Author Archives: George Kendall

“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.
Posted in News | Tagged | 10 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 22 Comments

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”.
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 60 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged | 18 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

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 | 83 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

Conference Countdown 2015: Why you shouldn’t give me a vote at Conference

In the last four years, I’ve been to a lot of Lib Dem conferences – though sadly not next week – but I’ve had a vote at none of them. I was even the mover of an amendment, but I didn’t get to vote on it.

On Monday the One Member One Vote motion would give me a vote at conference. So why do I think you shouldn’t give it to me?

I’m not worried about the vast, vast majority of members. But there are a just a few who do worry me. If we decided votes by referenda, I wouldn’t be concerned. Among 61,000 members, a few rogue votes wouldn’t be significant. But attendance at conference is a lot lower.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

Why I am a Social Democrat

Poor boy afraid
Social democrats know that to fight poverty you need a vibrant economy. It is the goose that lays the golden egg, and it flourishes with freedom, but it stagnates in a factory farm.

Social democrats don’t just do poverty reduction as a minor act of charity, it is central to what drives them. But a true social democrat won’t just throw money at the problem, they will look for what works.

For a short period, I worked in the field of international development. When listening to those who had worked in

Posted in News | Tagged | 62 Comments

If left-wing is anti poverty, how is Corbyn left-wing?

Most left-wingers I meet think of left-wing politics as being about reducing poverty. If that’s left-wing, then I regard myself as a left-winger.

They usually only believe in a bigger state, because they think the state is the best way to help the weakest in our society.

That can be true, but it depends how far you take it.

In my previous article “Is evidence-based policy losing out to populism?”, I argued that two supposedly left-wing policies, which Jeremy Corbyn has proposed, could actually increase poverty. Raising the national minimum wage beyond the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission will probably increase unemployment, particularly for the unskilled who will increasingly have difficulty finding work. And printing money to fund capital projects will risk a return of the curse of high inflation.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 47 Comments

Is evidence-based policy losing out to populism?

Populism always sounds good, but in the long-run it usually hurts those it is supposed to help.

In the UK, interest rates used regularly to be cut to stimulate an artificial boom before an election. This was good for the ruling political party, but the country paid a heavy price later. In the nineties, the Liberal Democrats championed the idea of making the Bank of England independent, and, in 1997, Labour implemented the policy.

As a result, inflation has been controlled, and business and international investors have more confidence in the UK. It’s no panacea. It didn’t stop serious mistakes being made over bank regulation. But, I think, it’s proved a real success.

In 1997, the Labour party proposed a National Minimum Wage. Many were deeply concerned that, by not allowing the existence of low paid jobs, this policy would price some low skilled workers out of the job market.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 58 Comments

We should weep at what is happening to Labour

Whoever wins the Labour leadership battle, it’s going to be a torrid time for Labour. There are already accusations and counter-accusations, threats of a legal challenge, and that’s before we know the result.Perhaps, this will help with the #LibDemFightback. It may well lead to a faster recovery in the polls, another surge of new members, and more by-election victories. But there is a terrible downside.

I remember the last time Labour self-destructed. When that happened, I was horrified. We had a Labour party that was unfit to be the Official Opposition, and a Conservative government that ruled in triumphalism for 18 years. Not everything the Tories did was bad, but some of it was appalling. The Poll Tax was only the most prominent of many policies which harmed the weakest in society, and sometimes the worst policies were small measures that the newspapers never noticed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 98 Comments

How to help Lib Dems like Vince Cable in the run-up to the election

Vince Cable - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsPerhaps you’re a Lib Dem Voice reader, who would love to help get Lib Dems elected next May in the General Election, but you’re not sure how to go about it. Whether you are a member or not, if you’d like to help, this article is for you.

In the coming weeks and months, there will be many action events in key seats throughout the country. For example tomorrow, Saturday 6th December, there will be a big Regional Action day in Vince Cable’s seat of Twickenham.

Posted in Campaign Corner | 34 Comments

The best time to recruit is now

Liberal Democrat membership formsI find the most powerful words before asking for help are “thank you”.

With ten months still to go before the next election, if you knock on a supporter’s door, you’re not just yet another politician, who only calls at election times. And if the first thing you say is ”thank you”, that’s powerful.

When I do it, I get smiles of surprise and pleasure. They know perfectly well that there’s another reason for my visit, but we all like to be thanked.

A lot of us are nervous to …

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Travel is permitted

5th Oct Action Day 600x431In the dim distant days of early Spring 1997, I wanted to travel to a key seat.  But it was still outside the election period.  Could I summon the nerve to ring as a total stranger, and would I get a warm response?

I did, and it was a great experience.

But maybe there are others like me.  Wanting to offer help to their favourite MP, but unsure how an offer of help would be received.  The short answer is, of course, go for it!

However, perhaps those of us in strategic seats could do more to make that initial offer of help a little easier. This is exactly what originally inspired the Regional Action Day programme, and we want to do more of it.

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Opinion: In praise of Devon and Cornwall

The most important thing the party needs to do is recruit new volunteers. We all know it, and everyone talks about it.

But Devon and Cornwall are doing it.

This week they’ve organised recruitment training evenings in key seats. And this Saturday, as part of the National Day of Action on Jobs there will be a Regional Action Day in North Cornwall which will include practical training in recruitment.

This training isn’t just talk. After a short session of training, with scripts giving examples of what to say, they involve practical on-the-job training. In other words, going out and actually putting it into …

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Ride the wave! Two chances to celebrate…

Want to celebrate the fantastic result in Eastleigh?

Why not join a working celebration at Regional Action Days in either Watford or Lewes, tomorrow, Saturday 2nd March.  There’ll be good company, free food and invigorating campaigning.

Normally, the local teams for these Regional Action Days need at least a few days notice. However, normal promotion hasn’t been possible this time round, so for these events we’d welcome last minute registrations.

But please do register, even if it’s in the early hours of Saturday morning, here for Lewes and herefor Watford.

As far as we can, the teams want to …

Posted in Campaign Corner and News | Tagged and | 1 Comment
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