dems depends on staying on the correct side of the revolt.

Just set aside …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 54 Comments

Opinion: The Tea Party – lessons for the Liberal Democrats

The Tea Party movement is even now preparing for its first big electoral test.  Banners are being printed, bumper stickers peeled, computerised push-pollers tested.

They are a frightening prospect for European liberals.  Perhaps any foreign radical movement looks bizarre to outsiders, but the combination of Sarah Palin, red-neck fundamentalists and the shadowy Koch brothers with their billions is a fearsome prospect.

Yet the Tea Party has lessons for us, even if it doesn’t make its way over here – which in some form or another it seems likely to do.

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

Opinion: time to take on the Thing

The avalanche of cuts that are due to be announced later this month could decide the fate of the government, perhaps even of the country. Most Liberal Democrats I know are extremely nervous about, and they are right to be.

But beyond the arguments about the deficit and the national debt, there are other reasons why some cuts – the right cuts – might be a welcome opportunity. I believe this, I suppose, because of William Cobbett.

Cobbett was the great radical campaigner, as much of an influence on the future Liberal Party as Cobden or Bright, and he used …

Posted in Op-eds | 19 Comments

Conference policy motion: “Giving citizens a voice in parliament”

I was a local government reporter in Oxford in the dark days of the 1980s. No public question time. No scrutiny. No appeals of any kind.

I even remember one definitely old Labour councillor telling me that he screwed up and threw away letters from his constituents, without reading them, if they had the temerity to send them to his home address. Or, worse – address him in ways that seemed not to reflect the dignity of his position.

Liberals and SDP councillors around the country were then introducing the right of members of the public to address council meetings, or ask

Posted in Conference | Tagged | 6 Comments

Opinion: Nuclear? Not now!

Imagine, for a moment, that the terrifying secrets of nuclear fission did not wait until the wartime dash for knowledge under Robert Oppenheimer. Let’s imagine, instead, that the basis for nuclear energy was developed closer to Einstein’s breakthrough, maybe just before the Great Depression.

Ask yourself, what would the Chamberlain government have done with nuclear energy in the weeks after the outbreak of war, expecting at any time the drone of Nazi bombers? It doesn’t take much imagination. They would have abandoned such tempting and potentially devastating targets, just as they abandoned BBC television because its transmissions could guide bombers.

So how are we to understand the Brown government’s determination to press ahead with a vastly expensive investment in nuclear energy, with all the concomitant transport of plutonium and nuclear waste, at a time when we are supposed to be facing an unprecedented external threat? Are we really facing such a terrorist threat after all? Or is modern government hopelessly in thrall to departmental divisions, to the extent that one department deals with risks and another deals with something else entirely?

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments
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