Author Archives: Ed Long

Conference Countdown 2016: Tackling global corruption should be a core Liberal campaign

On April 3 2016, just under 12 million documents were leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca containing financial details on over 200,000 offshore companies. While the bulk of our nation’s media coverage was of David Cameron’s family investment fund – Blairmore Holdings – and the former Prime Minister of Iceland’s resignation, most news outlets underplayed the real significance of the investigation: the details of shell companies used to profit from criminal activity and how the lack of transparency in opaque jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles or Bahamas provides cover for organisations involved in people trafficking, narcotics, selling arms to despotic regimes and terrorism.

On Saturday, Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats are moving a motion demanding that the UK calls time on the lack of progress in our overseas territories and sets a deadline for the implementation of centralised registers which make the beneficial ownership of companies available both to relevant authorities and to the public.

The UK has a strong record in this area: Vince Cable drove forward the development of legislation for Companies House to implement a register of Persons of Significant Control during the coalition and the register is now starting to be filled with statements of beneficial ownership. It is due for completion in June 2017.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 8 Comments

Introducing ALDES

ALDES logo

New members have been asking about Lib Dem organisations that they can join.  You are welcome to submit similar items on behalf of other organisations.

Most politicians make positive noises about supporting science and engineering in the UK but, as far as we know, the Liberal Democrats are the only party that mentions it in their constitution. Paragraph 3 reads:

“We will promote scientific research and innovation and will harness technological change to human advantage.”

The Association of Liberal Democrat Engineers and Scientists (Aldes) is the group for party members who wish to debate, learn and campaign on policy matters in this area. We were founded over 20 years ago in 1991 and have contributed to the party since in numerous ways:

Posted in Lib Dem organisations | Tagged | 12 Comments

Opinion: Are you a STEM champion?

Do we need more scientists and engineers in government? The question is a tough one. Of course it’s easy to find examples of scientific illiteracy in parliamentary debate, and it can be frustrating for followers of politics to see policies adopted seemingly without any framework to test their efficacy in a structured and unbiased way (though there has been some progress in that area). On the other hand, MPs without science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) backgrounds can be great advocates for science and engineering, and are perfectly capable of debating technical issues with great insight and sensitivity – Conservative MP Jane Ellison, for example, handled the recent debate on mitochondrial donation admirably.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 30 Comments

Team Science wants YOU

AldesAt the last general election, support for the Liberal Democrats was buoyed by more than just Cleggmania: the party enjoyed particularly strong support from scientists and science commentators. Much of this was on the strength of Evan Harris’s foregrounding of evidence-based policy and support for reform of the outdated libel laws that saw author Simon Singh sued by the British Chiropractic Association. In the run up to the election, the party was endorsed by Richard Dawkins, and polls by Nature and Chemistry World revealed a majority of their readers saw our party as those most likely to table science-friendly policies.

Mark Henderson (author of The Geek Manifesto), wrote:

The Lib Dems have so far made the strongest case for the science vote. The extra detail that Clegg has now provided reinforces the view that they have most to offer.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Opinion: A ringfence is not enough for the science budget

The party has recently been trailing hints of the content and priorities of the new manifesto. One released last week was an announcement touting a ringfence of the science budget. They write:

The manifesto plans include ringfencing the science research budget and introducing a green innovation arm to the British Business Bank.

It’s great that the manifesto team have chosen to flag investment in science and innovation as a reason to vote Liberal Democrat in the 2015 general election, but what a meagre and unambitious announcement this was. One worrying sign is the wording mentioning only the ‘research budget’, which raises the concern that this ringfence might be a fig leaf hiding underspending in capital investment for science, as we saw in the early years of the current coalition government – though the 2014 budget went some way towards plugging the gap in capital spending in the sector.

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

Opinion: Don’t Spy On Us — a Lib Dem call to action

GCHQ Building at Cheltenham, GloucestershireLast weekend the Don’t Spy On Us coalition (a grouping comprising the Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, English PEN, Liberty, Article 19 and Privacy International) held a day of action seeking to lay practical groundwork for a stronger international movement to protect digital civil liberties. Jenny Woods, one of our party’s most active campaigners in this area, and I attended the afternoon, which had some important take-away messages for the Lib Dems.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Demonstrating how the Lib Dem policy of raising income tax thresholds IS an irrefutably progressive step

Another week, another attack on Lib Dem tax plans. This one comes from Kayte Lawton, Senior Research Fellow at the IPPR, whose publication on Coalition Tax Policy concludes that raising income tax thresholds is regressive in its impact.

What do terms like ‘regressive’ or ‘progressive’ mean? Quantitatively, it’s a little difficult to define: we’re not talking about a single number, but about a distribution – the shape of a graph. If we consider net gains to an individual and order our data by income percentile, then a progressive distribution of gains would slope down from left to right; if we’re …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Opinion: Tracey Emin – a litmus test of individualism

Last week I spent a drizzly London afternoon wandering around Tracey Emin’s retrospective show at the Hayward Gallery. Having seen several of her pieces individually before and otherwise mostly being exposed to her through (often outraged) media coverage I was sceptical of her practice and had filed her as someone who aimed for controversy and provocation over profundity and human experience. I came away from the exhibition impressed, deeply affected and entirely transformed in my opinion. Now with Emin again in the headlines after donating her neon piece ‘More Passion’ to the government art collection, a variety of commentators are …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: fix our school system and stop uni-bashing

As a former constituent and activist in Bermondsey and Old Southwark I greatly enjoyed campaigning on behalf of Simon Hughes and have a lot of respect for his approach to policy and the hard work he puts in, especially meeting face to face with local voters and community groups. I was shocked, however, to read quotes from Simon on the front page of Saturday’s Guardian calling on universities to ‘cut intake’ from independent schools in order to match nationally ‘representative’ proportions: 7.2% was his quoted figure for the proportion of students we ought to aim at coming from an …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 34 Comments

Opinion: science should be protected from the cuts

It’s been a heady week for British science in the wake of the Nobel prize announcements.

British reproductive biologist Robert Edwards was awarded the prize for medicine for his role in developing the in-vitro fertilisation techniques that led to the world’s first “test-tube baby”. In the same awards, the prize for physics was given to a pair of Russian-born scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who we are lucky enough to have currently working at Manchester University. Incidentally, Geim is also an Ig Nobel laureate for developing an experiment in which he levitated a live frog using magnetic fields acting …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 22 Comments

Opinion: Hitting who the hardest?

The contents of the emergency budget have been a bitter pill for many Lib Dem activists to swallow. I have to admit that my support for the Liberal Democrats has been mostly on the basis of their commitment to civil liberties, their scientific literacy (Evan Harris is greatly missed!) and their hard work in my local area. I can make no claims about being educated in economics but I like to think my Maths degree qualifies me as basically numerate.

Recently I read The Observer story on the briefing from Tim Horton (of Fabian Society, not doughnut, fame) and Howard …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 41 Comments

Geeking the Vote

The Geek the Vote campaign has started spreading the message that the Liberal Democrats have the strongest case for building a geek-friendly Britain. I registered the domain name and started work on the site on Monday lunchtime. By Wednesday evening we had 408 Facebook fans, 272 supportive tweets using our campaign hashtag #geekthevote and a mention in the London Evening Standard.

Geeks are an emerging force in the political game. I personally became more interested in politics through following a number of single-issue campaigns online: Ben Goldacre’s tireless assault on irrationalism in public health (among other issues); a petition …

Posted in Op-eds | 6 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Adam Robertson
    @Peter Martin - How many seats did the Lib Dems win simply because the Tory/Reform was split? Yes we won seats because the Tory/Reform vote was split. However, ...
  • David Raw
    @ Tristan Ward I'm afraid Winston Churchill came a thousand years later than, "the early 10th century Liberal Party", and I'm afraid the good folk of Dundee...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Alex, “How many seats did the Lib Dems win simply because the Tory/Reform vote was split?” "Probably not very many actually." "Actual...
  • David Raw
    @ Tristan Ward Lessons of History ? Not advisable to ride on the back of an alligator, no matter how vulnerable and docile it may appear at first sight ....
  • Tristan Ward
    @David Raw Yes it was the alliance between liberal forces and conservative forces that led to the decline in the early 10th century Liberal Party. But liber...