Author Archives: Paul Reynolds

Liberal International, Dictatorship and the United Kingdom in 2017

Global war followed the descent into dictatorship in parts of Europe in the 1930s. The horrors of WW2, and the dark shadow of communism that fell over east and central Europe and USSR subsequently, led to the consolidation of liberal ideals in the freer world.

A reassertion of liberal and democratic ideals and the principle of human rights was expressed in the Oxford Manifesto in 1947 at Wadham College, Oxford and in the creation of Liberal International. It was the first modern declaration of liberal and democratic principles following the defeat of Nazism, principles which contrasted starkly with the totalitarian tenets of Soviet communism.

The successor of the Oxford Manifesto was the Universal Declaration of Human rights by the UN (UN UDoHR) in 1948; a beacon for democrats and liberals the world over, since. The Oxford Manifesto and the UN UdoHR provided a common reference point for political parties across the globe who bravely opposed dictatorship and corruption, enabling Liberal International to shed light on oppression and authoritarianism and support those parties.

There were high hopes after the fall of communism in 1989 and 1991, that essential principles of liberalism, democracy and human rights would take hold in much of the world.  However, the rise of authoritarian populism a decade ago has threatened that progress.

Advocates of liberalism and democracy have fought back against this new wave of pro-dictatorship populism.  In April 2017  Liberals from around the world came together on the same spot at Wadham College, University of Oxford, where Liberal International was established 70 years earlier. A new Oxford Manifesto was born, addressing this new wave of authoritarianism and reaffirming liberalism in this more modern context.

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YEMEN: Boris bleats, Libdems lead

Headline news last week was Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s speech in Rome where he criticised Saudi Arabia for ‘puppeteering and playing proxy wars’, by implication against Iran, and promoting sectarian extremism for political ends across the Middle East. He was immediately slapped down by PM May, who had seemingly instructed him to get even closer to the Saudis for trade purposes in the wake of Brexit.

Emphasising he had the war in Yemen in mind, as well as Syria, Boris then made a further speech in Bahrain on 10th December about the Saudi bombing of civilians in Yemen, and criticising his own government … which allegedly has special forces in Yemen assisting the Saudis, has trainers in Riyadh, and is a major weapons supplier to the Saudi regime.

Boris was expressing widely held views about the Saudis’ war in Yemen … and about their role in creating Islamic State.

A few days earlier in Warsaw, Poland, the Lib Dem delegation was busy in the annual Congress of ALDE. ALDE is the pan-European party of liberals and democrats with seven parties in government currently across the EU. On the agenda in Warsaw was a motion from the UK Lib Dem delegation, on Yemen, which was passed with an overwhelming majority and greeted with loud applause.

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The UK and the rapid deterioration in global security

Members of the Nuclear Weapons Working Group are presenting their personal views as part of a wider consultation process into the party’s future policy on nuclear weapons. The full consultation paper can be found at www.libdems.org.uk/autumn-conference-16-policypapers and the consultation window runs until 28 October. Party members are invited to attend the consultation session at party conference in Brighton, to be held on Saturday 17 September at 1pm in the Balmoral Room of the Hilton.

Trident

UK nuclear defence policy does not exist in isolation. As the Lib Dem’s Nuclear Weapons Working Group Consultation Paper makes clear, nuclear defence policy exists in the context of the UK’s broader policy on defence and foreign policy. Changes to Lib Dem nuclear weapons policy are best seen in the context of a changing defence and foreign policy environment.

From a UK perspective, the key recent shifts in the foreign and defence policy context include the continuing economic and military rise of China (and our Allies’ response to this), the adversarial turn in relations with Russia, and the rise of IS in the Middle East – together with its effects on Western Middle East policy, NATO and Turkey.

The most significant change in the foreign and security policy landscape for the UK concerns China and its relationship with the US. Up until 2013 China pursued what they called a ‘peaceful rise’ policy; rapid economic development avoiding involvements in conflict.

This changed with the new leader Xi Jinping, who, for example, announced the ‘String of Pearls’ policy, otherwise known as the ‘maritime silk road’.  This is a string of Chinese-controlled ports and associated inland infrastructure that dots the world’s trade routes, with economic investment closely followed by military investment; for example in Pakistan/Afghanistan, Djibouti/Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka.

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After Brexit; what strategy for ‘Remain’?

Whilst a lot of analysis will be forthcoming on the events that led to a vote in the UK to leave the European Union, potentially of greater importance in the immediate aftermath is for a unified Post-Referendum Pro-Remain approach. Here, I am suggesting such an approach, and Lib Dems may wish to take the lead on such an approach.

First of all we need a strong institutional approach. The Lib Dems, Greens, SNP, and PC require a competent secretariat and fundraising body, with a very sharp and responsive media operation, that Pro-Remain Labour and Conservative figures can rally around.

Second, we need an end result to aim for …. or more correctly two end-results….

As democrats there is one thing we should oppose. In Parliament there is almost certainly a majority against Brexit, and it will be tempting to support the blocking of Brexit. We should oppose this, otherwise we will be accused of not listening to the voice of the public, with all the long term political consequences.

Posted in Op-eds | 27 Comments

‘Iraq 2’. Why the Lib Dem’s Syria conflict position in parliament is militarily and politically unwise

On Tuesday, Tim Farron expressed the party’s position on the coming ‘Syria conflict’ vote in parliament in a letter to PM David Cameron.

It set out five conditions for Lib Dem support for an escalation of British involvement in Syria. It will no doubt be taken by the UK government as conditions for Lib Dem support for a general major escalation.

The first ‘condition’ was that military action against Islamic State in Syria should follow international law. The letter expressed acceptance of UN Resolution 2249. This UN resolution however does not authorise actions against IS, nor does it provide a legal basis for the use of force generally against IS in Syria or in Iraq. It only supports states in doing what they are already doing under existing international laws, specifically on IS-held territory. As such this supports existing Russian and Iranian military involvement as much as existing Western involvement.

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Policymaking reform; what the problem is and how to solve it

 

New members often ask how to find out what current policy is, on a wide range of topics, how to influence or ‘input’ on policy, and indeed what the party does with its policy once it is established.

Normally I explain that in policy Conference is supreme, at least in theory. I talk a bit about Policy Working Groups (PWGs), initiated by the Federal Policy Committee, FPC. I also explain that there is a review of policymaking underway, to be discussed at Autumn Conference.

In this context, new members may appreciate a quick summary of my personal views of some of the problems and how we might approach solving them.

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Opinion: It’s not about left or right

About an hour after Nick Clegg resigned I received a long letter by email on behalf of SLF essentially blaming the ‘Orangebookers’ for the poor Lib Dem results.

I would like to suggest that all sections of the party consider the possibility that it was not an issue of left or right. Maybe neither the left or right of the party were to blame, but that, with benefit of hindsight, there were other factors. My top 5. Other views ?

1. Obviously being in Coalition was difficult especially with our more anti-Tory supporters and Labour-facing seats…Tory ‘bedroom tax’ and ‘work-ready’ interviews for the disabled are among the most tricky on the doorstep. LD left & right had failed to counter the obvious opprobrium arising from these & other Tory policies – both in policy adjustment/veto AND in campaigning.

2. The ‘in between the two’ strategy was too negative …”vote for us because we will stop others doing stuff”, rather than what WE wanted to do post-May 2015. This was a hard sell to make pithy. ‘Stopping extremes’ was weak, since most did not see Tory or Labour as extreme.

3. We countered ‘stop Labour/SNP’ with ‘stop Tory/UKIP’ in Tory-facing seats. No-one believed however that UKIP could be coalition partners with one or two seats, on the doorstep. This strategy was a dud and left us vulnerable, and without a more credible response.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 43 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDean Crofts 20th Oct - 9:14am
    MPs have themselves to blame for the situation with UC. When the tax credit reductions were voted down in Parliament everyone forgot that the reductions...
  • User Avatartheakes 20th Oct - 9:10am
    Yesterdays local election results make very grim reading, very grim indeed. This is the reality we have to deal with.
  • User AvatarPalehorse 20th Oct - 8:47am
    Michael, GDP is just turn over. We have a very large economy which we operate at a huge loss rather than a profit. I do...
  • User AvatarJOHN INNES 20th Oct - 8:43am
    Excellent article. "Our current tax system, by focusing on income rather than wealth, facilitates the accumulation of unearned assets while punishing productive activity by individuals...
  • User AvatarGeoff Payne 20th Oct - 8:01am
    Well spotted, Mick- that should say 2017! I must have been stuck in a timewarp.
  • User AvatarCatherine Jane Crosland 20th Oct - 7:22am
    Lorenzo, thank you for your comments :) Katharine, my suggestion about a motion for conference was only a suggestion. You have already done a great...