Liberal Britain – Changes for the better

Your Liberal BritainA Liberal Britain cannot simply consider this country alone. The picture must include Britain in Europe and the wider world. The vision should be long-term, not simply the life of the current Parliament. I suggest:

  1. A United Federal Kingdom. The existing Parliament suffices as a federal one, provided voting on matters of sole concern to England is restricted to English MPs. At present many issues relate to the ‘four nations’ but the more powers are devolved to Scotland etc the more likely federal concern will be limited to defence and foreign affairs, plus perhaps energy, fishing policy and overseas development.
  2. The kingdom playing a full role in a federal Europe. This would have a Government, being the executive of a compound Parliament and European Council, ie the Commission as executive would comprise both elected and appointed persons chosen from MEPs, State Governments and technocrats.
  3. The federal Europe would have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, replacing Britain and France. European delegates to this body would perhaps rotate annually from among European states. The UK Diplomatic Service would be subsumed into the European External Action Service, requiring one EU Embassy instead of 28 or so per foreign country. We might wish to retain premises for trade promotion and overseas development purposes.
  4. Within Britain itself, a return to the old Liberal idea of regional self-government would have elected assemblies, abolishing county councils. These regions may well be geographically similar to the ‘combined authorities’ now being proposed. More day-to-day powers could be returned to town and neighbourhood councils, to enable the regional government to concentrate on broader issues of infrastructure, planning, transport and housing provision. Regional Councils would be free to send trade delegations abroad, as they do in France today. Once such Councils are established, we may have a better solution to the reform of the House of Lords, for representatives from the Councils could sit in the Lords, in effect a Senate, by appointment or election. The UK Parliament could be modernised, either by moving to a new building, perhaps in Birmingham, or at least by updating the present  voting system to an electronic one.
  5. Tax – admit the Unified Benefit will not work for all. Aim for a simplified system that can take account of people’s frequent changes in, say, short-term employment. Pursue tax evaders and avoiders via a Europe-wide clamp-down and abolish or severely curtail the UK’s own ‘offshore financial centres’ and purge the City of its money-laundering reputation.
  6. Development: too much has taken place in the south east. More needs to be done to encourage development elsewhere. Regional councils could achieve this better than ‘powerhouses’ with elected mayors. They could also build social housing, in a concerted drive, using industrial and green techniques, to supply good quality homes for those on waiting lists. Ambitious infrastructure is needed –skip High Speed Trains and go to Mag-Lev. Create a national water-supply grid.

Radical proposals but, I believe, not Utopian!

 

This piece is part of the Your Liberal Britain series of posts here on Lib Dem Voice. Everyone can take part – why not send in your own vision for Liberal Britain? 
Your Liberal Britain is a grassroots initiative launched and run by new members of the party, inviting every Lib Dem to help explain what the party stands for. We all know we want to build a fair, free and open society – but what would it actually look like? And why should anyone care?
To take part, simply write 500 words in response to the question ‘What would a truly Liberal Britain look like, and what improvements would it bring to people’s lives?“, and send it to [email protected], mentioning ‘Liberal Britain’ in the subject line.
To get inspiration for your post, read others in the series, and take a look at all these ideas that other members have submitted to Your Liberal Britain. You can also get involved by hosting a simple discussion evening with your local party – everything you need to run one is right here.
 

* Daniel Beck has rejoined the party recently. In the past he was involved in Young Liberals at St Albans and Durham University.

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5 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd May '16 - 3:00pm

    Unfortunately dreams of a federal United Kingdom are dead for the time being. The new English metro-mayor system has basically killed it off.

    We can’t have an English or regional parliament, plus a United Kingdom parliament, plus elected mayors, plus European representatives, plus an elected House of Lords, plus possibly an elected head of state, It’s too many elections.

    You do recognise this however in your idea of abolishing local councils as they currently exist.

    The countryside is either going to get left out of this mayoral system or dragged into Labour fiefdoms, which won’t make those people happy either. Mayors will undermine MPs. People will just write to them instead.

    If anyone knows what Osborne is doing for the countryside that would be useful.

  • One of the major disasters of recent years has been the undermining of the local government system and the skilled professionals who ran it by outsourcing and setting in train death by a thousand cuts.

  • Mick Taylor 23rd May '16 - 4:25pm

    The current local government structure is not of our choosing and even current party policy is not in favour of elected mayors running devolved areas.

    If we set our stall out right and were fortunate enough to be in a position to implement it, then we would be able to set up the system we wanted. It must be vital to get the policy right as frankly the mess of pottage that passes for devolution policy should be decently buried ASAP with the party adopting a federal structure long envisaged by our Liberal Party predecessors. It should be in the manifesto as what we are going to do, not subject to referendums or threats of elected mayors.

  • Regional government is Liberal Democrat policy, however I am not sure how effective they would be alone in encouraging regional development. There needs to be a regional fiscal policy that encourages investment in the poorer regions and invests in infrastructure. When you suggest abolishing County Councils I assume you want unitary councils everywhere. One of the issues with this the idea that unitary councils have to be bigger than district councils, which moves councils away from the people. Also we need to abolish elected mayors and the cabinet system in local government. I would hope that few Liberal Democrats would like to see English UK MPs making laws for England. There would need to be a separate mandate for an English Parliament with its own constituencies and elective system. I suppose we could have the new English Parliament in Westminister and build a new Parliament in Birmingham for the UK. However would it possible for each region to have its own laws like Scotland? This would remove the need to an English Parliament.

    I am not convince we need to have an executive for a Federal EU. It would be better to give executive power to the Parliament. Also the time is not right to increase Federalism within the EU.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “Unified Benefit”. We need to be calling for the introduction a (partial) Citizen’s Income to replace the Personal Income Tax Allowance and Child Benefit.

  • Tony Greaves 24th May '16 - 10:26am

    Kingdom?

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