Category Archives: Op-eds

It must be Revoke – it’s too late for anything else….

When Jo Swinson meets Jeremy Corbyn next week there is only one message worth delivering: Article 50 must be revoked before the Brexit deadline. The time is long past for parliamentary jiggery-pokery and procedural sleight of hand, whether it be to bring about a further extension, a second referendum, a General Election, or all three. The country now needs a solution which is honourable, and removes the tyranny of an artificial deadline created only by the ineptitude of the May administration.

The overriding justification for revocation is that it is the only course of action which is neutral in its consequences. Legally we can revoke without any change in our relationship with the EU, and legally there is nothing to stop us restarting the Article 50 process in the future.

Its beauty is that it is blissfully simple, it requires no commitment to a leave or remain agenda, and if it is understood to be temporary, no one is bound or compromised. To be fair to the Leave factions, the Labour Party and others, it is likely to require a commitment by Parliament to a further referendum, and maybe also a General Election, but this would be for later, and with time to do it properly.

Of course, there will be the familiar outcry claiming betrayal of democracy, but such claims are tendentious and above all hypocritical. The leavers will have lost nothing, except the chance to squeeze through a flawed and massively unpopular decision by undemocratic means. There can be no honourable objection to restarting the process. Let the Leavers state their case again and demonstrate that they really do represent the will of the people.

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Observations of an Expat – the nuclear train

Remember decoupling? It was a common phrase during the Cold War (or should I say first Cold War?). The railway metaphor was used to describe Soviet efforts to exploit American isolationist tendencies to sever the defensive link between Europe and America, leaving Western Europe exposed to the Soviet nuclear arsenal.

The threat is back. It is back in Europe and has opened a new front in Asia. It is nuclear. It is political. It is economic and the current crop in Beijing, Moscow and Pyongyang are  much more adept at the task their predecessors.

The current debate centres on the latest generation of intermediate range (INF) nuclear-tipped missiles in Russia and North Korea. These missiles have a range of anywhere from 500 to 1500 miles which means that they are not a direct threat to the American mainland. They do, however, cast a huge nuclear shadow over America’s allies in Europe and Asia.

Why was the decoupling threat  treated so seriously by both sides of the Atlantic back in the 1970s and 1980s? Because it was believed to be important that if the Soviets attacked Western Europe with nuclear weapons the United States would respond with equivalent  force, and that the threat of such a response would deter the Soviets . But in order to insure an American response,  it needed to accept that its interests were inextricably linked to the defence of Europe. If American isolationists successfully argued that a Soviet attack could be confined to Europe, than might also argue that the US should refrain a strategic counter attack in order to avoid a doomsday scenario on US soil.

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Brexit: Do we follow Jeremy Corbyn or revert to Theresa May’s plan?

With regard to Brexit, two options remain for the Liberal Democrats. They are unpalatable. Our very newfound strength represents unconverted electoral energy. We must not overplay our hand.

There is no legitimate option to Remain without attempting reform. We cannot just hope that the far-right does not swell and that our fulsome democracy is not irreparably damaged and left as an empty shell of majoritarian rule. The likes of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson know how to pipe the tune to destruction.

These are not hollow (Project) fears. We must guard against them as vigilantly as we try to prevent No Deal.

Our options:

Jeremy Corbyn. He offers us a government of national unity to stop No Deal. Then a General Election that we’ve been chomping at the bit to fight. Then – he assumes he’ll win, but we’ll see about that! – a referendum. For this we must accept Jeremy Corbyn as a neutered Prime Minister for a little while. And – I know my fellow Scottish LDs won’t want to hear it – IndyRef2 for the SNP’s support.

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Jo Swinson and the art of disagreeing well

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When I was at London University in the latter 1980’s studying History and Politics, a particular incident made an impact on me and I recall it clearly.

I was in a politics tutorial, one in which the very mild mannered, but enthusiastic, tutor, a delightful German of young middle age, had got the class to be a sort of forum for topical discussion. “What shall we discuss today, then?” He said, one day, as often he did. He was greeted by silence, as often he was!

“Any suggestions?” He said, again trying to enthuse. He was greeted by silence, again nobody very enthused. I was very enthusiastic, but said nothing, because I rarely did say anything, and was very political, elected during those university years as a President of the Student Union, and I did not want to be pushy or too showy.

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Irish Travellers deserve our respect – just like any other ethnic group



(Above) #DontTeachHate short video from The Traveller Movement

I was very struck by this quote from Chris Baughurst of the Gypsy,Roma,Traveller Police Association (Thames Valley branch), speaking at the Green party Summer Gathering in Reading last Saturday:

We are the only ethnicity in this country where it is openly acceptable to denigrate us, people to say things, and no one bats an eyelid.

I recently dug through the Twitter archive relating to a recent event (which I will not specify, as it is now sub judice) and found over 100 separate incidents in the last week alone where Twitter users were (in arguable contravention of Twitter’s own rules) “abusive or harmful” in ‘directing hate towards a protected category’, in relation to Irish Travellers (a UK government registered ethnic group).

Most of the relevant tweets used a grossly derogatory word beginning with “p” or an abusive word beginning with “g” and ending in “o”. Some of the worst tweets combined those words with the word “scumbag”, the word “vermin” or a slang word for excrement. All made generalised remarks about the grouping and some expressed the view that drastic action should be taken against that group, in contravention of their basic human rights. (I have reported 90+ incidents to Twitter and I am now having to deal with a blizzard of emails from them asking for further information). The short video above gives even more graphic illustrations of such routine abuse, collated by the Traveller Movement.

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The Lib Dems have become an establishment party

Liberalism has a rich history of radicalism from the People’s Budget, to Beveridge through to the more recent opposition to the Iraq war. The latter event had the effect of placing the Lib Dems to the left of Labour and resulting in some spectacular electoral successes at the expense of Blair’s discredited administration.

It was this progressive party of Liberals that attracted me in my home town where council seats were being won and where Gareth Epps pushed Labour into third place in the East constituency at the 2010 General Election.

Then came coalition with the old enemy the Conservatives, which looking back was inevitable given the route mapped out by Nick Clegg and his allies at the top of the party. I believe that their aim was a pact with the Tories from the time he assumed the leadership. Coalition damaged the party badly and, yes, there were some gains but overall the balance sheet was a negative one born out by the sight of both candidates in the recent leadership election falling over themselves to admit they got things wrong whilst serving in government.

During those years the party was very much part of the political establishment, and the electorate’s verdict was harsh. It is only with the situation created by the referendum on membership of the European Union that some electoral progress has been forthcoming but my concern about that is that once again the party is lining up with the establishment. In addition it gives the appearance of being a single issue party.

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We need to talk about Public Space Protection Orders

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Five years ago, a rather dull-sounding law was introduced by Theresa May’s Home Office called the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. It passed relatively easily through parliament and was presented as a more effective way of taking enforcement against anti-social behaviour.

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Investment in transport in northern England is far behind London


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So, what should we make of yesterday’s report from IPPR North about projected spending on transport in the North of England up to 2033?

Lets first look at those figures:

The north of England is set to receive £2,389 less per person than London on transport, according to a new study which has stoked concern that the north is “held back by government underinvestment”.

The study, by IPPR North, analysed the government’s planned infrastructure projects between now and 2033 and found that planned transport spending in the capital was set to be £3,636 per person, compared with £1,247 in the north.

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Vince Cable MP reflects on recent events and some holiday reading


Jane Dodds applauds helpers at Brecon – Photo by Callum Littlemore

I heard the good news about Brecon and Radnorshire having disappeared for some R&R as soon as Parliament closed, and the new Lib Dem leadership was settled. I was delighted with the result not just for Jane Dodds and our campaigners – who fully deserved it – but for an excellent colleague, Roger Williams, who didn’t deserve to lose back in 2015. Our victory is testament also to Kirsty Williams, our AM, who kept the Lib Dem flame, and local party, alive through the years of exile.

I enjoyed my three visits to the constituency as party leader for more than the politics. I had memories of a mis-spent and romantic youth as a mountain guide in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons; an idyllic second honeymoon in a hotel below Pen-y-Fan; and several literary fests at Hay. Jane helped Rachel and me to locate a stunning B&B in ‘the oldest house in Wales’, a farmhouse and restored annex reached through three farm gates high up a hillside on the banks of the Wye and serving food which would not have been out of place in a top restaurant. A great by-election in more ways than one.

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What the Yellowhammer assessment reveals

The Sunday Times on August 18th led with this “leaked” Cabinet document, purportedly by a former Cabinet official and then downplayed by Mr Gove and others as a “worst case” scenario or a re-hash of “project fear”.

Even if the “revelations” are slightly dated (although it is said to have been an updated version) the base-case cannot have changed materially since March 2019 and if anything could arguably have worsened given the macro-fiscal setting the UK faces.

The National Audit Office produced a dry overview of Operation Yellowhammer in March 2019 which was setup under the aegis of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) at the Cabinet Office. The CCS works alongside the Department of Exiting the EU (DExEU) to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU across 12 areas.

The institutional mapping and framework to prepare for the operation is impressive and speaks volumes for the hard graft undertaken by our Civil Service and which would potentially involve over 30 central government bodies including all government departments or ministries, 42 local forums in England and Wales and equivalent bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland, governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as key sectors and industries.

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Martin Horwood MEP writes… Gibraltar, Trump and Iran: the Brexit connection


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Gibraltar has just controversially released the Iranian oil tanker formerly known as the Grace 1 with a new name and a written assurance from Tehran that its shipment won’t be used to break EU sanctions on Syria.

As a member of the European Parliament’s Iran delegation and one of the LibDem MEPs for Gibraltar, as well as the South West of England, I have warmly welcomed this move. And I’m pleased to be in a position to strengthen our co-operation and influence with Europe on this critical issue. Its no exaggeration to say that peace in the Persian Gulf hangs in the balance. While the Conservative government flirts with Donald Trump, we’re working with our European allies to de-escalate crises like this.

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The case for changing our laws on revoking citizenship

UK passportWhen as Home Secretary Sajid Javid attempted to strip British-born Shamima Begum of her citizenship, he highlighted how the Home Office has come to possess powers to revoke citizenship that did not exist a generation earlier. These new powers are nothing short of racist, allowing the Home Secretary to strip Brits of citizenship by dint of their ancestry. According to Javid’s interpretation of the new laws, so long as a person can claim citizenship elsewhere – such as by having foreign ancestry in Shamima Begum’s case, or by virtue of laws such as Israel’s and Ireland’s allowing Jewish and Northern Irish people, respectively, to claim citizenship – the Home Office has the power to take their citizenship. It would not, in Javid’s interpretation, have the ability to take the citizenship of ‘indigenous’ English, Scottish or Welsh people.

The racist implications of Javid’s actions are what prompted a group of diaspora South Asian Lib Dems (most notably Nasser Butt, Marisha Ray, Mohsin Khan, Hussain Khan, Maaria Siddiqi and me) to work in partnership with Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey and adviser Jonathan Jones to come up with Federal Conference Motion F34: Deprivation of Citizenship. At the very least, we aim to completely end the Home Office’s power to revoke the citizenship of anyone born British.

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Andy Kelly writes: Help me spread my message of hope and radicalism to Greater Manchester

I am over the moon to confirm that you the members have selected me to be your candidate for the Greater Manchester Metro Mayor elections in 2020.

As a Liberal Democrat council leader in the region I know what it takes to fight against the odds, but this time I really feel the tide has changed – This is now OUR time.

The Tories are playing parlour games with people’s lives and Labour are betraying those they profess to represent I felt the need to step up to the plate.

Greater Manchester voters deserve better representation, we need someone who is not afraid to be frank about our future. That person is me.

This year the Liberal Democrats made huge gains in the local elections, with 700+ gains nationally – the party’s best local election results. Many of these gains were in the Greater Manchester region. Three weeks later we gained two members of European parliament in the North West as voters turned away from both Labour and the Conservatives. The two parties don’t deserve to represent us, and the current polling and by-elections shows us that voters agree. They are demanding better.

I am keen to take Burnham on his three years of nothing. My pledges are

To stand up for Remainers:

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We need to show that we are not a one-trick Brexit pony

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As a new member (I joined in June) Brexit, or rather stopping Brexit, was one of the reasons I joined. Yet this wasn’t the sole reason. Likewise my new colleagues have no doubt been pushed ‘over the line’ by our strong Anti-Brexit stance.

Yet, what happens post Brexit?

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The thin blue line is too thin and we do not sufficiently punish those who attack the police

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I’m going to sound like a misty-eyed old fossil now, but often I find my base reference point, with respect to the police, was the actor Jack Warner playing “Dixon of Dock Green“.

Yes, I know most people under 60 years old won’t remember him. Yes, I know “Dixon of Dock Green” probably gave an idealised version of law and order even when it was broadcast from 1955 until 1976.

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The most important thing Jo Swinson did this week

When Jo Swinson was asked on the Today programme if she had talked to Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman about the possibility of them leading a Government of National Unity, my first thought was “Do you know nothing about her?”

Jo does her homework. There is no way on earth she would have said that Corbyn didn’t have the support to become temporary PM if she wasn’t sure of the figures. When she said that Corbyn couldn’t command the support of the House of Commons it is because she had had the conversations and worked that out. When she said that people like Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman would be great choices to lead a Government of National Unity as they didn’t have any long term ambitions to do the job, of course she had spoken to them first.

Her constant refrain was about building a plan that worked, a plan that united those opposed to the destructive path our incompetent Prime Minister is trying to take us down.

And that’s important.

For two days, Jo dominated the news headlines. Actually, it was nearer three as the news that Sarah Wollaston had joined us came late on Wednesday.

Dominating the news headlines is news about the formation of a coherent plan to block no deal – and, if Jo has her way, to stop Brexit altogether. She was crystal clear that the aim of the Liberal Democrats is to remain in the EU and we would campaign to do so in any People’s Vote.

She looked an anxious nation in the eye and calmly and confidently told them that she, and others, potentially a majority of MPs, had their backs.

She talked about doing whatever it took to stop Brexit.

This all comes as the Sunday Times publishes details (£) of leaked government documents showing how a no deal Brexit would lead to the return of a hard border in Ireland, food, fuel and medicine shortages and massive queues at ports. It doesn’t need explaining how this will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

Here’s what they have to say on medicines:

Any disruption that reduces, delays or stops the supply of medicines for UK veterinary use would reduce our ability to prevent and control disease outbreaks, with potential harm to animal health and welfare, the environment and wider food safety and availability, as well as, in the case of zoonotic diseases, posing a risk to human health. Industry stockpiling will not be able to match the 4-12 weeks’ stockpiling that took place in March 2019. Air freight capacity and the special import scheme are not a financially viable way to mitigate risks associated with veterinary medicine availability issues.

And on food:

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Lord Tony Greaves writes…So how would an interim government actually work?

For a start, here is my letter to the Guardian which they did not publish.

It is surely obvious that the best person to head up an interim multi-party government is an interim Prime Minister – a person with no longer term ambitions who is not going to try to use their interim position for their own advancement or that of their party? It should be a person who commands respect around the House of Commons and who is not standing again at the next General Election.

As for Mr Corbyn, can he be trusted on Europe? We all know that he and his closest advisers would like to leave the EU, that he has talked for the past three years about the need to get a “Labour Withdrawal Agreement”, and that he has been dragged kicking and screaming by members of his party to support any new people’s vote. In the highly unlikely event that he could win an overall majority in the General Election that he wants to call before any new referendum, are we confident that he would not abandon any such idea? Jo Swinson is right – he is not the person for the job.

But now we need to take the discussion further. In all the Westminster Bubble blather about who should be the Interim Prime Minister in an Interim Government, no-one seems to be thinking about how it would work. Of course it suits the Bubble to talk about personalities, who is falling out with who within and across the parties. And it means they don’t have to think and expose their ignorance about what the rules say and how the systems actually work.

Jo’s speech and letter were an excellent explanation of where the Remain forces (which at any given moment may or may not include Labour) stand in the short run. Experts in what the Commons might or might not be able to do in their fortnight back in September to stop a hard Brexit on 31st October are working hard on that. There is still over a fortnight before Parliament returns on 3rd September for the politics of it all to evolve, though to read and hear a lot of the current blather you’d think it all had to be done this weekend.

Paul Tyler’s excellent piece here sets out a good explanation of how the present government can be brought down, and what has to happen before a General Election would have to be called. There is still far too much loose talk in the media about the Prime Minister or even Mr Corbyn just “calling a General Election”. But if it does all result in the Queen inviting someone else to try to form an Interim or Caretaker Government, there seems to be no talk at all as yet about what such a Government would look like (other than who might be PM), how it would be constructed, how long it would last and what it would do.

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Corbyn’s offer: divisive by design?

Corbyn’s offer on Wednesday to opposition leaders was a new twist in the tragi-farce of Brexit. In brief, the offer goes as follows:

  1. He will table a vote of no-confidence in the Government.
  2. If that is successful, he would seek the confidence of the house to form a “strictly time-limited temporary Government”.
  3. If that is successful, he would aim to secure an extension to Article 50 to hold a General Election.
  4. He would then bring a vote to hold a General Election.
  5. In that General Election, Labour would commit to holding a public vote on the terms of exit, and it would include an option to Remain.

On social media, Labour supporters claim that if Lib Dems don’t support this it is a betrayal of our desire to stop Brexit (especially no-deal Brexit). To see a similar view in more words, the Guardian is reporting that the Lib Dems are now ‘isolated’ since other opposition leaders (Sturgeon, Lucas, Saville-Roberts) are receptive to the plan, and this is supported by an opinion piece.

Commentary has focused on whether Corbyn can command the confidence of the house. Swinson has challenged Corbyn to list the eight Conservative MPs whose support he can count on to get over the line (I make it nine with twelve independents so please correct me in the comments). Eight Conservatives seems like a stretch – I can’t even find eight current Conservatives who have backed a second referendum, let alone one brought about by Corbyn. Labour supporters think that being the leader of the Opposition gives Corbyn the right to head a unity government, whilst as Lib Dems we probably think that Corbyn and unity are unlikely concepts to find together and someone else would be better placed. 

The plan really falls apart at the General Election stage: I would argue the chances of returning a parliament which supports a people’s vote are very low. This is largely subjective, and therefore divisive: Labour supporters have been told for years that the only thing standing between Jeremy Corbyn and Downing Street is a General Election which they are bound to win (after all, he “won” the 2017 election didn’t he?). My assessment would be: 

  • The non-Conservative parties would be divided against a united Conservative party.
  • The “Leave” message from the conservatives would be much clearer than the “vote for us to have another vote on maybe not leaving or maybe leaving with some deal not sure what though” message from Labour.
  • It plays to Johnson’s strengths as a campaigner and personality
  • Labour would struggle to replicate their 2017 success, which was built on non-Brexit issues, without jeopardising the anti-no-deal-Brexit alliance who don’t agree with Labour on everything else. 

And even if a majority for a people’s vote is elected, it’s not clear if Corbyn wants a shot at renegotiating the withdrawal agreement, how he would campaign in the referendum, and even what would be in it (would it be deal vs remain, or no-deal vs deal vs remain). Then there’s the small matter of winning the referendum! Even just writing it all down is exhausting. Perhaps by this point, the “remain” option in the referendum campaign should be marketed as “make it all stop please”. 

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Paul Tyler writes….Clearing out constitutional confusions?

The current combination of Brexit bluster from No 10 and Corbynista claims seem to have confused even the shrewder media commentators: the rest are swallowing spin from both sides without any attempt at fact checking.

The idea that the Leader of the Official Opposition has a constitutional right to form an alternative government as soon as the current Prime Minister is defeated by a Vote of Confidence is wishful thinking by the Corbyn coterie. Similarly, the notion that Johnson can simply trigger a General Election in such circumstances is against the law.

Let me take you back to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (which I argued for even before the 2010 election resulted in the failure of either of their parties to achieve a Commons majority). There was no logic to the previous convention. Nor could it be claimed to be fair. The captain of one political team could simply blow the final whistle whenever he/she judged that they had the best chance of winning.

In a parliamentary democracy we Liberal Democrats argued – successfully – that was a totally unacceptable anomaly, more suited to an “elective dictatorship”, as described by erstwhile Tory Chancellor Lord Hailsham. Hence the 2011 Act, promoted by the Coalition Government.

Under the Act each Parliament will normally continue for a full five year period. An “Early Parliamentary General Election” can only happen in one of two circumstances. EITHER the Commons votes by a 2/3 majority (including vacant seats) for a specific motion calling for it (as happened in 2017), OR a Motion of No Confidence is passed against the current Government, and – after a 14 day interval – neither it, nor any alternative administration, has secured a Confidence Motion.

During that period the current PM cannot trigger an election: clause 3(2) reads “Parliament cannot otherwise be dissolved”. In that respect at least Dominic Cumming’s threats are absurd

However, as you will readily observe, it is one thing to prevent crash out Brexiteers from cutting MPs out of this particular nefarious sharp practice, but quite another to so manage the process to achieve a more democratic outcome.

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Remembering Peterloo and the struggle for liberal democracy

Liberalism has a long and complex history. Sometimes that history has been bloody. This weekend there is a range of events happening in Manchester to mark the 200 year anniversary of one such episode in liberal history, the Peterloo massacre. This was when a large gathering of tens of thousands of people calling for political reform in St Peter’s Field in Manchester on 16th August 1819 was forcibly charged by soldiers on horseback. This resulted in 18 people being killed and hundreds being injured. The name of the massacre aimed to mock the British victory at Waterloo that had happened four years earlier.

Peterloo is an important reminder that we cannot take liberalism and democracy for granted. Our modern political rights and freedoms had to be fought for and even at times face authorities prepared to use lethal force in order to suppress democratic sentiments. 200 years on, liberal democracy is still a luxury that many countries and parts of the world do not have. From China to Syria, from Russia to Zimbabwe and from Saudi Arabia to North Korea, activists the world over are to this day struggling, fighting and even dying for the political rights and freedoms that we have in Britain in 2019.

Peterloo is important for liberals, but it is also important to socialists and progressives of all kinds. We liberals must be unafraid to defend our history. We must not abandon radical moments of British liberal history to socialists and extreme leftists. The political philosophy of the radical liberal thinker, Thomas Paine, helped to inspire the protesters at Peterloo. Peterloo was about liberty, freedom from oppression and people’s political rights. In short, it was about political reform. All of these things form the core tenets of liberalism. 

In 1819, only 2% of the population could vote (mostly the landed gentry) and working people in cities like Manchester lived in industrial levels of poverty and squalor. Both of these issues would be remedied by Liberals over the century that followed. The Great Reform Act of the Whig Prime Minister, Earl Grey in 1832 swept away the Tory rotten boroughs. William Gladstone gave the vote to millions of agricultural workers in 1885 and under the government of David Lloyd George in 1918, universal male suffrage was achieved, as well as the first voting rights for women. In regard to the industrial poverty, Liberals helped to abolish the dreaded protectionist Corn Laws, advanced the rights of workers (including legalising trade unions and legitimising collective bargaining) and created the welfare state.

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Observations of an ex pat: China, Hong Kong and Confucius

We are all the prisoners of history. Our present and much of our future is determined by the sum of our past experiences, both individually and collectively.

Europe, for instance, is now a secular continent. But its laws, politics, philosophies and society have Judaeo-Christian foundations. On the other side of the Eurasian landmass, the structures of Communist China owe more to the 2,500-year-old teachings of Confucius than to Marx and Lenin. And, if you are searching for pointers on Hong Kong it is best to do so within the context of China’s long-standing religion-cum-philosophy.

In fact, Confucianism was China’s official state religion until the monarchy was overthrown in 1911.  It was ditched by Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek as part of a drive to westernisation. Confucianism was deemed to be too old and too Chinese to comply with the demands of modern western-dominated society which the Kuomintang believed China had to become to compete and survive.

Mao Zedong was even more anti-Confucius. Attacks on the old Chinese philosopher were one of the pillars of the Cultural Revolution. Confucianism argues that authority is derived from a powerful imperial individual. This was anathema to Mao who saw his power as coming from the mass of revolutionary Red Guards.

Since the death of Mao, successive Chinese governments have gradually moved towards Confucianism. Xi jinping is probably its strongest proponent in a hundred years. That is not to say he worships Confucius. Xi is a communist and communists are atheists (at least officially).  But he regularly quotes the philosopher, has set up hundreds of overseas centres which teach Confucianism; uses Confucianism as an alternative to Western values  and argues that Chinese history and culture is compatible with his appointment as president for life and  the all-embracing power of the Chinese Communist Party.

Western society is based on the rights of the individual.  Confucius said that Chinese society should be based on the duties of the individual. To protect individual rights, Western societies gradually moved towards systems of representative government. To insure that duties were fulfilled, China has always had a totalitarian system.  The masses, wrote Confucius, lacked the intellect to make decisions for themselves.  Everyone is not created equal and therefore only a few have the right to participate in government.

In pre-1911 China, the followers of Confucius were discouraged from asking questions or expressing opinions and the role of the merit-based civil service appointerde by the imperial court  was emphasised. Under Xi, freedom of speech is denied; opinions are kept to yourself and carefully trained party apparatchiks administer  government at all levels.

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Siobhan Benita says she can be London Mayor

Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita has been talking up her chances of winning the capital’s mayoralty in an interview with City AM.

She takes the fight to Sadiq Khan, criticising Labour’s equivocal position on Brexit:

Benita says the Lib Dems are now perfectly positioned to capitalise on votes that would have otherwise gone to Labour. “The fact that Sadiq has stayed in the Labour party that is facilitating Brexit is a huge thing against him,” she says.

“For Sadiq, it’s going to be about how is he going to continue to justify being in a party that is keeping us in this mess?” It is not enough that Khan has spoken out against anti-semitism, another issue that is hurting Labour, or has campaigned for a second referendum, she says.

She was less hopeful of a Remain Alliance with the Greens:

Benita said she was “very open with working with the Greens but they have made it clear they are not”.

“I’m really disappointed in Sian,” Benita says. “She has really attacked the Lib Dems and has been fighting old battles about the coalition. She sees us as a real threat in London and is still blaming us for austerity. But Brexit is a much bigger and more immediate risk.”

And she had some interesting ideas about freedom of movement post Brexit:

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A no deal Brexit is irreversible, a Jeremy Corbyn government is not

As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in Latin America, I am extremely worried about the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn lead Labour government in the long term. From the corruption, poverty and rising crime, in Argentina under the previous hard left government, to the decay in Venezuela where people are having to buy rotten meet in the markets to survive and where medicines have run out in many hospitals, it is clear that what damage a hard left government can do.

I am also angry about what has become of our country in the five years since I came back to the UK. I have suffered myself from the consequences of austerity when I had to pay £4,000 for mental health treatment in 2014. Millions of others would not have been able to dig into savings to do this.

Like many parents I now have to pay money to my children’s school to keep it afloat financially. My local Council, Richmond, has seen its central government grant slashed and is desperately under-funded when it comes to special needs education. Children’s services are at crisis point and adult social care still has a gaping black hole in its finances. On a personal level, I have seen the damage that Brexit is doing to people’s lives. Friends have had to relocate abroad because of Brexit. Someone I know was beaten up by yobs in 2016 and told to “eff off” back to France – he could not work for two weeks. With Boris Johnson once again using war like language about pro-Remain MPs yesterday, I am truly ashamed of the image our country has when I travel around the world on business.

There is so much to do to make life better for millions of people. However as of today, the most important priority for our country has to be stopping a no-deal Brexit. Like it or not, the only person with the democratic mandate to take over a caretaker government is Jeremy Corbyn.

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WATCH: Jo Swinson’s keynote speech on how MPs can stop Boris

Stopping Boris Johnson inflicting a disastrous no deal Brexit on the country was the focus of Jo Swinson’s first big keynote speech since becoming Lib Dem leader.

She talked about two possible things that MPs could do to prevent us falling over the abyss.

Her preferred option would be for them to pass legislation requesting an extension to Article 50 and going for a People’s Vote.

Alternatively, Lib Dems would support a vote of no confidence called by Labour, and would look to support an emergency government which would stop no deal. She said that there is no way that the Commons would back Jeremy Corbyn to be PM and said that an emergency government should be led by someone who commanded the respect of both sides of the House – someone like Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman. She called on MPs to stand up and be counted and do everything possible to stop no deal.

She made clear that the Lib Dems wanted to stop Brexit completely – the best deal for peace, prosperity and security was what we already have in the EU.

It was a confident speech for Jo. She is such a contrast to the arrogant bluster of the Prime Minister and the tired, unconvincing interventions of Jeremy Corbyn. She comes across as grown-up, engaging, collaborative and wise. And she takes her #joinJo slogan from her leadership  campaign and turns it into a national call to get behind her.

Watch Jo’s whole speech here:

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Don’t Despair!

To begin with a conclusion:

There is a final thought for collective reflection, reiterating a point made earlier. Conservative governments, and some previous Labour governments, have used the power of the state to control people’s lives – treating lower-income individuals and families as supplicants to be reformed or ‘sanctioned’. A progressive government should use the power of the state to empower people, to have agency and greater security and control over their own lives and an ability to forge communities of their own volition. A basic income would help in doing just that.

That is the conclusion to a very recent report by Professor Guy Standing, of the Progressive  Economic Forum, a foremost exponent and proponent of the idea of Universal Basic Income. And surely it exactly expresses what Lib Dems would wish to achieve somehow? THIS is how. And we should do it – and get on with it before we are left behind.

The Report (for Labour’s Shadow Chancellor) is very readable, and not at all clogged with percentages. It would be “transformative” – and that transformation would be more Liberal than socialist, I consider. I believe it could be implemented progressively in five years.

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Johnson or Corbyn, who is the biggest danger?

The General Election we will be facing in the Autumn will be vital for the future of the UK.

I know, this is said every time we elect a Westminster Parliament but this time, it really is true.

Stopping a majority right wing Tory party under Boris Johnson (and his extremist backers) is paramount  to prevent the UK being dragged out of the EU with no deal and then left to the tender mercy of the vulture capitalists already circling to feast on its carcass, is a priority above all  other considerations.  Not only is this a threat to our economy but to every part of the way we live in the UK.

The Tories will continue to play down the very real dangers of Brexit and play up the potential threat of a Labour government, hoping to frighten people with the idea of a Venezuela or Cuban type “socialist” regime under Corbyn.

Whilst I disagree with much of what Corbyn (and the narrow clique running the Labour Party) stand for, there is little chance of a majority Labour Government at this election.  In addition, many Labour MPs, even after the cull Momentum are trying to impose on those MPs who are not “true believers”, also do not support Corbyn so would block his more extreme ideas.

So, what options are we left with to block Johnson?  Our best hope is that the Liberal Democrats & Greens, working together alongside others in a Unite To Remain Alliance can win enough seats to hold the balance of power, possible even be in power with the moderate parts of both the Labour & Tory parties, in the Commons to block Brexit and hold a People’s Vote on Remain / Leave as we now know the facts of what leaving the EU means.

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On that power pose

Josh Bararinde has reminded us of the Tory power pose.

As it happens I took my two grandsons to Hampton Court Palace on Monday. As we explored Henry VIII’s apartments we came across the man himself, holding court to a delighted audience of children and their adults.

One of my grandsons had noted that the King had to wipe away sweat from his brow and asked if he was hot. That gave the actor an opportunity to talk about the clothes he was wearing and to introduce a new word to the boys’ vocabulary: codpiece.

He told us that the familiar Holbein portrait (which his costume was based upon), a copy of which hung in the corridor outside, was the first full-length portrait of a monarch standing. It was designed to emphasise Henry’s power, and most importantly his masculinity, hence the stance with legs apart and exaggerated shoulders.

And, at the very centre of the painting, acting as its main focus, is the famous codpiece, which lies at eye height.

Nuff said.

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Exit costs and wobbly dikes: Brexit could result in deluges in Britain

As you can imagine, I have been, as Dutchman, watching the developments this summer first in Lincolnshire and recently in Derbyshire around dikes and dams that turned out to be outdated, and uncertain to withstand rivers or lakes filled with excessive amounts of rainwater.

Even in low-lying, water conscious Netherlands we sometimes get caught out by a dike or dam breaking; but Rijkswaterstaat (RWS, founded in the Napoleonic era), our Public Works & Water-Management government agency, is ever alert. And RWS knows from experience that when a certain type of dike or dam is wobbly in one place, it is important to inspect all dikes and dams of the same type and building era, to prevent surprises when one or more similar dikes crumble. That message is always part of RWS press briefings around incidents: local government and irrigation specialists must go out and inspect dams in their area.

In January 1995, a part of the Netherlands where our great rivers (Rhine, Meuse, and tributaries) flow through in the province Gelderland were evacuated because heavy rains, upstream in the Belgian Ardennes and Alsace, meant excessive amounts of water were coming our way, and it wasn’t certain that the existing irrigation infrastructure could cope. In total 250.000 people had to evacuate, for periods from 5 to 15 days.

Up to then, the main attention concerning massive floodings had been concentrated on our North Sea coast, with the memory of the 1953 North Sea flood which was a massive disaster in both the Netherlands and the UK (Lincolnshire flooded up to 3 kilometres inland). But from 1995, RWS and the Benelux and German authorities started a masssive updating, straightening out and adaption program for rivers and internal dikes.

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Terrorising the traumatised: the Tories have a weak and wicked approach to crime

Twice in as many weeks, this government has committed to making would-be offenders “literally feel terror” in an effort to look tough on violent crime. The country eagerly awaits the Home Secretary’s Tory power pose to accompany this policy.

The truth is, the Tories have gone soft on crime. A tough policy is one that works – but their approach of inciting fear among those at-risk of offending simply isn’t an effective means of reducing crime. Reams of academic evidence and my work as a frontline practitioner make that very clear.

Project Terror starts with turbocharging police stop and search powers to scare people at risk of violent offending out of carrying weapons. Aside from being unfair and unjust, this is an ineffective policy. Priti Patel’s own Home Office team “found no statistically significant crime-reduction effect… from the increase in weapons searches.”

Next on the list is building 10,000 new prison cells to banish criminals to. Again, the government’s own figures tell us that more of the same will not work: nearly two in three ex-offenders re-offend within one year of release from our prisons.

Project Terror is doomed because it’s based on the flawed assumption that the ‘choice’ to offend is always as shallow as Boris’s choice between foie gras and a pig’s head on the Bullingdon Club menu.

Too many young ex-offenders we work with at Cracked It had perceived no choice but to offend before they started working with us. Faced with an education system that fails to equip them with the skills they need to access employment, and a benefits system that locks their families in poverty, they felt backed into crime’s corner to generate an income. Young ex-offenders tell us about how they would deal drugs, sleeping with a knife for safety, to make money that they’d secretly slip into mum’s handbag to help pay the bills.

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Stopping a crash out Brexit

It should be obvious now that the current government, effectively headed jointly by Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, is prepared to break almost any constitutional convention to ensure that Brexit occurs by 31 October 2019.   This is even though such a Brexit will almost inevitably be a crash out Brexit without a deal with the EU, an outcome which Michael Gove dismissed during the Leave campaign, saying that it was as likely as Jean-Claude Juncker joining UKIP.

This is a sea-change from the May government which, for all its faults, never tried to defy the will of parliament or take us out of the EU by stealth.  As a result, the Cooper-Letwin Bill requiring the government to seek an extension from the EU was implemented without question and without trying to exploit the loopholes which it contained.  This will not be the case this time around and, as a result, there is a strong likelihood that the government would find ways to defy the will of Parliament expressed in similar legislation.

Furthermore, a simple Vote of No Confidence won’t work because it is likely that the government would postpone the General Election until after 31 October 2019 and ride roughshod over the convention that a government which has been no confidenced should do nothing controversial.  Nonetheless, Parliament does have the ability to stop them by a passing a Vote of No Confidence plus installing a caretaker government to request an extension from the EU.

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  • User AvatarWilliam Fowler 23rd Aug - 1:11pm
    Be interesting to see if the "final" MP vote on this is no-deal v remain, with the polls maybe showing 60 percent in favour of...
  • User AvatarMichael Berridge 23rd Aug - 1:02pm
    "The leavers will have lost nothing, except the chance to squeeze through a flawed and massively unpopular decision by undemocratic means." That makes perfect sense...
  • User AvatarJohn Littler 23rd Aug - 12:59pm
    I like the cabinet. Everyone gets a go
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 23rd Aug - 12:54pm
    The idea of revoking while committing to launch a second referendum sounds superficially attractive. However, the ruling that the UK would be free to revoke...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 23rd Aug - 12:51pm
    Richard I do not see we miss the point, we can surely discuss our new leader and her position, it is about Brexit also Jo...
  • User AvatarThomas 23rd Aug - 12:46pm
    TCO - all those Continental European countries with free tuition university have lower inequality and more robust economy than Britain. You haven't showed us the...
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