Category Archives: Op-eds

Building an inclusive society #LDWeek19

This week is Learning Disability Week. The theme is sport and inclusion.

According to a Mencap survey of 18-35-year-olds, one-third spend less than an hour outside of their homes on a Saturday. Many feel isolated, excluded and lonely. Can you imagine only getting out for an hour and being at home the rest of the day? 49% of the survey respondents want to get out more but can’t.

We have 1.4 million people with learning disability in the UK. They are often marginalised and misunderstood. A lot of work still needs to be done to break down the stigma around learning disability.

Enabling those with learning disability to join in leisure activities such as sport has many benefits. It improves mental and physical health, helps build self-worth and confidence and improves communication and social skills. Additionally, including people with learning disability in leisure provision breaks down barriers and improves social attitudes towards learning disability. Misconceptions around learning disability exist because many people have not met or interacted with someone with a learning disability.

Positive direct contact with people with a learning disability is an effective way of improving attitudes towards them. We found that an inclusive sports programme helped to challenge negative views of people with a learning disability, and created bonds between the participants with and without a learning disability.

As some regular readers will know, I chair the board of the Fragile X Society. Fragile X is the leading genetic cause of learning disability. The Society works to raise awareness of Fragile X and its range of effects on intellectual ability. I have learned a lot, and continue to grow as a person, through my interaction with those with Fragile X.

Building an inclusive society is about having relationships with people who are not like us. It is about being willing to explore and wonder at the gifts every one of us brings to our communities. One lady with Fragile X has the most fantastic sense of humour. She doesn’t get maths, but she can be hilarious, loves the theatre and shopping. Another man loves to talk, go out for meals and kick a football around. Getting to know the person and seeing beyond the disability is key. It enriches all of our lives.

Mencap is running a new survey for adults with learning disability. Here is a link if you or someone you know would like to take part.

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Does German History Hold the Answer to Our Current Brexit Impasse?

Britain is still a world power with significant international obligations and a major player on the European scene – irrespective of whether she considers herself part of it or not. A clarification of how “European” Great Britain considers itself would be paramount for future relations with her neighbours. The British are often confused as to whether they are geographically part of Europe or not.

A possible way out could be found when one looks at the scenario in post-war Germany in 1948/49. Germany in its bid for world power status had been decisively defeated, its territory reduced, divided and destroyed. The three Western Allies decided to combine the three military zones and create West Germany in the face of Russian non-cooperation. That led to the Berlin blockade of 1948/49.

A parliamentary commission was set up consisting of law professors and newly elected regional representatives such as Konrad Adenauer. They met in Bavaria and wrote the “Grundgesetz” (basic law) in nine months! The situation in the country could not have been more dire, with millions of the dispossessed, refugees and returning prisoners of war! Their work also had to be approved by the House of Commons, the US Congress and the L’Assemblée Nationale in Paris. The need to establish a new democratic system of government was overwhelming!

The brief was fulfilled and approved by all three occupying powers. The foundation of the Socialist German Democratic Republic in the Russian zone followed a few months later. The commission’s clear goals were the following: the need to prevent another dictatorship, the desire to incorporate the best aspects of British and American democracy, and to pay homage to Germany’s own democratic traditions going back to the revolution of  1848.

It has become evident that our unwritten constitution is no longer able to serve the interests of the people. A written constitution with a true devolved structure and a supreme court, which makes sure that rules are kept and constitutional conflicts avoided, are necessary! The exercise of codifying the responsibilities and decision-making powers at different levels of government (local, national and international) would reduce the confusion and conflict substantially.

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The centre ground is the new home for millions – the Lib Dems must exploit it

Embed from Getty Images

The current Tory leadership contest has so far been a revealing episode of expert political maneuvering.

With Boris Johnson ahead with a convincing lead, there is little hope of any other opponent garnering sufficient support among the Party membership to beat him. Matt Hancock is guilty of questionable practice by withdrawing from the race and then backing Johnson in the hope of getting the post of Chancellor. Such egotism is in no way uncommon.

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We are the only party that truly stands for my generation

Young Liberals on stage at the Spring Conference 2019

The party is currently on a fightback, our gains in both the Local and the European elections proving that this is the case. These results clearly indicate that our pro-EU message is a prominent one across the country.

Yet, this isn’t the only thing that these results show. These results, and subsequent polling afterwards, suggest that the Liberal Democrats are overwhelmingly the party representing the views of young people too. Currently a student studying for her A-Levels, I know the party truly stands for the values and principles that I believe in.

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It’s time to fix our democracy, before it’s too late

Sorry, folks, but is anyone else getting pretty fed up with People’s Votes, Brexit and Leadership Hustings in LDV? Of course these things are important; but there really IS more to life! Even if all that gets sorted out in the next few months/years (fat chance of that, most of you will probably say) we are still left with a democracy which, while currently in A & E, might soon be heading for intensive care unless we wake up. I know that this kind of esoteric musing appeals to the political anorak rather than a hardworking citizen trying to keep …

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Finding the common ground – becoming truly more united

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the tragic loss of Jo Cox MP. On Saturday, I was at a hustings and heard another Jo, and another member of parliament, Jo Swinson, talk about her. She spoke about how horrible it was to hear Nigel Farage, after the Brexit referendum vote result, say, it had all happened “without a shot being fired!” She actually said it made her feel sick. It makes sense that a woman now a similar age, with similar politics, and same first name, would feel this, knowing a colleague had just been murdered, shot and stabbed!

Yesterday, a …

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Prorogueing Parliament will scupper any EU goodwill in Trade Talks, prorogueing the Tory Party Conference is better

Hearing British politicians talk in a cavalier way about proroguing parliament to push through any controversial policy should remind the British of the age when prorogueing and circumventing Parliament was all the rage (and instilled a different rage in the electorate): the reigns of kings James I and Charles I. In trying to get money without having to ask Parliament, Charles adulterated the “Ship Money” statute by applying it not just to the coastal and harbor cities, but to the whole of England. According to its Wikipedia item, demanding Ship Money of its own was possibly even an infringement …

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…Who is the real Boris Johnson?

Just who is the real Boris Johnson? 

Is it the man who for eight years was the Mayor of one of the world’s most multi-racial cities, or instead the man who in his 2002 Daily Telegraph column included racist insults against black people, citing “regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies” in the Commonwealth and referring to “the tribal warriors… all break out in watermelon smiles”.

Is it the man who now argues in favour of a no deal Brexit, or instead the Boris Johnson who declared in his Daily Telegraph column: “It is also true that the single market is of considerable value to many UK companies and consumers, and that leaving would cause at least some business uncertainty.”

Or indeed the Boris Johnson of 2012 who stated that whenever he considered the prospect of Britain leaving, he always came down “narrowly” in favour of Britain staying.  And the Boris Johnson who took full advantage of the cheap lending from the European Investment Bank to fund London’s transport infrastructure.

Within a few weeks Conservative party members will be making a decision on whether they want Boris Johnson as their leader. They have to make a decision over a man whose views over the years have had more twists in them than a corkscrew.

Yet examining his contradictory and insulting statements on so many issues only gets us so far.  In contrast the actual record of Boris Johnson is clear cut.  

As someone who witnessed and scrutinised his activities at City Hall for eight years I have a clearer recollection of events than the Conservative MPs now scenting the chance of a ministerial post.

When examined in the round, his record was one of inactivity, missed opportunities and an immense waste of public money.  Always putting himself before anything else. 

Yet his supporters, such as Jacob Rees Mogg and James Cleverly are now peddling the idea that his record of Mayor of London was that of unbridled success and huge achievement.

It is said that a lie can get half way around the world before truth has even got its boots on.   

We now run that risk with some of the fanciful claims being made by Boris’ supporters will start to be believed.  We cannot allow that to happen.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games

Incredibly some people seek to credit Boris Johnson with the overall success of the 2012 Games.  His contribution to their success was in fact minimal. The hard work and the groundwork at the Olympic Park started long before he arrived at City Hall.  London won the bid for the 2012 Games in July 2005, three years before he became Mayor. There was a huge amount of work undertaken in preparing our bid in the years before that.  His biggest contribution was waving the flag at the opening ceremony.

Crime 

It is claimed during his time at City Hall that great progress was made in tackling crime. The reality is that there was serious rioting across the capital in the summer of 2011, wrecking many high streets and small businesses. His supporters also overlook the fact that knife crime was increasing in the last two years of his office.

Housing

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Save the date – October 12th for a massive People’s Vote march in London

The People’s Vote campaign have announced a Summer of campaigning which will take in many towns around the country, Labour and Conservative conferences and another big march in London on October 12th.

I travelled down from Scotland for the march last October. I was gutted that I couldn’t go when a million took to the streets in March.

The campaign set out their plans:

These protests will mobilise all those who feel their voice is being ignored by politicians hell-bent on imposing the hardest possible form of Brexit on the country without the public being given final say.

This will be the most intense and sustained programme of campaigning activity undertaken yet by a campaign that earlier this year organised a march that brought 1 million people on to the streets of London. Now a series of rallies and actions, including at the party conferences, will reach every corner of the country before a vast march and rally in London on October 12.

The “Let Us Be Heard” campaign is designed to generate relentless popular political pressure ahead of the crunch decision on Brexit that will decide our country’s future. At its heart is the recognition it is vital our voice is heard first in the towns and cities of Britain, including areas that voted Leave in 2016, before being taken back to Westminster in the autumn.

The protests will begin with a huge rally in Leeds on June 22 – three years almost to the day since the last referendum – before moving to 15 towns and cities including Sunderland, Luton, Newport and Glasgow. The campaign will then head to the Labour and Conservative Party conferences in Manchester and Brighton, before reaching a climax with our fourth People’s Vote march in London on October 12.

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Chuka joining the Lib Dems is good for him, the Lib Dems and UK politics

Chuka Umunna becoming a member of the Liberal Democrats is good for him, the Liberal Democrats and politics in the UK. There are several and important, obvious and not as obvious, reasons why this is so.

Chuka Umunna is clearly an able, dynamic, eloquent personality. Anybody who has seen him relate to and engage with people, can see this. At home on television, with interviewers, on platforms, he is a communicator who is a good talker and listener. And he is as at ease with school kids and young people in their turf as he is in the Westminster bubble.

He brings with him knowledge of and a background from, South London and its diverse communities. I am from South London and have been a resident of Streatham too. I know he has a high reputation there.

He has in his biography, some remarkable elements, not as often alluded to. His African father Bennett Umunna, came to the UK with no money. He started and built a successful import and export business. He became involved in Nigerian politics, and his stand against corruption brings some to the conclusion that his tragic demise, in a car accident when young Chuka was in his early teens, was no accident. Bennett had met and married  Patricia Milmo, a solicitor. Chuka’s mother is the daughter of Sir Helenius Milmo, a prosecuting lawyer at the Nuremberg trials. What few know, is, they are also descendants of a great Liberal politician Samuel Morley.

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Markets, politics and tackling climate change

The government is committing to  Net Zero” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. This is good news but the means of achieving it are critical. Global reduction is not being achieved but it would be wrong to suggest that nothing has been done and certainly panicking would not be a rational response. Global CO2 emissions per unit of GDP have been decreasing at annual rate of about 1.8 percent for the last 80 years but economic growth means that global emissions have still been increasing at 2.6 percent per year. 

The figures above are taken from “The Climate Casino” by William Nordhouse, the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics. Nordhaus presents a scientifically informed overview of the climate dilemma and the solutions to it. The efficient solution is carbon pricing. This is not a view restricted to a some academics but is the consensus of main stream economists, as Tim Harford has pointed out. Carbon pricing can take two forms, as a tax or through setting emission targets and providing tradable permits to cap the GHG emissions. According to the analysis presented by Nordhaus “Carbon Tax” is the more efficient mechanism but “Cap and Trade” is a good approach if implemented effectively. Cap and Trade is also easier to sell politically. For example the EU has implemented such a scheme but  it has not priced GHG emissions at a high enough level to drive the changes required. 

Importantly a carbon tax corrects the market failure that has allowed pollution to continue because the polluter does not pay for the consequences. The effect is not merely punitive but more significantly it allows the market mechanism to function as the principal driver of climate change mitigation as well as providing revenue to compensate hardship and to fund needed technology.  It makes renewable energy sources more competitive without the need to introduce piece-meal subsidies or other ad hoc or even authoritarian government interventions. The other important contribution of the competitive market mechanism is innovation. This is important for efficiency and essential technological breakthrough, such as carbon capture and storage.

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The Lib Dem Lowdown – a guide to the party for new members, Welcome Chuka edition

Welcome to the 20,000 people who have joined the Liberal Democrats in the last few weeks, and a special mention to our newest MP.

At the time of writing, there’s no traditional Greg Foster gif to mark the occasion so here’s one he made earlier.

It’s actually been really heartwarming to wake up every morning for the last few weeks and see a whole rush of “I just joined the Lib Dems” posts on Twitter.

You might, by the way, have noticed the wee orange diamonds some people have on their Twitter posts to show that they are Lib Dems. Here’s how to get one:

You basically copy the code from here and then go into your Twitter profile paste it next to your name.

Every so often I roll out this post, which is basically a rehash of an article that I first wrote in May 2015 when many joined the party in the wake of the General Election result. I thought it might be useful to tell you a little bit about how our party works and give you a bit of an idea of the opportunities open to you. If you are not yet a member, if you like what you read, sign up here.

What do we believe?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of organisation, the best statement of who we are and what we’re about can be found in the Preamble to our Constitution which underlines how we believe in freedom, opportunity, diversity,  decentralisation and internationalism. Here’s a snippet:

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. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject allprejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

We have a fierce respect for individuality, with no expectation that fellow Liberal Democrats will agree with us on every issue. We expect our views to be challenged and feel free to challenge others without rancour. We can have a robust debate and head to the pub afterwards, the very best of friends.

Obviously, our priority at the moment is to stop Brexit, but there is so much more to us than that. That bit about no-one being enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity shapes everything that we do.

Your rights as a member

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What really happened at the Euro-elections?

Reading the media coverage, you would have thought the forces of Leave led by the Brexit Party had swept to victory. The Remoaners had been routed. However, taking a look at three key indicators, the truth is more complicated.

The BBC has looked at three key indicators – seats won, vote share, and vote share change (there’s a pretty graphic here but it’s without Northern Ireland. So let’s use these three indicators to tell us what really happened.

On vote share, the picture isn’t clear in Great Britain. You’ve probably seen the likes of this being shared around the internet:

Even allowing for the exclusion of Northern Ireland (which we shouldn’t, congrats to Naomi Long and the Alliance), I’m not impressed by this. The problem is both sides are treating votes for parties as if they were blocks.  A small minority of Lib Dems want to leave.  Even a few protest voting Brexiters want to Remain!  Professor John Curtis observes this is particular problem with one third of SNP voters wishing to leave.

So, we can draw no clear conclusion here.  It depends how you want to calculate the figures.

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Why we don’t need a “remain alliance”

As somebody who joined the Liberal Democrats primarily to fight Brexit, I have since come to appreciate even greater the importance of fighting for liberal democratic values. What’s more, it is evidently how important this is for the entirety of the United Kingdom.

I used to be more sympathetic towards electoral pacts, in fact, at one time I was well on board with it. I’m still desperate to stop Brexit and so disappointed at what the leave campaigns achieved; especially as my wife is a EU citizen with only EU treaty rights currently protecting her status in the U.K. This really hurt us both and fuelled me to do what I could to stop Brexit. I am also thinking of my twin brother, Eddie (some here may know him), who is now living in France.

However, an article Mark Pack published titled “Standing for election isn’t just about winning”, encouraged me to stand as a paper candidate in the local elections and removed any doubt from me that electoral pacts are a bad idea. It drove home to me the importance of standing in every seat we can. This way we can build our core vote, keep track of potential target areas and give voters the choice they need for the good of democracy.

After all, if people cannot vote Lib Dem, what is the chance they will join? Or simply just lose the habit of voting for us? It could destroy our local bases for a long time.

I am aware that people have pointed towards past success for electoral pacts but is this a viable long term plan for a party of government? I am sceptical. Given our recent electoral successes; we are clearly the party for remaining in the EU, for the environment, for the economy and for liberal values.

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It’s time we talked about legalising drugs

There is currently much noise around the (unsurprising) news that a senior politician, who was once a journalist, spending much time in a large city in the UK, has taken drugs during his life – we’re taking illicit drugs here, cocaine, in Mr Gove’s case.

Despite some moral outrage, there has been a surprising shift in the criticism. Much of the condemnation has been around the hypocrisy of a cabinet minister. A minister who is wedded to a policy which criminalises users of drugs, as opposed to the actual taking.

I’m going to concentrate here on the argument to legalise drugs. There is, of course, much debate to be had, so I’m happy for you to contact me for further debate, and do your own research too (TRANSFORM, The Loop, Volte Face and Anyone’s Child are great places to start). I argue for legalising, not decriminalising drugs. Whilst users could seek better support, “decrim” leaves the manufacture, trafficking and supply of the drugs in criminal hands – that doesn’t really move us on much.

So, we have two choices when it comes to legalising drugs.

  1. We leave things as they are.
  1. We legalise and regulate, via state control. This would:
  • Reduce the black market for the manufacture and trafficking of drugs, which also includes human trafficking, including sexual abuse and other horrific issues in what is referred to as “they supply chain”
  • Increase health support for people who require it (we also need to be honest that not everyone who uses is addicted or dependent) and reduce the needless deaths in our families, towns and cities
  • Increase education regarding support, but also safer usage. Also unlock research into currently illegal drugs; some initial research suggests some illicit drugs could be used, as a start, to tackle schizophrenia and various cancers
  • Make the supply subject to legal controls – you wouldn’t accept alcohol mixed with rat poison, so why should people have it in their cocaine? Also this means age controls, labelling and proper quality control
  • Reduce gang crime, violent knife and gun crimes, and seriously tackle the “county lines” issue. We can’t just ask the Police to endlessly run around after gangs who supply – a gang removed can be replaced by a new one in less than hour. Speaking to the Police in many places, they often can be found to privately support changing the law, because the “war on drugs” isn’t winning – LEAP UK is a great source of information. 
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The actions of a Tiger

Then imitate the actions of a tiger, stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard favoured rage!

Shakespeare’s Henry V, could have been referring to politics, now! The tiger is not timid, but is brave. The rage is not destructive but is strong. There is a need to be brave and strong. The centre ground is regarded by some, wrongly, as merely mushy, wishy washy. That old adage, the only thing that happens in the middle of the road, is, you get knocked down, is nonsensical.

I welcome those who do want to journey with me. I, though a Liberal, and therefore  for the individual, am too, a democrat, and welcome the company on the journey. I see the centre ground as needing to be cultivated, nurtured, with possibilities for development and scope to build, but a path, too, to travel, and a journey, that continues. It is the path ahead. It is, in politics, the road less travelled now, but along its route, we can make real friends, and have fellow travellers, not from or to the extremes, as too often associated with such a phrase, but on the way forward.

As a longstanding member of the Liberal Democrats who, as a youth, cut my political teeth in the Labour party, I welcome alliances and cross-party working, because I also know how seldom so many do, in the two big parties. From the outset of the emergence of TIG, through the debacle regarding its becoming Change UK, some of us, a few, have continued to reach out, rather than reject. We know that to leave a party requires bravery. We see that to feel hounded out because of antisemitism is  awful. We get it that Brexit has indeed led to a change in our discourse.

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It’s time for us to prove our progressive credentials

We want to hang on to the Remain voters who flocked to us in the Euro elections. We believe that our party could radically change our conflicted country for the better, while we see that the two main parties at present are, in the expressive vernacular, of as much use as a fart in a bottle.

This husk of a government continues to do harm. As if it were not enough that Chancellor Philip Hammond ignored the poorest in his March Spring Statement despite bumper tax receipts, the continuing impact of the roll-out of Universal Credit, the two-child limit on some welfare payments and the continuing benefits freeze will, according to research by experts, cause a big increase in families unable to make ends meet this year. Cover-up attempts by Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd to alleviate the effects have done little. For example, repaying the advance payments for UC will plunge one in ten low-pay households into deficit. Although UC has made 56% of households better-off by £172 a month, 40% are worse off and will lose an average of £181.

Amber Rudd’s latest wheeze to stem the flow of criticism is denial. She is to complain to the UN about the final UK report of its Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, which was published last month, apparently on the grounds that his personal fact-finding tour was only eleven days long and his conclusions on the Government’s approach to tackling poverty are ‘completely inaccurate’. The 20-page report, which upholds the statement made in November discussed here in LDV is in fact extensively referenced by many authoritative public bodies. 

The report’s summary points out that one-fifth of Britain’s population, 14m.people, live in poverty, and that the policies of austerity introduced since 2010 continue largely unabated. Its final conclusion is that Brexit presents an opportunity to reimagine what the UK stands for, and that recognition of social rights and social inclusion rather than marginalization of the working poor and the unemployed should be the guiding principle of social policy. The report combines recommendations of practical steps to tackle poverty with humane proposals for restoring our social contract.

So, its fourth recommendation demands reversal of the “regressive measures” pointed out by experts and ignored by the Government  (see above) –  continuation of the benefits freeze, the two-child limit, the benefit cap, and the reduction of housing benefit including for under-occupied rental housing. This is already Liberal Democrat policy, and we would also support the recommendation to eliminate the five-week delay in receiving UC benefits.

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A tale of two leadership elections

This has to be the tweet of the day for me. It fair summed things up.

I woke up to sunshine streaming through the window this morning and smiled.

And then I remembered that 100,000 or so of the most reactionary people in the country are about to choose the next Prime Minister.

That’s a spirit-dampening thought if ever there was one.

These are people who think climate change is a myth, who would remove hard won rights from women & LGBT people, who think workers’ rights have gone too far & who want to inflict the catastrophe of no deal Brexit on us. You wouldn’t want them voting on X Factor, let alone choosing our PM.

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Taking a leaf out of Onward’s book – moving away from neoliberal economics

On 31st May a Tory think tank, Onward, published a report entitled ’Firing on all Cylinders’ written by Neil O’Brien, a Conservative MP since 2017 who was previously a special adviser to George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer. O’Brien calls for a new fiscal rule “to keep debt to GDP falling gently in normal years when there is no recession.”

He suggests that the national debt to GDP ratio should be kept near to its current level of 83.3% and not be reduced to 73% in 2023/24 as planned. By doing this he estimates that the government would …

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23 minutes left to have a say in Lib Dem leadership election

Next month it will be 36 years since I signed up to the Liberal Democrats on my 16th birthday.

My parents thought it was a phase.

I’m still here and I’ve long since given up caring what they think of my political beliefs, however much I love them.

This party, with its establishment busting, planet saving, freedom loving, poverty bashing ethos never fails to give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning and to try to make the world better and kinder and friendlier for everyone.

It absolutely warmed my heart to see 16 year old Emma  sign up to the party this morning.

This party has, over the years, infuriated and inspired me, provided me with most of my friends and found-family and basically is part of the basic infrastructure of my life.

And I found out today that one of the people who had first inspired me in politics died last night.

Chris was a leading light in Edinburgh SDP in the 80s.

I first met her on a training day in 1985. My first ever conference speech was in a debate on drugs in 1986. She proposed the motion and, as the hall emptied, I remember her ironically pointing out that people were leaving for their fixes of nicotine and caffeine.

She was a passionate internationalist, feminist and advocate for social justice. Her career was spent making life better for the most vulnerable, from Scotland’s voluntary sector to Bangladesh.

She actually left the SDP in 1986 to rejoin Labour. I couldn’t go with her but I was always going to be friends with her, wherever she was.  I never lost touch with her. However it was only in the last few years that Facebook reconnected us. It was brilliant. One Messenger chat and the years melted away.

She joined the Liberal Democrats to fight for our place in the EU after the referendum. But she was diagnosed with Cancer shortly afterwards. She couldn’t go to the People’s Vote march last October but she was there in spirit and her name was on a placard.

She’s one of the wisest and kindest people I ever knew and I am missing her very much tonight.

If you believe in the kinder, more compassionate politics, if you believe that our country is crying out for radical reform, if you believe that we need to throw the kitchen sink and more at saving our planet, if the thought of ensuring that no-one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity, then you might want to join us because those things are what we are about.

And if you do so within the next 20 or so minutes you can help choose our next leader. 

And Greg’ll be happy.

That will be not a million miles off 20,000 since the local elections.

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Peterborough by-election – Lib Dem recovery on track

In the last two elections, Lib Dems have barely scraped 3% in Peterborough. Had the by-election happened 5 years ago, we’d have lost our deposit with no question.

This was not a seat where we have historically been a challenger. Going back to the 70s, our vote has been mid teens – 20%.

So the only way we would have had a chance of competing is if we’d thrown the kitchen sink at it. And we’d already used up our supply of kitchen sinks during the European campaign. We can’t, yet, do everything and it made sense to save our resources for something more winnable.

Our campaign was spirited, we had a great candidate in Beki Sellick and we quadrupled our vote. So it was a solid result for us. Thank you so much to the team who achieved a huge amount, led by Andy Sangar from Sheffield.

The result in full:

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D-Day from Great Grandma’s perspective

“Churchill?” “Nothing but an old war monger!” Thus spake Lil my great-grandma. Lil was the sort of woman who doesn’t get into history books but the words “doughty” and “feisty” were fashioned just for her.

Even as a six-year old I remember her tutting through all the sentimentality of her 90th birthday and making it perfectly clear that she wasn’t going to bother getting to 91 (she didn’t). When her day came the grim reaper must have been vastly more daunted to meet her than she was to meet him.

Amid all the militarism of the D-Day commemorations it would also be good to remember the wartime mums. Because some of Lil’s bluster and displays of character were surely a result of the awful blow she endured in 1943 when her adored elder son was killed in the war. He was 33.

There were so many like Lil. Jessie Bowles for instance. I live in what was once Jessie’s house. Her son Bert was in the RAF during the war and was killed over Berlin in January 1944. He was 21.

And Mrs Mackenzie, Barbara Mackenzie was my Dad’s landlady when he was stationed in the Highlands during the war. She treated him like a son. Her own son Archie was killed in the aftermath of the Normandy landings. It will be 75 years on June 28th. Archie was just 20.

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We Need To Do More For Our Veterans

This year is the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings and we are seeing a lot of media coverage of this important historical event.

When I think of D Day I think of my Grandfather Denis Warwick who was 25 years old at the outbreak of WW2 and underwent surgery in order to be fit for military service. He was a private in the 6th Airborne Division of the Parachute Regiment, took part in the D Day landings, went on to fight in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge and ended his war in Germany. Returning from service with a war wound in his left knee (an injury that troubled him for the rest of his life) he supported his family as a coal delivery driver and then as a building labourer; he died from a heart attack aged 62.

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The NHS is not for sale

If you had still had any illusions that our NHS would survive Brexit, these will have been dispelled by the statement of Trump’s ambassador that, “The US will want business access to the NHS in any trade deal”. Indeed, some have speculated that access to the NHS, along with the rest of the economy, is the real reason behind Trump’s visit.

This should come as no surprise, for the “Stronger In” campaign always warned that the country could have Brexit or the NHS, but not both.

The NHS has long been admired by many Americans for its efficiency compared to their own expensive system, at the same time as our own politicians paradoxically sought to emulate the US model by introducing market forces and business practices.

The problem posed by copying Trump’s way of doing things is that we risk losing the close cooperation with Europe that has brought us so much success. A huge threat to both the staffing of the health service and Britain’s leading role in research, is the abolition of free movement. Free movement has been the catalyst for medical advance, enabling the sharing of experience and knowledge as researchers move seamlessly between countries. And on hospital wards all over the country, skilled nurses from many European countries have played a vital role.

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Vince Cable and Humaira Ali on Eid

As always, my admiration knows no bounds for those who manage to cope with the Ramadan fast during the long northern days of Summer.

I hope that everyone celebrating Eid today has happiness and peace.

Vince Cable gave his last Eid message:

And over on the Lib Dem website, Humaira Ali wrote about Islam as a liberal religion:

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Change UK – the big question is for the Liberal Democrats

Like many Lib Dems I have been more than a little disappointed with Change UK. Their launch was poorly executed; their decision to fight the EU elections ill thought out; their battle bus so badly designed that even I could have done better.

Perhaps most wounding of all was their leaked memo which showed that their number one priority was to get rid of us by pinching our members; PPCs; councillors; donors and votes. That was so naïve. It was never likely to happen and certainly will never happen give our surge in members; MEPs and votes.

The response from most Lib …

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The British Government must leave the Chagos Islands

The little known story of the Chagos Islanders is one of the worst crimes in recent British history.

The Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, were first settled by the French in the eighteenth century, originally with slave labour to work on coconut plantations. They were governed by France from Mauritius. Mauritius became a British colony at the end of the Napoleonic wars, along with its distant Chagos Islands dependency a thousand miles further east.

By the 1960s, when Mauritius was approaching independence, there were about 2000 Chagos …

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Has this Tory leadership hopeful nailed the format needed for a People’s Vote ballot paper?


Embed from Getty Images

We’re beginning to hear some voices saying that “No deal” should not be on the ballot paper in the event of a People’s Vote/3rd referendum.

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What do I want from our new Leader?

There will be those of our readers who have made a decision in favour of #EdForLeader or #JoinJo, but for many, especially the newer ones, they may still be deciding. Here’s one member’s criteria for making his mind up, which may give you some more things to think about…

So we are to have a contested Leadership election this time. Given that both (at the time of writing) declared Candidates come from similar parts of the party and there is not much to choose between them on major policy issues (and that in our Party Policy is not the sole preserve …

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Isabelle Parasram writes…How proud am I?

How proud am I of being Vice President of a party that’s sending no less than 16 MEPs to Brussels!

I look forward to working with them all on increasing the diversity of our Party.

We now have 2 BAME MEPs – Dinesh Dhamija and Shaffaq Mohammed – brilliant role models for all and particularly for the candidates who’ll benefit from the new Racial Diversity Campaign mentoring and training currently being set up by Sarah Yong, Arfan Bhatti and Anood Al-Samerai.

I have no doubt that Roderick Lynch, Chair of the LDCRE (Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality) will also soon be in touch about how our new MEPs can support its work.

Women also make up over 50% of our MEPs – something that the Chair of the Campaign for Gender Balance, Candy Piercy and the Chair of Lib Dem Women, Flo Clucas, will, no doubt, be thrilled with.

In the meantime, many congratulations to:

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 20th Jun - 12:22am
    The actual reference is "Keynesian economists such as Paul Krugman argue that fiscal deficits crowd-in private sector investment. Well-targeted, timely and temporary increases in government...
  • User AvatarGordon 19th Jun - 11:24pm
    Thanks for this John, The Lib Dems have a federal structure so it’s rather odd that this hasn’t been reflected much in policy. England has...
  • User Avatarnigel hunter 19th Jun - 10:57pm
    In no way should we be going snooping for peoples wealth indoors,find another way. If there is opposition to wind farms on land an alternative...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 19th Jun - 10:47pm
    Peter, I liked your link to tutor2u. Geoff Riley states, “Keynesian economists argue that fiscal deficits crowd-in private sector investment”. If the economy is not...
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 19th Jun - 10:45pm
    Michael BG, the Brexit forecasts are based on permanent loss of growth. The BofE forecast https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/report/2018/eu-withdrawal-scenarios-and-monetary-and-financial-stability.pdf?la=en&hash=B5F6EDCDF90DCC10286FC0BC599D94CAB8735DFB notes: "The estimated paths for GDP, CPI inflation and...
  • User AvatarSean Hyland 19th Jun - 9:58pm
    Interesting post Kirsten many thanks. As an ex Specialist Learning Disabilities Nurse I can relate to what you are saying. Seems no party has any...