Category Archives: Op-eds

William Wallace writes…A way to bring our national community together

I am a man of the people. You are part of the metropolitan liberal elite. They are enemies of the people, citizens of nowhere.

That’s the populist self-characterization that more and more right-wing politicians are now making. It’s an easy appeal to the ‘ordinary’ person against the sophisticated, over-educated and privileged. It works very well even when wielded by old Etonian Oxbridge graduates like Boris Johnson, or former city traders like Nigel Farage. The terms ‘elite’ and ‘establishment’ are elided, and blended with ‘liberal’, into a hostile image of people who claim superiority because of their expertise and knowledge, against those who prefer instinct and ‘common sense’.

There was a wonderful example of the genre in the Daily Telegraph of November 23rd, a letter under the headline “This ‘No Brexit deal’ by the political elite treats the majority who voted Leave with disdain” – signed by 15 Conservative peers, eight of them hereditary, three of them with peerages dating from the 17th century or earlier. If these are men of the people, I’m the king of Scotland. There was another in the Sun on Sunday, on November 25th, from Lord Digby Jones, one of the most self-important members of the House of Lords: ‘the British people – as if they needed further confirmation after what has gone on over the past few months – have been let down by the political class and the establishment elite.’ We should ridicule such claims whenever we see them.

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Medical MDMA: Radical but reasonable

Recently, British regulators and lawmakers have started to acknowledge the health benefits of certain, previously banned, substances. Cannabidiol (one of the chemical constituents of cannabis but with virtually all of the stuff that gets you high – THC – removed) has been legal since 2017. As of the first of this month, doctors have been able to prescribe cannabis-based products for medical use.

These are moves in the right direction. Cannabidiol has been shown to have anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory and anti-pain benefits. As the evidence currently stands, it seems to have less harmful side effects than many of the medicines already used to treat such problems (e.g mainstream anti-depressants and opiates).

Other, currently illegal drugs have started to show promise too – especially for helping people with mental health problems. Small doses of LSD and magic mushrooms appear to have very much the same effect as antidepressants, but with fewer side effects.

I’ve seen the drugs-related discussion in the Liberal Democrats largely centre on principles of bodily autonomy and whether the government has much business in policing what adults can choose to do with their time, money and bodies.

But in doing this we overlook a much more important reason to support the legislation and regulation of certain types of drugs. As a party serious about mental health and serious about evidence-based policy we should be at the forefront of the case for the medical applications of ecstasy and magic mushrooms. At the very least we should be pushing for more research into the effects.

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Sri Lanka: A presidential attempt to subvert parliamentary democracy

My photo of the entrance to the Sri Lankan President’s House in Colombo last week

I’m just back from a glorious holiday in Sri Lanka. Going around this beautiful island, one could have been forgiven for not realising that there was a national constitutional crisis going on. Every where was peaceful and there was no sign of even the odd protest placard, even in the capital of Colombo. The Sri Lankan people are extremely friendly and peaceful. I did notice some particularly passionate TV debates, as I flicked around the channels to find the cricket, and the papers were full of the latest machinations in Parliament.

I hesitate to summarise the details of the Sri Lankan constitutional crisis. Wikipedia provides an excellent narrative.

In the words of the BBC:

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Christmas Competition

To celebrate and get in the mood for the festive season I thought that we could have a writing competition.  As many of you (on average at least 4,500 members visit the Lib Dem Voice site every day) write articles, read them or comment I propose a Christmas Article Competition.

The proposed Competition Rules are:

  • An Article should not be more than 550 words;
  • The article in each of the specified areas will be jointly judged by representatives identified as experts in that area by Lib Dem Voice and Lib Dem editors;
  • The starting date for the competition starts as of today to 17th December;
  • The title of your article for the competition should start with the words “Competition: … followed by the title of your article”

Basic criteria when assessing each article will be:

  • The originality of the article;
  • That the article is within the stipulated maximise length required (550 words);
  • Generally, how well has the article presented its argument on the subject matter;
  • We will only accept one submission for each subject area per person (as stated below);
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What policies should we have in response to the UN report on UK poverty?

I am suggesting a replacement for Universal Credit.

We have discussed recently on LDV <https://www.libdemvoice.org/not-even-a-tin-of-baked-beans-a-visitor-shows-the-need-for-radical-reforms-59181.html> the report by Philip Alston the UN’s Special Rapporteur on poverty and human rights on poverty in the UK <https:www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Poverty/EOM_GB_16Nov2018.pdf>.

He points out that 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty, 4 million of them 50% below the poverty line and 1.5 million are destitute. How can we be letting this happen when we are the fifth wealthiest country in the world?

It is recognised that Universal Credit is a contributory factor in causing people to live below the poverty line. Therefore we should scrap it and restore all the pre-2012 benefits including the national Council Tax Benefit. We should introduce a new benefit, National Credit, to replace Tax Credits for people in work. We are already committed to restoring the pre-2016 work allowances to Universal Credit. The pre-2016 work allowances should apply to the new benefit: we should go further and increase them for those without another eligibility status so a single person can keep the first £30 a week and the second earner £20.

The taper for the new benefit should be 63%. Everyone receiving the new benefit will automatically be eligible for Housing Benefit if they pay rent, and Council Tax Benefit, if they pay Council Tax, and these will be withdrawn at a combined rate of 63%.

The report also points out that “Universal Credit has built a digital barrier that effectively obstructs many individuals’ access to their entitlements”. This new benefit should be claimable by phone, at a Jobcentre or via the Internet. Claimants must have the choice to be paid either every month or every two weeks. Housing Benefit should continue to be paid directly to the landlord.

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97000 people per year

Content warning: Sexual violence 

In England and Wales every year approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour of every day.  When you look at the number of adults sexually assaulted each year in England and Wales that number jumps to nearly half a million.  Economically the cost of sexual offences in a year is estimated to be £8.46bn.  

1 in 5 adult women will or has experienced some form of sexual violence.  The numbers of people affected by sexual violence are so large that it is doubtful that there is a single person in Britain unaffected in some way – whether they realise or not is a different matter.  

Along with societal taboos and much needed anonymity, issues surrounding sexual violence crimes remain very shrouded in mystery.  It is this that helped me decide to share some of what it feels like and how the tentacles of power keep inflicting pain long after the initial crime.

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The Digital Single Market should enable users and innovators, and not constrain freedom

In the rather dry text of the Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on copyright in the Digital Single Market there lurks, behind the good intentions, an information restricting and illiberal set of proposals. The infamous Article 13. The objections of the technically informed and creative internet users were ignored last June by the majority in the European Parliament who passed the proposal by a sizable majority and the final vote on the directive is immanent.

Article 13 risks being nothing more than an act of corporate welfare; with big business standing to gain while individuals see little benefit and potential disadvantage. The argument that this legislation primarily benefits the creatives and other innovators, who produce content that is currently being shared on the internet without permission, is flawed. 

More often than not, copyright of such content is not owned by the creators themselves but large corporations, such as Universal Music Group, who then pay artists a percentage of the profits made from the copyrighted material. It should be the responsibility of these corporations to ensure that their artists are fairly remunerated for their work, and that responsibility should not be shifted unfairly onto platform providers such as Facebook or YouTube. In addition, there are wider, perhaps unintended consequences. According to cryptographer and security expert Bruce Schneier, “Aside from the harm from the provisions of Article 13, this infrastructure can be easily repurposed by government and corporations – and further entrenches ubiquitous surveillance into the fabric of the Internet.”

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People’s vote: the vital importance of preferential voting

The possibility/probability of a people’s vote seems to be increasing.

Minds are starting to be focussed on what would be on the ballot paper in such a referendum. A good guess seems to be:

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A radical, liberal safety net

Two polls since the last General Election have investigated people’s views on introducing a Universal Basic Income. Populus found at the end of July this year that 41% of those surveyed supported the idea with only 17% opposed. The rest were either neutral or didn’t know. This polling also helped illuminate what the public feel would be the costs and benefits, with 49% agreeing it would reduce the stigma of claiming welfare but 45% being concerned about it being unaffordable. If the Liberal Democrats are to back a UBI it is therefore vital that we set out how we will …

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An open letter to Greg Clark

Dear Greg Clark,

Let’s be frank. Brexit is a complete mess. You and I both knew this a long time ago. The government’s Brexit withdrawal only confirms that the Brexit fantasy is collapsing under its own contradictions.

Greg – in your heart of hearts do you genuinely believe that the PM’s agreement is in our best interests? Be honest – do you really think your government’s arrangement is better than our current EU deal?

In 2016 we both campaigned to Remain. We even managed to put a Lib Dem sticker on you! You were ardent in your beliefs that we …

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The Liberal Democrats are part of ALDE, and will stay a part of ALDE

Two weeks ago liberals from across Europe gathered together in Madrid to debate policy, receive training and pass a new manifesto for next year’s European Parliament elections. This new manifesto reflects the commitment of liberals from across the EU to our shared European values. It is a manifesto which seeks to bring all Europeans together; and because of the efforts of European Liberal Youth (LYMEC)’s delegation, it reflects the views and aspirations of young people from across the continent. Indeed, there were few delegations as active or as well prepared as LYMEC’s.

At …

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An unexpected weekend of inspiration in darkest Staffordshire…

I’m on my way home from a weekend away as you read this, having spent the weekend in the fringes of the Winter ALDC Kickstart event. I say ‘fringes’ because I didn’t actually participate in any of the training, wasn’t either a mentor or being mentored, and indeed only attended the dinner and part of the final plenary.

So, how could I have been inspired by an event I was barely at?

It’s a funny thing, but being around a group of people, some of whom I’ve known for quite a long time, some of whom are complete strangers, but all of …

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Vince: We stand with women who have experienced physical or sexual violence

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. From now until Human Rights Day on 10th December. there are 16 days of activism against gender based violence.

UN Women suggests 16 ways we an all help, from telling our stories to raising awareness to helping women affected by violence.

Over the next 16 feel free to share your experience or tell us what you are doing to help stop gender based violence. Send any posts to [email protected] in the usual way.

It was really good to see Vince make a statement in support of this today:

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Dear Theresa, If your deal is so great, why not let the people vote on it?

As I write, the European Union has just agreed the Brexit Deal. I’m a bit sad that it’s all happening on what would have been Charles Kennedy’s 59th birthday. He’d have had something to say about all of this.

Ahead of the meeting, Theresa May wrote to the nation telling us why we should all back her Brexit deal. Unfortunately, her letter is all spin and no substance. She paints a picture of a happy, reconciled nation moving forward after Brexit. She uses this phrase “works for everyone” a few times. She might as well have promised a unicorn on every street corner. Jeremy Corbyn’s Magic Money Tree was more real than the benefits open to us after Brexit. May’s own foreign secretary, on Andrew Marr this morning, couldn’t say that we’d be better off after Brexit. He only went as far as the deal “mitigates most of the negative impact.” If that is the best we can do, why bother. Why not just forget the whole thing?

The biggest problem with her deal is that we actually have no idea what we will end up with further down the road. Most of the big decisions – on future trade, on Northern Ireland, take place after we have left. Imagine getting married without having some common ground on whether you are going to have children, what sort of life you are going to live, where you are going to live?  That would be a recipe for disaster. So is this deal.

Anyone who remembers the last time that lot left office will remember that public services were on their knees and the gap between rich and poor was enormous. Their cuts to public services, particularly in the last three and a half years that they’ve been on their own, and their cruel slashing of social security give the lie to any desire to make a country that works for everyone. We really can’t trust them with our future. Most egregiously, she spins us a line on the NHS:

Instead, we will be able to spend British taxpayers’ money on our own priorities, like the extra £394 million per week that we are investing in our long-term plan for the NHS.

I’ll leave it to Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, a GP herself,  to debunk that one.

What annoys me most is the bit about how wonderful it is to end free movement. That will have a massive impact on areas like NHS and social care. We are going to end up having real staffing problems in the NHS. The  Royal College of GPs backed a People’s Vote the other day, citing concerns about patient safety:

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Why I joined the Liberal Democrats

I first joined Labour back in the mid Eighties whilst I was still at school. As a working class West Midlander with an interest in politics and left wing beliefs growing up in the Thatcher Years, Labour seemed the obvious choice. For years I was incredibly proud to carry the same membership card that my family had carried for generations; I campaigned, I delivered leaflets, I attended meetings. Then something happened. The party that I had joined and supported for decades seemed to transform overnight into a far-left, doctrinaire personality cult where questioning the leadership in any way was a Thought Crime. I watched as the mood became steadily more toxic, policy became evermore reminiscent of a 1970s student union and the antisemitism and misogyny of some of the members, particularly amongst those attracted by Jeremy Corbyn became more apparent.  As the psychodrama of Corbyn’s Labour got worse, I stopped feeling proud to be a party member and I found it increasingly difficult to advocate voting for the Labour Party. Increasingly, I questioned whether I could vote Labour myself, let alone campaign for them. Then came the day that I had to finally follow my conscience and leave Labour. For the first time since my teens and like so many others in recent years, I was politically homeless. 

For some time, I looked for a new way to remain politically engaged, particularly to fight to keep the UK in the EU. I kept coming back to the Liberal Democrats. Surely I could not possibly join THEM – they had been in coalition with the hated Tories and they had no policies apart from electoral reform. Expecting to find it Tory-lite, I read the 2017 Manifesto and to my surprise found myself agreeing with large parts of it. Then I read about Liberalism in general and the history of the Liberal Party and found even more that I liked. As a teacher, I had already seen the positive influence of the Liberal Democrats in areas such as the introduction of Pupil Premium and free school meals for infants. A worrying thought hit me; I liked these policies and I really liked the values and guiding philosophy – was I really a Liberal Democrat and had I been in the wrong party for years? The answer was obvious. 

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What to buy the Lib Dem Feminist for Christmas

So your inbox will no doubt have been overflowing with Black Friday deals that aren’t that great these past few days.

And this coming Monday is apparently when we all buy our pressies online.

Good to see the Lib Dems get into that.

An email from Jo Swinson dropped into my inbox this morning:

97 years ago, Margaret Wintringham took her seat in the House of Commons as the MP for Louth in Lincolnshire.

She was the third woman ever to be elected as an MP, the second ever to take her seat, and the first British woman to become an MP.

She was the Liberal’s first woman MP

In Parliament, she campaigned to extend the Representation of the People Act 1918 to all women over 21, as it was for men. She campaigned for equal pay for equal work and for girls as well as boys to receive state scholarships.

Our women leaders in the Liberals and the Liberal Democrats have been revolutionaries. And this year, the 100 year anniversary of (some) women getting the vote, we want to celebrate the last 100 years of amazing Lib Dem women in the party.

Want to be part of the celebrations? We’ve designed this t-shirt to proudly celebrate our Lib Dem feminist heroines.

Well, of course I bought the t-shirt. It has some of my favourite people on it, from Cambridge’s  excellent Sarah Brown to Christine Jardine who is fighting for State Pension equality for women and co-sponsoring the bill which aims to give Northern Irish women access to abortion, to our energetic and fabulous President Sal Brinton to my first political hero Shirley Williams to Lynne Featherstone who fought for same sex marriage, to first Liberal woman MP Margaret Wintringham to Wales’ progressive Education Secretary Kirsty Williams. 

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London gears up for 2020

London may be the smallest English region geographically, but in LibDem terms it is top of the league, with around 20,000 members, many of whom joined following the 2016 EU Referendum and subsequent general election. Small wonder, then, that Brexit will figure large at the London LibDems’ regional conference tomorrow .

Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton & Wallington and the Party’s national Brexit spokesperson, will be leading a session on the impact of Brexit on the city, chaired by former MEP Baroness Ludford. And in one of a number of fringe meetings, sponsored by the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), Arthur Griffin, Vice President of our Irish sister party, Fianna Faíl, will give a presentation on Winning That First Preference Vote.

LibDem Leader, Sir Vince Cable (MP for Twickenham) will provide the opening keynote address in the impressive surroundings of Canary Wharf, whose CEO, Sir George Iacobescu, will give a welcoming speech, alongside one of the party’s newest recruits, Tower Hamlets Councillor Rabina Khan.

Tower Hamlets is something of a success story in increasing diversity within the Party and given the fact that one in three Londoners were not even born in the UK, diversity is a key preoccupation of London Liberal Democrats. This is splendidly reflected in the team that has just been selected by the membership to fight the 2020 London Mayoral and GLA elections.

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Paddy’s blistering tweet about Jacob Rees-Mogg and the ERG

It’s not often we feature a single tweet but this classic blast of high octane Paddy deserves its own post!:

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Vince tells PM: Brexit Deal is “pathetically weak”

Vince Cable questioned the Prime Minister yesterday when she made her statement on the political declaration of the EU withdrawal agreement. He highlighted one particularly worrying aspect of it:

This is essentially an agreement to have an agreement, and it is full of worryingly vague aspirations. How, for example, can the Prime Minister justify paragraph 24, which relates to medicines, chemicals and aviation safety, where we currently have strong agreed co-operative standards? She has managed to negotiate an agreement to

“explore the possibility of cooperation”.

That is pathetically weak, and it will cause great anxiety to millions of people who depend on high standards of safety.

Ultimately, this deal is a massive kicking of big issues into some very long grass. Nothing will be decided before we leave the EU. This makes it more important than ever that we stop Brexit.

May’s response just emphasised how uncertain this all is:

In relation to these negotiations, we are not able to put legal texts together until we have left the European Union and are no longer a member of the European Union—that, of course, is what we will be able to do when we leave on 29 March 2019.

Brexit is a leap into the fog. We owe future generations better than this.

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Observations of an ex pat: Fear factor

JTheresa May is a frightened woman.

She is not frightened by the pile of Conservative MPs’ letters demanding her departure. They are still a long way from the 48 required. And even if it reaches the magic number, the bookies are betting on Mrs May retaining the leadership in any consequent vote.

Even if she loses, Theresa May can take solace from Enoch Powell’s truism that all political careers end in failure and that her successor will be faced with the same brick wall of insoluble Brexit problems as she was.

Neither is Mrs May worried about Spain’s latest sabre rattling over Gibraltar. She is confident that Brussels can pull Madrid into line with a sidebar letter or a slight tweaking of the Brexit agreement.

The unravelling of the prime minister’s de facto coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party is a concern. But it was never more than an inconvenient marriage of convenience based on a foundation of contradictions.  Northern Ireland voted to remain. The majority want the benefits of Europe which include good relations with Dublin and peace on their island. The DUP exists for one purpose only:  the perpetuation of the Protestant Ascendancy in Northern Ireland. This puts it in complete opposition to the majority Northern Irish vote in the Brexit referendum.

Mrs May can deal with the above. Or if she can’t the results of failure would not be so catastrophic that her legacy would be tarnished beyond repair.

Theresa May is frightened of two other outcomes: No deal or a second referendum. Unfortunately for her, it is looking increasingly likely that the final choice will be between those two options.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Plymouth Rock

This is a revised version of last year’s post…

The North American holiday of Thanksgiving was born of tragedy. The Mayflower, filled with settlers from England, docked in Plymouth, Massachusetts in December 1620. Of the 102 passengers and around 30 crew on board, only five women of eighteen survived the winter, and around half the men and crew.

The following spring, the Wampanoag, a native people, taught the incomers which crops were endemic to the New World, and how to fertilise their crops with fish. This act of good will let to a plentiful harvest, and gave the Pilgrims hope that they might survive the next winter.

American Thanksgiving was set as the fourth Thursday in November by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 when he signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.

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Is It Time For Some Free Market Reforms In The Postal Sector

The Royal Mail was privatised back in 2013, in common with previous privatisations the model used was to move a monopoly type industry into the private sector at the same time leaving elements of that monopoly firmly in place.

Royal Mail was given an ongoing requirement to collect and deliver throughout the UK six days a week and regulated to ensure it did so.

In addition, competitors wishing to provide an alternative letter delivery service have to apply for a license.

The regulator also has powers to control prices and access to the Royal Mail network. In the years that have followed the …

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Amongst the villains of Brexit, the #RemainerNow stand out as heroes

Amongst the chaos of last week, there were two events which stood out for me as changing the terms of the Brexit debate. The first was Theresa May’s statement outside Downing Street in which she acknowledged that one choice open to us if we rejected her deal, was “no Brexit at all”. The second was a clip from James O’Brien’s LBC show in which Bill rings up in tears because of his regret at his vote for leave in the Referendum. This has been very widely shared on social media, and it seems to have struck a real …

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My Solution for Party HQ Issues – Let ALDC run it

Over the past few days, there have been all sorts of stories leaking out of the Great George Street bunker about the appalling and depressing state of the finances of our Federal Party.

All of which begs the question, “Why are we in Great George Street at all?” I have no idea what the rent is or the rates are on that building, but I know that it is situated in one of the most expensive areas for real estate in the whole of the UK. I also know that London is the most expensive place for employers in the UK. As you might have guessed my solution to the Party’s finances is to move most of our HQ out of London.

Of, course, some elements of Party HQ need to remain within the Westminster Village. I am sure that we need to keep The President’s and Chief Executive’s office; the press office and research inside or close to the Whitehall bubble. However, for the rest, they could be run from anywhere. Conferences; membership; IT support; campaigns; compliance; finance etc. can be delivered for the Party from anywhere in the UK. Rents would be half (at most) of what is paid in the central London area. Employment would either be cheaper or in relative terms, we could pay our staff more.

This may seem treacherous thinking, but it is not new in our Party. Local Government and publications etc. used to be run from Party HQ, but they have been ‘farmed out’ for more than 25 years. If we are looking at other Parties Labour devolved a lot of their staff to the North East almost 20 years ago.

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For Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20th every year is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we stop to remember those transgender people who have lost their lives over the past 12 months because of who they are.

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A better quality of debate

 I have been reading posts and responses on LDV and LibDem-linked sites for some years. Although LDV posts sometimes don’t follow entirely the same practice as many others, the comments often do. With that in mind and to avoid falling into the category of Grumpy Old Man, I write to offer ten suggestions about how to enter into the true spirit of internet debating:

  1. It’s important to get right the overall tone. Try for a core approach of righteous indignation. There’s no need to be overtly patronising; most people will get the message anyway.
  2. You should cultivate an air

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Review: Inside the Foreign Office, Part 1

“More than fifty shades of diplomacy.”

So says Britain’s Ambassador talking about the nuances of international relations in a BBC documentary about the Foreign Office, the first part of which was shown last week.

It opens just after the 2017 election, with Boris addressing the assembled ranks in the Foreign Office. Typically, he talks about the fate of the Conservative Party in front of impartial civil servants.

He talked about wanting to go to Tehran – and we all know how his dealings with the Iranians ended up for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The Permanent Secretary, Sir Simon MacDonald, talked about the nature of diplomacy, describing how 17th century ambassador Sir Henry Wootton “Am ambassador is an honest man sent aboard to ie for the benefit of his country.” MacDonald pointed out the triple entendre –  lying meant lazing about and sleeping around as well as not telling the truth. His modern take was that the art of diplomacy is “letting other people have your way”

Sir Simon talked about the changing status of UK – how we were the biggest, most important power before World War 1. It’s all changed since then.

We’re now in second group of countries not able to do much by themselves. So, clearly, it’s really sensible for us to be leaving an enormous collaboration of nations.

We then went to our UN mission in New York where aides were prepping Boris for talks with the Russians who had requested aid to rebuild Syria – which they have helped destroy. They discussed  various ways of how they could use that request to get rid of Assad and ensuing humanitarian access.

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“Not even a tin of baked beans!” A visitor shows the need for radical reforms.

Ten per cent – TEN PER CENT – of the population of Cumbria are using food banks!

said a fellow church-goer to me in horror, after a Sunday service in a West Cumbrian village church. We were discussing the local bearing of the damning findings by the UN rapporteur Philip Alston, reporting on the effects of austerity policies on Britain today.

After a twelve-day tour of Britain’s towns and cities, Mr Alston, UN expert on extreme poverty and human rights, spoke in stark term about his findings, in London on Friday.

Clearly shocked by what he had found, according to the Independent’s report …

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First political memories: Geoff Reid

While the Suez crisis was unfolding some of us ten year olds in a junior school playground discussed our vague awareness of Government incompetence. It was not my first school. I was born in the tough Scotswood Road area of Newcastle. Crucially I was an only child so my parents, living in a two room flat couldn’t get on the council house waiting list. This led to my father joining a ground-breaking self-build housing scheme, which in due course led to us moving across town.

That may well have contributed to my assumption that alternative solutions to problems were part of …

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May’s Brexit deal is the best the Tory party can produce, but there are better options for for the country

The Guardian recently offered an interactive tool which allowed readers to guess how many votes May’s deal would get in the House of Commons. (Apologies that I cannot find the link to the tool at the moment).

I had a fiddle around with the tool. What was astonishing is that whatever way one tweaked the tool, May was about 50-60 votes short of a majority. The basic problem is that there is a chunk of Tories, and probably DUP members, who will vote against the deal. The only way to make up the shortfall caused by those votes against, is for …

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