Tag Archives: policy

So what happens after the next general election?

Even now with just weeks before the next general election it is impossible to know where we will be with Brexit. For the sake of simplicity, I would like to put Brexit to one side for now. The Tories might find a way to implement hard Brexit by the 31st October and before the next General Election, we shall see. Discuss it elsewhere. There are plenty of other considerations we need to think about.

I can see 3 plausible scenarios for the next general election;

  1. The Tories squeeze the Brexit Party vote and get an overall majority, or;
  2. We have a hang Parliament

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 47 Comments

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.

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The Ashdown Prize – how there can be more than one winner

Yesterday, the winner of the Ashdown Prize was announced. This competition was run by Your Liberal Britain with this aim:

In the face of such daunting forces, we must find radical new solutions to protect the power of the citizen – over their own lives, over the decisions that affect them, over the world around them.

This is the Liberalism of tomorrow – the Liberalism Britain so badly needs.

To that end, the Ashdown Prize for Radical Thought will be awarded to the boldest new policy idea that best empowers the citizen in the Britain of today and tomorrow.

Over the Bank Holiday …

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How can the Lib Dems get back to the centre of the pitch?

In January, I wrote a piece about the Liberal Democrats needing to ask themselves some tough questions about their low poll ratings. At the time, I also promised to write a follow up article on some potential solutions. Here it is – for what it’s worth!

There is an open goal in the centre of British politics, but somehow the Liberal Democrats are not really scoring in the polls, despite some positive announcements on education, for example, which received good media coverage. What do we need to do to turn things around on a significant scale? It’s certainly not easy. …

Posted in Op-eds | 121 Comments

Your last chance to help us build a liberal immigration policy

There’s been a bit of a confusion over the last dates to respond to the policy consultations that the party is running at the moment.

The policy papers themselves give Friday 31st March 2018 as the final date. However, you haven’t missed the boat as the party website says we have until 4th April.

This is just as well, as I have left my response to the 67 questions of the immigration paper until the last minute as usual. I have to say that the consultation paper is one of the most profoundly depressing things I have ever …

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It has to be about more than just Brexit in 2018

2018 is, for the optimists, the year when the wheels come off of the Brexit chariot for once and for all. The process of negotiating “the best possible deal for the United Kingdom” obliges the Government to face up to the brutal reality that the European Union has to hold together at all costs, and that means an outcome for us that is less good than the current arrangements. Then, as rational people, Conservative MPs will look into the abyss and realise how bad things might be.

I’m not so sure. Remember, most of them campaigned, with various levels of enthusiasm, …

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Countdown to Conference: Two unmissable events if you are interested in policy

If you have a particular interest in policy, there are two events that you should definitely put in your Conference diary.

The first is the consultative session on the manifesto, 1630 – 1800 Monday in the main auditorium. This is designed to let people have a chance to say what they thought of the manifesto. It’s particularly important because if there is another snap election in the not too distant future, then the Federal Policy Committee will have to produce another manifesto without going through the pre-manifesto consultation stage they would normally employ. So it’s particularly important for people to let us know what they thought of this one and make suggestions for how it could be done in the future.

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Liberal Democrats need a distinctive message

When I was blown up in Iraq I knew I had to join the Liberal Democrats. The party needs to find its purpose again.

There was a brief silence after the bomb blast. Then shouting, nervous laughter. The Iraqi policeman I had been meeting pointed at the shattered window and stammered, “Shay aadi,” a normal thing. We were both uninjured, but I learned later that several guards had died outside the building. It was 2005 and I was in a Baghdad. Car bombs were normal. As I left the building I noticed a severed, charred hand on the ground.

I was working on a security assistance project. I had been an “on-balance” supporter of the 2003 invasion and felt that it could leave Iraq a better place. But after the realisation that the coalition had lost control, I knew that we had unleashed a terrible whirlwind. The existence of Islamic State now is a direct consequence of the 2003 invasion and its aftermath.

Later that day as the shock of the bombing began to fade, I went online and joined the Liberal Democrats. This was the only party that had taken the correct stance on Iraq. It had done so in the face of media hostility and accusations of a lack of patriotism. But it wasn’t just about Iraq: in 2005, after eight years in power, Labour had done little to tackle inequality and continued to promote international finance as the best engine of economic growth; Vince Cable had started to raise concerns over the unsustainable credit boom as early as 2003. And Labour continued to cling to an unfair electoral system and an appointed legislature stuffed with cronies.

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Strategy Consultation paper – there’s something important missing

 

One thing I absolutely love about being a Liberal Democrat is the involvement we members have in formulating, developing and approving policy. This open and transparent process not only chimes with our values but also is a marvel to behold. At York last month, my first ever time at a conference, I voted in important policy proposals ranging from faith schools to nuclear weapons and partook in a consultative session on economic policy.  Nonetheless I feel this whole process is in danger of failing us.

A fast changing political environment needs a fast policy making process

In times past there was a reliable 4/5-year cycle all culminating in a general election. In the intervening period the party could spend time ruminating and developing policy. Unfortunately we no longer live in normal times. The tectonic plates of politics are shifting not only in the UK but also around the world. If we really want to redefine British politics and replace the old left/right dichotomy with a choice between open and closed then we need to be much more nimble.  The political environment no longer gives us the luxury of an extended period of reflection and policy consultation.

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

European liberals to debate what comes after Brexit

alde-congress-2016Yesterday, members of the Party’s delegation to next month’s ALDE Party Congress in Warsaw, Poland, met to discuss the draft resolutions as submitted from liberal parties across the European Union and beyond.

Naturally, there will be much discussion on the future of the European Union post-Brexit, and resolutions on the subject have been submitted not only by the Liberal Democrats, but by our sister parties in Germany, the Czech Republic and Sweden, amongst others. It is noteworthy that Liberalerna (Sweden) call for;

a balanced deal for both the EU and the UK… which does

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

The UK and the rapid deterioration in global security

Members of the Nuclear Weapons Working Group are presenting their personal views as part of a wider consultation process into the party’s future policy on nuclear weapons. The full consultation paper can be found at www.libdems.org.uk/autumn-conference-16-policypapers and the consultation window runs until 28 October. Party members are invited to attend the consultation session at party conference in Brighton, to be held on Saturday 17 September at 1pm in the Balmoral Room of the Hilton.

Trident

UK nuclear defence policy does not exist in isolation. As the Lib Dem’s Nuclear Weapons Working Group Consultation Paper makes clear, nuclear defence policy exists in the context of the UK’s broader policy on defence and foreign policy. Changes to Lib Dem nuclear weapons policy are best seen in the context of a changing defence and foreign policy environment.

From a UK perspective, the key recent shifts in the foreign and defence policy context include the continuing economic and military rise of China (and our Allies’ response to this), the adversarial turn in relations with Russia, and the rise of IS in the Middle East – together with its effects on Western Middle East policy, NATO and Turkey.

The most significant change in the foreign and security policy landscape for the UK concerns China and its relationship with the US. Up until 2013 China pursued what they called a ‘peaceful rise’ policy; rapid economic development avoiding involvements in conflict.

This changed with the new leader Xi Jinping, who, for example, announced the ‘String of Pearls’ policy, otherwise known as the ‘maritime silk road’.  This is a string of Chinese-controlled ports and associated inland infrastructure that dots the world’s trade routes, with economic investment closely followed by military investment; for example in Pakistan/Afghanistan, Djibouti/Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka.

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Jenny Willott writes…Mending the Safety Net – our proposals for reforming working age social security

Since last October, I have been chairing the Social Security Working Group, which has been taking a fresh look at party policy in this area.  We had a wide ranging remit covering all aspects of working age social security, from supporting people with disabilities to tackling child poverty.  We have now published our policy recommendations: it has been a big challenge, but thanks to a working group of passionate, talented people, ranging from experienced policy makers to new enthusiastic party members, I think we’ve produced a paper of which Lib Dems can be proud. You can find Mending the Safety Net here.

I thought it would be helpful to set out some of the key things we are proposing.  We heard a lot of different ideas and proposals from party members, experts and NGOs, and have sought to propose policy that is liberal and distinctive, but which, crucially, could make a real and practical difference to people’s lives.

Reducing child poverty

From the outset the group agreed that reducing child poverty should be our priority. We know that a child growing up in poverty will already be attaining less than their better off peers by the time they start school, they will be bullied more, have poorer health and are less likely to leave school with five A* – C GCSE passes. We felt strongly that it should be a real priority to tackle the barriers created for children that grow up in poverty.

Unlike when Labour first came to power, the majority of children growing up in poverty now do so in households where at least one person works. That’s why one of our key recommendations is to introduce a second earner’s allowance to Universal Credit. This could transform the lives of many children by dramatically increasing the amount of money going to some of the lowest paid families in our country. We also want to see an increase of £5 a week to the child element of Universal Credit for the first child in a family to help new families afford the high costs associated with a first child.

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Last chance to shape Lib Dem policy on liberty and security and social security

When should the state be able to collect data about you? Should you be able to be tried in a secret court and not informed of the evidence against you? How can we make sure that our social security system is sustainable and needs-based?

The party is currently trying to answer these questions with two consultations, one on liberty and security and another on social security. They have been seeking input for some time from party members, charities and NGOs and members of the public.

Today is the last day that you can give your opinion before the two working groups draw up their final proposals which will be debated at Conference in Brighton in September.

Each will take you 10 minutes. It is worth it to have a say on these important issues.

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What’s your vision for a truly Liberal Britain?

Your Liberal BritainWhat would a truly Liberal Britain look like, and what improvements would it bring to people’s lives? You can help shape the party’s vision by writing a post for Lib Dem Voice of around 500 words in response to that question.

We all know the Lib Dems exist to create a society based on liberalism and social democracy. We call it Liberal Britain for short. But what would it actually look like?

When I joined the Lib Dems last year, I knew that many of my friends didn’t know what the party stood for. Chatting with other newbies at Lib Dem Pint and at Conference in Bournemouth, we knew this was one of the reasons why last May was such a disaster. Talking together, we realised how hard it can be to explain liberalism: to really get it across to people. Liberalism and social democracy can seem abstract, philosophical.

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Making Liberal Democrat Policy – the Calderdale Solution

Flick through a Federal or Yorkshire Regional conference agenda these days and it’s likely that you’ll see Calderdale as the sponsor of several motions or amendments. This article shows how we’ve made that happen:

The short version for those who just want the how and not the why

  1. keep policy and admin totally separate,
  2. always involve people at every step of the way,
  3. have a definite aim to a definite deadline,
  4. have visible outcomes so people can see they are making a difference, and
  5. always make sure there is food/drink at every event.

The longer version: when I took over as chair of Calderdale one of my main frustrations was that most exec meetings went on for hours and hours and would get bogged down in policy arguments (as well as other off topic rambling discussions). It’s not that I don’t like policy arguments and rambling off topic discussions – I love them – it’s just that an exec meeting is not the time or place to be having them. Exec meetings should be about getting the boring admin stuff done and out of the way as quickly as possible.

When I mentioned this to him, Alisdair Calder McGregor recalled a solution that had been used in a couple of other local parties he’d been involved with, to greater or lesser effect: if you hive off policy to a policy working group then exec meetings go much better. So Calderdale’s policy working group was originally formed purely as a device to speed up exec meetingsWhat makes it so successful is a different story.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Agenda 2020 at conference: your chance to have your say

We’ve written here before about the Federal Policy Committee’s ‘Agenda 2020’ exercise – a major consultation within the party on Liberal Democrats’ basic beliefs, values and approaches. Our political philosophy is the backbone around which we build our policies on specific issues, and a vital part of our fightback.

A short consultation paper, Agenda 2020, and an accompanying set of essays setting out the personal opinions of a range of individuals within the party are both available on the party website.

The paper sets out a brief description of the Liberal Democrat philosophy and outlines the policy challenges the country, and the party, will face over the next five years. Responses to the paper can be submitted via the website, but we are also discussing it at two consultative sessions during the Bournemouth conference. Each of them will give you an opportunity to give us your thoughts on what’s in the paper, what you like, what you don’t like, and what’s missing.

It’s not terribly obvious from the conference agenda how the sessions will be run, so we thought it would be useful to outline them here.

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Why it’s worth being a member of the Liberal Democrats

The New Statesman is doing a series of features on membership of political parties. They feature Lizzie Jewkes, who was responsible for the current incarnation of the policy of raising the tax threshold. “Meet the ordinary political party member who will cost the Treasury £4 billion a year” says the headline:

She was in the auditorium during Nick Clegg’s first conference as leader of the party, in 2008. He mooted that £20bn of savings could be spent on reducing the rate of standard income tax.

“We all duly voted for this,” Jewkes explains. But discussing Clegg’s idea with a friend and fellow party member, Jewkes concluded they should be using those savings to raise the income tax threshold instead.

“It’s like a lightbulb went on,” she says.

Later that year, when Vince Cable – then the Lib Dems’ Treasury spokesperson – visited a regional conference Jewkes was also attending, she ran her idea past him. “He came as a keynote speaker and I just nobbled him when he was having a cup of tea,” she laughs.

“I said to him, ‘is there any reason we don’t do this?’ and he said to me, ‘ah, that’s my ultimate dream.’”

Jewkes wrote her idea up as a policy motion and submitted it to party conference in the summer of 2009. The party didn’t even wait until that conference to announce it.

“The next thing I know, Nick is on the news saying, ‘we have a new tax policy – first £10,000 tax-free’ And I thought ‘hold on a minute…’” says Jewkes of first discovering her policy had been taken on.

“I was just completely astonished,” she recalls. Yet she still never imagined it would become government policy.

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Opinion: Principles before policies

Liberal Democrat Conference 2011Long ago, I stood at the podium of party assembly in Blackpool and asked our parliamentary spokesman on economic affairs, then Richard Wainwright, what he and his colleagues were doing to advance the party’s policy of zero economic growth. (Yes, we had such a policy once.)

I learned two things from that. One, ask my own darned questions not ones the organisation I represented (what was then the Union of Liberal Students) thought to ask. Two, try not to create an opportunity for deserved ridicule. This was 1981, and the next day The Guardian’s sketch writer had a fine time suggesting the answer should have been “We’ve succeeded. No growth. Mass unemployment. We’ve done it!  And then some.”

The point, of course, is that while policies matter they are tactical devices for delivering strategic results. I have no idea why we thought zero growth was an economic policy worth pursuing, and I’m willing to bet the parliamentary party thought the idea both quaint and highly irritating. But there we were spending our time on a policy that was of no possible consequence given the depredations being loosed upon the country and that could not possibly have helped advance any of the principles it might have been intended to address. All we did was provide easy fodder to a paper that didn’t need it and cause an honourable man to have to waste his time.

Posted in Op-eds | 15 Comments

A sneak preview of the Scottish Autumn Conference Agenda

This year’s Scottish Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference takes place much later than usual. It’s been delayed by the Referendum and will take place in Dunfermline on Saturday 22nd November. There’s just about enough time for Presidential candidates to come and chase some last minute votes.

The preliminary agenda has just been published and it’s busy. Six policy debates, two keynote speeches, a  devolution discussion, a thank you reception for our former MEP George Lyon and two lunchtime fringe meetings crammed into one day.

The policy motions include:

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Conference Preview 2014: The Pre-Manifesto Debate

libdemmanifesto 2010 wordleI thought it might be an idea to get some discussion going about the key Conference debates which are now just days away.

Arguably the most important of these is the motion on the Pre-Manifesto. It’s our shop window to the country, the cornerstone of everything we say or do between now and May.

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Changing the way Liberal Democrats develop policy – some thoughts from the country

Nearly two years into the Coalition, and with the Health and Social Care Bill now on its way to Buckingham Palace for Royal Assent, now seems a good time to reflect on the future of ideas within the Party.

There will be those who will wonder why a self-confessed bureaucrat, not known for a yen for policy wonkery, would be worrying about such things. And I guess that they would have a point. But from a process perspective, I suggest that the way that we make policy is now flawed.

At the moment, the hub through which virtually all policy passes is …

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Liblink: Duncan Brack on how to get green policies implemented in Government

Until recently, Duncan Brack was Chris Huhne’s Special Adviser in the Department of Energy and Climate Change. He has written for the Green Alliance blog about the challenges of putting green policies into practice. As well as insight into the practical realities of Government, he has some interesting points to make about the importance of policy making within political parties and how it might need to change in the future:

The coalition agreement hammered out by Liberal Democrat and Conservative negotiators over five days of talks in May 2010 (with details added over the following two weeks) became, at least in

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The path to 2015 should be one guided by our principles, not by doubt

Before the Christmas break, I produced an article on Lib Dem Voice about how the EU veto could and should be the first step of many where our party expresses its individuality in coalition loud and clear. After this blog I saw many opinion articles about where we stood on various issues. The conclusion? Varied.

Let’s just take one example – tuition fees. Some of us think we will be congratulated at the next General Election for making the loans system fairer. Wrong. While ensuring that up-front fees are in the past and protecting graduates by asking no one to

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Does a political party really need a manifesto or… what is policy for?

On Saturday, I found myself in an all day meeting of the strategic body of a campaigning organisation, and I found myself thinking something that hadn’t previously shown a fin in the ocean that is my political consciousness – is having policy spelled out to the nth degree really a good way to run a society? Indeed, how many people care about the details?

I am a member of a political party, and therefore have more of an interest in ideas of governance than most. But, like most members of political parties, I have an awareness of our policies, rather than …

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Opinion: Public services and tax policy

Nick Clegg shocked me when he said that the UK fiscal deficit is increasing by £400m every day.

Since then we have had a broadly fiscally neutral budget from George Osborne, intended to stimulate the economy. True, VAT rose to 20% but in other ways, this was a give-away budget. VAT is a regressive tax, which we all have to pay, when we buy what we need, whether we can afford it or not. There should be lower rates for household essentials such as fuel. There should be no VAT on the first £1,000 of fuel bills.

The income tax …

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Everything you ever wanted to know about… Policy and the Parliamentary Party (part 2)

(This is the third column from Lib Dem Voice’s Party Bureaucracy Columnist Mark Valladares – for Part 1 see here.)

Ah yes, the Federal Policy Committee, or FPC for short, a body of twenty-nine members, consisting of Nick Clegg, as Leader, one other MP elected by and from the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons, one MP each elected by and from members of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons representing constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales respectively; one Peer elected by and from the Parliamentary Party in the House of Lords; one MEP elected by and …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged | 10 Comments

Opinion: Why we need an impact assessment of drugs policy

Yesterday, Labour MP and former minister, Bob Ainsworth came out strongly against drugs prohibition. He proposed an “Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act”, an “independent, evidence-based review, exploring all policy options” which was welcomed by Lib Dem MP Tom Brake. This is precisely one of the things that the Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform (LDDPR) are calling for and I’d therefore like to give an overview of why an impact assessment is needed and is something that all can support.



1. One has never been done despite strong reasons for concern
Back in 1971, there were no ‘impact …

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