Author Archives: Tom King

Generosity is the only acceptable antidote to the UK’s cynical politics

Even by the standards of the UK’s post-Brexit decline, this is a banner week for the cynicism that now acts as a cipher for political debate.

10 years after the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Act – one of the only remaining positive legacies of the Liberal Democrats’ ill-fated coalition with the Conservatives – both the Tories and Labour have chosen to double down on their respective impulses towards the mean-spiritedness that a supine media has long mistaken for competence.

On one side, you have Rishi Sunak, standing for a forward-to-the-past elitism by pledging to reduce the chances that young people have to access one of the last drivers of social mobility going: higher education. 

No need to wonder whether the breathtaking, cognitively dissonant claim that a policy capping student numbers is somehow ‘widening access’ is a true reflection of his beliefs: he is on record talking to Tory members about how cutting numbers is “great news for the universities largely full of, you know, people who don’t vote for us anyway.” He has a tendency to ‘gaffe’ – that is, say what he really thinks – in this manner: remember how he also proudly boasted of taking money from deprived urban areas?

Surely, with the incumbent government so transparently wedded to such callous cruelty, the government-in-waiting just needs to sit tight and wait for a population that already appears to have signed Sunak’s P45 to vote them in? After all, this weekend saw the pre-resignation of Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace – presumably on the basis that his chances at the next election range from zero to absolute zero.

Instead, Sir Keir Starmer went on Laura Kuenssberg’s Sunday show to offer up his most brazenly cynical u-turn to date: not just leaving wiggle room on his previous commitment to end the Conservatives’ 2-child benefit cap, but saying quite emphatically that Labour will keep it.

The evidence for the impact of this heartless, anti-family, anti-child policy is clear: its main effect is to push families with three or more children even deeper into poverty, without creating any of the compensatory ‘benefits’ claimed for it in terms of fertility decision-making.

Starmer’s statement has apparently created consternation within Labour, including at Shadow Cabinet level. Presumably that’s because everyone in the Shadow Cabinet has, at some point, described the two-child policy as ‘heinous’ or other words to that effect – including Starmer himself.

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

UK democracy is a rotten borough – Liberal Democrats must act like it

Results from the largest opinion poll since that slightly odd one in 2016 are in, and what a surprise: Brexit negotiations have not convinced people that the sunny uplands are just over the brow of this particular Everest.

Instead, there is a definite shift in public views: an eight-point majority for Remain in Survation’s 20,000-person poll (54-46). More interesting was the map showing the extent of the change; Leave-loving Wales is now Remain, while ‘Labour Leave’ constituencies in the north of England have also seen the light – or the lights going out.

As is so often the case, there were immediate redoubled calls for a People’s Vote from Remainer politicians.

I am technically in favour of a new vote. I marched for one in London two weeks ago. The last time I marched, it was against the Iraq war; a simple choice. However, this time, I marched not because I thought another referendum was the right policy, but because nothing better is on offer.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 38 Comments

Opinion: Bloody but unbowed, we must pick our battles quickly

The pain of Thursday night and Friday morning will take a long time to heal. But politics, like time, is an ever-rolling stream, and while our party’s dreams may have died long before the opening day, there is never the luxury of standing still or turning inwards.

Already, and encouragingly, this already seems to have been reflected in a groundswell of renewed support from more than 2000 party members. I myself, as a formerly rather passive Liberal Democrat, feel deeply ashamed of my lack of active campaigning when it was needed most. We absolutely need to turn those feelings of guilt and anger into action.

The question will be where to focus our efforts. I want to argue that picking our battles deliberately and quickly is vital.

Twitter and Facebook might be full of people pointing out the unfairnesses of First Past the Post; people might even be actively questioning the legitimacy of the Conservatives’ majority. But that is irrelevant. The reality is that we have a Tory government, and probably for most of the next five years – unless they try to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act they claimed as a major achievement in their manifesto.

Posted in News | 21 Comments

Why I can’t defend Tim Farron, the ASA, Healing on the Streets… or the terms of this debate

Tim Farron must be wondering when he became quite such a powerful man. Becoming President of the Lib Dems was one thing, but the mere act of appending his name to a letter has, I hope briefly, let slip the dogs of war within the party. Lib Dems everywhere seemed to decide Tim had made a catastrophic Faith Heal Turn. As I am both a member of the party and an evangelical Christian, I thought I would attempt to set out why the terms of this debate, in my view, are misguided.

I have great respect for Tim. I find his …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Opinion: we must become the fair tax party

Nick Clegg has been all over the airwaves this week, promoting one of the Liberal Democrats’ flagship policies: raising the income tax threshold to £10,000. This is something that everyone interested in social justice should naturally be inclined to support. If implemented in the forthcoming budget, it would reduce the burden on low- and middle-income earners, putting money back in their pockets at a time when many are finding the cupboard bare.

The policy also leads naturally to what some are already calling ‘Phase 2’ – tying the threshold directly to the current minimum …

Posted in News | 7 Comments

Opinion: The Liberal Democrats should contest Police Commissioner elections

Ask many people what they think of the Lib Dems’ approach to law and order, and you’ll be told – erroneously – that we’re a soft touch. Our approach, traditionally evidence-based and less punitive than the populist authoritarian policies of Labour and the Tories, takes longer to explain. When we fail to do so, we risk being seen as the party that panders to criminals.

Of course, that isn’t the case. We believe in policy that actually works to reduce crime and recidivism, using all possible means to rehabilitate those who resort to illegality, while reiterating the importance of the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 19 Comments

Opinion: End unpaid internships with MPs? Sure – just show us the money

There has been no little discussion in recent days about the cosy world of unpaid internships. Nick Clegg has rightly drawn attention to their increasingly powerful status as a barrier to social mobility. Of course, organisations such as Intern Aware and Interns Anonymous have long been making the same point.

But the almost universal response to this truth – that unpaid internships are wrong, and should be ended forthwith – actually raises more questions than it answers. What people really mean when they say internships should ‘end’ is that interns should be ‘paid’. This is because everyone recognises …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Opinion: cuts in welfare are the hallmark of a selfish society

During the Conservative Party Conference, George Osborne announced a simple change to child benefit. He took a difficult and historic decision to remove payments to households with at least one higher rate taxpayer, saving an estimated £1 billion of public money from going directly to the highest paid 12% in our society.

In what turned out to be my last blog post, I railed – somewhat hysterically – against the reaction to this modest cut. It was clear that the right wing press would oppose such a move. But what was less clear, and more galling, was the way the …

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

Opinion: A useful analogy?

Watery sunlight creeps through the gap between the plush curtains as you groggily open your eyes. A cappuccino rests on the bedside table, next to the designer spectacles which have become your trademark. Wearily, you begin to sit up, turning on the DAB radio as you sip the smoking tide. But in the dulcet tones of Evan Davis you begin to discern a disturbing development.

“In a shock move, the Football Association last night voted to open the selection of England’s final World Cup squad to the public through an instant referendum. Votes are likely to divide sharply down club lines

Posted in Op-eds | 5 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Adam Robertson
    @Peter Martin - How many seats did the Lib Dems win simply because the Tory/Reform was split? Yes we won seats because the Tory/Reform vote was split. However, ...
  • David Raw
    @ Tristan Ward I'm afraid Winston Churchill came a thousand years later than, "the early 10th century Liberal Party", and I'm afraid the good folk of Dundee...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Alex, “How many seats did the Lib Dems win simply because the Tory/Reform vote was split?” "Probably not very many actually." "Actual...
  • David Raw
    @ Tristan Ward Lessons of History ? Not advisable to ride on the back of an alligator, no matter how vulnerable and docile it may appear at first sight ....
  • Tristan Ward
    @David Raw Yes it was the alliance between liberal forces and conservative forces that led to the decline in the early 10th century Liberal Party. But liber...