Author Archives: James Belchamber

James Belchamber is Chair of South West Birmingham Liberal Democrats.

Our principled and distinctive position on Europe makes us relevant – don’t abandon it in pursuit of Express voters

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“Support for Brexit is collapsing” screams an article from Business Insider back in June, noting that a majority of Brits want to stay in the EU. Good for us?

“Lib Dems FINALLY listen to Britain as Ed Davey says demand to rejoin EU ‘for the birds'” bellows an article from the Express this weekend.

Ah.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 41 Comments

Our next leader must condemn Nick Clegg


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Nick Clegg is one of our most well-known figures. But he has abandoned our principles, and we must now condemn him for it.

Splashed across the news are stories of Facebook defying a boycott aimed at getting them to tighten up on hate speech and information on their platform. And just behind Zuckerberg is our former leader, massaging the facts and spreading his own misinformation in an attempt to ameliorate his boss’s critics.

“Facebook does not profit from hate”, he says. This is an obvious lie – Facebook profits from advertising, and so profits from every piece of content and every interaction with the platform. To have hate on Facebook is to profit from hate on Facebook.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 84 Comments

By forcing a narrative, the General Election Review misses an opportunity

I’ve been looking forward to finally having a review of the 2019 General Election to work through. It’s clear that we have many lessons to learn – and that learning must start with a clear and dispassionate statement of the facts, the opinions and the unknowns leading up to our defeat on December 12th.

This review is not that.

The review published yesterday has very little in the way of citations. In multiple places, figures are stated as facts – but we have no way of reviewing those facts. The one place I did find a citation (p43, “The specific research …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

A market-driven approach to Universal Basic Income

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By now most Liberals are convinced of the moral impetus to eradicate poverty, and many are now realizing that the easiest way to resolve this is to “give people money”. Slowly, we are detaching ourselves from the idea that people should be forced to work in exchange for their rights – and waking up to the need to meet Socialist means for providing Social Security (large, state-driven delivery models) with a Liberal alternative.

A Universal Basic Income is not a panacea, but it’s a surprisingly useful tool for delivering both Liberal outcomes and meeting our Human Rights obligations. And with a market-driven approach, we can embed it in society, free of the partisan nature of British Politics.

Step 1: Create a National Basic Income Fund. This is important – it’s tempting to break up the fund, but you’ll see later why that will create problems. Model it on the Norwegian sovereign wealth funds, or base it on the UK National Insurance Fund. I don’t mind; this sounds like something other people would enjoy arguing about. Just create it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 55 Comments

Don’t get caught in the COVID-19 app trap: we can both preserve liberty and save lives

It’s great to see comment from our MPs scrutinising the exchange of civil liberties for security from COVID-19. It seems we’re in a classic situation where Liberals have to give ground – against their instincts – for the greater good. But this is a trap, and with a careful reassessment of the entirety of the issue, we can propose solutions that satisfy everyone (well, everyone that wasn’t using it as cover to infringe on civil liberties in the first place).

What if I told you that we could build an App that protected us from COVID-19 without any personal data leaving your phone? We can do that, and people have already fleshed out the details.

Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) was developed by a team of experts across Europe that could foresee this push, and have made a lot of headway in developing solutions that respect privacy without compromising the contact-tracing. They have a white paper as well as a reference implementation, with software development kits for Android and iOS (if you’re into that, the code is here. They also made a cute little cartoon explaining how this works.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

Lies, damned lies, and the Institute for Economic Affairs

There is an issue of trust in our politics at the moment – and it’s a little more complex than you may think. For most of us it’s obvious that the way to win back trust is to simply stop lying to the public – but, taken another way, maybe the lesson is that we should lie more often?

It seems that the Institute for Economic Affairs have taken the latter lesson.

Some context: The IEA has long hated “Minimum Unit Pricing” – a policy we champion and a policy that took effect in Scotland in May 2018, which is aimed at …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 35 Comments

It’s time to stop apologising for the Coalition – and use it instead

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We need a leader without the stench of coalition baggage

 
This is a phrase I hear a lot in the party. I see it under every Facebook post about the next leadership election. But by trying to scrub ourselves of the Coalition are we missing a powerful argument, one that rings especially true in those 80 conservative-facing second places?

When we were almost wiped out in 2015, most voters that switched from us to the Tories did so because they liked the coalition years – a period of relative stability following a deep financial crisis – and they credited the Tories with delivering this.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 36 Comments

Instilling a fear of failure will return us to pointlessness

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The Apple Lisa – a famous failure

I’ve worked in the computer industry for almost the whole of my adult life.

My first experience fixing one was at 11, maybe 12 years old. My childminder’s husband had a computer I was allowed to play on so long as I asked whenever I wanted to change the program (so I didn’t break it) but, of course, I did. And then, it stopped working. At that moment I knew I either had to fix it, or tell her husband what I did.

I fixed that computer bloody quickly. In hindsight, it was an obvious problem – but also, one I didn’t make again. But I’ve made a lot of mistakes since – indeed, you could say that the entire repertoire of my knowledge and experience is grounded in failure, learning from failure, and building that in to success.

In the computer industry we have a saying – “fail fast”. It’s probably also a saying in other circles, but it embodies a culture that all successful companies strive for – enabling people to take risks, try new things. Put simply, they’re empowered to fail.

Whole companies – start-ups – are empowered to fail. It’s expected; an investor will pick some “sure things”, some that are a little risky, and a few “moon shots” – companies financed to try something they will probably inevitably fail at, but if they do succeed they could disrupt and reconfigure an entire sector of the economy. And one of them will, inevitably, succeed.

Posted in Op-eds | 49 Comments

An enthusiastic, proud, grassroots attempt at values-based campaigning

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of participating in some conversations, on a dark corner of the internet, about values-based campaigning. Over the last few days I’ve had the delight of seeing this break out of the dark corner, when Henry Wright (candidate for Cherry Hinton, Cambridge) shared what he’d been creating and why he joined the Lib Dems in the first place:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

Engage the People

If we don’t engage with people who oppose immigration, others will

I want to start this article by clarifying that I am pro-migration. That is, I want to see the UK become a country as open to people coming and going as possible – ideally, entirely open. I consider this to be the only Liberal position on immigration, and I need to believe that all of us are seeking to make this as much of a reality as is practical. We are all on the same side here.

I’m also someone who has friends and family who are directly affected by the issues around immigration. This debate is very personal to me, and what I share here is out of a deep concern that we have sound, practical policies that make our country a more open, friendly and liberal place for everyone.

We’re getting something very wrong in the debate over immigration at the moment. Entirely reasonable, Liberal-minded people are making the argument that we should not engage with people who oppose immigration. That, instead of listening to people who take this position, we should tell them that they’re wrong.

This is counterproductive. Moreover, it’s probably not Liberal.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 28 Comments
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