Author Archives: Oliver Craven

A fair leadership election

There has been much discussion of the postponement of the leadership election for fourteen months in this time of crisis. Whatever the merits of either side are, I think we can all agree it is unlikely the Federal Board will change their minds, if only because of the reams of articles and podcasts they are putting out bolstering their position.

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The Lib Dem pitch to the rural left

Those of us who are left of centre in rural areas are often completely missed from political discourse, despite our long history of distinctive political belief.  Rural people are, obviously, spread out both geographically and economically. We live in smaller communities and have much smaller workplaces. The result of this is a more individualistic yet supportive community where people rely on themselves first and their neighbours second. Liberal philosophy is ideally placed to appeal to these rural values, giving a hand up when needed while getting out the way when not.

How can our liberal message best appeal to the many areas of the country that are represented by the Conservatives yet badly let down by their safe seat apathy?

Our economic message must fit both rural reality and rural values. We must build a framework that allows small and micro businesses to thrive by busting monopolies that are especially damaging in rural areas. Across the country, monopoly power is costing ordinary people billions. The uncompetitiveness of the energy market costs the country £1.7bn but the renewable revolution allows us to rebuild the energy market around communities and their needs, returning the profits of relatively small-scale renewables to the areas in which they are based. A new model of distributive rather than concentrative markets must be built, in which ownership and control are shared widely through mutuals, cooperatives and small enterprise.

We must also build the infrastructure rural areas need to succeed. Our support for universal high-speed broadband as well as better public transport is vital to helping fledgeling businesses to survive, while we also need to be building affordable and social housing to ensure we can halt the rural brain drain. I, myself, am an example of that drain, moving from the village I grew up in to the nearby city of Lincoln for work and to study.

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A radical, liberal safety net

Two polls since the last General Election have investigated people’s views on introducing a Universal Basic Income. Populus found at the end of July this year that 41% of those surveyed supported the idea with only 17% opposed. The rest were either neutral or didn’t know. This polling also helped illuminate what the public feel would be the costs and benefits, with 49% agreeing it would reduce the stigma of claiming welfare but 45% being concerned about it being unaffordable. If the Liberal Democrats are to back a UBI it is therefore vital that we set out how we will …

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Child poverty is a disgrace in a rich country

In 2010, Parliament set a target for the government to eradicate child poverty by 2020 in the Child Poverty Act. The big three parties at the time, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour all agreed that this was a worthwhile target and strived to achieve it. However since then, we have seen a majority Conservative government attempt to abolish this target, stopped only by the House of Lords, as well as seen child poverty trend upwards, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasting that it will reach over 5 million children, or 37%, by 2021-22. The government set out a …

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Power to the people

I’m sure that many members will agree with me that it is often very difficult to succinctly describe what the party stands for in terms that they understand. Some will choose to quote the preamble of the constitution, that we wish people to be free from “poverty, ignorance and conformity” yet this is difficult to expand into a set of principles that apply to every different area of thought and policy. Others would choose to talk about liberty, running into the difficulty of having to carefully define what liberty means. I would suggest that we return to the roots of community politics, towards bringing power to the people in all spheres of society.

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Why is our “Core Vote” only middle class metropolitan remainers?

Mark Pack and David Howarth recently wrote the second version of their “core vote” strategy, where they believe we should target those they deem to share our values, usually middle class metropolitan remainers. They believe that we need to tailor our message to these people so they vote for us during the good times and the bad. This report is linked here. Any reference to the report in this article is from this link.

While Mark Pack and David Howarth have the right idea with the plan to build a core vote, they seem to fall into the trap that only those groups that currently vote for us in any significant way share our values. They decide that 38% of the electorate can be defined as “open and tolerant”, based mainly on their answer to the question of how much immigration there should be as well as a range of other questions though these are noted to be less important. I would argue that this narrow way of looking at the question excludes many who would consider voting for the party if we merely appealed to them correctly.

I hesitate to use the term “legitimate concerns” around immigration, as usually they are not concerns based on immigration at all. They are usually concerns about housing, jobs, education and health and the provision of these as the population increases. The lack of provision is not the fault of migrants, it is the fault of a government failing to plan for the future of our vital public services.

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A first step towards basic income

Basic Income is often seen as a policy that would happen in an ideal world, with its proponents apparently lacking any idea on how to get there. In my view, advocates like myself need to outline a plan that can bring us to a workable and simple welfare state that relies heavily on basic income as its primary source of support. That is what I am proposing.

A first step towards basic income would be to mostly replace the personal allowance with a payment to every person over the age of 18. While raising the personal allowance took millions out of …

Posted in Op-eds | 36 Comments

Lessons from Finland on Universal Basic Income

Piles of money. Photo credit: czbalazs - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1236662Aditya Chakrabortty, a Guardian Columnist, recently travelled to Finland to interview a man who’s been part of a Universal Basic Income trial. The scheme gives 2,000 randomly chosen people, who were already receiving unemployment benefits, £493 a month unconditionally. The scheme will finish properly at the end of 2018 and no official results will be published until then, but there is anecdotal evidence from a number of interviews conducted with people chosen to take part.

One such person is Juha Jarvinen. When asked by …

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Is failure to use technology to enhance learning failing school pupils?

The format of education hasn’t really changed since Victorian times. Students are still packed into a classroom with a teacher who spends most of their time doing some variation of lecturing to the students, before they then apply whatever they’ve just heard to some real examples. This system treats everyone equally by treating pretty much everyone the same, using the same techniques and the same curriculum for everyone, regardless of their differences. Liberal Democrats tend to challenge traditional policies, and should challenge the current educational system too. We also tend to look solely to teachers for educational policy but it is also worth listening to the perspective of students.

Technology promised a revolution in classrooms, with very little change in the techniques in the publicly funded and conservative education sector. Technology has changed the way in which the teacher delivers the information to the class, allowing a little more interactivity but keeping the key parts of the teacher lecturing to the students on masse. Technology could, and should, be causing a more revolutionary change to education, like a number of charter schools are in the United States.

One charter school chain, called Summit Public Schools, has used technology to revolutionise their teaching. Students mainly learn from online courses and doing project work, supported by a teacher who moves from more authoritarian current role to a mentor, supporting students in their learning and explaining more difficult concepts. These schools save teachers a significant amount of time on marking, allowing teachers to support their students more and removing a significant source of stress. The school still requires students to cover a broad curriculum using a personal learning plan, though they are free to learn at their own pace and choose their topic at the time. 

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A new economic vision for the Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats need new thought on how we view the economy and the role of the state and this idea could influence what we choose to support. We often struggle to find an economic system we can get behind.

Unrestricted capitalism leads to unacceptable inequality. The Conservatives stand for a small rich elite, while everyone else struggle to make ends meet. The Corbynite vision of socialism would leave us all worse off. The Liberal Democrats must form a new vision of how our economy should work and what role the state should play in it.

I would propose the Enabling State as our vision.

The state has a duty of promoting liberty in all its forms, and to ensure everyone has the chance to make the best of themselves. This would include freeing people from poverty, through a basic income, to ensure everyone has the money for basic needs.

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Recent Comments

  • Donald Cameron
    Congratulations on a great By-Election victory and much thanks to a fine Candidate and an avalanche of Lib Dem campaigners convincing the voters how to vote. Ol...
  • Geoff Reid
    The image originally came from Tim Farron. Always good to see the cockroaches of British politics striking back!...
  • George Thomas
    Presumably 1.6% of Greens fall in vote and 11.2% of Labour's fall in vote compared to last time helped boost the LD's. Tactical voting to stop yet another Tory ...
  • slamdac
    Fantastic result for Lib Dems. Only note of caution, easy for the Lib Dems to be against the planning reforms in a one off by election, but a lot more diff...
  • Dj Pocock
    As I stand here on a were Friday trying to sell from a market stall it is warming news. I feel that if it wasn't for labour being so useless at the moment the T...