Author Archives: Judy Abel

As we see disarray in so many aspects of public life, do the Lib Dems need to ask themselves some very tough questions?

As I read the news, probably like you, I am astonished at the almost unending stream of bad news in the UK – before we even get to Brexit.

Over just the past few weeks we’ve seen debilitating and potentially life-threatening patient logjams in A&E Departments, not to mention non-urgent surgery being cancelled across the NHS in England during January. Rail transport is becoming dire with constant delays for commuters, despite rail fares in the UK being amongst the highest in the world. And what of crime? Law and order may not always have been a top policy priority for the Lib Dems, but Caroline Pidgeon has done much to highlight knife crime in the capital over the past couple of years; nonetheless there were a staggering 80 fatal stabbings in London last year.

Random, incomprehensible, inequalities also abound across the UK. Why is it in England that students pay tuition fees, when in Scotland no such fees apply? Also, how can it be that students are having to repay their loans at extortionate 6% interest rates? There are also no prescription charges in Scotland and Wales, only in England. How can that be right and fair? Don’t get me wrong, I am neither in favour of tuition fees or prescription charges, but it’s the blatant lack of a level playing field in different parts of the UK which is astonishing.

Other stories continue to paint the picture of a society in a state of degeneration: just one such item caught my eye in the Guardian this week: educational support for England’s 45,000 deaf children is reported to be “in complete disarray” by the National Deaf Children’s Society with a dwindling number of specialist teachers in mainstream schools. Such losses of essential services point to a degradation of our public life and values. The inhumane conditions in some prisons, reflected in high prisoner suicide rates, is another example of decline and disarray in the public sector. On and on it goes.

Posted in Op-eds | 70 Comments

In this campaign let’s not focus too hard on Brexit: other things matter to people too

As well as appealing to the 48% of voters who are deeply disenchanted with Brexit, I think there are many other policy areas we need to focus on, if we are to make an electoral breakthrough.

In this week alone, there have been three fatal stabbings in London, innocent people (all men) aged 17, 40 and 60, robbed of their lives because of mindless violence. We have to show that we care about violence and people having the right to live in peaceful streets and neighbourhoods.

Let’s also tackle the inequitable housing situation, whereby overseas buyers are buying up London’s properties at prices that are completely unaffordable for locals – who often aren’t even given a chance to buy them before they are marketed overseas, as apparently happened with the new Heygate development in South East London. Switzerland has placed restrictions on foreign buyers, why can’t we?

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The EU: did we ever really belong?

In just over two weeks pro-EU people have gone from despondency to incredulity as we have seen a succession of Conservative MPs topple each other over Europe, seemingly unconcerned about the damage that has been done to the country by the Leave vote. The Labour Party too are in disarray over this issue and only the Lib Dems are going forward on a pro-EU footing – even though it looks like the country is now heading for the exit door.

But Europe has actually been a divisive issue for political leaders since we first joined the EEC in 1973 and this whole saga, sadly, feels like the final scene in a 40-year soap opera. The political pundits tell us that Europe was the undoing of John Major, and David Cameron has now lost his job because of it. And ever since we joined, successive governments would go to Brussels with the begging bowl, always wanting special treatment for Britain, rather than wanting to get stuck in and build a better Europe.

It seems to me that many of our leaders – and clearly many in the nation at large – never really embraced Europe or, perhaps, even understood it. Many people just wouldn’t know that over many years, a lot of our best social and environmental legislation originated from laws passed in Brussels, and that much infrastructure was built in the poorer regions of the UK with EU money. It has now entered our common folklore that the most searched for term on Google the day after the Referendum was, “What is the EU?”

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It must be possible to be 100% pro-EU, but still question how things are run


I’m half Danish and consider myself to be a European. I have never really felt particularly English or British at all and if Denmark is playing England at football it’s a tough call, even though I’ve lived in the UK almost all my life and spent a total of only two years in Denmark.

I have always been pro-EU. I believe in political co-operation and the European ideal – and have often considered other European countries to be more enlightened when it comes to matters such as social justice and environmental protection. Without the EU, I am sure we wouldn’t have had Blue Flag beaches or the equivalent, tighter car emission regulations (although they’ve been flouted badly in recent years) and proper food labelling. Whereas, in my experience, Danish Governments of whatever shade tend to want to ensure the quality of life and wellbeing of their populations, that enlightened approach sadly hasn’t been a particularly strong feature of British life – although it does appear to be something Scotland wants to follow (hence no tuition fees and prescription charges).

Whilst agreeing with the provisions of the Single Market in terms of the free movement of goods, service and people, this doesn’t stop me asking certain questions about the efficacy of the EU and what we might be able to do better. All institutions need to adapt and evolve to changing circumstances and the EU cannot be an exception to that.

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Is regulation becoming the new religion?


In whatever field you care to mention – whether it is education, services or business – employers and organisations are checking up on us as never before.

Recently my car broke down in Glastonbury, so I called the AA. Out came the AA repair person, who did a great job, but he then asked me to rate the service he had provided on a tablet, by clicking on a happy face, sad face, or categories in between. Not only that, I got a follow up phone call asking me whether he had done a good job. Why couldn’t the AA just let me call to complain I there had been a problem? This all creates so much pressure on working people.

Last time I went to my GP surgery there was a plastic plinth asking me to rate my experience, with the happy and sad faces again. I tried to type in a message saying “Stop checking up on people, the pressure on staff must be intolerable”, but the message box vanished! On the back of many lorries there is a number to call, inviting us to rate the lorry driver’s performance – and on it goes. And, in my experience, when performance-related pay is introduced in a company the spirit of collegiality can quickly turn into one of competitiveness and dissatisfaction.

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Party membership: is it possible with a ‘coalition’ mindset?  


In the autumn, I received reminders about my soon-to-lapse Lib Dem membership. When I joined last year, I partly did so in response to the Christians in Politics ‘Show Up’ campaign which argued that it didn’t matter so much which party you joined, so long as you got involved and  made a difference. It was a really good campaign, but this time around I have been thinking more carefully about what it means to be a member.

Like many people, I suspect, I’ve a ‘coalition’ mindset:  probably around 65% Lib Dem (agreeing with the party on issues such as Europe, health, green issues, housing and the freedom of the individual); 25% Labour  (supporting more state ownership of assets such as the railways, and better employment rights for working people); and 10% Conservative (for example, I supported Michael Gove’s education reforms which put a greater emphasis on formal English and Maths skills: my children’s generation weren’t taught spelling and grammar, which has put them at a significant disadvantage compared to graduates from other European countries).

Posted in Op-eds | 75 Comments

Is aiming at Coalition shooting at the wrong goal?


I couldn’t go to Conference so listened to Tim Farron’s speech on i-player afterwards. What a great speech: full of idealism, commitment and determination. We’re so lucky to have Tim as leader.

But there was one thing that really worried me.  I had already seen reports in the news that morning that Tim was going to talk about getting back into Government again in 2020 – about how going into Coalition had been the right thing to do. Looking at the decimation of the Party and the loss of so many first-class MPs I am still not so sure about that, but leaving the past aside, is Coalition what the Lib Dems should be aiming for now, and more importantly saying what we are aiming for? I would generally say not.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarTristan Ward 20th Feb - 6:48am
    You have to admire Davies’s stubborn belief that n his case. Britain can do no wrong, so we must be justified in forcing the EU...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 20th Feb - 6:40am
    @Peter Martin "I don’t know if you were around then but the result of the 1976 referendum was generally accepted in the wider community." Well...
  • User AvatarJoeB 20th Feb - 1:28am
    Michael BG, it is always good idea to look at what the actual outcome of policies has been. The G7 economies with below average unemployment...
  • User AvatarSean Hyland 20th Feb - 12:05am
    @Michael BG Re reform of EU as you mention. Its difficult to see the EU moving to accept any of this. I think national parliament...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 19th Feb - 11:47pm
    David Thanks, and yes to the soap, though the box is one we could use more with a message people could hear more. Mick Yes...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 19th Feb - 11:11pm
    @ Michael BG, Economically your arguments are quite logical. But politically there is no chance of their being implemented. Angela Merkel has made it quite...