Author Archives: George Potter

Things to do on the Friday night before Lib Dem Conference

Are you heading to Lib Dems conference in Brighton?  Are you arriving on Friday?

If so, then you may have noticed that the conference doesn’t start until 9am on Saturday 15th September.

Well once you’ve arrived on Friday and have settled down, you might wonder about what to do with your evening. Fortunately, there are two outstanding Lib Dem options for your evening:

  1. #LibDemPint

A popular choice, Lib Dem Pint runs from 7pm to 11pm at the Palm Court Restaurant on Brighton Pier. Tickets are £5 on the door or can be bought in advance online here.This is always a busy pub …

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Why the social security policy paper should be rejected

On Monday at Liberal Democrat conference, party members will have the chance to debate policy motion F31 which endorses a new Liberal Democrat welfare policy paper, Mending the safety net.

However, as one of the members of the working group which wrote the paper, I strongly urge all members at conference to vote against the motion.

My reasons for saying this are simple: although the policy paper is called ‘Mending the Safety Net’, what it proposes is nothing of the sort. In fact, it actively endorses the current welfare system which is failing so badly that over a million people in the UK don’t just live in poverty but are actively destitute.

This is undoubtedly one of the greatest social challenges facing our country – even if you set aside the human suffering it creates, poverty costs the UK £78 billion a year, blighting our national prosperity.

When set against that backdrop, the welfare policy motion is a failure.

In my opinion it lets down some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society by failing to offer real solutions to the problems they face, it spectacularly misses the opportunity to define a real and distinctive alternative approach to welfare for the Liberal Democrats, and, crucially, it cannot be made fit for purpose even if all the amendments to it on the agenda are passed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 23 Comments

Are party consultations with members worth the paper they’re written on? 

At Liberal Democrat autumn conference party members will have the opportunity to debate a Federal Policy Committee policy paper and an accompanying motion laying out an overall vision for the social security system – the first such policy paper on the subject for over a decade. Sadly, however, the contents of the paper and motion are scandalous in their blatant disregard for the views of party members.

As part of the process of writing the policy paper, the working group which wrote it ran a members survey which included a question about which model should be used as the basis for social security.

Posted in Op-eds | 45 Comments

Farron’s strategy to tackle Corbyn is all wrong

 

Recently Tim Farron responded to Jeremy Corbyn’s economic strategy by saying “Unfortunately Corbyn’s anti-business policies will ensure that no company has the budget to pay the wages their employees deserve”.

Now this is absolutely true and it’s very much Tim Farron’s approach to Corbyn and Labour at the moment. But it’s also absolutely the wrong approach to take.

The thing is, the public already thinks Labour aren’t economically competent and the Tories keep on ramming home that message. But since the public think that the Tories are economically competent then any attacks we make on Labour’s economic competence will just drive voters to the Tories.

In a nutshell, attacking Labour on the economy does nothing more than to annoy Labour voters who we want to win over while helping to turn undecided voters to the Tories.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 71 Comments

Trident is a threat to our national security

 

A week from now Lib Dem conference will be debating our position on our Trident nuclear weapon system. Two years ago I wrote and proposed the amendment to our defence policy which called for us to oppose the renewal of Trident.

I still oppose the renewal of Trident and will fully support the Scrapping Trident motion.

But I’m not doing so because I oppose nuclear weapons out of principle or because I think unilaterally abandoning Trident will be a step towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Let’s be clear: a nuclear weapon free world is a dream which is highly unlikely to ever happen, let alone in my lifetime.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 39 Comments

Opinion: Time for a real English party

It’s time for Liberal Democrats to get serious about England. Although we are, in theory, a federal party, we certainly don’t act like it in practice. In Scotland we stand as the Scottish Liberal Democrats. In Wales we stand as the Welsh Liberal Democrats/Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru. But in England we just stand as the Liberal Democrats.

We have Scottish and Welsh conferences to handle Scottish and Welsh policy but no English conference so our “federal” conference is dominated by policy on England only matters. We have federal committees in the party but they have Scottish and Welsh representatives added on separately. We have Welsh and Scottish Lib Dem HQs but the greatest concentration of our staff and resources is at party headquarters in London where there’s no distinction between staff focusing on federal matters and England matters.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 47 Comments

Opinion: Time for constitutional reform..but not the way you think

It’s time for constitutional reform – of the Liberal Democrats. We need to redesign our party structures to make them fit for the challenges we face.

While there has to be a big debate on what needs change and what the best options are, here’s a rundown of options worth considering:

1. Either abolish membership fees or create an associate membership which costs nothing and has some of the privilege of full members. Why should you have to pay to join our movement instead of donating when you wish and are able to?

2. Reduce barriers to participation within the party. This means introducing one member, one vote everywhere in the party and should involve eliminating, or heavily reducing, the period of membership required to be able to vote in internal elections. In the Canadian Liberal’s leadership election the winning campaign signed up over 100,000 new members alone with the incentive of being able to vote for the party leader – why can’t we do something similar?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 59 Comments

Opinion: Combined authorities and English devolution

The big news on devolution this week has been the twin announcements of more devolved powers for Wales and that Greater Manchester will be devolved control over the £6 billion health budget for the region.

It’s interesting to see what lessons can be taken from this. One is that ‘Devomanc’ really does appear to have substance, despite initial scepticism from various people (myself included) and another is that talk of English Votes on English Laws is even more redundant now that we face the prospect of Mancunian MPs voting on matters affecting the rest of England which don’t affect Greater Manchester.

A further, more worrying lesson, is that devolution is becoming ever more piecemeal with wildly varying levels of devolution both across the UK and across England.

But England the lessons are particularly interesting. Those of us living outside of major city regions like Greater Manchester and Merseyside have been wondering how exactly we can get our share of devolution and it now looks like we have an answer.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

Opinion: English devolution – with maps

Being very much a politics geek, the renewed discussion on English Devolution following the pledge of home rule for Scotland by all three major party leaders, prompted me to start considering what England might look like if the same powers were devolved to it.

Two well known options for English devolution are those of either a devolved English Parliament or devolved regional assemblies for the regions used in European elections. To my mind the former (as a result of covering 53 million people) would continue over-centralisation in England while the latter is hindered by the regions lacking cohesive identities and being …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 97 Comments

Opinion: What to do in the event of Scottish independence

At the time of writing people across Scotland are voting in the independence referendum to decide whether to stay in the UK or leave. The polls all seem to indicate a narrow lead for a No vote to independence and I personally expect that will be the outcome as well.

However, in the event of a Yes vote then practically everything in politics will change as Scotland and the rest of the UK are committed to (at least) two years of negotiations followed by independence. So, here’s a handy guide on what Liberal Democrats should do in the event of a …

Posted in Op-eds | 8 Comments

Fairer Society part 3: Making hard choices to end poverty

Christian Aid's Poverty can be eradicated posterThis is the third and final article in my series on why and how Liberal Democrats can claim the social justice agenda which has been abandoned by both Labour and the Conservatives. The first part is here and the second here. I argued we should abandon the notion of helping only the “deserving” poor, which defines our current welfare system, in favour of two new principles to define our approach to welfare:

  1. The role of the welfare state is to guarantee for every person

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Fairer Society Part 2: Goodbye Mr Beveridge

William BeveridgeIn my article on Saturday, I talked about how Ed Miliband’s ‘youth tax’ shows that Labour have abandoned any claim they ever had to be a party that cared about social justice or a fairer society. And the Conservatives have never even cared about a fairer society as they are ably demonstrating with their plan to cut £20 billion from the £79 billion (e.g. not including pensions) welfare budget if they are in government in the next parliament.

Therefore the Liberal Democrats, the party of Beveridge, are now the only …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 55 Comments

Fairer Society Part 1: Only the Liberal Democrats are left to stand up for fairness

Benefits-welfareOn Thursday we saw Ed Miliband deliver his big policy speech on welfare, introducing his ‘youth tax’ in an attempt to be tougher on the Tories than welfare. In the process he proved that Labour, not content with failing to manage the economy properly in their last time in government, have given up on any idea of fairness or social justice for their next time in government.

Interestingly, the policy he announced had been reported on twice already by newspapers, the Sun and the Telegraph, over the course of the past year …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 28 Comments

Opinion: Does our party’s structure and constitution need an overhaul?

Liberal Democrat Conference 2011There are many issues facing the Liberal Democrats at the moment and there has been much discussion about these issues. But one which has been overlooked, in my opinion, is the need to apply our traditional enthusiasm for constitutional reform to ourselves

At the moment the structure of the party is essentially a replica of a national political system. We have constituencies of local parties whose members (the voters) elect a local government in the form of a party executive and who also elect voting representatives (MPs) by proportional representation to send to conference (parliament) where they in turn elect the Federal Executive and the Federal Policy and Conference

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 35 Comments

Opinion: Why I was persuaded to back LibDems4Change

N30 Public Sector Demonstration, Not HappyI’m no one special in the party. I’m Secretary of my local party, acting Chair of South East Liberal Youth and I once sat on a regional executive for a year.

And since 2010, despite the mistakes I think we’ve made in how we’ve handled being in coalition, until now I’ve always thought that getting rid of Nick Clegg as leader would be a very bad mistake. I thought that by doing so we’d be seen to be rejecting our achievements in coalition whilst failing to win back any of the people we’d already lost.

Posted in Op-eds | 335 Comments

Opinion: Some facts about Ukraine and Crimea

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians in pro-Europe rallyGiven some of the comments being widely made about the crisis in Ukraine, particularly those defending or minimising the actions of Russia, I thought it would be worthwhile to point out some facts about the situation and counter some of the popular myths. They doesn’t necessarily establish that one side is completely right or wrong but they are worth bearing in mind.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 57 Comments

Opinion: A real answer to the ‘English Question’

One of the more interesting policy papers to be debated at Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in York is ‘Power to the People’ which sets out with the aim of providing a blueprint for a federal UK. In almost all areas it is a brilliant paper which offers a clear, radical, liberal vision of the future of our country.

However, there is one flaw in this paper. And that is the embarrassing fudge which it offers when it comes to English Devolution.

It proposes that England use Single Transferable Vote proportional representation for local elections – so far so good – but then …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 42 Comments

Opinion: Why aren’t we borrowing more?

At the moment the yield on the UK’s five year government gilts is 1.65%. What this means in plain English is that if our government wanted to borrow £1,000 it would have to pay back £1,083 in five years.

In contrast, if you or I or a business went to the bank and ask to borrow the same amount for five years we’d be looking at paying back well over £1,500 by the end of the loan.

What this tells us is that our government can borrow money very, very cheaply. It can borrow it at less than the rate of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 22 Comments

Opinion: Chelsea Manning is a woman. Get over it.

This week the leaker of the US diplomatic cables to Wikileaks, US Army private Bradley Manning formally announced that she will be living the rest of her life as a woman, hopes to have hormone therapy and would like to be referred to from now on with female pronouns.

Predictably, this triggered an onslaught of media attention referring to Chelsea Manning as “Bradley” and as “he”. This in turn triggered an equally predictable deluge of transphobic opinion and comment pieces across print, broadcast and online media.

Some of these pieces are of the “a dog isn’t a cat even if you …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 27 Comments

Opinion: What is the cumulative impact of cuts on disabled people?

With the Conservative ring-fencing of 40% plus of the welfare budget because it goes to a section of society which disproportionately votes Conservative (e.g. pensioners), it should come as no surprise to anyone that the forcing of all welfare cuts onto the remainder of recipients has hurt a lot of people.

Amongst those most badly effected are disabled people. Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (formerly known as incapacity benefit) has been time limited to one year. Disability Living Allowance is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments and will have been cut by 20% by 2015. Social care services are being cut …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Opinion: Three flaws in the Government’s education reforms

One of the things that seems to characterise Tory ministers in this government is a remarkable attraction to putting ideology and an assumption that they know best ahead of little details like “facts” and “evidence based policy”.

A good example of this comes in the form of Michael Gove’s education reforms which have been characterised by a breathtaking disregard for decades of research into what works and an aversion to listening to anything or anyone who disagrees with the reforms.

Nevertheless, I’d like to highlight the following facts about education. It would be nice if he paid attention:

Starting maths early damages educational

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 45 Comments

Opinion: We’ve got our strategy the wrong way round

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKLast Friday Lib Dem HQ sent out an email to parliamentarians, PPCs, council group leaders and other office holders about our party’s new message script. The full email, if anyone is interested, can be found herehere, courtesy of the Liberator.

Aside from the immensely catchy wordy message of “the Lib Dems are working to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life” (complete with an incredible 16 sub messages), a key point was this:

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

Opinion: Disability Living Allowance replacement will cause economic and human cost

Under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, passed by the government earlier this year, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for disabled people of working age is due to be replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) with a net result of a 20% reduction by 2015 in the DLA budget – it is worth pointing out at this point that the fraud rate for DLA is estimated by the Department of Works and Pensions to be less than 0.5%.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 38 Comments

Opinion: The need for the CAP

This is the last article in a three part series of articles based on interviews with Lib Dem MEPs George Lyon and Phil Bennion about reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The other two articles can be found here and here.

One of the subjects which came up in the interviews was whether or not to have a CAP at all. Both of them made some interesting points about the subject.

Phil Bennion made the argument that it was necessary for the sake of global food security.

“We have to approach food security, not just from Europe’s point of view ...

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Opinion: The future of the CAP – specific proposals by Liberal Democrats

This is the second of three articles, based on interviews with Lib Dem MEPs Phil Bennion and George Lyon, covering the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This article addresses the specific changes they want made to current EU plans for reform.

When I spoke to him, Phil Bennion explained to me that, while Lib Dem MEPs are broadly supportive of the Commissioner’s plans for reform (the key idea being to start spending 30% of ‘pillar one’ payments on environmental elements), they have serious concerns with the detail.

An example he gave was the proposal for farmers to have …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Opinion: The future of the CAP – general Liberal Democrat aims for reform

Last week I wrote about reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the work of two Liberal Democrat MEPs, Phil Bennion and George Lyon, in successfully driving that reform.

At the moment the CAP is going through another round of reforms ahead of the EU’s next financial precept.

Phil Bennion explained to me what the priorities of George Lyon and himself and other Lib Dems were when approaching these negotiations.

In his 1987 paper on the CAP Phil Bennion looked at ways of cutting payments to the largest farms on the basis that they had considerable economies of scale. …

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy: a Lib Dem success story

A fortnight ago I was in Strasbourg where I was lucky enough to speak to two Liberal Democrat MEPs from farming backgrounds about their work to reform the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Phil Bennion, Liberal Democrat MEP for the West Midlands, explained to me how the CAP, which has two pillars of funds, works.

“Pillar one is common to every country in the European Union, pillar two is devolved and co-funded by member states. In the UK we spend 80% of our pillar two money on environmental schemes, while other countries spend theirs on things …

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged , , and | 22 Comments

Postcard from Strasbourg

Compared to rainy London and Paris, spring has definitely arrived in Strasbourg. Aside from the occasional fleeting band of clouds, the skies are bright blue and the temperature wonderfully mild.

Strasbourg is a city of wide streets and avenues and buildings which can be either distinctly German or distinctly French in their architecture – a legacy of two thousand years on the border between France and Germany.

This legacy, in many ways, defines the city. Most Strasbourgeoise, especially the younger generation, speak French, but most of the older generation still speak the Alsatian dialect of German. The region might be famed for …

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Opinion: Jenny Willott is wrong on the Welfare Reform Bill

On Sunday Jenny Willott wrote an article on LDV explaining the reasons behing Lib Dem MPs voting to reject the Lords amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill. However, I’m afraid that, as someone who has been campaigning on this for several months, I am not satisfied with her explanation and think that there are several flaws in her justifications.

For example, to put what Jenny said another way, 4 in 10 people affected by the time limit will lose ESA completely. That’ll be 280,000 people with long term illness or disability that prevents them from working. Those who lose it …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 36 Comments

Opinion: getting the welfare reforms right

Today an open letter, signed by well over forty of our parliamentary candidates from 2010, will be sent to Nick Clegg. And, on Monday, a meeting, organised by the Social Liberal Forum, will take place in the Palace of Westminster in Committee Room 18 (made infamous by the story about Sir Bob Russell MP allegedly pulling the door off of its hinges).

The subject of both the letter and the meeting will be the recent voting record of our peers on aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill ranging from sickness and disability benefits, to the household benefit cap and child benefits.

The …

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