Author Archives: Martin Horwood

Martin Horwood MEP writes… Gibraltar, Trump and Iran: the Brexit connection


Embed from Getty Images

Gibraltar has just controversially released the Iranian oil tanker formerly known as the Grace 1 with a new name and a written assurance from Tehran that its shipment won’t be used to break EU sanctions on Syria.

As a member of the European Parliament’s Iran delegation and one of the LibDem MEPs for Gibraltar, as well as the South West of England, I have warmly welcomed this move. And I’m pleased to be in a position to strengthen our co-operation and influence with Europe on this critical issue. Its no exaggeration to say that peace in the Persian Gulf hangs in the balance. While the Conservative government flirts with Donald Trump, we’re working with our European allies to de-escalate crises like this.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Martin Horwood writes…The real issue about Trump, Facebook’s ‘data breach’, why The Observer missed the point and Liberals should care

The Observer‘s front page today lays into Facebook for a massive ‘data breach’ in which 50 million Americans’ data were harvested by the infamous Cambridge Analytica and used with great effect to target Trump messaging at US voters. They “built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons” their whistleblower Christopher Wylie is quoted as saying.  It was a powerful tool for a campaign based on fear and paranoia.  Little surprise then that Cambridge Analaytica is also being investigated by the Office of the Information Commissioner and by the Electoral Commission in the UK in connection with their work on the Brexit referendum.

But the main Observer story oddly misses the point. It focuses on how long it took Facebook to own up to the ‘breach’ and suspend Cambridge Analytica’s access to the service.  It describes the accessing of the data itself as “one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches”.

But it wasn’t.  And that’s not the importance of this story.

Anyone can harvest data from the web.  I harvest it when I can’t remember someone’s birthday or their kids’ names.  The Lib Dems harvest it indirectly when they use targeted Facebook advertising.  My engagement team in a previous job harvested it using smart algorithms to find possible engagement targets, ironically, to promote better data, openness and transparency.  The point is that all this information is out there and – a point confusingly referred to in the Observer piece – platforms like Facebook don’t regard it as their data but their users’ (“it may be data about people who are on Facebook that they have gathered themselves, but it is not data that we have provided”).  Facebook’s suspension of CA appears to be because of technical breaches to their terms of use, particularly the sale of data to third parties.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 12 Comments

Martin Horwood writes…Trump’s step into very dangerous waters

American bombing in Syria may make Donald Trump a hero on the streets of Idlib. Those fighting for simple democratic rights in Syria felt bitterly let down by the west in 2013 when we failed to take action the first time there was good evidence that the monstrous Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people.

We still live with the consequences of that inaction. We were warned our intervention against Assad might make the situation worse. The situation got worse anyway as Assad continued to kill his own people in their thousands with impunity. Millions fled their homes. The sudden rise of Isis/Daesh added a twisted new complication and cover for much larger-scale foreign intervention but by Russia instead of the west. But devastating Russian firepower was aimed much more frequently at the democratic rebels who were pounded into the ground at Aleppo. Increasingly it looked as though Assad’s relentless brutality had paid off and he could even get away with more chemical attacks in clear breach of international law.

So does this make Trump right to strike?

Posted in News | Tagged and | 22 Comments

Martin Horwood writes…Cross-Government International Development in 2015 and beyond

There is no doubt that we are in the midst of the most unpredictable election campaign in recent memory.  Whilst the UK media, and indeed anyone with an interest in politics, has become an expert in polling data and marginal seats, we shouldn’t forget the real impact that these elections will have on the lives of millions of people around the world.

Anyone who doubts that impact should be reminded of Nigel Farage’s ridiculous attacks on UK aid spending in the leaders’ debate last week, topped off by his heartless comments about access to treatment for people who are HIV positive. Much like Labour’s ‘banker’s bonus tax’, Farage seems determined to use our foreign aid budget to fund every one of UKIP’s policies. While our impulse might be to roll our eyes at the absurdity of it all, we mustn’t forget the real damage that this line of aid-scepticim could do if unleashed on the Department for International Development (DfID) in the next government.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Martin Horwood MP writes…A Lib Dem vision for fighting infectious diseases

The world is an ever-smaller place.  Advances in transport and telecommunications have bridged enormous geographic divides.  With a click on my phone I can Skype a friend on the other side of the world, or step outside my office and find produce from around the globe for sale in the local supermarket.

Yet, for all the many advantages of globalisation for trade and tourism, there is another side of the coin.  It is not only holidaymakers that travel by air.

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases.  Last year, it killed an estimated 1.5 million people.  In 1993 the World Health Organisation declared TB a ‘global health emergency’ since then over 40 million people have died from the disease.  It is airborne, infectious, and found in every country in the world.

In the UK, and indeed in much of the developed world, most people think that TB is no longer a threat.  Indeed, rates have fallen dramatically over the last century, and the disease has fallen off the radar.  Yet, any public health professional will tell you that TB is still a problem in many parts of the UK.  London is known as the TB capital of Western Europe.  Birmingham has even higher rates of the disease.  To complete the picture, the BCG, the TB vaccine that many of us received as children, offers negligible protection past the age of 15.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Martin Horwood MP writes…Justine Greening’s revealing speech on International Development and what it didn’t say

Yesterday the Secretary of State for the Department for International Development (DfID), Justine Greening, gave a speech outlining what she considered to be her achievements in government and giving us a hint at what the Conservatives would focus on in a future government.

Greening’s speech was kept very low key.  This is partly because foreign aid is rarely headline news, but also because the Tory hierarchy are at pains to play down DfID’s work under this government, even its very significant achievements. It was only in November that Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond told reporters that he thought the bill brought forward …

Posted in News | Tagged | 2 Comments

Martin Horwood writes … Much more than a number

School visit re FGM

Baroness Lindsay Northover, Baroness Jenny Randerson and Lynne Featherstone MP at a school visit to talk about FGM

As the only UK party with internationalism at our heart, Lib Dems should be very proud of being part of the first government to spend 0.7% of national income on helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, a target set by the international community forty years ago and one that many politicians over the years have disregarded as unobtainable.

Irate Tory rightwingers often criticise it as a number plucked out of the air.  It’s not true.  0.72% was proposed to the UN in 1968 by the Dutch economist Jan Tinbergen, who shortly afterwards won the Nobel Prize for Economics for his pioneering work in macroeconomic modelling. It was later refined to 0.70%.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 3 Comments

Martin Horwood MP writes…Pavement politics

Pavement_parking_1 by PeterEastern
It is a badge of honour for Lib Dem MPs, Councillors and activists when people call us pavement politicians. We are a party that is relentlessly focused on community politics and the issues that matter on streets up and down the country.

That’s why, when I was drawn earlier this year in the Private Member’s Bill ballot, I decided to champion a Bill focused on an issue that blights tens of thousands of streets across the country – pavement parking.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 20 Comments

Martin Horwood MP writes…Reducing the negative impact of violence on international development

Every five minutes a child dies from violence.

This appalling statistic, released in a new report from Unicef UK today, shows that violence is not confined to an unlucky few or even to war zones. Across the world, millions of children bear the brunt of an epidemic of violence that is often hidden or ignored and that threatens their rights to a healthy, safe and fulfilling life.

Violence manifests itself in many forms. Unicef UK’s research reveals that more than 125 million women, most in early childhood or adolescence, have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). In some regions, the child murder rate is shockingly high, especially for teenagers.  For example, an adolescent boy in Latin America is 70 times more likely to be murdered than in the UK.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 3 Comments

Martin Horwood writes …Tony Blair’s legacy

Tony BlairTwenty years ago yesterday Tony Blair became Labour Party Leader. The man who delivered a landslide victory for Labour in 1997 is now seen as a polarising figure in British politics.

Blair loved to be seen as a ‘modernising’ force in his party. Whether it was the abandonment of Clause 4, the drinks receptions for celebrities or leading a Government which was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, this was a world away from ‘Old Labour’.

As Prime Minister, however, there is no doubt it was his approach to foreign policy that defined his premiership.

Britain’s involvement in the illegal war in Iraq left a particularly indelible mark. Blair seemed to offer Parliament a choice. But his case was built on sandy foundations: his personal word that the intelligence case presented to MPs had not been exaggerated or ‘sexed up’.

Blair had used his own personal charisma to defeat opposition to his changes to the public sector and indeed to the Labour Party itself. He used this tool once again in making the case for the Iraq invasion, alongside a particular brand of political ‘spin’ that grew to typify Labour’s approach in office.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 40 Comments

Martin Horwood writes … an important day for disability and international development

A Remarkable Young ManSelect committee reports are often considered to be rather dry, even to the most politically active among us, which is why I feel particularly compelled to highlight the 11th report of the International Development CommitteeDisability and development.

The select committee decided to hold this inquiry because they had been told repeatedly by organisations like Sightsavers that our country’s aid system was not delivering for disabled people overseas. Lynne Featherstone also paid attention to these organisations and started championing the rights of disabled people in her first year as a minister, describing disability as the great neglected subject in international development.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

Martin Horwood MP writes: Liberal Democrats must be the voice of small business in Europe

It’s common knowledge that small businesses are the dynamic engines behind economic recoveries – light-footed, innovative and quick to seize the opportunities of growth.  I met just such a business in my own Cheltenham constituency recently, exporting highly specialised cleaning products to the world. Today in Brussels the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) launches its manifesto for the European elections and it is full of great ideas for making the European Union more competitive, accountable and efficient – all priorities for Liberal Democrat Members of the next European Parliament.

Our MEPs and ministers have already achieved some notable …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Martin Horwood MP writes…Putting people with disabilities into the international development picture

One year after her appointment as the first ever Liberal Democrat minister at the Department for International Development (DfID), Lynne Featherstone has already earned a reputation for picking up difficult subjects and setting ambitious goals. In her first year, she put the issue of female genital mutilation on the national and international agenda and famously declared that she wanted to see it gone within a generation and then started to take the practical steps to make that happen.

Now Lynne has taken up another challenge for some of the world’s most vulnerable people: to champion the inclusion of people with disabilities. …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

Martin Horwood MP: Trident – A Different Path

Dr StrangeloveFew aspects of British policy have remained so undisturbed for so long as the UK’s attitude to nuclear deterrence. As we bring home our troops from Germany, tying up one of the last loose ends in a Cold War conflict that Britons under the age of 40 can probably barely remember, it would be wise for our nuclear policy to finally catch up.

This is not a new idea for us. In opposition, Liberal Democrats opposed Tony Blair’s plan for early like-for-like replacement of Trident nuclear weapons and we did so on the basis that a system designed to counter the existential threat from the twentieth century Soviet Union is not sensible in the early twenty-first century.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 11 Comments

Martin Horwood MP writes… Balance of competence reports shows EU membership is crucial for UK jobs

The Government today published the long awaited first six reports of the review of the balance of competences between EU and national levels, due to be finalised at the end of 2014. The review has been overseen by a Ministerial star chamber with Lord Wallace of Saltaire leading impressively for the Liberal Democrats in the complicated process.

Contrary to the perception in Eurosceptic ranks, this review is not and was never about creating a wish list of demands for unilateral repatriation of powers. Liberal Democrats have been unwavering in our arguments that the EU needs reform to make …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Martin Horwood MP writes… 1000 days of hunger

The first thousand days of a child’s life – from conception through to their second birthday – are full of moments to cherish. First birthdays, first steps, first words. Whether these events are captured on film, or retold to maximum embarrassment in later years, they are treasured milestones in a child’s life.

A report published yesterday by UNICEF reminds us that those first thousand days aren’t only precious, they are the most critical in shaping a child’s future. Their health, their growth, their ability to learn and even their potential to earn are shaped during this period by one crucial …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Martin Horwood MP writes… Why Nick Clegg’s response to Jenny Tonge was right

The controversy surrounding Jenny Tonge’s resignation from our party in the House of Lords has attracted a lot of comment online. I’m co-chair of the parliamentary party’s international affairs committee (although writing here in a personal capacity) and I think the stance which Nick took as leader was right.

Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine – for whom I have a great deal of time – have suggested that Jenny’s ‘intention was to imply that Israel’s wilful failure to uphold and respect the human rights of Palestinian Muslims and Christians is behaviour which is likely to lead to its …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 16 Comments

Martin Horwood MP writes… Britain needs to stay at the heart of European decision-making

Let’s be honest: it’s not a great result. It would have been far better if all 27 EU member states had agreed on an inclusive treaty change this weekend. Instead we may find ourselves in a group of one or two with almost every other EU state involved in a different bloc.

I don’t say this because I’m a starry-eyed pro-European Liberal Democrat. Actually Lib Dems have consistently argued for reform in Europe. We have argued for more focus on building UK and European business and prosperity. We’ve argued that there should be greater flexibility for EU members to vary policy …

Posted in Europe / International | 38 Comments

Martin Horwood MP writes: Facing up to human rights in China

Premier Wen Jiabao of China arrived in Britain over the weekend for a series of events culminating in bilateral talks with the Prime Ministers today at Number Ten.

While the discussions will undoubtedly turn to the economy, trade agreements and further cooperation between our two countries, I hope the Prime Minister will also promote our greatest exports: our long held values of democracy, human rights and free speech.

These bilateral meetings offer the British government a chance to place human rights unambiguously on the agenda in our discussions with the Chinese. As William Hague wrote last year, “promoting human rights is …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , , and | 3 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User Avatarmarcstevens 20th Sep - 7:46pm
    My memory must be failing me then as I can't remember Mr Johnson's Party campaigning to leave without a deal in the last election and...
  • User AvatarRodney Watts 20th Sep - 7:33pm
    Being a large part Jewish, might be thought to incline me to welcome Luciana . Whilst one deplores the antisemitism experienced by Luciana , sadly,...
  • User Avatarmarcstevens 20th Sep - 7:32pm
    I think Luciana will be an asset to the party. I have come across anti semitism hatred and when I brought it up at a...
  • User AvatarPeter 20th Sep - 7:29pm
    @Fiona - "The costs of doing nothing will be worse." We know that it will cost at least £1trillion to achieve net zero and given...
  • User AvatarJonathan Coulter 20th Sep - 7:29pm
    Mick, my purpose was to examine the evidence behind your own statement that Luciana had been the object of "so much anti-Semitic abuse and threats...
  • User AvatarGlenn 20th Sep - 7:26pm
    Alex Macfie You are ignoring the reality that Brexit isn't a fringe idea at all. It actually commanded more of the vote than Remaining in...
Thu 10th Oct 2019