Author Archives: Edwin Moriarty

Are we spending enough on our military?

I recently attended a seminar led by a specialist in international relations, and one of those attending asked “How likely do you think it is that the UK will fight a conventional war in the next ten years?”. Without any hesitation the reply came: “Almost certain.”

It’s hard to avoid noticing the changing political environment we find ourselves, both at home and abroad. For the first time in decades, the prospect of large-scale non-nuclear war seems plausible (though President Trump seems keen on removing “non-nuclear” from that equation). Russia’s aggressive actions can’t be written off as isolated incidents, and the situation in the Middle East is even worse than it was a decade ago.

It’s very likely that, due to aggression against us or our allies we will be at war again in the not too distant future. As someone who has always fancied themselves a pacifist, this is all a bit depressing, but it would be naive to think that my wishes have any impact on reality. It seems important, therefore, that we continue to meet our spending commitments to NATO, however many reservations we have about the use of military force.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

A new propaganda

Very nearly every political movement since the late 18th century has its roots in the enlightenment, from American constitutionalism to the rational imperialism of Napoleon. It is hard to overstate its influence on every strand of modern political thought, from conservatism to socialism to liberalism. All built on this revelation: that facts matter more than faith, and reason is greater than fear.

The fascism of Italy, that spread like wildfire across Europe and then the rest of the world, was not built on the foundations of the enlightenment. It was instead a rejection of the values espoused by it, a direct reaction to reason and humanism. Fascism dictates that acting as one is more important than what is actually true, and that the truth dictated by those in power is supreme to any other, no matter what evidence might say. As Sartre said: “ have chosen hate because hate is a faith to them; at the outset they have chosen to devalue words and reasons.”

I recently finished reading Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev, a harrowing account of the post-Soviet media under Putin’s regime. He describes how the propaganda under Putin, like that of the Nazi Party and the Italian Fascists before it, works not by espousing a single version of the truth, but by undermining the very concept of truth. It calls into doubt all sources, until the public believes none, and instead sees all truth merely as an act of faith. Evidence is not of intrinsic worth in a such an environment, but is instead perceived to be a rhetorical tool like any other.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 49 Comments

Banning the burqa is not the answer

Angela Merkel has this week called for a ban of the full-face veil (burqa) “wherever legally possible”. While many of us in the UK may be uncomfortable with the cultural assumptions behind the wearing of the burqa, it’s important for us to remember that, as liberals, we should enshrine wherever possible the right to decide how you live your life and practice your faith, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. A ban of the burqa is an illiberal assault on religious and cultural freedoms.

Unfortunately, there is another side to this issue – there is great concern, both from moderate muslims in the UK, and from wider observers, that some number of women are forced to wear the burqa or otherwise endure cultural or religious burdens that they do not want. Stripping away the rights of another, and forcing them to act as you will with threats of violence, exclusion, monetary penalties and more is abuse, and we need to tackle that with all seriousness.

Posted in Op-eds | 37 Comments

Creative commons government

As much as it saddens us we need to be realistic about our electoral chances over the next few years. We have the opportunity, especially with the ongoing collapse of the Labour Party, to do quite well, but we have a very tall mountain to climb – to come back from just 8 seats to a position of potential government is a tall order.

That doesn’t mean that we should give up, of course, but it does mean that we should look at alternative ways of having influence over the politics and governance of the country. If our prospects of getting into government soon are minimal, then we should consider how we can get other parties to implement our policies.

Policy is perhaps our greatest strength; because of the unusually broad selection of views inside the party, particularly in the sense of the left to right spectrum, our policy is more robustly examined before adoption than policy in many other parties. When Labour or the Conservatives release policy, it speaks of a specific author and outlook, and it is only at first exposure to the public and discerning voices that compromise is forced upon it. For the Lib Dems, compromise is something we do before we let other people see our policies.

This means that our policies are remarkably acceptable to a broad sweep of people, and how much the Lib Dems managed to achieve as the junior partner in the coalition government is not just testimony to the hard work of our MPs and party members working to support them, but also to the consistency and practicality of our policy positions.

If our goal is to make the UK a more liberal place, then we should focus on achieving that goal regardless of if we are in power or not. That means not just campaigning, but drafting policy with the intention of it being used by other parties, and even encouraging other parties to adopt it.

Posted in News | Tagged | 15 Comments

Liberal Democrats need to have radical solutions to collapse of industrial communities

It is with more than a little sadness and apprehension that I watch the drawn-out self destruction of the Labour Party, as its leader, a man who I once respected and liked, seems hell bent on bringing Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition to its knees. The details of this destruction have been covered extensively in other places, and I won’t repeat them here, but one thread does deeply concern me as a liberal: the seeming blindness the Labour Party has to industry and the traditional worker.

Britain’s industrial past, I believe, played a key part in the result of the EU referendum, where those who feel disenfranchised by the crippling of their communities, and the industrial centre that were once at their heart, did what they felt they needed to in order to enact a change. Labour’s solution to this has, broadly, been to carry on as they were and to promise a restoration of this industrial past.

We live in an era of hard truths.

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I should have joined the Lib Dems years ago

One of my earliest memories is sitting on my father’s shoulders, protesting the poll tax. I don’t remember much, just the feeling of all those people being together, a community outraged by what was happening.

A few years later, I stayed up with my parents to watch the 1997 election. When the exit polls came through, they popped champagne. I remember my mum crying: “it’s over and we’ll have socialism again”. Sometimes people live a stereotype all too easily.

As I grew up, it seemed preordained. My parents became more and more disillusioned by Blair, but for me any time before New Labour was a distant blur. When I could vote, I voted Labour without question – who else would I vote for?

When the coalition came to power, my parents prophesied doom. Many of my friends had voted Lib Dem, on the strength of their promises about tuition fees and in the thrall of Cleggmania, but I hadn’t. I voted Labour, of course. It was in my blood. Not being able to imagine anything else, I joined the party.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments

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