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William Wallace writes: Stopping Brexit isn’t enough – we have to help the left behind

Larry Elliott in the Guardian the other day declared that the Remainers don’t have any answers to the problems of the Left Behind in Britain.  He didn’t bother to claim that the Leavers had any answer either.  Their commitment to deregulation (with abolition of the Working Time Directive one of their first targets) will hit marginal workers in insecure jobs; their hopes of cutting public spending will increase the gap between rich and poor and starve education and health of resources.

But what do those of us who support Remain offer the Left Behind?  Remember that the highest votes for the Leave campaign came in England’s declining industrial towns, and in the county and seaside towns that have also lost out from economic and social transformation.  Middlesborough, Skegness, Canvey Island and Wisbech all returned over 80% of votes to leave.  It was easy for the Leave campaign to encourage them to blame the globalised ‘liberal elite’ for their woes; they have lost out from globalization, and feel patronised and neglected.  Some of their grievances are justified; others are not.  The selling off of social housing and the incursion of private landlords into what were once Council housing estates is not a consequence of European rules or of immigration.  But the loss of the stable employment that their parents and grandparents had IS a consequence of open frontiers and technological change, and successive governments of all parties have failed to invest enough – in education and training, in housing, in infrastructure, in supporting the growth of new local entrepreneurs – to spread the prosperity of the South-East and the metropolitan cities across the rest of the country.

Liberal Democrat peers tackled these issues in a working party over the past year, the report of which is attached here.  We have submitted a resolution for the Spring conference to take the debate within the party further.  Our analysis, and our proposals, cut across several policy areas.  Greater investment in education and training, from pre-school to further education, is central.  Long-term finance for local start-ups, of the sort that the British Business Bank was intended to provide but which also needs nurturing at regional and local level, is essential.  A revival of social housing is urgent.  Most difficult of all, we have to find a way of rebuilding political trust: a revival of local democracy within communities that feel abandoned by all parties and agencies of government, and that see politics as a game conducted by well-off and well-educated people in London.

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Prospects for the EU negotiations

This is the second part of a series Brexit is a luxury for the few. The EU is a necessity for the many. Part 1 can be found here.

The negotiations with EU27 are the point at which Brexit fantasies meet reality. Allegations that the EU needs us more than we need them have been exposed as false as the Government jettisons previously trumpeted ‘red lines’. The Phase 1 joint report of the UK and EU negotiators  shows the Government has given into virtually every EU demand.

This should be no surprise as the negotiations were never going to be one of equals. Instead of ‘winning’ 97% of votes in the EU Council, we now find ourselves alone pitted against a group 11 times our economic size. Past EU accession negotiations were similarly asymmetrical. Candidate countries wishing to join the EU had to accept some 80,000 pages of the aquis communautaire (the EU’s accumulated legislation and judicial rulings) virtually in toto. The best candidates might reasonably hope to secure were minor derogations and some longer transitional periods. Leaving the EU is the accession process in reverse.

Forecasting is a fool’s game but we can be fairly sure the UK will continue to be outgunned. There are any number of outcomes from the negotiations but arguably the leading current alternatives are extremes: Norway Plus or no deal. The EU has offered the UK either the Norwegian model (essentially Single Market including payments to the EU Budget and following EU rules but no participation in the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy) or the Canadian model (virtually no goods tariffs and limited services access but no payments to EU budget and no jurisdiction by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in areas of EU competence).

The May Government has ruled out remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union. Replicating the Canada-EU deal is problematic given services constitute 80% of our economy. So David Davis concocted a have your cake and eat it too Canada Plus Plus Plus option. For the EU, this is unacceptable as the free movement of services, capital, goods and workers are indivisible.

The Council guidelines provide the framework for the next phase of negotiations. By Easter, it is possible a transitional (or implementation) period will be agreed to the end of 2020 (when the EU’s current multiyear financial framework ends). This is slightly less than the two years the UK Government is requesting. Accepting all current EU rules and payments during the transitional period will, it is believed, be enough to prevent (at least temporarily) the exodus of more corporate operations from the UK. However, any agreed transitional period does not mean the end of the economic and regulatory cliff edge – it merely delays it if the UK opts for anything less integrative than the Norwegian model.  

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Brian Paddick writes…We need to reassure people that Liberal Democrats remain the most accepting of all the political parties, whoever you are and whatever you believe

I write as a gay Christian about the tightrope between freedom of speech and religion and prejudice and discrimination.

One of the fundamental principles of Liberalism is to allow people to do as they wish provided it does not harm other people.  When it comes to religion, what appears to be a simple enough principle becomes complicated.

Many religions, including Christianity, require its followers to proclaim “the good news” of their particular religion to non-believers.  There are interpretations of many religions that say intimacy between same sex couples is wrong, indeed that any sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.  The question then becomes, does proclaiming such ideas contravene the Liberal harm principle?

There are people who think religion is at least, mumbo jumbo, and at worst, damaging and divisive, and that whatever God, his Son or his prophets may or may not have said, it’s all nonsense, in which case, no harm done.

There are others who do have a faith, who are from sexually and gender diverse groups or who love those from such groups (family members, friends, allies), for whom it really matters what their religion says on these issues and who are seriously harmed by such declarations.

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Federal Policy Committee report – 10 January 2018

The Federal Policy Committee met on Wednesday night, with an agenda mostly of finalising items for debate at spring conference.

First up was reviewing the policy paper produced by the working group on education, and finalising it for proposal to spring conference. This is an impressive paper covering a wide range of aspects of education, especially funding, supporting and promoting teachers and good teaching, and inspection and improvement arrangements. It also covers the curriculum, schools structures, Further Education, Early Years, SEND and health (including mental health) in education. FPC has discussed this twice through the autumn and last night had a further good discussion on it, especially around arrangements for inspection, testing and league tables. The motion and paper will of course be published and launched publicly once the agenda for spring conference is decided and published.

The second policy paper item was on rural affairs. The discussion of this last night focussed in particular the section on agriculture following the important speech by the secretary of state last Friday on the planned post-EU future for agriculture and land. We have also discussed fully on previous occasions its sections on supporting local rural economies more broadly, tackling the housing problems, supporting greater communications, both physical and electronic, and flood protection. Other areas such as animal welfare were also discussed in some more detail. This will also be published in due course.

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The next time you think about saying “But what about the men?”, read this

Almost every time an article appears on the internet highlighting discrimination against women and girls, there is likely to be at least one man derailing the discussion by saying “but what about the men?”

Believe me, as a woman who dares to express her opinion on the internet, I come up against this sort of attitude a lot.

Does the same thing happen when someone highlights problems faced by men? I certainly haven’t been aware of it.

However, this week blogger Jessica Eaton wrote a thought-provoking piece about the different reactions she has had when running projects aimed at helping men and  women.

Five years ago, she and her family set up a charity aimed at supporting adult men with addiction and mental health problems. They have done some amazing work in that time. When she writes about it, does she get abuse for not doing work for women?

I can’t tell you about the hundreds of messages or tweets we get asking ‘what about women?’ – because it’s never happened.

I don’t have any stories about the times we got sent a tonne of abuse when we conducted research with general public in the community about male mental health stigma – because it’s never happened.

I can switch over to the TEF twitter account right now and write literally anything about men and nothing bad will ever happen. Our Facebook page has thousands of followers and we never get threats, abuse or whataboutery.

That’s great and as it should be.

But what about when she does stuff aimed at helping women, including the research for her PhD thesis which is about victim blaming of women and girls in the media and other studies aimed at supporting women who have been victims of violence? That’s a completely different story.

I did one study where there was a free text question at the end and a whopping 9% of respondents chose to use that box to criticise me for not researching men. I say whopping because the free text box didn’t even ask them a question about that and 63 people still managed to use the box to whack in some ‘whataboutery’.

Not only that but a further 14% (over 90 people) left comments that were just plain nasty or abusive. One guy told me that my work was shit and he hopes I fail my PhD. And then left his full name and job title. He was an academic at a university. In my field. He even put some kisses on.

Why does she think this is happening?

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Jane Dodds’ New Year Message: Welsh Liberal Democrats are fighting back

Dymuniadau Gorau i chi gyd dros y Blwyddyn Newydd/ Best Wishes to you all for the New Year.

2018 will be the year of the Welsh Liberal Democrat fight back, with renewed energy in our activists, key policies which will change the lives of Welsh people, and a focus on winning seats.

We want to see a Wales that has social justice as its backbone – rethinking a punitive benefits system which wages war on the poor.  We want to see a Wales that looks out to Europe – leaving the EU would be a disaster for Welsh farmers and businesses.  We want to see a Wales that  welcomes refugees – building on its proud history of internationalism.  We want to see a Wales that has a health system that is fair – English people have waiting times for planned operations that is half that of Welsh people.  We want to see an economic plan for Wales that will breathe new life into its urban and rural areas – promoting innovation in green industries.  

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WATCH: Vince Cable’s New Year message – Liberal Democrats are the party who stand up for the underdog

Vince’s New Year message is a little different. It’s another of these W1A style videos where he goes completely off piste from the remarks prepared for him by his team. Which would never, ever happen in real life, obviously.

He concentrates on the principles that drive the Liberal Democrats, challenging vested interests and standing up for the underdog.

He’ll be wanting to get over in the next year how the Liberal Democrats have so often been right and ahead of our time. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the formation of the Liberal Democrats and in that time we’ve led on issues like LGBT rights, the Iraq war, environmental issues, standing up for the rights of Hong Kong citizens and calling for humanitarian intervention in Bosnia. We should also remember that Vince was the lone political voice warning about the dangers of the credit crunch.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 19th Jan - 6:57am
    Well, Mr Red, didn’t they try that in last year’s General Election and where did that get them?
  • User AvatarKeith Legg 19th Jan - 6:07am
    I suspect that since every other vote on the ballot went to the Republicans, it's probably fair to assume that one should have too. The...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 19th Jan - 1:58am
    @ Arnold Kiel There was nothing good about the Thatcher government and very little good about the Blair government or even the coalition government. ALL...
  • User AvatarArnold Kiel 19th Jan - 1:42am
    frankie, I totally agree with you. But wealth measures friendliness by the speed of its growth. If private capital avoids places, publicly financed education and...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 19th Jan - 12:46am
    @ Katharine, I'm sorry you thought I was being unkind or unfair to Arnold Kiel. I'm quite an easy going sort of person really. I...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 19th Jan - 12:22am
    @ Frankie, "The problem brave Brexiteers have is they are obsessed with Europe" Really? I've been thinking just the same about Lib Dems. There was...