Author Archives: Joe Otten

Liblink: Greg Mulholland MP on business rates for pubs and restaurants

Greg Mulholland writes in Politics Home on how pubs up and down the country are being unfairly hit by business rate revaluation.

Pubs are, of course, businesses and need to pay their share of tax. Yet when research for the British Beer and Pub Association shows that pubs are paying 2.8% of the entire business rate bill, whilst only generating 0.5% of business turnover, the plain unfairness of the current system towards pubs is laid bare. The revaluation will further this disadvantage, with pubs and restaurants receiving a 15% and 23% increase in rateable value respectively, being the only sector

Posted in LibLink | 2 Comments

Dead parrot squawking

Ed Lucas in the Times has noticed the Liberal Democrat fightback. The whole piece is behind a register-for-two-articles-a-week-wall, but here is a flavour.

Yet look again. The parrot is far from dead. It is squawking back to life, thanks to the Brexit vote, Labour’s meltdown and sellers’ remorse after the general election. Membership has rocketed, to more than 82,000, the highest in 20 years. The party is now out-fundraising Labour. As well as the parliamentary by-election victory in Richmond Park, Lib Dems have been scoring a stunning run of local successes, snatching council seats in such seemingly unpromising places as

Posted in LibLink | 8 Comments

Labour fail to back Single Market

A cross party amendment to keep Britain in the Single Market was lost yesterday by 299 votes to 136 after Labour Lords who voted were mostly against, and Conservatives turned out in greater numbers.

Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords Dick Newby commented.

By far the best option for our economy is to stay in the Single Market. Unfortunately Theresa May’s Government is hell bent on dragging us towards a hard Brexit.

Whatever deal May comes back with is quite simply not going to be as good as remaining in the Single Market. That is why we voted to ask her to think

Posted in News | 33 Comments

Liberal Democrat spring conference agenda published

The agenda for the Liberal Democrat spring conference in York 17-19th March is now available here.

We already knew the topics to be covered from Zoe O’Connell’s report three weeks ago, but this is the first chance for most members of the party to see the full texts to be debated and consider proposing amendments.

Here’s my rapid summary of some key points (and I have decoded some of the titles):

F4 Sex work Decriminalise sex work as the best way to reduce harm from it and to …

Posted in Conference | 11 Comments

Tim Farron writes to Jeremy Corbyn: will you clarify your position on Article 50

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has written to Jeremy Corbyn to call on him to clear up ‘once and for all’ his party’s position on Article 50.

Posted in News | 20 Comments

+++Supreme Court rules against government on Article 50

In the last few minutes the supreme court has ruled that the government cannot trigger Article 50 using perogative powers but must hold a vote in Parliament. The reasoning seems to be that triggering Article 50 would cut off a dynamic source of UK law, would be a change to the UK constitutional arrangements, and this can only be done by an act of Parliament.

The court also ruled that there was no obligation on the government to consult devolved administrations.

There is a summary of the judgement on the supreme court website here.

Posted in News | 23 Comments

Iconic coalition era building demolished

Do you remember the days when many an urgent TV news interview on the state of the nation was conducted in a plumbers’ yard? The yard contained the constituency office of Nick Clegg MP, and before him Richard Allan MP. Nick moved out around a year ago to a nearby alternative, and this morning on the school run I saw …

To be honest, even when standing it wasn’t much prettier than this. But the office was unpretentiously a place of ordinary decent hard work, at the heart of the community, next door to a church and a primary school. And it has years of memories for Sheffield Liberal Democrats.

Posted in News | 3 Comments

UK Ambassador to the EU resigns

Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s ambassador to the European Union has resigned. Highly experienced and diligent, Rogers was expected to play a key role in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

Nick Clegg has commented

The resignation of somebody as experienced as Sir Ivan Rogers is a body blow to the Government’s Brexit plans.

I worked for Ivan Rogers in the EU twenty years ago – then he worked for me and the rest of the Coalition Government several years later.

Throughout all that time Ivan was always punctiliously objective and rigorous in all he did and all the advice he provided.

If the reports are true that he has been hounded out by hostile Brexiteers in Government, it counts as a spectacular own goal.

The Government needs all the help it can get from good civil servants to deliver a workable Brexit.

Posted in News | 50 Comments

Michael Wilkinson appointed head of digital content

Telegraph political correspondent and web editor Michael Wilkinson has been appointed as head of digital content at the Liberal Democrats.

Posted in News | 18 Comments

Aleppo must be a wake up call

Amid the humanitarian catastrophe that has been the siege and fall of Aleppo, both supporters and opponents of earlier calls for military action by the West against Assad have been claiming vindication by events. Perhaps some are relieved that the TV pictures of bloodied children in rubble can be attributed to Russian bombs rather than Western ones.

And perhaps we are guilty – as the EU is supposedly guilty of welcoming closer ties with Ukraine – of seeing a potential for good in the Arab Spring. Torment nobody with the promise of freedom and democracy unless you can deliver it, at gunpoint if necessary? Don’t start a civil war you can’t win, however bad your government?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 29 Comments

Jedi is not a religion: official

A ruling from the Charity Commission yesterday, has determined that Jediism, the worship of the mythology of Star Wars, is not a religion. This marks the release of the latest Star Wars film, episode 3.5, Rogue One, which in deference to the Charity Commission’s ruling does not feature (spoilers?) a single proper Jedi Knight, though there is a blind kind-of-Jedi monk, with whom is the force, and who seems to do as much damage with a stick as a proper Jedi does with a light sabre.

I’ll confess I was ignorant that the Charities Commission’s powers and competence extended to determining the validity or frivolity of theological doctrines, and I now look forward to many more theological disputes being settled by the same good people.

Posted in Op-eds | 16 Comments

The other Brexit negotiations plan

There is an ongoing heated debate over how much if anything of her intentions Theresa May will reveal before triggering Article 50. Does she want to stay in the single market? Does she want UK citizens to have any rights (short of complete freedom?) to travel and work in the EU? Does she want to maintain the reciprocal arrangement on health care? Does she want all the policing co-operation to continue (we think so)? Does she want us to stay in the scientific research programmes? Etc. Etc.

This is all in our interests: does a sovereign nation that has taken back control have the right to enter agreements that are in its interests? Yes it does. That’s how we got in to the EU.

Presumably we want out of the Common Fisheries Policy, but some sort of agreement on fisheries will be desirable, to prevent overfishing. (Yes, I know that’s what the CFP is.) And do we want to expropriate the fishing quotas that have been sold by British fishermen to Spaniards? I wouldn’t think so – that’s not how the UK behaves – but in that case, what respite is there for British fishermen?

Posted in Op-eds | 36 Comments

Reaction to Fidel Castro’s legacy

The death of Cuban revolutionary, dictator and hard left cause celebre, Fidel Castro has reopened a debate on his legacy.

Tim Farron released the following statement

There is no doubt that Fidel Castro was a vastly significant 20th century leader, but even as we respectfully acknowledge this on his passing, we must not overlook the appalling human rights abuses including brutal summary executions for which he was responsible

As expected Jeremy Corbyn was among the more fulsome in praise, to objections from progressives:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 46 Comments

The Rustlings Road Tree Massacre

A knock on the door in the middle of the night. “Move your car or it will be towed”. Three peaceful protestors, including two public spirited women in their 70s, arrested for the crime of “suspicion of preventing lawful work“.

Is this an anti-terror operation? Is this happening in Putin’s Russia? No. It is a Labour council seeking to cut down eight trees on the highway, that residents have been campaigning to save for the last two years. Six of the eight trees could be saved according to the council’s own Independent Tree Panel – whose advice …

Posted in News | 16 Comments

It’s not about inequality

I recall after the financial crisis of 2008 everybody with an unconventional opinion on banking and monetary policy felt confirmed that this showed they had been right all along. Whether they believed in more regulation of banks or less, or in the superficially plausible but ultimately wrong-headed notion of banning bank lending altogether and making up the money supply by having the government print a lot extra – they felt proven right by events.

We are in danger of doing the same with Donald Trump’s victory. Last week Helen Flynn argued that it was about inequality. Thus the solution …

Posted in Op-eds | 37 Comments

More United consult members on endorsing Sarah Olney

More United.uk the post-referendum cross-party campaign for an open tolerant and inclusive Britain, is consulting its members on whether to endorse Sarah Olney in the Richmond Park by-election.

This comes at a crucial moment as postal votes are landing and there is a concerted effort to speak to postal voters. If you can’t get to Richmond Park, just log into Connect and you will find a Virtual Phone Bank ready for you.

more-united

This decision by More United is a critical test of its core concept, of a willingness to endorse candidates from any one of a number of different parties, should they subscribe to the values. If it doesn’t endorse Sarah in Richmond Park, how can it ever deliver? The letter to members is as follows:

Posted in News | 25 Comments

Alistair Carmichael on Article 50

Alistair Carmichael was on the Daily Politics today, quizzed by Jo Coburn over the party’s position on the Article 50 debate, the Single Market/soft Brexit and a referendum on the final deal.

The segment starts at 21 minutes below, and Alistair is on from 24 minutes.

alistair-carmichael-daily-politics

It was put to him that making the A50 vote conditional on single market membership and a “second” referendum was seeking to thwart the will of the people:

It is impossible for everybody who voted to leave for a whole range of reasons to get what

Posted in News | 38 Comments

What do you want from Parliament’s Article 50 debate?

With the issue of whether Article 50 needs parliamentary approval currently before the courts, there is some discussion of what Parliament ought to do with the process if it gets the chance.

While clearly there is no majority for simply blocking article 50, it is quite reasonable for MPs to put constructive amendments to the proposal, respectful of the mandate from June, and to vote against if those amendments are not accepted – as one would with any other bill before Parliament.

One amendment should be to give the people a vote on the final deal, so that we can choose, once …

Posted in Op-eds | 33 Comments

Fighting fun politicians in the age of entertainment news

Yes, this is another “how do we fight back against the politics UKIP/Brexit/Trump” type of article, though I hope a different one to the rest.

I read two articles yesterday, both illuminating, but doubly so when read together. This on the BBC explains a cultural difference between the UK and Germany that may be hobbling diplomatic understanding. British are liable to say “oh no I couldn’t possibly” to mean yes, to which Germans will consider the matter settled at no. Swashbuckling overpromising bluster is far more tolerated in British political culture than in German, which values consistency much more highly and is to our ears extremely dull.

The other was this at the Washington Post expressing bemusement at the “corrupt Clinton” narrative that exists, when “Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling.” A list of Trump’s corrupt activities is given. Each has been reported and then we move on. Journalists shrug. The Florida attorney general takes a donation from Trump and drops an investigation into his “university”. Hillary, meanwhile is investigated to within an inch of her life, and even when nothing is found, the investigation is used to support a narrative of guilt.

Posted in Op-eds | 34 Comments

Rage or reason? Two reviews from Miranda Green

Over at Prospect Magazine there is a thoughtful review from Miranda Green of Politics: Between the Extremes by Nick Clegg, alongside The Death of Liberal Democracy? by David Boyle and Joe Zammit-Lucia.

clegg-book

The result, in this book , is a mix of avowed optimism—that a liberal worldview can and must survive—with a hugely gloomy analysis of British political culture. Politics: Between the Extremes is part memoir of the Coalition years, part meditation on the rebellious spirit of the post-crash period (to call it an age seems premature). Its balance can be uneasy, but Clegg’s book is a necessary contribution to a pressing current debate: how much and for what reason are liberal values, in the broad sense, at bay? And can any moderate politician find a way to turn the tide of resentment against the political system and its practitioners?

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

Dear Theresa May, don’t miss this opportunity to unite the nation

Theresa May might have said this

I will deliver Brexit. I will be faithful to the mandate given to us by the British people. I will heed their anxieties about immigration and I will act so that we have more control about who comes in and out of our country. But, friends, I must tell you candidly that I will not act in a way which will jeopardise the open, dynamic economy upon which our great trading economy relies.

And that means I will also fight to retain our membership of Europe’s single market, the world’s largest borderless marketplace created by

Posted in LibLink | 6 Comments

Politics between the extremes – some highlights

Nick Clegg’s account of the coalition and its aftermath is an insightful and in many places startlingly frank account. This is not a complete review, though do buy and read the book for yourself, but I’ll pick up a few of the issues raised.

clegg-book

Nick devotes a chapter to “the plumage of power” – looking at how a government anchored in the centre ground by Liberal Democrats ended up appearing from the outside merely to be run by unusually moderate Conservatives. One aspect of this was being seen with the trappings of power. The value was understood all along by Conservatives – because they live for this sort of thing. Speaking at the door of number 10, etc. There’s a fascinating contrast between the coalition DPM who had a veto on government policy but no real visible trappings – and, say, the US Vice President who is well adorned with plumage, but whose powers are ‘not worth a bucket of warm spit’.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

Boundary commission proposals published

As expected yesterday, the Boundary Commission has reported its initial proposals for reviewing the Parliamentary constituencies, with the objective of having more equal constituencies (a strict 5% tolerance, down from 10%) and reducing the number of seats to 600.

This is similar to the exercise in the last parliament, though we were told there would be greater willingness this time to split wards to avoid absurd geographies.

So lets take a look at what happens to – lets say Sheffield Hallam.

sheffield-west-and-stocksbridge-2

Apologies for the patchy nature of this picture – as you can see the website is under rather more load than it can cope with.

Posted in News | 24 Comments

Open Britain divides opinion

Yesterday’s announcement of Stronger In’s rebranding as Open Britain pushing for greatest possible openness, and greatest retention of the benefits of EU membership post-referendum has divided opinion.

Statements like this one

Despite being drawn from different political parties, all of us campaigned proudly and passionately for Britain to remain in the European Union. The result was not the one we wanted, but of course we respect the democratically expressed verdict of the British people.

The UK may have voted to leave the EU, but the certainty ends there. What does Brexit actually mean? Europe will continue to be our biggest trading partner and

Posted in Op-eds | 31 Comments

Liberal Democrat Federal Conference: outline agenda published

The outline agenda for Federal Conference in Brighton this September has just been published here, with the full agenda to follow mid-August.

Highlights include a slot reserved to debate Europe with an extended deadline for a motion and amendments so that we may consider something topical. Federal Conference committee was concerned that the motions proposed in July might have been overtaken by events by September.

Other policy debates include Welfare, Transport, PreP, Racism (with reference to the rise in hate crimes as a result of the Leave campaign), the Green economy and Parent Governors; there are consultative sessions on Nuclear Weapons …

Posted in Conference | 6 Comments

Liberal Democrats vote against like for like Trident replacement

Yesterday the House of Commons voted 472-177 in favour of the like for like replacement of Trident.

While much coverage has focussed on the split in the Labour Party, which voted 141-48 against its leader, to renew, Liberal Democrats, who are also reviewing policy on nuclear weapons, voted 7-0 not to renew like for like.

Posted in News | 25 Comments

Theresa May open thread

So congratulations are in order to Theresa May on becoming Prime Minister.

May has usually been described as dull, diligent and effective, but I expect now that she has the top job a little more of her personality will be stamped on the government. She is famous for calling out the Conservatives for allowing themselves to be seen as the ‘nasty party’ and was considered a moderniser, but has not always risen above the nasty herself – the “Go home” billboards for example.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 26 Comments

Even UKIP have no plan for this

Sheffield Full Council yesterday was met with a large pro-EU rally with speakers from all parties and other groups, including Sheffield Lib Dem group leader Shaffaq Mohammed.

Sheffield Stay

The debate continued in the chamber, on item 10, which was moved up the agenda in response to the demo. Sheffield is one of those councils that has this kind of debate quite regularly in full council, the business of running a council being decided in cabinet. Whether this is a good use of everyone’s time is questionable, but it is how we do things.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

A reflection on the use of numbers

One of the lies that didn’t survive a day after the referendum result was that there would be £350m a week to spend on the NHS. My suspicion is that this number was widely understood to be untrue but was still highly effective.

Now it would have been quite easy for Leave to say that there would be £136m a week to spend on the NHS, and although it is a lesser number, do we really think the political impact of £136m is going to be all that different to £350m (were it true)? Or to £250m? (The amount sent of which some comes back.) All are large numbers beyond our normal experience, and, in principle, if we had that money, we could spend it on a great deal of something good.

Posted in Op-eds | 14 Comments

Proof arrives that Remain are right on the economy

Until now the economic argument in this EU referendum has been whether you believe the experts – whose reputations depend on the quality of their prognostications – or whether you believe that an ‘expert’ is someone who automatically has less expertise than everybody else.

Just to summarise, thanks to Sky News:

  • International Monetary Fund – Britain could cause “severe regional and global damage by disrupting established trading relationships”, should it vote to leave the EU. “Negotiations on post exit arrangements would likely be protracted, resulting in an extended period of heightened uncertainty that could weigh heavily on confidence and investment, all the while increasing financial market volatility.” The consequences ranged from “pretty bad to very, very bad”, managing director, Christine Lagarde added
  • PWC for the Confederation of British Industry – GDP down 3 to 5% by 2020, 5% corresponding to 950,000 jobs and £100bn lost.
  • Institute For Fiscal Studies – Brexit would cost the UK between £20bn and £40bn, according to the IFS. The Government would need to find equivalent of £5bn of public spending cuts, £5bn worth of savings from social security spending and roll out tax hikes worth £5bn – two more years of austerity – to cover the cost.
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – GDP in the UK could be between 3-5% below the level it might have been if it had remained in the EU, equivalent to £2,200 loss per household.

No longer need we believe them. With polls in the last few days showing a high risk of Brexit, the markets have reacted.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 69 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAndy Hinton 25th May - 2:45am
    I'm a little confused by theakes and David Evans's comments. Would they rather we just didn't have well written policy? I'm as interested in us...
  • User AvatarJoeB 25th May - 1:25am
    Peter, The UK had similar oil reserves in the North Sea to that of Norway in the 1970s. Norway invested their windfall. In 1974, Oslo...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 25th May - 1:03am
    @ Peter Martin While our position has not always been clear, it is that there should be a referendum on accepting the deal or staying...
  • User Avatarpaul holmes 24th May - 11:40pm
    Mick, do your arguments on the effect of AWS stand up to scrutiny? Jo Swinson was selected to fight and win her Target seat in...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 24th May - 11:24pm
    "They want another referendum, on the proposed deal with the EU." If we vote to reject it then what? We leave with no deal? You...
  • User AvatarRob Parsons 24th May - 11:11pm
    I think the shortest answer to that, Little Jackie, is read Jo's book. The evidence is there in every way from statistical to anecdotal.