Category Archives: Op-eds

Question Time is going to be worth watching tonight

Most often these days, I can’t even force myself to watch Question Time and I’m interested in politics. It’s become such an unbalanced, thoughtless shouting match which rarely yields intelligent observation. The liberal viewpoint is rarely represented and the frequent presence of the most unpalatable voices from the right wing tabloids or extreme right wing politics just makes me want to weep.

Tonight, though, we are in for a treat.

Not only are we going to get our amazing Sal Brinton, but also on the panel, fresh from Strictly, is the one and only Reverend Richard Coles. He will no doubt bring a bit of good humour and thoughtfulness to the proceedings.

Lisa Nandy was one of the editors of The Alternative, the book advocating a progressive alliance.

We might see a spat between brexiteers Chris Grayling and Tory Peer and Next CEO Simon Wolfson, too. Wolfson isn’t showing any sign of “bregret” but he has been critical of the Government’s approach to Brexit. 

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Welsh Lib Dems’ Leadership: Liz Evans writes…We must offer a positive alternative to nationalism

Changing our constitution is recognition of where we currently are as a Welsh party; a brave, necessary and ultimately exciting step. My name is Liz Evans, I’m a County Councillor for Ceredigion, an intrepid campaigner and committed liberal! So here we are, two Welsh speaking women from the coast and countryside of Wales; campaigning colleagues looking to be the next Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader – how amazing is that!

Be in no doubt that Welsh politics is the poorer without Welsh Liberal Democrat parliamentarians, both in the Welsh Assembly and Westminster. Yet this is the reality check. The last eighteen months has been the stuff of nightmares; four of our five Assembly members gone; talented Councillors gone and losing the seat of my close friend and colleague Mark Williams was devastating. Having ran his office for nine years the principles of liberal democracy were at the heart of everything we did.

Secretary of Education Kirsty Williams is improving and developing education in Wales and delivering on our manifesto commitments as part of the progressive agreement with Welsh Government including 20,000 new homes; prioritising links between education and industry; the establishment of a Wales Development Bank to help people set up business and grow existing businesses; extra money to help schools support teenagers with mental health problems and where mental health discrimination is ended. That’s not bad going for one Liberal Democrat in government!

I am rooted to this party and I care deeply about its future direction. I am a proud European, a  devolutionist to the core and I am ambitious for Wales. I also recognise that the Welsh Liberal Democrats have an identity problem.

We are the party of home rule, radical liberalism and social democracy. We are outward looking, British, European and truly internationalist. Yet we see a growing warmth towards nationalism in Wales and we must offer a clear, positive alternative. We are the antidote to nationalism and the champions of self determination and we need the people of Wales to know.

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Welsh Lib Dems’ Leadership: Jane Dodd writes “I want to lead a party that is radical and reforming”

I have to start by saying that I am not that happy to be standing against Liz Evans, a colleague for whom I have enormous respect.  My only comfort is that the Welsh Liberal Democrats will have a Welsh speaking woman from mid-Wales as their next leader.

I believe that the Welsh Liberal Democrats have the talent, the drive, the enthusiasm and the ambition to start winning again, but we need to rebuild the party.  We need more members, more councillors and to win seats in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2021 and in the next Parliamentary elections.  The Welsh party needs to work with the Federal Party to forge a relationship that helps us to transform ourselves.  And Wales needs the Welsh Liberal Democrats to offer real, meaningful, and Liberal solutions to the deep seated inequalities people face.

Progress has been too slow.  As a social worker, I have seen at first hand the inequalities in our society and the hardship suffered by people as they face a lack of good quality homes and a paucity of well-paid and full time employment. People in Wales have health services which are well below the standards in England, and we need improved access to mental health provision.  We need to sustain our support to our Education Cabinet Secretary in Kirsty Williams as she continues to deliver progressive policies to improve educational standards for Welsh children.

We need an economic plan that breathes life back in to Wales, and to put green policies and renewable energy developments at the forefront of our strategy. We need to be an outward looking Wales – welcoming refugees and helping those in need, as well as joining Vince and all other Liberal Democrats in challenging Brexit.  

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Loss, connection and happiness. Is Liberal Democrat activism good for us?

Happiness, social psychologists like Jonathan Haidt have suggested, may be found more in the single-minded pursuit of good aims than in achieving them. If this is true, Liberal Democrats should be some of the happiest people around – always striving, always hoping, yet too often actually failing to achieve our aims.

Ridiculous, retorts common sense. We fail, and that is depressing and debilitating. Yet there must be something in the theory to keep some of us for fifty years or more committed to the cause of Liberalism – not always activists, deflected by our personal human dramas and careers and families, yet always resuming.

You’re just fanatics to do that, say scornful pragmatists. And it’s true that this commitment depends on your being a certain type of character, raised in certain circumstances such as, maybe, growing up in a politically concerned family.  Perhaps also you have to start young, when you can’t anticipate the long unproductive years to come.

There has to be resilience in your character to keep going, and certain social conditions to help sustain you. Liberal Democrats become used to long disappointment brightened by moments of triumph and joy, but actual loss is hard to bear.

The loss of a political position, whether a council or a parliamentary one, may never be as devastating as the loss of someone you love, or getting a life-threatening illness, or seeing your child come to grief, but it’s still a terrible blow. All that effort to get there, all that hard work in office, all that useful accomplishment, suddenly finished, seemingly wasted. How did our Liberal Democrat champions feel, as one by one they fell, from 2011 to 2015? The pain of having failed their closest associates, family, employees and fellow campaigners would have been combined with deep frustration and probable impotent suppressed anger. How many vowed never to subject themselves again to that? It took a certain cast of character to resolve to carry on, probably resisting the plea of loved ones not to be masochistic. They had the imperative of finding other paying work speedily, as well.

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Should Liberal Democrats get more angry at Corbyn and the Tories?

I’ve been getting more angry in my politics. In 2015, it was the post-coalition Tory savaging of the low paid, last year it was Vote Leave’s deceits, this year the hypocrisy of Corbyn in supporting welfare cuts.

But this week I was brought up short, when told I should stop looking for the speck in the eyes of my political opponents.

That stung. That section of the Bible has influenced me enormously. As a teenager, I memorised most of it. I constantly think of the impossible standards it sets, try to follow them, and of course dismally fail.

I think for Liberal Democrats, whatever our views, the influence of the teachings of Jesus runs deep. There are reasons for our reputation as the ‘nice’ party, perhaps through our nonconformist roots or our British culture.

But I have a love-hate relationship with that niceness. In the 2017 election, the Tories supported £9bn welfare cuts, Corbyn £7bn, we campaigned for no cuts. Yet, when Corbyn supporters claim the moral high ground on welfare, we let them.

Sometimes when faced with an obvious hypocrisy, it is best to ignore it. Matthew 5:22 says it can even be wrong just to get angry. It’s hard, but the teachings of Jesus were never meant to be easy.

Yet is this what the Bible as a whole always calls for, for Christians, or indeed for any who base their morality on the teachings of Jesus?

When Jesus saw traders ripping off the poor in the temple, he got angry. Was he right to? If so, maybe there are situations where anger is a good thing. After all, if neuroscience shows that anger is an intrinsic part of us, maybe it’s there for a reason.

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Post 2017 Northern Liberalism Part 2

A few days ago, I wrote Part 1 of this article, at the time intended to be the one and only part, but the response in comments and in person has, I feel, required a deeper look into the situation we face in the North of England post-GE2017, in particular the areas that I know well, and provide some of the more interesting case studies. Part 2 looks at the General Election of June, and Part 3 will look into how we move forward.

Southport has always been interesting, staying orange in 2015 when everyone thought it would go blue, a spot of council strength that defies logic in a town with similar demographics to Clacton. On 12th June this year, John Pugh wrote an article entitled “How we lost Southport” on this site, and I hope he will not mind me using that work as a reference point here. In it he clearly pins down the reason he believes we fell into third place – national messaging. I should at this point say that this is not a three-months-too-late national campaign bashing article, the 2017 General Election was a surprise one, fought furiously by all of us. Yet, we are now far enough away to look back with a level of objectivity. Our national messaging was quite simple – Tories want a hard Brexit, Labour can’t win anyway because of Corbyn. Simple, but not effective. It fell particularly flat in the least well-off regions of the country, the North of course.

Attacking Corbyn may well have gone down in attempts to steal votes from naturally conservative voters, but in the constituency in which I now live, Leeds North West, we found dozens of national leaflets attacking the blessed Jeremy landing on doormats in Labour-leaning areas, prompting a backlash against us. Whether the requests for this to stop were eventually listened to or not I don’t know, but they kept coming, and this has made two things clear to me. Firstly, that our national messaging wasn’t right in 2017 and secondly, and more importantly, that as a national party we do not listen enough to those who know best, in this case the campaigners and councillors on the ground, who unanimously saw these leaflets for the messaging disaster they were for the wards we were already struggling in most. 

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Observations of an ex pat: A Friendly Wall

Walls are generally built to keep people out. Trump’s big beautiful wall, Hungary’s anti-refugee wall, the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall and every castle wall built before, during and after the medieval period.

There are exceptions to this rule.  The Berlin Wall was built to keep people in, as is every prison wall ever constructed.

But in Africa a wall with a difference is literally sprouting. It has been dubbed “The Great Green Wall of Africa.” It is neither holding people in or keeping them out. It is holding at bay the sands of the Sahara desert and helping people to stay in Africa.

They started planting the Great Green Wall of Africa ten years ago. The wall is in fact a six mile wide strip of millions of Acacia trees which will eventually stretch 4,800 miles across the southern edge of the Sahara and through 11 countries from Senegal on the West coast to Djibouti on the Red Sea.  That is about half the length of Trump’s proposed wall along the US-Mexican border and about 600 miles short of the length of the Great Wall of China.

Its purpose is to battle the effects of climate Change in Africa. Over the last half century 60 acres a minute have been lost to desertification as the Sahara marches south.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGeoff Payne 20th Oct - 8:01am
    Well spotted, Mick- that should say 2017! I must have been stuck in a timewarp.
  • User AvatarCatherine Jane Crosland 20th Oct - 7:22am
    Lorenzo, thank you for your comments :) Katharine, my suggestion about a motion for conference was only a suggestion. You have already done a great...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 20th Oct - 1:54am
    @ Palehorse I recall your pessimistic outlook for the UK economy long term. Our GDP has increased continuously since 2012. The government deficit has been...
  • User AvatarLibDemer 20th Oct - 12:44am
    Great to see my county of birth getting a mention on this site.
  • User AvatarAl. Storer 19th Oct - 11:36pm
    Apparently Trade Unionists in Tolls Royce Derby are worried that 5000 people will lose their jobs following a hard Brexit.
  • User AvatarRoland 19th Oct - 11:01pm
    The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, being Crown dependencies, have special membership status, arising from the UK's membership of the EU. Thus if...