Author Archives: Sarah Noble

Urgent questions to our MPs regarding Article 50

 

There was rather worrying news from the regional conferences this weekend in which several parliamentarians, including Chief Whip Tom Brake, implied that the party would not vote against an Act of Parliament triggering Article 50 and/or repealing the European Communities Act 1972.

I and many other members are increasingly concerned about this turn of events. Less than two months ago, we passed a policy at Conference that committed the party to remain inside the European Union. Our reputation for many years has been that of a Europhile party, and nearly all of our votes are aware of this fact. So too are the thousands of new members who joined after the referendum. To not vote against would not only be betraying party members, it would be betraying our voters too. After a bruising period in coalition in which we lost the trust of many of our members, I fear that retreating from our pro-European principles poses an existential threat to the party.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 77 Comments

Pressing questions on the iPlayer tax

The BBC has announced that, from September 1st, the “iPlayer loophole” will be closed and access to the BBC’s iPlayer will require payment of the licence fee. Of course, there was never a loophole; the licence fee is meant to apply only to live television broadcasts.

Of course, the blame cannot be put at the BBC’s feet. The BBC has been forced to make severe budget cuts leading to the scaling back of services that cost relatively little such as Radio 6 and BBC Three – services disproportionately used by people aged 18-34, while at the same time having to shoulder £750 million per year for concessionary licences for over 75s: the biggest cost to the BBC after BBC One. Indeed, TV Licensing emphasises the disproportionate effect on students, who increasingly exclusively use on-demand services.

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

What are the Tories hiding in their Northern Poorhouse?

I’ve previously written about the shambolic “Northern Powerhouse” as promoted by the Tories, particularly in relation to the “pause” in the electrification project on the Trans-Pennine Lines. It’s a personal subject for me, living between the two lines that run from Leeds to Manchester, filled with trains barely fit for purpose when they were introduced.

As someone who lives in Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse”, I have a right to know if the Tories were lying to us when they promised unprecedented infrastructure spending. If it was known in the industry that the electrification of the Great Western Main Line would mean that electrification in the North would have to be delayed, then ministers almost certainly knew. But voters were not told when they went to the ballot box in May.

So I used the best tool in the arsenal of any activist: the Freedom of Information request. Back in July, I asked for the minutes of any meetings between the Department for Transport and Network Rail regarding “the delay of electrification of the Manchester–Leeds via Huddersfield line”. Then I waited and waited.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

A Labour leopard doesn’t change its spots

Don’t tell anyone, but George Osborne probably let out a sigh of relief when Baroness Manzoor’s fatal motion failed last night.

Of course, it was inevitable that Labour peers would rather bravely abstain on the cuts to tax credits, as their elected counterparts did in July. And Jeremy Corbyn is probably skating on thin ice, given that the scandal of Labour abstaining in July put him where he is today.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 44 Comments

Amnesty should support decriminalisation of sex work

This month, Amnesty International delegates will vote on a proposal to make decriminalisation of sex work a campaigning matter for the human rights organisation. This, understandably, has raised ire from many people, but none so large as parts of the feminist movement.

Just last week, we saw several Hollywood actors – ordinarily staunch allies of Amnesty’s work – sign an open letter promulgated by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women calling for Amnesty to reject the policy. One notable signatory was Anne Hathaway, who received an Oscar two years ago for her portrayal of Fantine in Les Miserables.
Fantine’s story is one that resembles that of many sex workers – after losing her job at Valjean’s factory, and being unable to make ends meet, she turns to selling sex at the docks of Montrieul. Eventually, after she is assaulted by a client, Javert arrests her and sentences her to prison. Only through Valjean’s intervention is Fantine able to die a free woman. Would criminalisation have helped Fantine? Obviously not; solicitation was highly illegal in 19th century France. In addition, like many of these laws, it was a law only ever utilised against the poorest workers. Hugo’s message in telling Fantine’s story was not one against prostitution; it was one of moral judgement failing the most in need.
Posted in News | Tagged and | 48 Comments

Breaking the Establishment

House of Commons. Crown Copyright applies to this photo - http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/4642915654/“We stand up for the outsider instead of the establishment.”, Tim Farron said during the leadership rally last week. For party members who were rather discouraged by our missteps in coalition, that line gives us hope.

Our failings in the Coalition can be traced to one key fault: after speaking out against the establishment, we were seen to be now a part of it. There are so many bills that we extracted key concessions on, but we were not able to communicate that. How could we, after all? We were bound by Cabinet collective responsibility. But it was never designed to operate the way it did in coalition.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 44 Comments

Opinion: Ending the northern power cut

Yesterday, Patrick McLoughlin announced what many of us had feared but were hoping would never happen: electrification of the train line between Manchester and Leeds was to be postponed, and possibly cancelled. The lynchpin of the Northern Powerhouse was pulled out and the plan predictably fell apart at the seams.

Three months ago, the Conservatives promised that £38 bn would be invested in the national rail network, mostly into electrifying the old diesel lines. This was so important to the Tories, we were told, that it was at the top of the manifesto. On page 11, the Tories outlined their plans for £13 bn for the North alone, going towards new trains, new lines, and new wires. And in one speech today, McLoughlin snuffed out the flame of hope in such a way on the Tories can.

The rail network in the North is completely dire, and bears all of the hallmarks of central government in London meddling time and time again. Serco-Abellio were awarded all but the actually profitable lines and told to run a vast network in the North using Cold War-era trains under the assumption that there was to be no growth and no investment in the Northern network. And to their credit, they’ve done a good job from what they’ve been given.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 43 Comments

Opinion: Why Liberal Democrats must oppose any criminalisation of sex workers

Amsterdam red light district by Trey Ratcliff On Tuesday, Parliament will debate the Report Stage of the Modern Slavery Bill, and in particular, an amendments that would criminalise the purchase of sex in England and Wales, similar to the one that was passed in Northern Ireland just a couple of weeks ago. It’s important that, as Liberal Democrats, we oppose those amendments.

When Belinda Brooks-Gordon and I, with the help of too many sex workers to list, put forward a policy motion towards safer sex work at Conference in Glasgow,

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 23rd May - 2:07am
    I am not of the era inspired by Gordon and co, being the Clegg and co era. I do know enough of him and his...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 23rd May - 1:40am
    The urgency of the young for assurance on their future is not currently being reflected by Liberal Democrat dynamism. Worthy work is proceeding on proposals...
  • User AvatarOnceALibDem 23rd May - 12:49am
    John - are you saying that Doctors are routinely carrying out abortions without following the provisions of the 1967 Act? If so aren't you under...
  • User AvatarOnceALibDem 23rd May - 12:38am
    Ironically came across this just after reading (belatedly) about Harvey Milk day, who once said, "“If you want to change the world, start in your...
  • User AvatarTony Greaves 22nd May - 11:05pm
    We should debate Liberalism, not liberalism.
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 22nd May - 10:08pm
    No thanks, Michael 1, let's not debate Liberalism again. Too many dubious bedfellows claim to be liberals, and even if they also declare themselves social...