Author Archives: Gordon Frankland

Opinion: TTIP – whose freedom will it promote?

Few things press Liberal Democrat buttons like the promise of free (or freer) trade. So, London MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford’s recent post for LDV noting that the European Parliament has just given the go-ahead for negotiations towards the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, a.k.a. TAFTA), a free trade treaty that will be the biggest in history, was generally welcomed in comments.

But what exactly is proposed? Tariffs on both sides of the Atlantic are already low – averaging only about 4% – so the possible gains from further reductions are modest. A quick root around …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

Opinion: Banks are bloated subsidy junkies playing financial Jenga

As bankers continue to scandalise the country with the scale of their pay and bonuses while the real economy struggles and youth unemployment soars, we should take a long hard look at the role of banking in the wider economy.

For years the received wisdom has been that they make huge profits so they must be simply wonderful, Masters of the Universe, the jewel in the crown of the British economy and so unlike the broken-backed manufacturing sector. But how do they do it? I can see why top footballers are paid a fortune and why Apple’s brilliant …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 21 Comments

Opinion: Wanted – A Liberal Plan for Europe

We hear a lot about Eurosceptics and a fair bit about Europhiles but what of us Euroreformers? Speaking as one I feel pretty much left out in the cold. I am particularly miffed that the Lib Dems, the one party that ought to adopt this position, mostly ignore it (despite a large minority of Euroreformers within the Party).

By Euroreformers I mean those of us who support the European Project but believe that it’s lost its way; that the EU needs a major rethink and restructuring to make it fit for purpose and democratically accountable to the peoples of Europe.

The Europhile stance traditionally adopted by the Lib Dems sees the primary task as being to push forward with European integration at all costs which inevitably inhibits discussion of its deficiencies, trapping us into naively supporting (albeit at times with the nose firmly held!) an unpopular and centralising establishment. In the recent election our policy amounted to little more than a proposal to ‘cling to nurse for fear of something worse’.

This is all so utterly at variance with our declared position in domestic matters that it seriously undermines our core message. It is also, of course, really bad politics for a would-be reformist party to support a bankrupt establishment – so it is no surprise that in European elections we typically finish 5-7% below our standing in the polls. I suspect (but cannot prove) that we take a hit in ALL elections because of this lack of coherence and that many talented individuals have left or never joined the Party because of our Europhile stance.

In contrast, a liberating side-effect of the Euroreformers’ view is that it makes it okay to attack the things about the EU that put people off and that need to be attacked; all are symptoms of the EU’s institutional failings. Obvious examples include the Agricultural Policy (a mechanism to subsidise landowners at the expense of ordinary taxpayers) and the Fisheries Policy (good for neither fish nor fishermen). Less familiar examples include gas (where the EU has failed to negotiate as a block and has instead allowed the Russians to divide and rule).

The obvious difficulty that the EU’s reform-minded supporters have always had is that there is no alternative on the table, no ‘Plan B’, a difficulty that was admitted explicitly immediately after the French and Dutch “No” votes on the constitution. This is, of course, why the EU establishment is pressing on with the (very thinly disguised) version of the constitution known as the Lisbon Treaty. In doing so it is rapidly losing any serious claim to legitimacy and boosting eurosceptics, not just in Britain, but across Europe.

Posted in Op-eds | 25 Comments

Opinion: A Tale of Two Schools

Here is a true story about the primary schools in two neighbouring villages. It was told to me a while ago by a long-term resident of one of the villages.

To protect identities I will call the villages simply A and B and say only that they are in the north of England and five or six miles apart.

In village A the head was everything a head should be. He gave inspired leadership for the staff, treated each child as an individual, enthused and motivated them and took care to provide an education that went far beyond the narrow confines …

Posted in Op-eds | 16 Comments
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  • User AvatarStuart Bourne 26th Feb - 1:20pm
    Andy Hilton - TBH I’m not sure about this. One possibility is that it would be similar to commons committee, but definitely with a cross...
  • User AvatarPaul Tyler 26th Feb - 1:15pm
    These very welcome new ideas for reforming the second half of our legislature need renewed attention. Just because the 2012 Reform Bill - introduced by...
  • User AvatarJohnny McDermott 26th Feb - 1:11pm
    Yousuf Farah: been considering that balance, particularly given in the discussion it’s clear we are likely to need to engage in a “fight” sooner or...
  • User AvatarJohnny McDermott 26th Feb - 1:04pm
    David Raw makes good points on structure. Interesting discussion starting on the Lords on a new post on LDV today. Agreed with TCO - we...
  • User AvatarJohnny McDermott 26th Feb - 1:03pm
    Peter - good point on oil. Their economic model relied on it, whatever else they said. The crash in prices immediately after the referendum was...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 26th Feb - 1:03pm
    Here is an alternative way to bring in expertise, one which avoids the problems of democratic legitimacy identified by posters. The replacement for the HoL...