Author Archives: George Kendall

What kind of Universal Basic Income do you support?

There has been a lot of debate in the party about Universal Basic Income, but it’s not always been clear what kind of UBI is being proposed. This article is to ask you to choose from four clear options.

A key issue with UBI is how it will be funded, and if it is funded, whether other priorities will have to be dropped. In the 2019 election, Jeremy Corbyn proposed raising taxes by £80bn/yr. The Liberal Democrats proposed an extra £51bn/yr spending (this included a £14bn/yr ‘remain bonus’)

The four options below involve combinations of the cheapest of the schemes recommended by Compass and the spending from the 2019 Lib Dem manifesto.

  1. £191.9bn/yr extra taxes

Scheme 1 from the Compass paper (see below), plus the £51bn/yr spending from the 2019 Lib Dem manifesto

  1. £140.9bn/yr extra taxes

Scheme 1 from the Compass paper (see below), none of the 2019 Lib Dem manifesto implemented

  1. £61bn/yr extra taxes
  • Keep the £51bn/yr extra spending from the 2019 manifesto
  • £10bn/yr to move the UK benefits system more towards a negative income tax system
  • A UBI pilot scheme (cost very small)
  1. £51bn/yr extra taxes
  • Keep the £51bn/yr extra spending from the 2019 manifesto
  • A UBI pilot scheme (cost very small)

The UBI Scheme 1 in the above options comes from proposals in the paper written by Howard Reed and Stewart Lansley and published by Compass. It is outlined in the graphic below, along with Scheme 2, which is more expensive.

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As well as saying which of the above four you prefer, do also give us your ideal option.

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Why social democrats are more left wing than the hard left

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Tories sneer when they use the term “left wing”. They point to the terrible failures of authoritarian states like North Korea. But if left wing is about poverty reduction, why do we let them call North Korea left wing?

In contrast to its northern neighbour, South Korea has had extraordinary success in reducing poverty, whereas “leftwing” oil-rich Venezuela has been a catastrophe.

If some states that call themselves “leftwing” aren’t, the same is true of political activists.

In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn proposed a radical manifesto. But the IFS and the Resolution Foundation found that Corbyn’s manifesto failed to reverse many cuts to the poorest, in dramatic contrast to the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

Poverty reduction is hard. Many well-meaning projects in international development have failed. They needed the warning of dissenting voices. The same is true in the UK, but when anyone pointed out the failings of Corbyn’s manifesto on social media, the red mists of anger descended on the hard left.

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Can we ignore government guidelines if they aren’t legally enforceable?

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Dominic Cummings’ reckless behaviour has opened a rats nest that could undermine the battle against the pandemic.

If we thought that all government rules were the same, we were mistaken. There are two kinds:

  • regulations where the police can fine us if we break them. For example restrictions on our movement (see regulation 6 here).
  • guidelines where the police can’t take action. For example, the guidelines to stay at home if you are infected.

Remember this when you read the following quibble from a Number 10 spokesperson: “The police have made clear they are taking no action against Mr Cummings over his self-isolation and that going to Durham did not breach the regulations.”

What the Durham police actually said was: “Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence… (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)”

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Lack of humility could kill us

One of the most impressive threads I’ve seen on Twitter about Coronavirus is by Professor Francois Balloux, a computational/system biologist working on infectious diseases, who has spent five years in a world class ‘pandemic response modelling’ unit.

What solution did he offer?

He offered none, and that was what was so impressive.

He said that, after considerable study, he had failed to identify the best course of action, and wasn’t even sure there was an acceptable solution.

He thought a more severe wave of the pandemic in the winter is the most plausible scenario. He linked to the graph below of the deaths …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 44 Comments

How broad a church should the Lib Dems be?

The Liberal Democrats have always been a broad church. From the Ashdown-Kennedy revival to 2010, we had seats in traditional rural areas like Devon and Cornwall, as well as university towns and other more urban areas. We welcomed members too with a wide range of backgrounds and values. This followed the tradition of tolerance in the Liberal party from 1859, and with the principle of freedom of conscience championed by our constitution.

But is our broad church weakening?

In 2010, we lost many of these rural seats, and we’ve struggled to recover them following the 2016 Brexit Referendum.

Some in the party argue that, to make an impact, we should stop appealing to a broad coalition. We should make uncompromising statements, however much it alienates some existing voters and members. That we could write off old areas of strength, and instead pursue less traditional seats, such as affluent metropolitan constituencies and university towns.

When there is a real risk of a Tory hegemony, I think this is a terrible mistake. It would gift the Tories places where only we can beat the Tories. And instead shift our fight to where we are competing with Labour.

Posted in Op-eds | 110 Comments

If we make Jeremy Corbyn PM, we’ll leave with no deal

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn often tell me not to quote the Murdoch media. They forgot their own advice when they retweeted a false claim by Sky NewsSky’s Jon Craig implied that Jo Swinson was the only leader opposed to Corbyn as leader of a government of national unity. Yet Anna Soubry the leader of Change UK was at the meeting, and she is resolutely opposed to Corbyn, as are most of the 34 independents. So many that, even if the Lib Dems did support him, Corbyn wouldn’t have a majority.
Nonetheless, the Labour and SNP leaderships constantly push this attack line. As these attacks seem to be worrying a few Lib Dems, let’s consider what would happen if we did what they say.

Corbyn’s policy is to extend article 50, then have a general election. If this results in a Labour government, he would negotiate his own version of Brexit and then have a referendum. Of course, if Johnson won that election, we would instantly leave the EU with no deal. That this doesn’t worry Corbyn raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions.

Ellie Mae O’Hagan, no friend of ours, makes an important point in this tweet. If the Lib Dems installed Corbyn as interim leader, it would devastate the chances of hundreds of Lib Dems trying to unseat Tory MPs. Forget Chuka Ummuna replacing Mark Field, Luciana Berger replacing Mike Freer, Phillip Lee replacing John Redwood. What O’Hagan fails to point out is that, if the Lib Dems committed political suicide in this way, the Tories would be all but guaranteed a majority in the coming election and so the country would almost certainly leave with no deal.

So why are Labour and the SNP laying into the Lib Dems? Why claim our insistence on a compromise candidate for PM will increase the chance of a hard brexit? They ignored us for years, why attack us now?

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What I’d change about the coalition

Since 2010, I’ve been very loyal to the Liberal Democrats.

There were many things I disliked during the Coalition, but I kept silent for fear of feeding the ridiculous exaggerated attacks on our party. Deficit reduction was hard, but in the lifetime of the Coalition, the amount cut was similar to Labour’s 2010 plans.

After the Coalition, my party was in a dire state, so for the same reason, I kept quiet about my concerns.

Only now the party is surging in the opinion polls do I feel free to say what I wish we’d done in Coalition. This article is to encourage those who are thinking about joining the party but are worried about what happened between 2010 and 2015, that they will have friends in the party. I also want to reassure new members that it’s okay to disagree with party policy, as long as you agree with the broad principles laid out in the preamble of the party’s constitution.

Below are three of my concerns about the Coalition.

(1) The decision to raise the income tax threshold. It was expensive; for the low paid, much of the benefit was clawed back with reduced benefits; and without it, we could have cut a little less severely. The suggestion of the IFS, to increase the amount the low paid could earn without losing their means-tested benefits, would have been far better targeted at helping low-income families.

(2) The bedroom tax. On paper, it sounded sensible. The idea of reallocating large family houses from those who didn’t need them to those who did wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. But local councils weren’t required to provide suitable alternative accommodation. I’m glad that, in 2014, we changed our position.

(3) Local government cuts. These were far too deep. It’s a natural instinct for a central government that wants to cut expenditure to foist a disproportionate burden onto local government. I wish we had vetoed this.

However, I don’t want to give the impression that I have any sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn when he rails against the Coalition. We held the Tories back on some truly savage cuts. Cuts which were quickly introduced when the Tories won a majority in 2015.

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Success will bring a painful challenge and we must embrace it

We’ve had an extraordinarily successful month. Back in April, we were written off, now we are clear leaders of a national movement that potentially includes over half the country. But we must be prepared for the cost of success.
Many who want a People’s Vote will join us, but they won’t agree with all our policies. A key part of our values is the belief that people should not be enslaved by conformity and should think for themselves.  Well, that belief is going to be put to the test.
There are many thousands of social democrats who are disgusted with Corbyn’s economic illiteracy, his hardline socialism, and his supporters’ intolerance of anyone who disagrees with him. If these thousands join us, and especially if some of them are moderate Labour MPs, that will start to change the culture of our party.
There will be thousands of Tory members who are disgusted with the way their leadership have caved into populism, have put personal careers and party before country, and are leading the nation in a calamitous direction. If these thousands join us, and especially if some are moderate Tory MPs, that will start to change the culture of our party.
This will be painful but necessary. If we refused to be a broad church, then we’d only get narrow support and the two-party system would re-assert itself. If so, our country, as it suffered under a succession of governments led by dishonest populists of the left and right, would rightly treat us with contempt.
Of course, it’s only a small minority in our party who oppose the broad-based alliance needed to change our country’s direction. But they are a loud minority, and they call our potential fellow members “neoliberals”, “reactionaries”, “soggy centrists”, and “authoritarians”.
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 23 Comments

The Independent Group won’t explain what they stand for, but we need to

In February’s issue of Prospect, Chaminda Jayanetti asked: “We know what the Independent Group are against—but what on earth are they for?” They’re not going to give a clear answer any time soon. Why should they, when being all things to all people will draw in new supporters?

It’s different for us. What we believe has been consistently misrepresented for nine years. We have to explain clearer what are we for, if we are to correct this.

Some think we’ve become the party of Europe, the EU-KIP party. But that’s a short-term issue for the moment. We need to explain about what we are for on the other issues of key concern to the electorate.

In the Social Democrat Group, we’ve been trying to answer this question. To think about social democracy in the Liberal Democrats, and why we are social democrats.

For me, social democracy means three things:
1) Protecting and helping the vulnerable
2) Making this work for the whole electorate
3) Doing what works over the long-term

These are important, and they are in tension with each other.

Who the vulnerable are will vary. Someone may be rich and powerful, but if they are being mugged, at that moment they are vulnerable.

We need to be careful about what kind of help we offer. When asked, those in poverty sometimes define it as a lack of choice and a lack of dignity. In this area, I think the Liberal tradition has a lot to teach social democrats.

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Why I call myself a Social Democrat

I have lots of friends who call themselves Liberals, and I agree with almost everything they stand for. So why don’t I call myself a Liberal?

If I did, perhaps I wouldn’t be called an “authoritarian”. It’d be nice to avoid the insult, but I can’t call myself a Liberal if I don’t know what it means

Much of the time, politics is a battle between the rights of the individual and the needs of the wider community. To be useful, I would want liberalism to help me pick a side in these battles.

I think the need of the community to avoid mass killing by a rogue gun owner trumps the rights of individuals to own guns. Does that make me an authoritarian?

Forcing drivers to wear seat-belts is certainly a restriction on individual freedom. But I think that’s a price worth paying for a substantial reduction in road death. Does that make me an authoritarian?

We have significant taxation in this country, and that restricts the right of individuals to spend their wages on what they think best. But reducing poverty is a higher priority for me. Does that make me an authoritarian?

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“I’m scared. Please tell me that I’m wrong…”

Brexit will be a disaster. But it’s what comes after that really worries me.

Leaving the EU will be a catastrophe. Many firms will relocate their manufacturing to the EU. The alternative would be to lose easy access to just-in-time supply chains, and to have to store vast quantities of components in warehouses, at ruinous expense. It will mean a loss of control. We will lose our say in setting the regulations of the largest free trade zone in the world. In order to keep trading, we’ll then have to adopt these regulations with no say in how they develop. …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 80 Comments

Should Liberal Democrats get more angry at Corbyn and the Tories?

I’ve been getting more angry in my politics. In 2015, it was the post-coalition Tory savaging of the low paid, last year it was Vote Leave’s deceits, this year the hypocrisy of Corbyn in supporting welfare cuts.

But this week I was brought up short, when told I should stop looking for the speck in the eyes of my political opponents.

That stung. That section of the Bible has influenced me enormously. As a teenager, I memorised most of it. I constantly think of the impossible standards it sets, try to follow them, and of course dismally fail.

I think for Liberal Democrats, whatever our views, the influence of the teachings of Jesus runs deep. There are reasons for our reputation as the ‘nice’ party, perhaps through our nonconformist roots or our British culture.

But I have a love-hate relationship with that niceness. In the 2017 election, the Tories supported £9bn welfare cuts, Corbyn £7bn, we campaigned for no cuts. Yet, when Corbyn supporters claim the moral high ground on welfare, we let them.

Sometimes when faced with an obvious hypocrisy, it is best to ignore it. Matthew 5:22 says it can even be wrong just to get angry. It’s hard, but the teachings of Jesus were never meant to be easy.

Yet is this what the Bible as a whole always calls for, for Christians, or indeed for any who base their morality on the teachings of Jesus?

When Jesus saw traders ripping off the poor in the temple, he got angry. Was he right to? If so, maybe there are situations where anger is a good thing. After all, if neuroscience shows that anger is an intrinsic part of us, maybe it’s there for a reason.

Posted in Op-eds | 28 Comments

Policy pitch: Divert money from Tax Credits to Lifelong Training Accounts

Have you ever heard the following?
“The government should stop subsidising exploitation wages.”
“I work hard for my money. Families on child tax credits need to get up off their backsides.”
If you’ve canvassed on council estates you probably have. And, no doubt, the #labservatives have too, which is why both of them supported massive cuts to welfare.
There are good reasons for continuing with in-work benefits. The policy of both Labour and the Conservatives is to raise the minimum wage and cut benefits. This will result in employers replacing lower paid employees with automation; reorganising

Posted in Op-eds | 80 Comments

Apologies for the “fringe of Conference”

The Social Democrat Group event last Monday was described as the “fringe of the conference” and “by far best #ldconf Brexit discussion yet“. However, hundreds may have been disappointed, and for that we apologise.
Entitled “Can Britain’s relationship with Europe be saved?”, and jointly organised with Policy Network, it was a fantastic discussion, with far too much substance to cover properly in a single LibDemVoice article. To listen to or watch a recording of the event, go to http://www.ldsdgroup.co.uk/events/can-britains-relationship-with-europe-be-saved/.
The event opened with Roger Liddle, Labour peer and co-chair of Policy Network, which jointly organised the event. He thought the Tories would stick together and do some kind of Brexit deal. He said there would be a transition deal before a final deal, and he correctly predicted that May’s speech this week in Florence would say so. He warned this would make campaigning to remain in the EU more difficult. It would mean a transitional deal where little changed for two years, so that the British public would only discover how catastrophic Brexit was two years after we had already left. Roger suggested that we would therefore leave, and the battle would then be to rejoin. However, he said this is a battle we can win.
Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, emphasised that we are democrats, we are not afraid of the will of the people, and so we should propose a referendum on exit terms. To convince the public how dangerous Brexit is, we need to find language to bring a divided country together. We must keep raising this issue, including “the dreaded conversation over the Christmas turkey”. We also need to persuade the EU too to change its language. Some comments from Jean-Claude Juncker have been unhelpfully divisive.
The chair of the meeting, Sarah Ludford, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats on Brexit in the Lords and is a former MEP, agreed, saying that some in the EU “just saw us as a pain in the backside” without appreciating the significant positive contribution the UK has brought to the EU.
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If we want to save Britain’s relationship with Europe, we mustn’t demand a second referendum

Too many people have given up on saving our relationship with Europe.

At present, things don’t look good. We’ve an incompetent government, flirting with exiting without a deal. A Prime Minister who has swayed like a weather vane, supported Remain, but, now it is expedient, advocates an extreme Brexit.

We’ve a charlatan of an opposition leader, who claims he supported our membership of the EU, but sabotaged the Labour Referendum campaign, and has since used his power as leader of the opposition to promote an extreme Brexit.

However, we shouldn’t lose heart. Brexiters are nervous, and with good reason. They know, if public opinion shifts, unprincipled politicians will turn on a sixpence.

As a party, we’ve made a referendum on exit terms the centre of our campaigning. But is that wise? Surely it’s pointless to campaign for a referendum we’d lose. Instead, our focus must be on changing minds.

Many politicians are terrified of the electorate, despite knowing full well what a disaster Brexit will be. However, if public opinion changes, and the majority demand the final say over whether the Brexit deal on offer is acceptable, most MPs will be happy to give it to them.

So how do we change minds?

Not with insults. Insulting our opponents can be cathartic, but when we resort to name calling, we’re losing the argument.

The winners of this Brexit debate will be those who can make the public angry with their opponents. If the public are angry with us for contemptuously dismissing those who voted Leave in the Referendum, we’ll lose. But if the public are angry with those who lied to get a Brexit without a workable plan, then we’ll win.

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If they say you’re a Red Tory or a Yellow Tory, ask about Corbyn’s welfare cuts

Jeremy Corbyn’s team had promised to reverse child tax credit cuts, but in their 2017 manifesto, they did nothing of the sort as the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows:

Corbyn’s manifesto planned to increase taxes by £46bn per year and to borrow an extra £350bn. With so much extra funding, there was enough to honour their promises on welfare, so voters could be forgiven for assuming that they would.
In his first leadership election, Corbyn said: “Families are suffering enough. We shouldn’t play the government’s political games when the welfare of children is at stake”.  This issue of welfare cuts is why he defeated his Labour rivals for the leadership, because they had previously abstained on a number of votes.
In autumn 2015, John McDonnell, his Shadow Chancellor, didn’t just commit not to implement these cuts, he promised to reverse those that had already happened: “We are calling on Osborne to reverse his decision to cut tax credits. If he doesn’t reverse these cuts, we’re making it clear that we will”.
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How to win people over to the Liberal Democrats

When I’ve heard strong disagreements about Brexit, whether the coalition was a good idea or not, or who should be welcome in the party, I’ve often thought of this video from Christians in Politics.

It features our very own Sarah Dickson, Director of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum.

It has a simple message. The importance of disagreeing well.

It’s an important message, not just for Christians or just for Easter. And it’s important for everyone involved in politics.

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Why aren’t our poll ratings higher?

On the train to Spring conference, as I was chatting with a student, I mentioned I was a Lib Dem. He said: “Aren’t they the party that saved the country, and then got destroyed because of it?”

My first thought was: “Wow! Student opinion has shifted since 2010.” But I also noted that he didn’t realise how much we’ve recovered since the last General Election.

Posted in Op-eds | 56 Comments

Social justice in a time of deficits

Liberal Democrats, and social democrats in the Labour party, share two key priorities. We want to improve social justice, and, to fund that work, we need to strengthen the economy.

We’ve often argued about the best way to do this, both within our parties and between them. But the decisions of the 2010-2015 parliament are behind us, and we need to look forward.

Unfortunately, deficits aren’t in the past. Since 2010, the deficit, when adjusted for the economic cycle, has fallen by about 40%. But it’s still around £65 billion a year. And the existing deficit is only one of our challenges.

Each year, the age profile of the UK gets older. As it does, the pressure on the NHS and other services increases, and the pressure on the government budget grows.

This will probably be made worse by Brexit.

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The Iraq War must no longer poison our relations with Labour

What would we remember of the Labour government, if Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attack fifteen years ago had never happened? If Labour had listened to the advice of Robin Cook and John Denham, and not engaged in the catastrophe of the Iraq war?

Many of us will remember Robin Cook’s electrifying resignation speech. If only he were alive today. However, he was not the only Labour minister to step down from government office because of the Iraq war. In his prescient resignation speech, on the 18th March, 2003, John Denham said:

If we act in the wrong way, we will create more of the problems that we aim to tackle. For every cause of insecurity with which we try to deal, we shall create a new one.

This summer, I was an observer at the Fabian and Progress summer conferences. I didn’t hear anyone try to defend the Iraq war, and a number agreed it had been a terrible mistake. In fact, if you substituted the word Labour for Liberal Democrat, almost everything that was said could have been said at a Liberal Democrat conference, and probably will be in this coming week.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 30 Comments

WANTED! Prime Minister for poisoned chalice of post Brexit Britain

I have an article in the New Statesman, asking why anyone would want to be Prime Minister if we vote to Leave. I’d be interested in what you think on this issue, so please do comment below.

If we vote for Brexit, and a Leave campaigner becomes Prime Minister, their every word of reassurance will be repeated back to them a thousand-fold.

As the country lurched into recession, economists would point out that 90% of them had predicted this. Voters would ask the new Prime Minister, why did you say Project Fear was a lie?

If David Cameron remained Prime Minister, and tried to mitigate the damage would be denounced as a betrayal. If he tried to stay in the single market, they’d scream, “We voted to end freedom of movement.” If he delayed invoking Article 50 they’d hound him till he did. And every set-back would be blamed on his “weak and pathetic” negotiating skills.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 14 Comments

The left should follow John McDonnell and stop being anti-austerity

When we use the word ‘austerity’, what do people hear?

Do they hear a reasoned argument for why Tory cuts are ideological and unnecessary? That cutting slower will prevent the economy stalling, will allow a faster recovery, and will reduce the deficit faster.

I fear not.

More likely, they hear someone who wants to get us into a never-ending spiral of debt.

Have you heard the quote: “If you’re putting the rent on the credit card month after month, things need to change”.

Posted in News | Tagged | 84 Comments

World poverty is falling. Bernie Sanders would reverse that

I love it when Bernie Sanders calls for the USA to be more like social democratic Europe. Unfortunately, that’s not all he is campaigning for.

On his campaign web page, he says:

If corporate America wants us to buy their products they need to manufacture those products in this country, not in China or other low-wage countries.

That statement is very dangerous.

Over the last fifty years, there has been a dramatic fall in world poverty. Not just in China, but across the developing world. This has transformed the lives of hundreds of millions. Have a look at the following chart from https://ourworldindata.org. There is still far too much absolute poverty, but the downward trend is extremely good news.

World-Poverty-Since-1820-full

Click on the graph to see the full size version.

This trend is under threat from protectionism.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 55 Comments

We already have the Social Liberal Forum, so why do we need a Social Democrat group?

The Social Democrat Group has been formed to work with social democrats outside the party, to build links with them, and encourage some to join the Liberal Democrats.

As I handed out leaflets to promote our fringe meeting in York (see here for a recording) , I was asked why we needed another group when we already had the Social Liberal Forum (SLF). A year ago, I’d have agreed a new group wasn’t needed but the situation has changed.

When the party merged in 1988, there was a lot of controversy about the party’s name. It was vital the party move on from that debate, so many former members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) agreed that the short name become the Liberal Democrats. I feared this might mean we would eventually be called Liberals, and the SDP heritage forgotten, but I believed it was necessary.

Sure enough, increasingly, we have been called Liberals. I haven’t liked it, but when there were so many other serious issues to grapple with, it didn’t seem a fight worth having.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 89 Comments

What do you think will happen to the Centre-Left?

At conference, this Saturday, Vince Cable and Roger Liddle will respond to the question, “where now for the centre-left?” It is a good question.

Around the September conference of last year, Vince Cable wrote “progressive centre-left politicians from Labour and the Liberal Democrats need to ‘come together’ to stop the Conservatives monopolising power in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory.”

That sounds to me like a repeat of the 1980s, with either an Alliance, or a new merged party.

Shortly after, Tim Farron pointed to a possible future where disaffected Labour MPs would switch directly to our party.

He made an open pitch to Labour’s members and elected politicians to jump ship to the Liberal Democrats, and he also invited disaffected Tories. In his leader’s speech, he said “if you are in your heart a liberal or a social democrat, you have a home in the Liberal Democrats.”

Posted in News | Tagged and | 26 Comments

When is the right time to reduce the deficit?

Liberal Democrats and Social Democrats have a very wide range of opinions, including economics. However, despite our differences, it’s possible to discuss them in a good-natured, honest way, without polemic.

The time to reduce the deficit has been a matter of huge controversy over the last six years. Paul Krugman is, perhaps, the best known advocate of continuing stimulus. In 2012, he attacked the UK deficit reduction programme as ‘deeply destructive’. He said, “Give me a stronger economy and I’ll turn into a fiscal hawk. But not now”.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 56 Comments

The Syria Vote and Beyond – Radical Ideas for Difficult Problems

This Saturday, there is a day conference for Liberal Democrat members on the Syrian issue, sponsored by Lib Dem Lawyers association, Liberal International, and the Lib Dem Christian Forum.

It looks excellent.

Posted in Events and Party policy and internal matters | 21 Comments

How do we reach out to social democrats beyond the party?

social democrat groupMany Labour members are thinking of resigning. I’m sure we would love them to join us. How can we encourage them without being too pushy?

If you are a social democrat outside the Liberal Democrats, whether in the Labour party or not, if there are ways the Liberal Democrats could make it easier for you to switch to us let us know in the comments below.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

Don’t forget we lost too. Moderate members of the Labour party may have lost the leadership battle for their party, but we’ve lost most of our MPs. Let’s acknowledge these twin disasters for the centre-left, and talk about how we can move forward.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 61 Comments

We must reclaim our Social Democrat heritage

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party brings back memories. Of when a Labour activist grabbed me by the throat, and a Trotskyist threatened to break my arm.

Few Labour members in the 1980s were violent, and nor are the vast majority of Corbyn supporters. But I have no doubt that the same intolerance and intimidation that I experienced at university is being felt by moderate Labour members today.

Posted in News | Tagged | 52 Comments

Should we laugh when the Daily Mail flex their muscles?

I admit it. I laughed at #piggate. But should I have?

Four years ago, a scandal engulfed the newspaper industry. The News of the World was closed down, and News International reporters were arrested.

Before, all politicians knew, if a major tabloid newspaper targeted them, they had good reason to be afraid.

After, I remember the heady celebration of politicians who compared it to liberation from a police state.

“Don’t worry,” one said, when asked if this kind of threat would return. “It’s like when people stop being afraid of the secret police. If no one is afraid, they lose their power.”

Well, if I …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments
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