Author Archives: Jeremy Browne MP

Jeremy Browne MP responds to LDV debates about his book

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 08.06.08 Liberal Democrats LibbyThank you to everyone on Lib Dem Voice who has taken the trouble to comment on my book ‘Race Plan’. It is healthy to have an active debate about how our liberalism can be applied to address the big political events of our time. I am appreciative of the favourable comments; I also thought it might be of interest (and good manners) to respond to some of the main criticisms and themes that emerged on LDV.

Timing of publication

The timing was determined by the …

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Jeremy Browne MP writes… Proud of our record in Government

The fundamental question for Liberal Democrats gathering for conference is this: are we proud of our Government or ashamed of it?

I think we should be proud.

The Coalition Government came together in 2010 when Britain was in deep trouble. We had been hit by an economic shockwave. The last Government was borrowing a ruinous £450 million extra every single day.

We also faced serious problems which held our people back and threatened our future prosperity. Entrenched inter-generational poverty and welfare dependency needed to be tackled head-on. School standards had fallen behind our international competitors, wasting the talent of our young people and …

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Jeremy Browne MP writes… The Liberal Democrats are presiding over falling crime

Today the Coalition Government has – once again – confounded its critics. Despite the ongoing challenges in our economy, crime continues to fall. Criminologists and Labour politicians have repeatedly pointed to the country’s economic troubles and insisted we would see a rapid increase in crime rates. The most pessimistic forecasters warned of an explosion in criminality that would undermine the very fabric of our society. And yet today we hear that crime in England and Wales is at its lowest point since the independent crime survey began in 1981.

The facts speak for themselves. Crime has been lower every single …

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Jeremy Browne MP writes…There is no opt out clause for equality for women and girls in a liberal society

In my lifetime, the role of women and girls in British society has been transformed. There has been an emancipation revolution.

Many of these changes have been legal. It seems remarkable today to reflect that, until 1975, women were not allowed to buy a house without financial guarantees being provided by a man, typically their father or husband.Other changes have been cultural. It is extraordinary, for example, that until 1972 a female diplomat in the Foreign Office was required to resign if she got married.

As each of these barriers to female attainment has been removed, women have capitalised on the opportunities …

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Jeremy Browne MP writes…Liberal Democrats change the law to promote freedom of speech

We all know that insulting people is bad manners, but what many people did not realise is that until last week, insulting people was actually a crime. Under Section 5 of the Public Order Act “insulting words or behaviour” were outlawed, with no clear definition of what qualified as an insult.

People have been arrested for a slew of peculiar “crimes”. Telling a police officer his horse was gay. Holding a banner describing Scientology as a dangerous cult. Growling and barking at two passing dogs.  Playing a DVD with quotations from the Bible.

Some of these “crimes” were people making statements with …

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Jeremy Browne MP writes… Confronting violence against women

Since the General Election, crime across England and Wales has fallen by 10%. It is now at its lowest level since the official crime survey began over thirty years ago. This is important news, and as Minister for Crime Prevention, it is my job to scrutinise these trends and to help them continue.

But amidst this positive news we must not lose sight of those statistics and stories which show we have a long way still to go. Violence against women and girls is one of those areas.

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Jeremy Browne writes … My liberalism has a simple objective: to promote the freedom and ambitions of every individual.

Jeremy Browne writes in The House magazine:

My liberalism has a simple objective: to promote the freedom and ambitions of every individual.

Their freedom from persecution, from fear, from ignorance and from enforced conformity. And their ambition to reach their full potential.

Personal freedom requires the state to be the servant of the people; never their master. But that does not automatically mean that liberalism always benefits from having a small state.

With the reflex authoritarianism of the Blair/Brown years, liberals have often become accustomed to regarding the state as a threat to liberty. Under Labour we saw a steady erosion of freedom: …

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Jeremy Browne MP writes: Paralympics legacy must advance rights of people with disabilities

The fourteenth Paralympics Games open today, the pre-cursor of which dates back to the last time London hosted the Olympics. The brainchild of Dr. Ludwig Guttmann of Stoke Mandeville Hospital for disabled veterans of World War II, the event was staged to coincide with the 1948 London Olympics. It has grown dramatically since then. This year’s Games, the biggest yet, will see 4,200 athletes, from 160 countries, compete in 20 different sports medal events.

London 2012 saw the first ever double amputee compete in the Olympic Games. South African, Oscar Pistorius competed in the men’s 400 metre race and was a …

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Jeremy Browne – working for abolition of the death penalty abroad

Next month, it will be 48 years since the last execution on British soil. Internationally, more countries than ever have been electing to also abandon the death penalty. Amnesty International’s latest report on death sentences and executions shows that the number of countries retaining capital punishment has decreased by one third over the last decade. More countries than ever are also instituting moratoriums on the practice. However, Amnesty reports that 149 more people were known to be executed in 2011 than in 2010. In the Middle East in particular, 2011 saw a steep rise in the number of recorded executions. …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Jeremy Browne MP writes… The Olympic Games are just 200 days away.

In London and across the country, preparations are reaching fever pitch. As Minister for the Olympics in the Foreign Office, I have been involved in the planning and preparation since May 2010. While many people are excited about the torch relay across the country and the huge variety of sporting events, the Olympics also offer a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase our country.

It has been 64 years since the Games was last held in the UK. In 1948, fifty-nine nations attended. This year, over two hundred teams will be representing their countries. This is an opportunity for Britain to …

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Jeremy Browne writes… The London Conference on Cyberspace

In just over a decade, cyberspace has completely changed the way we live and work. Access has grown from 16 million internet users in 1995 to nearly 2 billion today, more than half of whom are in developing countries. On November 1st and 2nd, we will be hosting the London Conference on Cyberspace. The first of its kind, it will be a high profile event attended by the Foreign Secretary, Hillary Clinton, and high level delegates from over sixty countries.

The rapid development of a globally networked world offers enormous opportunities as well as challenges. When …

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Jeremy Browne writes: World Day Against the Death Penalty

Jeremy Browne with Eastlea Amnesty Youth Group

Today I met with a group of students, activists and academics to mark the eighth anniversary of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, and the fourth anniversary of the European Day Against the Death Penalty.

It has been a longstanding policy for the UK to oppose the death penalty in any and all circumstances as a matter of principle. As an individual, as a Liberal Democrat and as a Minister, I have always worked hard …

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Jeremy Browne MP writes: Supporting those who have lost loved ones overseas

Losing a loved one is a difficult and sad burden to bear. But when that death is under suspicious circumstances abroad, the situation can be even more bewildering and traumatic.

During my time as a Minister in the Foreign Office, I have met a number of families who have had a relative murdered in a foreign country. Speaking to these families, MPs and NGO’s highlighted to me the need for the Foreign Office to do more to support these families in difficult times. I made a commitment to Parliament last year to review the support we offer for British nationals …

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Jeremy Browne writes: the Lib Dems are implementing our core agenda in Government

A common misconception is that the Liberal Democrats are in the government solely to make the case for constitutional reform and civil liberties, while everything else comes from the Conservatives. This
analysis is deeply flawed, but it helps to explain why some political observers, who know little about the Lib Dems beyond the most lazy caricature, fail to understand what actually drives the government forward. Yes, constitutional reform and civil liberties are important to the Lib Dems, but so are many other areas of policy. The Lib Dems are certainly not trading off the whole of the rest of government policy …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | 22 Comments

Jeremy Browne writes… Britain can’t afford to avoid radical change

‘One of the things the RSPB are calling on you today to do is to not cut funding for nature conservation. Can you promise that despite the 30% cuts to your department, you won’t cut nature conservation costs?’

In a typical week earlier this month, the Radio 4 Today programme, having set itself against police reforms the previous day, had just found yet another deficit denial frontier. And it was only Wednesday.

Labour official spokespeople are the same: Exhibit A, DCMS Shadow Minister Gloria De Piero writing on why we should not reduce the arts budget in Total Politics magazine last month:


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Jeremy Browne writes: Why liberals should support the Big Society

I am instinctively very supportive of the Big Society. But it is not a new concept and I have another name for it. I call it liberalism.

My liberalism is a belief that power should start at the bottom and feed upwards. It is about personal empowerment, choice and, sometimes, quirky individualism. It is about self-pride, community and, often, a suspicion of authority. It is human in scale and organic in its development.

I have a nervous attentiveness to the need to protect this precious but delicate grassroots liberalism from the steam-roller of the overbearing state. What my liberalism is emphatically not is authoritarian or bleakly conformist. It does not idealise the placing of power at the top in the hands of the mighty and then working downwards. It is instinctively unsettled by orthodoxy and drab uniformity.

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Jeremy Browne writes… Given citizens control over future proposals to give the EU more powers

Today the Coalition will bring forward legislation to allow every British citizen to have a say on future changes to the EU Treaties where those changes transfer power or competence from Britain to the European Union.

Britain has been a member of the European Union since the 1970s and we have benefited from closer cooperation. We should also remember that the union is one of the greatest successful demonstrations of the expansion of democracy and liberal values in history. From the post-war stabilisation of western Europe to the removal of the Iron Curtain, the European Union has provided its members with …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 18 Comments

Jeremy Browne writes… Human rights, six months in

Last week at the UN, 107 countries voted for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The UK led the international lobbying effort and provided strong encouragement to countries such as Mongolia, who voted for the moratorium for the first time.

This was a very encouraging result and part of a wider international movement towards global abolition. It is clear in my mind that the death penalty is no deterrent to criminals, it can never be reversed and it is a denial of the liberal sanctity of the individual. It is the UK’s unwavering aim to try and …

Posted in Op-eds | 19 Comments

Jeremy Browne MP writes… I’m no Tory: I’m a radical, authentic liberal

Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne’s appearance on BBC1’s Question Time last week prompted critical comments for refusing to condfemn control orders, instead saying that the Coalition’s decision on control orders will await the outcome of the government-commission anti-terrorism review of Lib Dem peer Lord (Ken) Macdonald. Here Jeremy responds to his critics…

When I appeared on Question Time last week, I acknowledged that, confronted with a real terrorist threat from ideological zealots hostile to all of our liberal ideals, the government may sometimes, in its response, have to wrestle with the difficult tension between liberty and security. My goal is …

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Jeremy Browne writes… Why I voted against the UK Youth Parliament meeting in the Commons

Yesterday Lib Dem Voice highlighted the vote by MPs to allow the UK Youth Parliament to meet in the chamber of the House of Commons at a time when it’s not sitting. Jeremy Browne and Bob Russell were the two Lib Dem MPs to vote against. In this article for LDV Jeremy explains his position.

The vote on Monday was a free vote on House of Commons business and every Liberal Democrat MP was free to vote how he or she wished. Apart from the party spokesman, I was the only Liberal Democrat MP who attended the overwhelming majority of the debate. I had originally been minded to abstain, but the arguments made on Monday in favour of the Government’s position were so weak that I believed they were unworthy of even this lukewarm endorsement.

I also objected to the Government Chief Whip, on House business, walking into a debate that he had previously not attended, when MPs had been waiting hours for an opportunity to speak, and curtailing the discussion over an hour before it was scheduled to conclude.

As for the issue itself, during the division a Government whip was shouting “For the Youth Parliament that way; against the Youth Parliament that way”. This was a total caricature of the debate, but it is typical of the casual misrepresentation and authoritarianism that Labour also displays when it seeks to frame the decision over a universal DNA database or ID cards as being between those who oppose criminals and those who support them.

I am supportive of the Youth Parliament, and I am even more supportive of young people engaging in politics. It does seem, though, that the case made for this measure – that it will stimulate interest in politics amongst young people across the country – is rather optimistic.

My assessment is that young people are often disengaged for more complex reasons. They see MPs unwilling or unable to address the big issues of our time, such as climate change. They see a Prime Minister make a wholly misleading case in Parliament for going to war without any sanctions subsequently being taken against him. And I suspect that many are suspicious of the sub-Blairite, values-free, empathy-based, empty gesture politics which now also characterises the Conservative leadership and which was, ironically, perfectly exemplified by the motion being discussed.

My reservations about the Government motion were essentially two-fold.

At present, the situation is very clear-cut: everyone elected as an MP can participate in debates in the House of Commons chamber, and everyone who is not elected cannot. In its upholding of democracy, it is a very pure position, and I would be opposed to, for example, Lord Mandelson participating in House of Commons debates.

Now that principle has been breached, I cannot see any consistent case for preventing any group from using the House of Commons chamber for their deliberations. The Youth Parliament has a representative mandate of sorts, but then so does the General Synod, the Muslim Council of Great Britain and the Annual Meeting of the Women’s Institute. So, for that matter, do the executive of UKIP, and many other political groups that might make many MPs feel much more uncomfortable. If we decide to discriminate against them in the future, it will cause understandable resentment.

Anyone with these reservations, including me, is criticised by some people as being a “traditionalist” or “fuddy-duddy”. And I do not doubt that the same criticism would be made if objections were raised in future to television celebrities staging a one-off mock Parliament on Red Nose Day to raise funds for impoverished children in Africa. Who would now dare to object, and risk being aggressively branded as out-dated and out-of-touch?

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