Author Archives: Robin McGhee

Opinion: Universal Basic Income is the way forward for the Liberal Democrats

Following a post by Nick Barlow a couple of weeks ago, a number of Liberal Democrat members have got together in support of the Universal Basic Income. In this post I wanted to outline some of the reasons UBI can and should become the cornerstone of our party’s welfare policy.

Universal Basic Income is a regular unconditional tax-free payment made to every citizen regardless of their situation. Most models have it varying only with age- the under 21s get less, the over 65s get more- and naturally it replaces the large majority of existing benefits including pensions and unemployment benefit.

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Opinion: Should all-member ballots replace conference on policy votes?

Laptop and mobileThe Liberal Democrat conference’s decision to support the use of One Member, One Vote (OMOV) in federal conference decisions is to be welcomed. It means any member who attends conference can vote on conference decisions, not just leading figures and those elected by their local parties to be conference representatives. While this is all very good news, we can go a lot further.

Instead of conference making policy decisions, it is a logical next step to give all members the power to make policy regardless of whether they attend conference. We can do this by conducting all-member online ballots.

The most obvious benefit of this is it would enormously increase participation in decision-making in what is already, by miles, the most democratic of the four biggest UK parties. It seems fairly obvious ordinary members should have a say on the policies their party proposes, without having to fork out hundreds of pounds to attend conference. Older and wealthier members are more likely to attend conference because they have more time and money, meaning policy-making is less representative. Letting all members have their say would eliminate these problems.

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Opinion: The Lib Dems should make open primaries a coalition demand

82813332_89f5e4ceb0_zThe Liberal Democrats are likely to make proportional representation for local government elections a red line in 2015 coalition negotiations. Needless to say, for any liberal this is a thoroughly good and idea that will transform local government. Given neither party is likely to budge on national PR, it is a good way to implement radical reforms which might actually be accepted by either of the other main parties.

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Opinion: It’s not such a bad thing if we’re a nation of idlers

An extract from a forthcoming book appeared in the Evening Standard last week. The book the Standard quotes from is Britannia Unchained, a collection of essays by senior backbench Tories. Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and Chris Skidmore might not be household names yet, but they are young, right-wing and tremendously ambitious for themselves and the Conservative Party.

According to the Standard article, the authors believe Britons today need more “graft, risk and effort” in order to make Britain part of the “superleague” of nations. “Once they enter the workplace”, the young Tories argue, “the British are among the worst …

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Opinion: Lib Dems should say “No, Minister” to Tory plans to politicise the Civil Service

An initiative by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, should be a cause of considerable alarm for Liberal Democrats. According to the Independent, Maude has proposed a massive expansion of politically-appointed civil servants. The details are rather sketchy. But it seems obvious that if Francis Maude gets his way it will hugely reduce the effectiveness of government.

There are countless problems with an apolitical Civil Service. It is traditionally seen as a bastion of Establishment moderation and elitism. There is a good deal of evidence to suggest this has more than a grain of truth. The success of Yes, Minister

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats must not defend this appalling bill

The British constitution is primarily the result of accident or, at best, short-term political compromise. From the existence of a Prime Minister to the electoral system, chances are some aristocrat you’ve never heard of blundered across it by accident a couple of centuries ago. The current bill to reform the House of Lords continues this unfortunate tradition.

I am almost alone in the Lib Dems in opposing an elected second chamber. As it stands, the bill is not about to make me change my mind.

The bill proposes an electoral system which uses list PR. This system puts powers …

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Opinion: LibDem campaigning must be kept local

In a recent article on Lib Dem Voice, Scott Hill talked of the need for ‘modernisation’ of the party’s campaigning mechanisms. Some of his ideas are excellent: for example, who could argue with putting more emphasis on internet campaigning? However, I think he has gone somewhat off the rails in his adulation of what can only be described as aggressively centralising tendencies. ‘Message and projection is everything’, he writes. ‘As a party, it is vital that we sing from the same hymn sheet. Undoubtedly, debate and deliberation is necessary, but unity must be maintained right the way through the …

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Opinion: Lib Dem Cabinet Ministers – surely we can do better than this?

When the great British public look at their leaders, what do they think? In the unlikely event it’s anything other than ‘what have we done?’, it’s probably indifference or, occasionally, murder. The current crop of Lib Dem Cabinet Ministers do nothing to dispel these opinions. Chris Huhne’s sadly justified resignation provided an opportunity to change our public image for the better. This opportunity was not taken.

As has been pointed out, Ed Davey’s appointment as Huhne’s replacement has removed a ‘big beast’ from Cabinet: someone who can stand up for a broader range of party opinion. However, his appointment …

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Opinion: Why is Nick Clegg being quite so wrong on Lords reform?

If there is one thing taken for granted amongst Lib Dems it is that the House of Lords needs radical reform. In fact, most Lib Dems would go further than that. Like Cromwell, they would abolish the Lords outright, to be replaced with a Senate or not at all. But there are a substantial minority who, like me, think this is the wrong approach.

In an otherwise excellent speech before Christmas Nick Clegg set out his stall as a fervent abolitionist. He used the rhetoric of Lloyd George to express his purported frustration with the, er, hereditary system which was …

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