Author Archives: Peter Wrigley

Say no to HS2

I suspect a lot of leading Liberal Democrats have been railway buffs from childhood and will be appalled at the suggestion that the HS2 scheme might be scrapped. I am not a railway buff, though I confess to a brief period as an Iain Allen train spotter.

However, way back in 2014 a fellow Liberal Democrat, Quentin Macdonald, moved a resolution at our Yorkshire and Humberside Region annual conference which proposed what seemed to me a very convincing, and much less costly, alternative which he had developed with another railway expert, Colin Elliff. This they called High Speed UK. It had a much higher degree of connectivity with the existing network than HS2, hence being of much greater value to a whole series of northern towns and cities, rather than just Birmingham, and, if the links ever get built, Manchester, Liverpool, Wigan, Sheffield and Leeds and York.

Details of the scheme can be found here.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 30 Comments

Public mind manipulation

There’s a report out today  calling for the regulation of targeted political advertising.  I heard this  in a BBC review of the papers, but it isn’t mentioned in theGuardian and  can’t find it on the Internet, so I don’t have the details.

However, this is a serious matter and regulation is urgently needed.  Sadly, it is probably too late to bring in relevant new laws before a snap general election or even another referendum, so it is vitally important for the public to be fully aware of what is going on.

A recent article by Peter Pomerantsev  in the Guardian tells of a world of “dark ads, psy-ops, hacks, bots, soft facts, deep fakes, fake news . . . trolls.”  I don’t pretend to understand what most of these are but they are sent digitally not to the population as a whole, but to carefully targeted audiences.  The target does not necessarily know from whom the message comes, nor who else is receiving it, or an entirely different message.

The result is that the recipients are deceived into believing that there is a consensus of opinion where none actually exists.  Maybe this helps explain the narrow lead for Leave in the 2016 Referendum

Apparently, the person in charge of targeted digital messaging for the Vote Leave campaign i was a Thomas Borwick. According to Pomerantsev:

 the most successful message in getting people out to vote had been about animal rights.  Vote leave argued that the EU was cruel to animals because, for example, it supported farmers in Spain who raise bulls for bullfighting.  And within the “animal rights” segment Borwick could focus (sic) even tighter, sending graphic ads featuring mutilated animals to one type of  voter and more gentle ads with pictures of cuddly sheep, to others.

It’s  a world away from “Question Time” the “Today Programme,” “Newsnight,” election addresses and, indeed,  Focus.  the Tories are said to have earmarked several millions to digital advertising since Mr Johnson became Prime Minister.

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Letter to Vince Cable – UK military action in Syria is not justified

Embed from Getty Images
This letter is in response to Vince’s request for feedback on the Syrian question

Dear Vince Cable,

Thank you for giving we members an opportunity to forward our views to you on the possible military intervention by the UK in Syria.

This is an extremely difficult problem which seems to place us in a lose-lose situation. If we do not intervene we appear to stand by impotently whilst terrible wickedness takes place, including the internationally illegal use of chemical weapons. If we do intervene there is a strong possibility of making a bad situation worse, as has already happened in similar circumstances in Iraq and Libya.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 36 Comments

Agenda 2020 Essay #11: What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party is currently running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions is 2nd November. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected]

For me, being a Liberal Democrat today implies sympathy with and a willingness to work for the following beliefs.

LIBERTY comes at the top of the list, with the John Stuart Mill constraint that we are free only to do what doesn’t harm others. This means that we value variety, welcome people with different cultures and religions and believe that diversity enriches society.  We resist unjustified and indiscriminate state surveillance into our private lives.  Where the preservation of liberty clashes with our other beliefs, such as equality, then we try to put liberty first.

In the fields of EQUALITY AND WELFARE, we believe that all individuals should be equally valued as human beings.   Hence we believe that the state has the dual function of both preventing some people becoming too rich (by progressive taxation) and providing a generous safety-net for the poor, so that all have the ability to reach their potential and participate fully in the norms of  the one society.    We believe access to a social security safety-net sufficient to secure a decent standard of living is a right.  In the past we have favoured a citizen’s income and may well do so again.

Faith in DEMOCRACY is at the root of our values. Liberals Democrats believe that people can be trusted. (Both Conservatives and Socialists alike believe at heart that we need to be coerced).  We want to see parliamentary reform, so that the people’s representatives have genuine control over the executive; reform of the electoral system by the introduction of proportional representation by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies; an elected second chamber representative of the nations and regions, to which power will have been devolved; and vital local government.  All political power should be exercised at the lowest possible level.  We are devolvers, not centralisers.

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Recent Comments

  • User Avatarpmknowles 26th Aug - 6:00am
    One of the reasons that HS2 is needed (but north of Birmingham) is the capacity issue. I often stand on the station at Manchester Oxford...
  • User AvatarAntony Watts 25th Aug - 11:42pm
    Continental High Speed lines are a glue that holds the social cohesion of the Eu together. The issue is that the isolated UK does not...
  • User Avatarsiv white 25th Aug - 10:45pm
    THEAKES, You are overestimating how much people think or know about politics. It is quite simple, people either think Brexit is stupid or wonderful and...
  • User Avatarfrankie 25th Aug - 10:19pm
    There is a desire to get things finished with, let us return to nice times they squeal and many will sign up to that. A...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 25th Aug - 10:12pm
    David Warren and Michael BG. I agree that the outcome of this working group has been rather disappointing, and it is strange in my opinion...
  • User Avatarfrankie 25th Aug - 10:07pm
    I expect Depeffle hope's the following scenario works out. 1. Parliament blocks him 2. He appeals to the people and gains a majority 3. He...