Author Archives: Tahir Maher

Tahir Maher is a former Chair of South Central Liberal Democrats and lives in Wokingham.

Electoral Commission investigate possible funding abuse by Vote Leave

The Electoral Commission is again investigating Vote Leave after whistle-blower Shahmir Sanni who worked for BeLeave came forward to say that when the sum of £625,000 was given to them by Vote Leave, it came with clear instructions as to how the money was to be used. If this is true, then it would be a criminal offence. Mr Sanni also asserted that most of the cash was spent on a firm linked to Cambridge Analytica.

Chris Wylie, former Director of Research at Cambridge Analytica, told MPs this week that the company’s actions during Brexit campaign were “a breach of the law”. Cambridge Analytica and its parent company provided analysis for Vote Leave ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum. The research, Wylie went on to say, likely breached UK’s campaign financing laws and may have helped to swap the outcome.

I think there is a case to answer by Vote Leave, BeLeave and Cambridge Analytica but I am not sure that it would have changed the 52:48 percent result. A plausible argument is that Leavers misled voters by stating that there was no economic downside to Brexit, no risk to the UK single-market benefits and off course the £350 million a week promised to fund the NHS. All these points were and could have been further countered by Remainers as they had the time and funds available to do so. However, we do have strict laws regarding elections and the question is were they exploited by Vote Leave. 

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Has social media compromised liberty?

Do we lose the right to privacy when we involve ourselves in social media? The obvious answer to this question is “of course not” and that should be the case, but is it?

Facebook, a business that started around 2004, has announced it has over half of all internet users in the world on it; in six years Twitter had over 100 million users. Recently, the US State Department asked Twitter not to carry out regular maintenance during the recent demonstrations in Iran as information was being disseminated through Twitter. A similar use was made of Facebook during the uprising in Egypt. Social media platforms on the face of it can be a profoundly pro-liberty force. John Stuart Mill wrote about liberty as freedom not only from coercion by the government but also from the constraints of social conventions, so is social media the answer?

Unfortunately, social media companies focus really on advertising. Google, for example, generates 23% of all US advertising revenue, more than twice that of all print media. The ever-increasing user base of social networking sites tends to require your name, date of birth, and in many cases education and employment details. Many identity thieves tend to hack their victim’s email accounts by simply using the personal information available from such sites and, for example, use the “Forget Password” facility or get access using spyware. Selling data to advertisers is lucrative and this is being done by social media companies and unscrupulous people.

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Euratom was not on the ballot paper

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The Treaties of Rome of 1957 founded the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) to create a European market for nuclear power. Its membership includes EU member states and has cooperation agreements with third-party countries like Canada, the US, South Africa.

In its Brexit White Paper that invokes Article 50, the UK will be leaving Euratom. Euratom is legally distinct from the EU but is governed by EU institutions and therefore this UK Government is …

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A day in the life of…a newly elected member of Federal Conference Committee

As a newly elected member of the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) I was keen to get involved. I left home at 10:00 am in the morning to get to Southport and my first FCC meeting at 2:30 pm. Unfortunately, due to the traffic, I didn’t get to the conference until 3:00 pm and I got to the meeting half an hour late. A few heads were raised as I walked in – I think I made an impression!!

A discussion was in progress on the amendments and emergency motions, I thought it was quite detailed and well thought through. A very good article written by Zoe O’Connell for LDV  details the discussions.

After the meeting, the members of FCC were taken on a tour of the main Auditorium to familiarise themselves with the setup. I met one of the Stewards who was clearly exhausted. He informed me that he has been there since Thursday helping to set things up.

After the tour, there was a meeting to go through the rather complex conference standing orders. I thought the training and discussion on standing orders were very good and it reassured me that different scenarios that arise when motions are discussed can be managed consistently and fairly. On Saturday morning, and I arrived on time, there was another meeting to discuss the arrangements and motions for Sunday. 

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Same old Economic Orthodoxy

In 1997, the Labour Party inherited a balanced budget from the Tories and for well over ten years we had Gordon Brown telling us that he had got rid of the boom and bust cycle. By 2009 the deficit had ballooned to £171 billion, higher than during the recessions of the 1980s, the 1990s and even when the Labour party went to the IMF, cap in hand, in 1976 (another fine mess they got us into) put together.

Economic orthodoxy maintained by Labour and and the Tories for the last forty years or so ensures the same economic models: over reliance …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 55 Comments

We must deliver upon the Alderdice Review

Before I discuss this report I want to put it into perspective:

  • An article in the Guardian, some time ago now, stated that there were 159 seats where the winning margin in 2015 general election was lower than the number of Muslims in the constituency;
  • Of Sikhs and Muslims, over 70% of them vote Labour;
  • Newspapers reported in the elections following the Iraq war over 20% of the voters originally from Pakistan and Bangladesh voted for the Liberal Democrats and in 2010 and 2015 general elections Runnymede points to this same voting group going down to 2%;
  • In the 1960s 13% of the

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A Canvasser’s Dilemma: “Hello, Mr Smith”

Knock, Knock!  Door opens… “Hello Mr Smith, my name is Tahir.  We are out today …”

Mr Smith: Let me ask you a question. A Labour guy and the Tory bloke came last week and promised the same things.  What is it that makes you Lib Dems different or more caring and able to deliver this for me as compared to them?”

Tahir:  “Mmm…”  A simple question that is not easy to answer for a resident.

I often wonder what is our local government raison d’être that differentiates us and gives us resident voting loyalty, other than hard work on local issues and name/face recognition.

The Party is determined to maintain its historical reputation for being the party of community politics and decentralisation.  Councils are and should remain central to our plans for the country.  We want to reduce the powers of central government to interfere in democratically elected local government. 

Mr Smith: “You just want local elections to be held using proportional representation and introduce local income tax?”

“Well we believe in equality and fairness. That means everyone’s vote matters and counts when electing a representative, as it should. We also want to have more local power to make our own decisions based on local needs and not those imposed on us from central government. Don’t you think that fair?”

Mr Smith: “Maybe, but what about local Income Tax?”

“Well it’s a better system and fairer than the local rates. Residents should pay on their ability to pay and not an outdated rates system that over a period of time has become unfair resulting with the poorest people paying a much higher proportion of their income than the richest.

Local income tax is a fairer tax system to feed local needs like repairing pot holes, better upkeep of parks and hedges, provide community gardens, more funding for child protection and better services for pensioners, to name but a few.

Mr Smith: “I don’t want you to build on the green belt but we need more houses.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Austerity and Napoleon

There is an old joke: Income tax was introduced (by Pitt the Younger) to pay for the Napoleonic wars and now that those wars are over, surely it must be time to get rid of Income tax.

As a Liberal I believe in the individual and to build a society that will support and nurture that individual’s potential. If you look at examples in history, in almost every case it’s the individual who has made a difference so it makes sense to support creative/driven individuals to enable them to realise their vision.

However, society is made up of groups and communities with individuals of different capabilities. The predicament is to have a tax system that not only encourages investment and reward but one that ensures society is also equally served.

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GINI Coefficient – is it really a measure of Press Power?

The Gini* coefficient provides an index to measure inequality. A measure of 0 shows everybody is equal, and 1 where the country’s income is earned by a single person. Allianz calculated (in 2015) each country’s wealth Gini coefficient and found the U.S. had the most wealth inequality, with a score of 0.80. As a comparison Rome’s top 1% controlled 16% of the wealth (compared to America’s 40%, today) with a Gini coefficient of 0.44.

How can a modern, educated, democratic society allow such a massive discrepancy in the distribution of wealth? The distribution of news (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines etc.) …

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Rebuilding the Party – a short term fix or a long-term dilemma

My team’s manager, Arsene Wenger, had a short-term problem to replace the players who left in January and a long-term problem because we haven’t won the league since 2003-04. Arsene repeatedly called on us to have faith in him because young upcoming players would strengthen the team to make Arsenal serious contenders for the title. He thought he could do what Manchester United did with “Fergie’s Fledglings” – which included players like Beckham and Giggs. Regrettably, it was not to be. Arsenal has no significant long-term solution and the focus is on short term fixes. But short-term fixes don’t …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 30 Comments

Should the Liberal Democrats sell themselves like chocolate?

The UK consumed £3.5bn worth of chocolate in 2009, according to market researchers. Further research shows advertising spending by Cadbury’s results in them making £3 for every £1 they spend. We all know what chocolates we like, yet the confectionery companies spend millions a year on product recognition.

Let me ask you a question. What comes to mind when you think about the word Labour or Tories? Labour – do you associated them with the unions, NHS, nationalisation; Tories – what type of people come to mind, their attitudes, economic groups they favour etc. Such characteristics are not fixed but …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 72 Comments

Opinion: Islamic State – it’s a conundrum

iraqI see myself as a small time politician who has an opinion on everything. But the proposed bombing of ISEL / ISIS (IS) worries me as I am conflicted as to what the right answer is. Does the term ‘We’ve been here’ before resonate?  And how about ‘We can’t just stand back and let these atrocities continue’?

Our record of being involved in the Middle East is very poor. On the last two Gulf wars we have demonstrated our military might but not foresight. We have demolished the perceived threat (although we still haven’t found weapons of mass destruction) excused ourselves out with ‘Now the right people will step up and do the right thing’. In each case we have failed to note that the population has been devastated by the wars. Ironically, we in the west have continually failed to recognise that the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent, if given the choice, much prefer the Western way of life. But if you have just been battered in a war, and those you hope would ally with you have done this, you turn to what is familiar and away from what you may have once aspired.

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Opinion: Experience tells us that attacking Syria would harm rather than help

I live near Forbury Gardens in Reading where the Maiwand Lion statue was erected in 1886 to commemorate the loss of 280 soldiers from the 66th Royal Berkshire Regiment at the Battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan on 27th July 1880. There is talk of a memorial for our brave soldiers who fought and have lost their lives in the current campaign in Helmand. In my opinion, when the Americans and the British leave, Karzai won’t be too far behind and Mullah Omar will be reinstated as leader. In recent years we also have the experience of the war in Iraq …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 20 Comments

Opinion: Choose Life

The spring conference at Brighton 2012 proposed a motion (F20) on Medically Assisted Dying which was carried and I was the only one who spoke against it. Now Lord Falconer has introduced a Bill on Assisted Dying for which I feel compelled to make a case against. On the wall at Lib Dem head office it say “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity“.The motion and …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 23 Comments

Opinion: Payday loans – a never ending debt

IOU in a piggy bank - Some rights reserved by Images_of_MoneySouth Central Region Liberal Democrats have discussed and passed a motion against Pay Day Loans at our Regional conference in the autumn of 2012. The notion of such loans is valid: provide a small short term loan for those in need to help them through immediate financial hardship. Unfortunately, exploitation is what we get.

Here are some facts about these loans:
Which estimates over 800,000 UK households have taken out payday loans;
• The Consumer Credit Counselling Service says over 2,000 of their clients in 2012 …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 31 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAndrew Tampion 27th May - 11:52am
    Going off on a slight tangent it seems to me that the mistake that most pro EU commentators make is the implicit assumption that all...
  • User AvatarAndrew Daer 27th May - 11:49am
    There is no average leave voter, but one substantial group includes those like Farage, who can't stand the idea that little countries like Belgium get...
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 27th May - 10:45am
    I think the phrase, " if you're going there, I wouldn't start from here" is appropriate. We got off on the wrong foot. We should...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 27th May - 10:27am
    @nvelope2003, You obviously don't read the Guardian! We are shortly due to fall off the economic cliff according to them! https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/10/brexit-cliff-edge-eu-hardline-thatcherism-uk-economy PS I wasn't being...
  • User Avatarexpats 27th May - 9:59am
    imon Shaw 26th May '18 - 9:58pm.....As I understand it someone on (say) 30K who has had a student loan will pay #450 a year...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 27th May - 9:43am
    Spot on John. However there are contributors to this site who wish us ill, and they will keep prodding the termites nest. Best to ignore...