Author Archives: Nick T

UK income inequality lower than a decade ago: three challenges for the Lib Dems

Counterintuitive though it may seem to many, Britain is significantly more equal than it was a decade ago – especially in London, where the fall in inequality has been “dramatic” according to the IFS.

This poses several challenges for those who consider that reducing income inequality should be a policy priority, among whose number are many Liberal Democrats.

Posted in Op-eds | 62 Comments

What now for moderate politics and discourse?

“Emily Thornberry just took down the entire Tory party in 45 seconds” says the caption. Below is a video of Emily Thornberry at the despatch box at yesterday’s prime minister’s questions performing, it has to be said, very well.

It is the sort of thing we all see dozens of times every day, scrolling through our social media feeds whilst we wait for out train, lie in bed or pretend to listen to a friend’s anecdote.

Posted in News | Tagged | 28 Comments

Election 2017 headlines – how many Lib Dem MPs are there and who are they?

At present, the Lib Dems have 12 confirmed victories, a net increase of 3. They are:

    1. Tom Brake (Carshaton and Wellington) – re-elected
    2. Vince Cable (Twickenham) – newly-elected
    3. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) – re-elected
    4. Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) – newly-elected
    5. Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) – re-elected
    6. Wera Hobhouse (Bath) – newly-elected
    7. Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) – newly-elected
    8. Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) – re-elected
    9. Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) – newly-elected
    10. Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) – newly-elected
    11. Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) – newly-elected
    12. Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) – newly-elected
Posted in News | 62 Comments

Strong showing for liberals in The Netherlands

Nick Clegg with Mark Rutte in 2010

As the FT reports, VVD, the liberal party of Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, will once again be the largest party in the Dutch parliament:

Prime Minister Mark Rutte looks certain to form the next Netherlands government, with his party projected to secure a clear general election victory over rivals including populist challenger Geert Wilders.

The projected victory was welcomed by moderates and pro-EU politicians across Europe and has calmed their fears that the continent was poised to fall under the sway of nationalists following the UK’s Brexit vote and the election of President Donald Trump in the US.

Posted in News | 15 Comments

The triumph of mendacity, and what we can do about it

Brexit. Syria. Trump. 2016 in three words. It is human nature to see commonalities where there are none, but there are surely some here.

First, of course, there is the not-so-invisible hand of a resurgent Russia to be seen in each. Time magazine’s choice of Donald Trump as its Person of the Year was a mistake: it is not Trump but the subject of his admiration, Vladimir Putin, who has shaped world events this year more than any other individual.

Second (and not entirely unrelated to the first) is the triumph of mendacity. Key to each of the year’s key events was dishonesty. The referendum campaign felt at points like a contest to see which side could bend the truth furthest but it will, in the final analysis, be the Leave campaign that will be viewed as one of the most dishonest political campaigns in this country’s democratic history. Its mendacity was of course easily surpassed by Donald Trump, a man who in the face of inconvenient facts doesn’t just deny their existence but creates his own new reality. It didn’t help that the Democrats nominated a candidate much of whose political career has been defined by sleights of hand and questionable dealings: lying simply became relative.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments

Was this the funniest moment of the coalition?

Four years ago this week. Enjoy:

Posted in Humour | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Missing the civility of coalition

The perceptive-as-ever Rafael Behr makes a good, but subtle, point in his latest Guardian column. Many of the mistakes that the government is now making, Behr argues, are a function of the majority one-party rule that eluded David Cameron in his first term in No 10:

So how is that working out? Unshackled from coalition, Cameron and George Osborne are now at liberty to find extra billions of budget savings from the benefits bill. Except in so doing, they managed to provoke conscientious rebellion on the Tory benches over tax credits, and drive Iain Duncan Smith into self-certified compassionate exile from the cabinet.

Posted in News | Tagged | 28 Comments

Review: Coalition, by David Laws

Coalition: The Inside Story of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government (Biteback; £25)

David Laws CoalitionIf journalistic reportage is the first rough draft of history, then the politicians’ memoir has a good claim to be the second — at least as far as contemporary political history is concerned.

Few are better placed to give the inside account of the UK’s first national coalition in living memory than David Laws. Laws was at the heart of the coalition before it had even been conceived, as part of a small Lib Dem team preparing for a hung parliament, and was then one of four Liberal Democrats to make up the party’s negotiating team when possibility became a reality in May 2010. From thereon in he bore witness to every significant decision made over the next five years, even though two of those years were ostensibly spent on the backbenches.

Laws has two other advantages, too. The first is the intelligence and insight that has earned him respect across the Lib Dem party — even from those with whom he often disagrees — and beyond. The second is his proximity to Nick Clegg, who allowed Laws access to his papers from his time as deputy prime minister in the preparation of this book.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 23 Comments

What Cameron and Osborne said about Vince Cable’s proposals on corporate transparency

Given this week’s coverage of the so-called Panama Papers — the cache of 11.5m confidential files from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca — this week, it was interesting to come across this account in David Laws’s book, Coalition, from a meeting in 2013:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 26 Comments

LDVideo: “A new, more rational approach is desperately needed” – Norman Lamb introduces his cannabis bill

Norman Lamb yesterday introduced his ten minute rule bill calling for the legalisation of and implementation of a regulated market for cannabis. You can view the bill and follow its progress here. It will move to second reading on 22 April.

And here is Norman’s Commons speech from yesterday:

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David Laws’s ‘Coalition’ – the coverage

David Laws CoalitionDavid Laws’s account of his and our party’s time in government, Coalition, was published earlier this week by Biteback, having been serialised in the Mail on Sunday.

Keep an eye out for a review here on LDV soon, but in the meantime here’s a round-up of what others have been saying.

The BBC have put together this film featuring former Lib Dem advisers Polly Mackenzie and Phil Reilly, and David was on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 23 Comments

Can the long-term decline in government investment spending be reversed?

Investment spending vs social security spendingIf actual government investment spending bore any relation to the amount of time politicians spent talking about it, Britain would surely have one of the highest rates of government investment in the world. In fact, for all the talk there are few signs of a reversal in one half of the most notable trend in Britain’s public finances over the last half century: the decline of government investment.

I say one half because there is another part of the trend, and it is the flip side of the same coin: the general trend of increasing spending on social security.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 25 Comments

Was Vince Cable proved right on austerity?

When the histories of the coalition government come to be written, those chapters focussing on the role of Vince Cable will be some of the most fascinating. Vince’s fierce intelligence combined with a (perhaps deliberate) flair for the enigmatic meant he was involved in some of the most interesting of the coalition’s key moments.

One area of particular significance is likely to be the analysis of his views on austerity. Throughout the coalition Vince was often portrayed in the media — and by some Liberal Democrats — as a brave warrior fighting an axe-wielding Tory-Lib-Dem cabal of ideological austerians. Yet this seems to me to be precisely wrong.

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Is income inequality in the UK growing?

We have yet to see the full text of all the motions to be debated at Spring Conference in York, but it appears that this motion on economic policy has been selected.

There is much in the motion I agree with, and some places where I think it is lacking, but it was this line in particular that caught my attention, in the “conference notes…” section:

growing inequalities in wealth and income, coupled with unfair and regressive action against the poorest people in the country, now exacerbated by the assault on welfare spending.

It struck me because the most recent analyses of income inequality in the UK that I have recently read have concluded that the trend since the early 1990s is of broadly stable levels of income inequality, with falling levels after the financial crash of 2008/9.

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IfG interviews former Lib Dem ministers, feat. Browne, Swinson, Hughes, Featherstone, Cable, Huhne

The Institute for Government did a lot of work during the coalition looking at how this (by English standards) unusual arrangement was working, and could work better. Now we have (for now at least) moved beyond coalition, the IfG has been interviewing ministers who served in the last government, seeking their reflections on their time there.

The IfG website has transcripts of a number of interviews with both Conservative and Lib Dem former ministers. The Lib Dems featured are:

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The case for Syrian air-strikes: not overwhelming, but strong enough

In the early hours of 21 August 2013, rockets began to land in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. The civilian population of Syria had now become used to this, since Bashar al-Assad had decided over 2 years earlier that in response to a peaceful uprising against his totalitarian rule he would prosecute the most brutal military campaign by a ruler against his people that this century has seen. But this attack was different: the rockets were filled with sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.

When the images of the hundreds of people killed and thousands injured began to circulate, there was international outrage of a level not so far seen in the Syrian Civil War. Momentum gathered for a military response. Obama’s red line had been crossed. Enough was enough.

Only it wasn’t. Obama dithered. Miliband played politics. Assad survived to kill another day.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 69 Comments

LibLink: Norman Lamb MP – My son’s struggle with OCD showed me the unfairness people with mental illness face

Norman Lamb has been much in the news this week, having launched a cross-party campaign for mental health to be treated equally with physical health across the health service. Norman has written a piece for the Guardian drawing on themes that will be familiar to party members from his excellent conference speech earlier this year.

Here’s an excerpt:

When our oldest son, Archie, was 16, he was clearly very unhappy. He eventually told us just how distressed and troubled he had become. We got a referral to our local children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder followed.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 5 Comments

The Lib Dem legacy: right to 30-day refund becomes law

The BBC reports:

New consumer protection measures – including longer refund rights – have come into force under the Consumer Rights Act.

For the first time anyone who buys faulty goods will be entitled to a full refund for up to 30 days after the purchase.

Previously consumers were only entitled to refunds for a “reasonable time”.

There will also be new protection for people who buy digital content, such as ebooks or online films and music.

They will be entitled to a full refund, or a replacement, if the goods are faulty.

The Act also covers second-hand goods, when bought through a retailer.

People buying services – like a garage repair or a haircut – will also have stronger rights.

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TTIP update: A Liberal in charge, and a new investor dispute proposal

Container Ship tradeYou can catch up with my previous pieces on TTIP here:

A new face at the negotiating table

It’s a few months since I last wrote here about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed trade and investment agreement currently being negotiated between the European Union and United States. It is Liberal Democrat party policy to support TTIP, so it is worth keeping up with developments in the negotiations.

Since my first post in July 2014, one of the most significant changes has been the replacement in November 2014 of Karel De Gucht as European Commissioner for Trade by Cecilia Malmström.

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Leadership election results out today – what you need to know

tim farron norman lamb squarish by paul walter2 months of campaigning, 25 hustings, 20,000 miles covered by the candidates to attend 100 events (according to the Guardian, anyway) — the leadership election comes to an end today, as the ballots are counted and the result is declared.

The count itself will take place at the offices of Electoral Reform Services in London, attended by a select group. The result will then be posted first on the Lib Dem Twitter feed and Facebook page, hopefully sometime between 4 and 5pm.

Posted in News | Tagged | 10 Comments

Surprises are not the same as radicalism – or where George Osborne went wrong

Yesterday’s budget certainly had plenty of surprises. But it says something about the state of our politics that not allowing sensitive information leak ahead of the budget speech counts as a political success. Because surprises — rabbits out of hats — are not the same as radicalism, whatever much of the media, or Osborne himself, would have us believe this morning. The budget, when looked at more closely, was notable for its timidity, not its profundity.

In identifying the nonsense of those on low wages paying relatively large amounts of tax, only to receive it back with interest in tax credits, the chancellor identified a genuinely ridiculous (and illiberal) legacy of Gordon Brown’s time at the Treasury.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Russia, ISIS, globalisation and the EU – Norman and Tim answer foreign affairs questions

LDV recently put some questions on foreign affairs to the two leadership contenders. Here are their responses.

1. Can you summarise in around 100 words what a liberal foreign policy looks like in your view?

Tim Farron:

Liberals are proud and passionate internationalists because we believe in the rights of all people – no matter what they look like, what they believe or where they are – to live in peace, free from poverty, ignorance and conformity. We understand that only by working with other countries through strong international institutions can we make that a reality and build a fairer, greener, freer world.

It is in neither Britain’s interests nor the world’s to close ourselves off, but also that intervention abroad must be rooted in international law, decided through international institutions and clearly justified on humanitarian grounds.

Norman Lamb:

Our Party is proudly internationalist. Our leaders have often been lone voices, Paddy demanding rights for British citizens from Hong Kong, Charles opposing the Iraq War, Nick in taking on Nigel Farage‎

I share these courageous liberal values‎. Liberal values are universal – they do not respect borders.

For me Britain should play a global role and prompt Europe to do more for peace, in tackling poverty and climate change, and in standing up to oppression.

We must also be able to defend those who need our protection, our allies, and ourselves. Enduring adequate funding for our armed forces means debating Trident’s future when our world is far more threatened by terrorists and cyber attacks than by nuclear war, and pursuing reform to make sure our forces are effective and efficient.

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LDVideo: Commons tributes to Charles Kennedy from Cameron, Clegg, Farron, Lamb and others

It is usual, after the conclusion of Prime Minister’s Questions, for the chamber of the House of Commons to quickly, and noisily, empty. Yesterday, however, the House remained full, in sombre, reflective quiet to hear tributes from members to Charles Kennedy. The Speaker, John Bercow, shared his reflections first, followed by David Cameron, Harriet Harman and Nick Clegg.

You can see the full one hour and thirteen minutes in the video below, or via this link, and below the video are the times at which you will find various speeches from a selection of MPs.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Party membership passes 50,000, with over 5,000 new members since Thursday

Lib Dem membership 50,000About 80 people an hour have been joining the party since the polls closed on Thursday, taking membership levels back up to those last seen in about 2011. Even the 2010 surge following the leaders debate only took membership up to just over 60,000, so if these extraordinary increases continue we may find ourselves completely reversing all the decline that occurred in the first couple of years of the coalition.

Party chief executive Tim Gordon has just emailed members with the timetable for the leadership election that will now take place (see below) and all those who join the party before 3 June will be able to vote.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 69 Comments

Lib Dem/Tory waverers wanted continuity, but they voted Conservative to achieve it

It was always going to be true that the 30 or so seats where the fight was between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives would end up delivering one of the most important stories of election night 2015. Liberal Democrats hoped, of course, that this would be for the reason that they were the hallmark of the party’s resilience. But they were newsworthy in the end because they were symbols of the Lib Dem defeat, and the vehicles of delivery of a Conservative victory.

That the tens of thousands of voters in those seats who wavered between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives were the most important of this campaign had been known to both governing parties, of course, for months if not years. They were ruthlessly targeted from every angle: leaflets, phone-calls and visit after visit by senior politicians.

And in the end they made their decision, and they made it in David Cameron’s favour. The prime minister’s message, that only a Conservative vote could guarantee continuity and avoid the risk of a Miliband-Sturgeon government, ultimately prevailed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 230 Comments

Majority happy to see Lib Dems play a role in government

If the key Lib Dem aims of the last five years were first to prove that coalition government can work in our majoritarian, outdated democratic system and secondly that Liberal Democrats can be trusted to govern in the national interest and deliver liberal achievements, the election campaign has brought positive news on both fronts.

It is easy to forget how coalition was talked of before the 2010 election. It was the common view of most of the media and political establishment that coalition government, if even possible, would be weak and unambitious at best.

It is therefore a remarkable turnaround for it to be considered quite widely that a coalition this time round (and particularly one involving the Liberal Democrats) would provide the most stable, moderate government.

Posted in News | Tagged | 16 Comments

A foreign-policy-free election?

RAF lightning II aircraft photo by defence imagesFor all its crudeness, the barrel bomb has to be one of the most brutally effective weapons around. An old oil drum, filled with that now all too familiar combination of explosives and steel detritus, dropped onto its fuse-laden nose from a helicopter, it seems, kills and maims in just the right proportions to terrorise those left behind.

It is little wonder, then, that the barrel bomb is Bashar al-Assad’s weapon of choice in his effort to wear down those parts of Syria with the impudence to have thought they could do better. It tells you all you need to know about the man that, having discovered that the wretched things seem to be particularly effective when aimed at young children, the regime, like so many despots before, has found schools to be an especially desirable target.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 23 Comments

Stephen Williams takes on 38 Degrees over “highly misleading campaign”

Just hearing the name 38 Degrees will, undoubtedly, make at least the candidates among LDV’s readership shudder. For the luckily unfamiliar, 38 Degrees is a campaigning group which mobilises individuals, primarily in an effort to bombard MPs and candidates with, often, hundreds of identical emails. Those of us involved in politics will have long heard the frustration of those on receiving end, who rightly complain that the campaigns are often only loosely based on facts, and selective ones at that, and often fit with Labour’s similar shaky narratives. The campaign against TTIP is probably the prime example.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 72 Comments

Anti-TTIP protestors reach #ldconf. A reminder of why they are wrong

At a previous party conference back in the autumn of 2013, Lib Dem party members voted overwhelmingly for a motion committing the party to wholeheartedly supporting the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

As we all (particularly parliamentary candidates, thanks to 38 Degrees) know, a massive campaign has appeared since then opposing the agreement, ostensibly over concerns that the NHS will somehow be threatened. Protestors were out in force outside the conference centre here in Liverpool, and given the number of members I saw signing the petition they were handing around, I thought it might be useful to set out again why those protestors are so wrong, not just in their opinion but on the facts.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 147 Comments

Protecting open and accessible justice: your help needed

The principles of open and accessible justice are key for all liberals, but they are principles that have been challenged in government by the woeful condition of the public finances and the Conservative appointments to the office of justice secretary. The Justice and Security Act and legal aid cuts have been bitter pills indeed for Liberal Democrats to swallow.

Today, another concerning reform takes effect, namely a significant increase in the fees for bringing what are known as “money claims” in the civil courts. They cover everything from serious injury claims to small businesses seeking to recover unpaid invoices.

For a long …

Posted in News | Tagged | 5 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarOnceALibDem 20th Jul - 11:16pm
    "we had the best [local election results] overall for us in fifteen years." Well not if you scratch the surface. Net losses in the north...
  • User AvatarCallum Robertson 20th Jul - 11:15pm
    In response to PJ, in your opinion isn’t actually a quantitative test. Can you point me towards any data that backs your point?
  • User AvatarMichael 1 20th Jul - 10:54pm
    @David Raw Thanks for your kind words. If the Bury result was by your reckoning bad for us then it was horrendous for Labour. We...
  • User AvatarAlex Macfie 20th Jul - 10:38pm
    Catherine M: "Saying “Labour did it too” is not a defence" But they didn't, and it's not what we're saying. Labour has been doing something...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 20th Jul - 10:16pm
    Trabbys ? One of the few collectable classics that was completely smelly, noisy, ugly and totally nonbiodegradable. Otherwise, quite fun. IFA Club – Wartburg Trabant...
  • User AvatarAndrew Hickey 20th Jul - 10:13pm
    "Vince has ruled out coalitions" He has also repeatedly called for a government of national unity and talked about working with Labour and Tory centrists....