Caron’s Sunday Selection: Must-read articles from the Sunday papers

sundaypapsLots to muse on in the first Sunday papers of 2015.

First of all, a very moving article by Debbie Purdy, the woman whose “right to die” campaign led to new guidelines on assisted suicide in 2009. Written just before her death last month, it’s published in the Independent. I hadn’t realised that she’d had to live apart from her husband for so long. Her account of her struggle to find a way of making life tolerable with her condition is tough to read.

She argues that the legislation before parliament now simply doesn’t go far enough because it only covers those who are terminally ill. She thinks it needs to include those with incurable conditions which aren’t terminal:

The law must insist on at least two doctors confirming diagnosis, and that family and/or friends have been talked to where possible, to make sure they have the opportunity to offer whatever support the dying person needs, and are able to access the support they will need when a loved one dies. But in the end, it must be the choice of the person whose life will end, to decide at which point.

Where the patient is suffering unbearably from an incurable condition, the law must allow for assisted dying, but only where other possibilities have been exhausted. This process should take a minimum of a year, but should depend on how long a patient has been ill – the shorter the illness, the longer they need, with the help of psychiatrists, family, friends and doctors to consider ways of living their new life and discovering ways of dealing with new challenges.

The same paper also says that there may be a rebellion on the Counter Terrorism Bill when it comes back to Parliament. Unfortunately, it’s everybody but the Liberal Democrats who are getting the credit for it. Labour, the same Labour party who voted in the Commons for the Government to have the power to force any terror suspect to be moved anywhere in the country, have proposed a sensible  amendment which may get Tory and Liberal Democrat support. We should be driving that sort of thing, though, not be mentioned as an afterthought in the news story. The paper has a pretty stinging editorial about the Coalition’s civil liberties record which made me wince a bit. I have my concerns about things like secret courts and this bill, but you actually need to compare the list of what the Tories wanted to do against what the coalition has done. The difference is a substantial, if maybe not entirely sufficient impact of the Liberal Democrats.

Steve Webb receives praise from the Telegraph which may not make him happy. He talks about giving people the right to sell their pension annuities at any time, announcing a consultation on the issue and plans in place before the election. The paper’s editorial treats him like some sort of right wing free market hero. A tad unfair given that his reforms make sure that everyone has a workplace pension, the state pension has been improved and his aim is to make the private pensions market a lot fairer for people and give them more realistic choices within it.

Webb has got on with pensions reform and largely stayed out of the welfare reform agenda in his department. There are positive arguments in his favour – getting one job done thoroughly has to be a good thing. However, when an Observer report links deaths and suicides to tougher benefit sanctions, action needs to be taken. We can’t just wait and hope we are in government after May. We need to do something now.

Facebook and other social media sites could increase turnout in the election according to this article in the Observer. It also raises the question of whether social media should be regulated to ensure balance. I think not. How do you ensure that each individual’s newsfeed is kept in perfect balance? And it wouldn’t be desirable even if it were possible.

I reckoned last month that there was a story to the Smith Commission’s fudge on devolution of abortion rights, and it was mainly to do with Labour not trusting the Scottish people. It now transpires that Jim Murphy, Labour’s new Scottish leader opposes such a move according to the Sunday Herald, which also points out his absence from key votes on the issue.

The Herald also talks to Danny Alexander, whom they politely dub the “Treasury axeman.” I suppose that’s appropriate when you consider he’s axed the income tax of 25 million low and middle income earners.

With suggestions the Conservatives want to cut, cut and keep cutting even when the books are balanced, the Liberal Democrat frontbencher is clear his party’s civilising role is not over just yet.

“You are starting to see now as the Tories start to set out their agenda for the future just how unpleasant some of the things they would do if they were left to their own devices,” declares the Inverness MP.

While there have been difficult moments – the PM’s EU veto and the AV referendum – for the Scot, his proudest achievement has been “turning round” the economy.

“Frankly, that is something that wouldn’t be happening without me, it wouldn’t be happening without the Liberal Democrats, it wouldn’t be happening without the way in which we have shaped the economic strategy of this government with the Conservatives.”

An interesting article in the Sunday Times (£) shows that 1 in 3 Tories in their battleground seats have connections to the banking and financial services industry.

Research by the Labour party has shown that 44 Conservative candidates in the 130 seats that will decide the election have either worked for banks and other finance companies or accepted political donations from them.

Of the 44 candidates concerned, 30 are sitting MPs and the other 14 have a fighting chance of joining them in parliament in May.

Donors from the finance industry have provided the Tories with more than £28m since the 2010 election. This has increased substantially with £7.9m coming from financial services in 2014, significantly more than the £4.9m handed over in 2011, the first full year after the last election.

Those with strong links to financial services include Flick Drummond, the candidate in Portsmouth South, an insurance broker by trade; Rachel Maclean, contesting Birmingham Northfield, who worked for HSBC in Hong Kong; and David Warburton, the candidate in Somerton and Frome, an entrepreneur.

It’s interesting that this is Labour research given their light touch approach to regulating this sector when they were in power.

What have you found interesting in today’s press?



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Eddie Sammon 4th Jan '15 - 2:44pm

    Steve Webb needs to rebuild relationships with the many individuals who work in the private pensions industry. Many of us do not recognise the picture he paints of the industry and this includes the employees, not just the fat cat CEOs.


  • Eddie Sammon, is that Steve Webb’s job.?
    Why do you private sector people need a leg up from the state? If the free market is so wonderful why can’t you do it by yourselves? I have never understood how UK business always seem to want state handouts and special treatment from the government. Shouldn’t you pull yourselves up by your own boot straps? Shouldn’t you get on your bikes and sell your private pensions?

    Just asking — with tongue firmly placed in cheek. 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Jan '15 - 4:45pm

    John Tilley, I am not asking for any leg up from the state, I am actually holding back when I say: “Many of us do not recognise the picture he paints of the industry”.

    I want a nice and consensual politics, but I also want misinformation to be corrected. One day I will try to get him to broadly correct this personally, but if not I will publish the evidence myself.

    I appreciate your joke about getting on my bike and selling pensions, but on this issue I feel very passionate and therefore, unfortunately, struggle to smile.

    Regards (at least I can say that 🙂 – oh, I actually smiled!)

  • David Evershed 4th Jan '15 - 5:44pm

    Lib Dem philosophy is in favour of free markets. The liberal view is that businesses should succeed or fail on their merits. So I agreed with John Tilley.

    However, Steve Webb’s latest proposals are not about propping up insurance sales businesses. Government regulations generally required people to use their private pension funds to buy an annuity rather than investing in a rental property say. Consequently it is the previous illiberal government directive which Steve Webb is looking to reverse, rather than provide any government leg-up for insurance businesses.

    Well done Steve Webb.

  • David Evershed
    Liberal Democrat philosophy is se Putin the Preamle to the Constnitution. It recognises the role of the state, it does not actually “favour free markets” as you suggest.

    Free markets can serve a purpose and if people want to spend their money to buy a private pension thaisnup to them. But free markets are not something that Liberal Democrat philosophy bows down to. We are sufficiently realistic to recognise that an economic system that serves its purpose by and large for the sale of widgets or chewing gum is not much cop when it comes to dealing with Ebola or educating children.

  • JohnTilley 4th Jan ’15 – 7:33pm

    Obviously a communist plot has usurped my I-Pad and replace my original words with a reference to Putin !

    What I actually said was —
    Liberal Democrat philosophy is SET OUT in the Preamle to the Constnitution. It recognises the role of the state, it does not actually “favour free markets” as you suggest.

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