Author Archives: John Barrett

Justice and Truth for the Sub-Postmasters

For many years Liberal Democrats, like me, campaigned against the closure of Post Office branches, as we believed that every community which loses its local Post Office is poorer in a number of ways. They provided not only essential postal and banking services, but also a social hub and a lifeline for many, who did not have a bank account or access to the internet.

Ironically, those Sub-Postmasters whose Post Offices did close escaped the risk of being caught up in what has been described as the greatest ever miscarriage of justice in Britain, with several hundred innocent people losing their life savings, being made bankrupt and homeless, and in some cases losing their lives, because of the lies told and outdated powers that the Post Office used to prosecute – without the involvement of the Police. Many were falsely accused of fraud because of the determination by the Post Office to cover up an IT problem, which was known about for years.

This long running saga has once again come to the public’s attention with the broadcast of the television series, Mr Bates v The Post Office, which has retold the story as a drama which has left people shocked and outraged at the action of the Post Office, the Government and the legal system. With a number of heroes and leading the villains, the Post Office’s CEO at the time, Paula Vennells.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Why I will vote No in a referendum

Back in 2013, I wrote an article for the Scotsman newspaper outlining what issues were important to me in deciding what way to vote in the then upcoming Independence referendum.

In the end I decided to vote Yes, as at that time I believed the risks involved were worth taking. Nearly ten years on, the circumstances are now quite different and if, as proposed yesterday by Nicola Sturgeon, there is another referendum next year, I would now vote No.

It is very unlikely that the Supreme Court will confirm legality on the new proposals, as it is clear to even the SNP, that without the consent of Westminster the Scottish Parliament will not be able to hold a lawful referendum and as the SNP have already declared that they will then make the next Westminster election a single issue campaign on independence, there is time to consider what is the best way forward. We have seen before how splitting the vote on any single issue can let a party with a minority of the votes win first past the post elections on that issue.

Firstly, we need to understand why the SNP will never give up on their demands for a referendum on independence. It is similar to Liberals wanting a fair voting system and losing a referendum on it. A fair electoral system is at the heart of our beliefs, and regardless of how little support other parties, or the public give electoral reform, we will never give up our call for a system where those elected fairly represent the way people have voted. The SNP have a similar core belief, but they depend on the lack of a fair electoral system to deliver it for them.

There will also be support from those who oppose independence, for a referendum, as the best way to give the public their say and to deal with the question which has dominated Scottish politics for many years. It is a debate that will not go away by refusing to have it.

Since 2014 much has changed, not least the fact of Brexit.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 19 Comments

How to fund the BBC?

At a time when fewer young people watch live TV or any TV at all, and older people are concerned about the future of their free licences, it is now time to rethink, seriously, how the BBC is funded.

For people, like me, who also subscribe to a news package and can compare BBC News with a range of alternative, I now rarely, if ever, watch BBC News. Those who say the BBC News is the best in the world have probably not watched the alternatives available.

Much of my other TV entertainment is through subscriptions to Netflix and Prime, and while I can afford to pay for the licence, if I could not, I would understand more those struggling to pay it and campaigning to get rid of a tax on something they do not want, or use.

We all indeed pay lots of taxes for things we do not use but accept they are worth it.

The NHS is a good example, for many healthy people, and while those with no children, or children in private education, might object to paying for schools, most would accept that schools are necessary, as is the NHS. The BBC does not fall into that same category of being an essential service – anymore.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 57 Comments

Is it time to ditch referendums?

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Is it now time to accept that referendums are no way to decide anything? Or is it time to say that they should only be used, if the result produces a clear majority, of say two thirds of the voters, or 50% of the entire electorate?

The decision to use a referendum to decide major constitutional issues has always appeared, in the past, to be the sensible way to tackle those issues, as people vote at General Elections on a wide range of issues and it was thought that a referendum would give a clear answer on a single issue.

The UK remaining in the EU, or Scotland leaving the UK have both been put to a referendum where the side getting 50% of the vote could claim victory, but it was clear in both cases that people would vote each way for a variety of reasons on both issues, leaving the question, “What is the point of a referendum if it doesn’t clearly answer the question put?”

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 56 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Jeff
    Marco 14th Apr '24 - 1:37pm: The OBR estimates that GDP is 4% lower due to Brexit,… No. They forecast a reduction in “long-run productivit...
  • Jeff
    expats 14th Apr '24 - 4:00pm: I’m only surprised that you haven’t referenced more Daily Express trade bonuses… I don’t often cite the ...
  • Chris Moore
    Lab/LD tactical voting that benefitted LDs did happen in some seats in97 and 2010. Likewise, I believe there was anti-Labour tactical voting in 2005 in the m...
  • Chris Moore
    Hello Nigel, that's a fair point. Jeff himself however is I believe an ardent Brexiteer. I can't remember whether he's an LD supporter? @Jeff: as for dis...
  • Peter Chambers
    > but Russia was also “somehow provoked” A fun mental exercise is to substitute "British Empire" for Russia or Soviet Union, and "Eden" for Putin, and...