Author Archives: Hannah Bettsworth

Sugar Tax is nothing more than a money spinning effort

I’ve recently lost a substantial amount of weight. That’s not a humblebrag, it’s going to be relevant, I promise. It’s taken the best part of 20 years to find something that works for me, and I’ll come back to that later. How our society discusses diet and weight was mostly to blame for why it’s taken so long. When I was a teenager, I used to voraciously read women’s magazines while keeping out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day on holiday. Oh, the diet articles in some of those. It was awful. Everything was egg whites and Ryvita. Everything.

And then, imagine, you see something like those Cancer Research adverts. You’ve already seen in the media that a bland diet is something to aspire to, a good way to lose weight, and now you’re seeing that if you’re fat you’ll die. Can you blame a teenager for coming to the conclusion that living longer on miserable food isn’t actually that great a deal? Especially when cheese, chocolate, and chips exist. (Not together, although I did go there on a dare once.)

This is where the recent party proposals on food and drink taxation come in. So, imagine you’re a young adult now, and your understanding of diet is (still) that you can have nice food and be fat or have boring food and be thin. Is a tax going to change your mind about that? Or will you just spend more of your student bursary on that chocolate bar? It’s anecdotal, but that’s how people respond to ‘sin taxes’ more generally. Denmark had a fat tax, and gave up on a proposed sugar tax, because people literally preferred to go to shop in Germany than to pay it. Just process that, for a second: people actively chose to go and shop in a different currency to avoid the kind of tax our party is proposing a consultation on.

In reality, changing the way you eat can’t be done in the short term with nudge policies. Back to what worked for me. It was the concept behind the programme ‘Cook Yourself Thin’. You can eat whatever you like. You don’t have to cut out any food groups. You certainly don’t have own a cupboard full of Ryvita and live on steamed vegetables. What you can do is make lower-calorie substitutions for the things you love. The cookbook’s got a chocolate truffle recipe in it. It even recommends swapping a cookie for Jaffa cakes.

You have to do something which is sustainable for you. Otherwise you simply will not be able to keep it off. Most people put the weight they lose back on again. A sugar tax is nothing more than a money-spinning measure: if you have the spare cash, you’ll still buy it. It won’t make you successfully change the way you live. That’s far more personal and complex than most people like to think. 

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What’s going on in Andalusia

Andalusia is to the PSOE as Scotland was to the Labour Party: an area where they could take people’s votes for granted to help them waltz into power at the national level. The recent elections, brought forward from March, meant they could use the region as a litmus test for future national elections and seek to take advantage of Pedro Sánchez’s honeymoon period after the vote of no confidence in July.

The PSOE has governed Andalusia since 1980. Many Lib Dems in Labour and Tory fiefdoms will be well aware of what that length of time in power does to a party, and there have been ongoing corruption cases. This resulted in Ciudadanos breaking their agreement with the PSOE, as sufficient advances had not been made on rebuilding people’s confidence in Andalusian democracy. At the time of the last elections in 2015, the PSOE got 47 seats and Ciudadanos 9, with the majority being 55.

Which brings us, more or less, to where we are at the moment, with a spectacular increase in seats for Ciudadanos from 9 to 21. Numerically, the PSOE remains the largest party, but it’s resoundingly clear that it’s time for a change in Andalusia. Despite Susana Díaz’s scaremongering about the right-wing bogeyman coming to destroy the region, and Podemos’s attempts to classify the entire centre-right as being ideologically identical to fascism, Ciudadanos’s candidate Juan Marín ruled out any kind of pact with Vox. This is because, clearly, the kind of Macron-style European liberalism Ciudadanos leads on in ALDE is the polar opposite of Abascal and Le Pen’s politics.

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Tales from Cleveland – Part 2: Why I’m with Hillary

My time in the US is drawing to a close, and it’s been great to get to see the way they campaign first hand. I’ve not got as many tales from the campaign trail this week because I took the chance to go and do a bit of sightseeing. Sadly, I didn’t manage to get into the Daily Show, as I’d hoped to at the end of my last post. Although, I was in the office phonebanking when Hillary became our official nominee for President, and the cheering from the staff and volunteers was something I’ll never forget.

I think it’s important to note that a lot of people over here genuinely support and admire Hillary Clinton. That gets lost in the media coverage – sure, some people will cast a tactical vote. But most of us are here because we think she’d make an amazing President. Obama said on Wednesday that she is more qualified for the job than he or Bill ever was. That’s still too often the case – women have to be stellar and massively outdo men to even get a foot in the door of top positions. I support Hillary because I think she did great work for women and girls at the State Department. Her passion about women’s rights and disability rights absolutely shone through in her acceptance speech. This isn’t just a case of stopping Trump. I’m with her because she’s with me.

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Tales from Cleveland, Ohio…Part One

I’ve had the opportunity to go out to Cleveland, Ohio to campaign for Hillary Clinton for the next two weeks. My friends Ryan and James are out there working as campaign fellows and I thought that it would be fun to go and join them. It is great fun at the moment – I’ve met loads of friendly people in the office and out at events.

The Republican National Convention is downtown right now, as you’ll all probably know, and we were trying to register voters around the area. Ryan and James got a few, but I’m still learning the ropes …

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Season 2: The state of play in Spain ahead of the election on 26 June

It’s often said that we no longer have The Thick of It because politics can no longer be effectively satirised in Britain. You could say the same about Spain (although there is a Catalan programme that makes a valiant effort.)

After the last round of post-election negotiations failed, it sometimes seems like you’re watching a particularly dramatic TV show. The polls have remained fairly static, and where there are variations in the number of seats in the new election on  26th June they will be reasonably small.

However, there has been one large development – Podemos and Izquierda Unida (IU) have formed an electoral pact (the Pact of the Beer Bottles) for this round. Iglesias has made no secret of the fact that his goal is to overtake the PSOE (Socialists) in seats, but his party was starting to drop in the polls. Alberto Garzón’s IU was benefiting from that, so those two will likely make some form of gain there.

In Britain, we know all too well that when the election results are uncertain and the system very polarised, more moderate parties lose out. In the same way that the Tories and the SNP fed off each other, the PP and this new Unidos Podemos (Together We Can) formation happily do the same. The PP paint themselves as the sole force that can stop the Unidos Podemos (UP) threat, which plays into UP’s hands in the same way that Cameron’s fearmongering played into Sturgeon’s.

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What the Liberal Democrats should learn from Ciudadanos

These past two weeks have taken me back to being a 16 year old first starting to watch election debates in the UK. I’ve watched so many Spanish debates I know the campaign messages off by heart, and, being a young person, I’m up to date with all the Twitter memes. A (comparatively) young centrist leader, Albert Rivera, branded as a kingmaker, and constantly questioned about who he’ll seek to work with after the elections can’t help but be compared to Nick Clegg, especially when considered to be “the sexiest candidate in the campaign according to all the polls.”, and when the PSOE is talking about a vote for anyone else as a vote for the PP. It’s all oddly familiar. That comparison to Britain has backed Rivera into a corner, to an extent – the narrative over the last few weeks has been that Ciudadanos won’t enter into a coalition unless they are the party leading it.

However, the comparisons with 2010 extend further – there has been a serious drop in C’s support over the past few days, and today’s headline is that they will remain kingmakers but get far less seats than expected. Looking at the Andorran fruit markets (a cipher for polling, which cannot be published in the five days before the election) gave me the same feeling of shock as seeing the exit polls in the UK election. We’ll see what happens – I’ve already turned down a bet on the election result as a fool’s errand this morning – but chances are that it won’t be possible to live up to the hype.

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Help create liberal sex work law in Scotland – consultation ends today

Scottish Liberal Democrat Women have been at the forefront of ensuring the Scottish party has a workable policy that secures the rights and safety of sex workers. Jean Urquhart MSP (Highlands and Islands, Independent) has proposed a Bill that is in agreement with this policy, and the Bill consultation is ongoing. Sadly, we are too close to the elections for Holyrood to officially start the Bill process – Members’ Bills can only be introduced up until June of the penultimate year of the session. However, it’s important that we have a framework to build from in the next Scottish Parliament – and, of course, as many Lib Dem MSPs as possible to support the change! This is our contribution to the consultation process.

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Opinion: Miriam Gonzalez Durantez drops a few truth bombs on political parties

I’m currently studying abroad in Salamanca, where, as in the rest of the country, there are municipal elections on 24th May. (Yes, polling day is on a Sunday.) My bedroom floor is covered in a variety of different party propaganda (yes, that is the word they use in Spain for it) that I’ve gathered for academic reasons, obviously.

So, I was really excited to read Miriam’s article in El País recently. It most certainly did not disappoint – if you want a lesson in how to drop truth bombs on political parties, look no further.

Just to give a little bit of context – the Partido Popular is currently governing. It’s got “Working, Making, Growing” posters up around half the city, shouting from the rooftops about its economic success. Miriam notes that although progress has been made, it’s rather odd to be making that a central campaign plank while overall unemployment rests around 20% and youth unemployment around 50%.

She also attacks them for their failure to confront the ‘crisis of values’ facing the Spanish political system, talking of a ‘radical disconnect between the political class and citizens.’ She refers to Chris Huhne briefly, stating that the levels of corruption in the Spanish system could never occur in a country where a politician can go to jail for exchanging points on their driving licence.

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Opinion: Tory plans to curb benefits for obese people and addicts is the opposite of enabling people to get on in life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through charity work, in two different countries, it’s that imposing your moral code on other people simply does not work. Sometimes, people are going to do things that seem wrong, or misguided, or utterly reckless, to us. When they do, it’s our role not to judge them for it, but to give them the information they need to make their own informed choices.

That’s why I was so annoyed this week just past. In Spain, a colleague of mine told me that the media had whipped up frenzy around our organisation teaching young people to use condoms correctly. Meanwhile, back home in Britain, we have the Conservative party trying to push its own moral code through the benefits system. Both examples neatly explain what the problem is with moralising narratives in society.

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Opinion: Scotland’s Future – a view from the Gallery

I’ve recently had the chance to work in the Scottish Parliament during August, and it’s been a really great experience. On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the final debate before recess, courtesy of Liam McArthur MSP. By the wonders of technology, you can watch it too.

It was an interesting experience. Alex Salmond took the opportunity to note all the good things the Scottish parliament had done, and attempt to be fair to other parties. He did actually manage this; however, his argument that the parliament has done some great things and made some mistakes could apply to every parliament across the world, including Westminster.

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Opinion: Liberal Youth Scotland campaigns against SNP cuts to student bursary cuts and college places

Student finance. Mention those two words to most students and you’ll either get people moaning about the amount of forms they have to fill in, or excited about how rich they are at the beginning of the month.

However, at the end of the day, you have to pay it back. Unless you vote SNP. That was the message they gave graduates in 2007. Strangely enough, I still seem to have a student loan and quite a substantial amount of money to pay back. They knew they couldn’t afford it and scrapped the pledge in their first budget. It was a …

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Opinion: SNP’s ill thought out proposals discriminate against young people

Drew's first driving lesson - Some rights reserved by akarmyMark McDonald, SNP MSP for North East Scotland, has recently proposed unjust new restrictions on young drivers. His proposals would mean that 17-25 year olds, regardless of driving experience, would be banned from driving between 11pm and 4am every day, as well as preventing them from carrying passengers in their vehicles.

This is based on a discriminatory assumption that young people are generally bad drivers. Even although there is a higher risk as

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Opinion: Liberal Youth Scotland calls for [email protected]

Votes at 16 has been brought back onto the political agenda at the moment, with the news that 16 and 17 year olds will get the vote for the Independence Referendum in 2014. This decision is probably one of the most important ones people living in Scotland will take in their lives, and young people’s views must be taken into account about Scotland’s future.

16 and 17 year olds can leave school, get a job, and start a family. They can join the army, with the intention of fighting

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    Denis GIven the next bit of my post mentioned massacres and oppression, I think you can safely say as I'm in favour of neither policies...
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    "We don’t want to get into the old trap of trying to answer endless questions regarding which Party we would support if the outcome is...
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    @frankie 12th Oct '19 - 11:13pm "Until recently no Kurds lived in Turkey, only Turks and Mountain Turk lived there." I take it you're being...
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    @Michael Cole - Absolutely, whenever Jo is asked whether she'd work with either Conservative or Labour, she should say she will answer once they've said...