Author Archives: Malcolm Wood

Relax! Brexit is going perfectly

If you were hoping to see Britain make an orderly and dignified exit
from the EU on 29th March this year then I imagine you think that the
Brexit process is going very badly indeed. But if, like me, you hope
that Britain doesn’t leave the EU at all, then I think you should be
delighted with how things are progressing.

Some of the problems currently besetting the Brexit process were
predictable from the beginning. It was clear even during the 2016
referendum campaign that people were voting Leave for a wide variety
of reasons, which (being generous) could not all be satisfied at once.
To put it another way: regardless of the eventual terms of exit, when
asked “Do you want to leave on *these* terms”, a majority of British
people would say “No”.

But a lot of the things that are crippling the Brexit process now were
not nearly so predictable. The unexpected result of the 2017
election, which suddenly gave huge influence to the DUP, thwarted the
only obvious way to satisfy the exit conditions laid down by the prime
minister – which required some divergence between Great Britain and
Northern Ireland – and helped to ensure that the resulting withdrawal
agreement was unpalatable to many MPs. The legal ruling secured by
Gina Miller ensured that MPs got a “meaningful” vote on the withdrawal
agreement – and roundly rejected it. And the legal ruling that the UK
can unilaterally revoke article 50 meant that MPs *could* reject the
withdrawal agreement without fear of it automatically resulting in a
“no deal” exit. As a Remainer, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect
combination of events!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 24 Comments

It’s time for the Remain campaign to talk about change

There are a lot of similarities between the EU referendum and the recent one on Scottish Independence. One is the tedious focus on money, when the issues at stake are much more important that. Another is the difficulty of making an exciting case for keeping things the same. Another is the Leave/Yes campaign’s curious belief that, while the politicians in the further away place are incompetent and self-interested, those closer to home are much better (and don’t expect that line of argument to continue much beyond 24th June, regardless of which way the result goes!).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Opinion: 19th September – now what?

imageLooking ahead: It’s 19th September, and Scotland has voted “No” to independence. Thank goodness for that! The uncertainty is over. The people of Scotland will continue to have their say in how the whole of Britain is run; will still use the pound (and still have their say in how it is managed); will, without the need for difficult negotiations, still be part of the EU and still have the whole of NATO ready to protect it; will still be both British and Scottish, without having to choose one or other; will still have representation on the UN security council. And the Union will not have to endure the pain of partition – which a century of evidence from countries like Yugoslavia, Sudan, India and even Ireland tells us can be very great indeed.

The Union has survived, but it was close, and there’s still a problem. Nearly half of Scotland’s population is so unhappy with the way that it is governed that it was willing to turn its back on the benefits of being part of a long-lasting and successful union. Clearly something needs to change, if this widespread discontent is to be contained.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Opinion: Releasing Megrahi was the right thing to do

The release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the Lockerbie Bombing in which 270 people died,  on compassionate grounds is almost always described in the media as a controversial decision but I think it was the right one.

I accept the cynical case that his release was convenient to the Scottish government in many ways: it prevented his “martyrdom” in a Scottish prison; it may have helped the lucrative business of trading with Libya; it was helpful to the SNP government’s wider aims to
remind everyone about ways in which Scottish and English law (and, by extension, Scotland and England) …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Opinion: In favour of allowing prisoners the vote

The current debate about allowing prisoners the right to vote seems very one sided. Most media coverage gives the impression that a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights is forcing the UK government to do something deeply unreasonable, and alternates between bashing the court’s ruling (or occasionally the whole idea of Human Rights itself) and bashing the government for giving in to it. Even Ken Clarke, who advocates giving many prisoners the vote, does so only
on the basis that it’s more palatable than paying them lots of compensation.

But even though the thought of letting

Posted in Op-eds | 36 Comments

Opinion: Labour leadership voters may have favoured Balls over the Milibands

A low point in William Hague’s otherwise excellent conference speech on Sunday was his cheap shot at the Alternative Vote system and its role in the outcome of the Labour leadership election. The result, he implied, was some sort of mathematical anomaly; somehow unfair. But there’s nothing unfair about the election of Ed Miliband. If the election were repeated tomorrow using the first-past-the-post system, with only the two Milibands standing, the result would be the same. What the AV system showed was that a majority of the Labour party electorate preferred Ed over David. …

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Opinion: No Need for a Graduate Tax

For a decade or so now governments have been firmly fixed on the idea that students should pay for their own education. So firmly fixed, in fact, that it’s easy to forget that until 1998 Higher Education was funded from general taxation and was, to the student, completely free.

It’s true that most taxpayers are in no further need of Higher Education. But that doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from its existence. Since most tax payers will one day be dependent on a pension (public or private) it’s in their interests that the next generation of wealth …

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Opinion: Making VAT fair

It has become fashionable in the last few days to describe VAT as a “regressive”, and by implication unfair, tax. This is usually followed by complaint about how hypocritical it is of the Liberal Democrats to agree to an increase in its rate.

But VAT is not, by the simplest definition, a regressive tax. A regressive tax is one where the rate of taxation decreases as the value of the thing being taxed increases. A progressive tax is the other way round. Income tax is progressive, because those on higher incomes pay a higher rate of tax on it. Council tax …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 55 Comments

Opinion: Inheriting Tory Tax Plans

Nobody likes paying tax. But most of us accept the necessity of paying collectively for public services, and the moral obligation on those of us with good incomes to subsidise these services for those without. Most of us would also accept that, in times of serious budget deficit, any adjustments to the tax system should be made in favour of those who are, firstly, of the most limited means, and, secondly, alive.

It’s easy to make inheritance tax sound unfair. Just describe it as “double taxation”; a second tax on income which has already been taxed. But …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 8 Comments

Opinion: A weapon we could use?

When Nick Clegg made the case for scrapping Trident in Thursday’s debate, his case was that it was too expensive, and designed for a threat that no longer exists. And the predictable response was to accuse Nick of being soft on defence. But there are more fundamental problems with the type of defence offered by Trident.

Trident provides “defence” only in a very limited sense. It’s actually just a “deterrent”. It can’t shoot down incoming missiles or turn back advancing enemy armies. Its point is to dissuade an enemy from attacking us in the first …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 49 Comments

Recent Comments

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    Peter Watson: "but the impression was left that the nett figure was still a big one with little explanation of the good things it bought us." That is because t...
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    @Nigel I don't see it as at all irrelevant if a person maintains a right to vote in another country. One person one vote is a fundamental principle of our democ...
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    "Only the Scottish Liberal Democrats can beat the nationalists in huge swathes of Scotland." That is clearly not true....
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    @Chris Moore "the 350 MILLION figure was an effective piece of propaganda, but false." A failure to properly address this was one of the many disappointing asp...
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    @Peter Martin "the opinion polls were predicting a Remain win. It didn’t seem to add up at the time and so it proved." My hunch was that shy Brexiters were o...