Tag Archives: debates

Timid, half-hearted and apologetic immigration policy is not the way to tackle prejudice

Remember back in March, I almost spontaneously combusted when I read the consultation paper on immigration. Anything that put the word “robust” before “humane” really didn’t have a place in a liberal party as far as I was concerned.

After I wrote that piece, I became more hopeful at what I thought was a genuine attempt by the working group to engage with members. I know that they received a huge amount of feedback suggesting that they should take a more compassionate and fair approach.

We don’t know what the policy paper says yet as it hasn’t been published but the motion, which appears from page 35 of the Conference agenda actually makes me ashamed.

Let me talk a bit about why it is so important to tackle fear and prejudice. Nigel Farage, the Daily Fail and other elements of the right wing press have spent the last half century dripping poison about immigrants and immigration. They have used immigrants and lately EU citizens as scapegoats, wrongly. The problems we have are as a result of the failure of successive governments to adequately invest in housing and public services. If they had done that, then there would be no need for the right wing to turn groups of vulnerable people on each other.

As we move in to very dangerous times, as Brexit’s economic hit threatens jobs and public investment, when they can’t blame the EU any more, who will the Torykip lot blame next? It sure as hell won’t be them for getting us into this mess. It’ll be disabled people for claiming too many benefits (as if – most can’t get the help they desperately need), workers for demanding such indulgences as a minimum wage, set working hours and maternity leave.

If this immigration paper is an indication of how we as Liberal Democrats are going to stand up for these targeted groups, then we really need to demand better.

The motion is apologetic, timid and half-hearted. Every time it talks about doing something remotely right, it adds in a caveat saying, effectively, “but it’ll save us lots of money.”

It talks about fairness in the title, but there is no underscoring of that in the motion.

It tinkers at the edge of a horrible system that needs to be dismantled and started again from scratch with a new, enabling, compassionate, culture.

I also have a real problem with the paragraph that reads:

Our goal should be a positive, liberal consensus on immigration, partly by rebuilding people’s trust in the system, and that this requires us to listen and engage with those who do link pressures on public services and housing to immigration and to reject the argument that merely labels such people as racist.

That is a worthy goal, but thinking you are going to achieve it with the policies and attitude outlined in the motion is a bit like trying to clean a casserole dish with baked on dirt with a cotton wool ball.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 29 Comments

Opinion: Debates, PEBs and Judical Review: A graveyard of lost causes

This week’s announcement of broadcasters’ provisional plans for the 2015 General Election Debates predictably drew complaints and threats of legal action.

The plan is undoubtedly odd in some respects.  Glen Oglaza, who has been a senior political broadcast journalist for as long as I can remember, tweeted that the idea of excluding a party in government (the Liberal Democrats) from one debate was “bizarre.”

Broadcasters will have to review their plans nearer to the election period, taking into account what the polling situation may be at that time, the number of candidates each party is set to field and other election results between now and then.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 18 Comments

My first foray into the world of student debating…

St Andrew's DebateA few weeks ago, out of the blue, I had an email from the President of the St Andrew’s University Debating Society inviting me to take part in their annual Parliamentary Debate on the subject “This House has no faith in Her Majesty’s Government.”

I was heavily encouraged by my co-editor Stephen Tall (who had taken part last year) and others to accept, despite my reservations. It had been a long time since I’d been at a university debate and I’d never spoken in one, not even from the floor. They key thing for me is that I write, I don’t speak. My gob is not equipped with the advantage of a backspace key. Nor can I tell jokes or do all the theatrical stuff. I allowed myself to be talked into it, though. By the morning of the debate on Thursday, I was alternately hyperventilating and mewling into a pillow, wondering why on earth I’d put myself in this situation. I had no alternative, though, but to embrace the fear and get on with it.

My satnav took me on the scariest route possible to North East Fife. I had thought of defying her, but she gets incredibly passive aggressive if you do so. I joined members of the Debating Society’s Board of 10 for a pre-debate meal. Unusually, I was the only speaker there. Chatting to them and finding out about the university and the society really helped settle my nerves. They were very lovely and hospitable. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 2 Comments
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