Tag Archives: polly toynbee

Polly, the Liberal Democrats are on the case already

In the Guardian on Tuesday (February 27) Polly Toynbee wrote a powerful Opinion piece entitled (in the print version), ‘The Tories have miscalculated: Britons do care about poverty’. Quoting the Institute for Public Policy Research’s figures, that despite the increase in the local housing allowance from April, more than 800,000 renting households receiving housing benefit will still have to fund the gap between their rent and their benefit, Polly also cites a new Action for Children report finding that many families are falling below the breadline, even when both parents work full-time on the minimum wage.

‘The gap between what universal credit provides and what a family needs to survive is growing by the month’, she reports, with Citizens Advice apparently counting 5 million people trapped ‘on a negative budget’, with incomes that will never cover their bills, and 2.35 million going hungry. This ‘national emergency’, so named by the Child Poverty Action Group, has escalated sharply in the last two years.

It was in the York Spring Conference last year that our party passed motion F12, ‘Towards a Fairer Society’. This was based on the policy paper 150 of the same name, drawn up by a party policy working group in the previous winter. The motion states that Conference welcomes the paper’s proposals to ‘End deep poverty, including a radical overhaul of the welfare system, so no family ever has to use a food bank in Britain, by

  1. Taking immediate steps to repair the safety net, including restoring the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, introducing emergency grants (not loans) and stopping deducting debt repayments at unaffordable rates and
  2. Following this up in the longer term with fundamental reforms to the welfare system’.

Conference then decided to introduce a Guaranteed Basic Income by increasing Universal Credit to the level required to end deep poverty within a decade and removing sanctions. It was already party policy to remove the benefit cap.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 50 Comments

Benefits sanctions: what should happen when guidelines and reality are at odds with each other?

Benefits-welfareBack in April, I wrote about how the overuse of benefits sanctions appeared to be at odds with the Department of Work and Pensions guidance which was actually quite reasonable and gave decision makers some flexibility to take things like poor mental health into consideration.

Both the use and the penalty for even a minor infringement of the rules have been dramatically increased in the last couple of years. It’s worth noting that the minimum period of benefit loss is now 4 weeks. Given that the maximum help you can get from a food bank is 3 days’ food, 3 times a year, you can just imagine how much incredible hardship this can cause. You would think that a decision maker would take very seriously the consequences  of imposing a sanction and only do it when the circumstances were clear cut.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 27 Comments

The welfare debate and the age of the trollemic

I decided to invent a new word yesterday:

It’s the welfare debate that’s prompted it, but it could be any other topic on a given week.

daily mail philpott front pageYesterday saw the Daily Mail publish a typically sensationalist front page blaming the welfare state for the tragedy of six children being killed by their parents. On Monday the Mirror shouted ‘Shameful’, with a cartoon showing Thatcher, Cameron, Osorne and Clegg banging in the final nail of a coffin marked ‘RIP Welfare’.

Each is exaggerating to make their own point. Both are gross over-statements: trollemics.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , , , and | 26 Comments

Eastleigh by-election: your essential round-up of the latest campaign news (12 Feb)

Here’s a round-up of news from the past 24 hours in the Eastleigh by-election…

mike thornton eastleigh jon aylwinNick Clegg offered Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton his full backing on a visit to Eastleigh on Monday. Here‘s the Guardian report:

“I am confident we will keep hold of this seat but not because I say so but because the people of Eastleigh are telling us that,” said Clegg. Focusing on the party’s local dominance – it is the only place in the country where every councillor at district and county level is a Liberal Democrat – he said voters would focus on its “record of action” and said the party had “to be quite clear where our differences lie”. … Speaking after meeting students at the local college, Clegg said: “Cutting council tax, promoting more apprenticeships, creating jobs, protecting green spaces – those are things that Liberal Democrats haven’t just talked about, they are things they have actually done and it’s a record of which we are tremendously proud.”

It’s not just Nick Clegg who’s been doing his Eastleigh stint, though. Pictured above (with thanks to Jon Aylwin) is North Devon MP Nick Harvey out canvassing with Mike and some of his supporters.

Want to join the hundreds of Lib Dems who are doing their bit to help get Mike elected as the next Lib Dem MP for Eastleigh on 28th February? Here’s a reminder of how YOU can make a difference:

  • Volunteer to help in Eastleigh itself
  • Make phone calls for the party if you can’t get there in person
  • Give a donation to help fund the campaign.
  • Posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , and | 5 Comments

    LibLink: Simon Hughes – Polly’s advice to the Lib Dems is double-edged

    Simon Hughes has a letter in the Guardian today responding to Polly Toynbee’s article “Now is the perfect time for Liberal Democrats to wield the knife“.

    Simon writes:

    Polly Toynbee’s argument, like some arguments she has made before, is based on a false and misleading premise – that this government is embarking on some ideological dismantling of the state. This does everyone a disservice.

    Here are three reasons why: first, by the end of this parliament the government will be spending about £730bn a year, a full 42% of GDP and roughly the same as we did in 2008. Hardly back to

    Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 52 Comments

    Opinion: Land Value Tax – an old idea with lots of modern supporters

    Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations (1776) was an early proponent of land taxes as was that great radical Tom Paine.

    John Stuart Mill was an advocate and Henry George put the case in ‘Progress and Poverty’ (1879).

    The economist David Ricardo gave us the concept of economic “rent” – that land or property derives its value from scarcity rather than investment.

    In the debates before and after the peoples budget of 1909 both Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George argued strongly for the introduction of a land tax.

    The economists John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman recommended Land Value Tax (LVT) for …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 258 Comments

    Chris Rennard writes… Who will win the debate between Shirley Williams and Polly Toynbee?

    I spent some of last Saturday morning in the briefing session at the Lib Dem Conference with the Lib Dem parliamentary health team sitting just in front of Andrew Sparrow and Patrick Wintour (both of the Guardian) as Shirley Williams laid into Polly Toynbee’s account in their paper of a key amendment on the Health Bill. For those of us who are fed up with Toynbee’s ‘tribal’ attacks on the Lib Dems it was a joy to listen to.

    Andrew Sparrow wrote a great account of Shirley’s clear rebuttal of the Toynbee attack. He tweeted that, “It …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 23 Comments

    How the Guardian makes the news, then reports the news

    A nimble two-step from The Guardian:

    1. Polly Toynbee sends tweet encouraging all and sundry to take part in an open-access online poll being run by the BMJ.

    2. The Guardian reports result of said BMJ poll.

    Then only thing missing, alas, is:

    3. The Guardian then realises that reporting a voodoo poll which its own staff have been encouraging people to take part on is low grade self-referential journalism and pulls poll report.


    Hat tip: Anthony Wells

    Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

    Opinion: Theresa May’s cat – why we should be proud of our conference

    The vast majority of Lib Dems who attended autumn conference would agree with me in saying that it was a success. The mood surrounding the ICC Birmingham was unmistakably positive. The feared factionalism that had been predicted by some never materialised. But what really makes our conference seem amazing, in retrospect, is just how badly the respective Labour and Conservative gatherings have played out.

    Labour conference was up first. As the only major party of opposition this should have been a conference to remember for them. A year of riots, phone hacking and a poor economy gave them more ammunition than …

    Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 11 Comments

    Opinion: Get your facts right Polly

    In yesterday’s Guardian Polly Toynbee criticises “casual law-making by arbitrary diktat” in relation to the unseemly haste with which the Academies Bill is being shunted through the Commons. She claims the bill was “catapulted” through the Lords (where, by the way, we debated it for a full 31 hours!) and that there is now “no revising chamber: a redundant House of Lords whipped this Bill through with as little scrutiny as it will get in the Commons”. Wrong!

    Far from being redundant, the House of Lords obtained five important amendments and numerous significant statements on the record, one of them …

    Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged | 8 Comments

    The ideological background to coalition

    Richard Grayson (former head of policy for the party and one of the leading lights behind the Social Liberal Forum) has written a thoughtful pamphlet for Compass about the different strains of thought within the Liberal Democrats and what they mean for coalition government.

    The subtlety of some of Richard’s views mean you have to read the whole piece to do them justice, but a flavour of his interpretation of the so-called social liberal versus economic liberal difference is given by these extracts:

    One other point needs to be made about the supposed social-economic liberal divide is that for the vast bulk of the party, the issues concerned in the debate are not pressing. In a thoughtful blog, party activist and thinker Iain Sharpe said of a speech I gave in Newcastle in February 2009, ‘I wince a little when I read Richard Grayson’s reference to “two approaches” to Lib Dem policy, “Orange Book” and “social liberal”.’ Iain went on to say, ‘This makes me feel more uncomfortable as I, and no doubt many other Lib Dems, don’t fall neatly into either camp, and don’t find them mutually exclusive.’10 On that basis, I think Iain was right to criticise what I said. I am certainly clear that such a divide does not exist for most members. As I shall argue below, the party is relatively under-factionalised. Indeed, ‘Orange Bookers’ are a very small section of the party, probably a much smaller section of the party than New Labourites were in their party – and they were never large in number. However, as labels for the directions from which much policy initia- tive has come, I defend the terms. While the party’s policy and principles have been broadly social liberal, a clear policy drive has come from the direction of The Orange Book

    How then does this narrative help us to under- stand the way in which the coalition has been greeted within the Liberal Democrats? Why has there not been more internal opposition? In the first place, we must not underestimate the extent of tribalist knuckle-headed Labour opposition to a deal with the Liberal Democrats. John Reid and David Blunkett were the tip of an iceberg in a party where many despise ‘the Liberals’. Such people lining up to tell the media that a period of opposition would be best for Labour was a terrible disappointment for those Liberal Democrats who were openly calling for a deal with Labour.

    In contrast, the leadership has been able to put forward an argument, which finds much favour in the ranks, that the party is getting much from the coalition deal. All are agreed that the Conservatives offered much more than anybody would ever have imagined. As Polly Toynbee said of the coalition agreement, ‘There are policies here that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling adamantly, and wrongly, refused to contemplate so wedded were they to New Labour’s rigid caution, triangulating themselves to death.’ That not only involves major constitutional reform but also a strong green strand and the sweeping away of some Labour legislation which posed threats to civil liberties. The leadership has been able to claim some success in the budget on matters as such as capital gains tax.

    The most contentious section is where Richard argues that,

    What the party still does not seem to recognise, or at least accept as a problem, is that the coalition can also be best understood as the preferred option of a leadership grouping which since it took over the party has consistently sought policies which will reduce the role of the state and steadily take a centre-left party to the centre- right. The major debates in the past two to three years have seen the small Orange Book tendency in the party steadily whittling away at broadly centre-left policies on, for example, the level of public spending, the level of income tax and roles of local government in education.

    What I think Richard under-plays is the way the party’s attitude towards the state has changed not in response to different internal ideological views gaining ascendancy but rather in response to changing external circumstances. Given the huge expansion in public spending in the middle years of the Labour government, and the big expansion of central control in the early, middle and late years of Labour government, it is hardly a surprise that many who previously instinctively reached for more public spending and new regulations as the solution to problems now see both as having gone too far and a different emphasis needed instead.

    You can read the full pamphlet below:

    The Liberal Democrat Journal to a Lib-Con Coalition – Richard Grayson

    Posted in News | Also tagged and | 50 Comments

    Did you know that two-thirds of people don’t pay income tax?

    No, I didn’t either.

    But that’s what Polly Toynbee says:

    … it does nothing for the 62% of adults who earn too little to pay tax.

    Oh hang on, what’s this Lord Bonkers is saying?

    It’s not that 62 per cent of people don’t pay tax, it’s that 62 per cent do pay tax.

    How out of touch with the lives of ordinary people do you have to be to make a mistake like that and not spot it? It hardly encourages you to have faith in Toynbee’s judgement as a columnist.

    You think someone at the Guardian would have spotted it though.

    Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 28 Comments

    +++ Holy crap, the Guardian endorses Lib Dems

    Not content with publishing a letter from leading progressives, the Guardian tonight brings to an end its journey to a decision about which party to support.

    The article is here.

    General election 2010: The liberal moment has come
    If the Guardian had a vote it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. But under our discredited electoral system some people may – hopefully for the last time – be forced to vote tactically

    We can certainly commend them on their decision, and my headline shows my surprise at them taking this bold step. I think many people were expecting …

    Posted in General Election | Also tagged , and | 16 Comments

    Any Questions: it’s not just BBC Question Time that’s the problem

    We’ve covered before the habit of BBC Question Time of dropping a Liberal Democrat from the panel (three times in four weeks most recently) and also of loading up the panel with a far from politically balanced set of non-Parliamentarians.

    But it’s not only Question Time where that’s a problem. BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions? has a similar habit: the superficial balance is actually undone by a far from balanced set of non-Parliamentarians.

    Let’s have a look at the make-up of the Any Questions? panels so far this year:

    Number of Conservative Parliamentarians / candidates: 5
    Number of Labour Parliamentarians / …

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 10 Comments

    Conference round-up: the last 24 hours

    Here are the three main lines promoted by the party from conference to the media in the last 24 hours:

    • Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference unveils plans to increase the pay of Britain’s lowest-earning troops by £6,000, improve the condition of forces’ housing, and ensure proper medical provision for all personnel. The proposals, which would mean that no service personnel in the Army, Navy or RAF would receive less basic annual pay than a new-entrant police constable or development-level firefighter, would be funded within the MoD’s existing budget.
    • Liberal Democrat Conference has demanded an independent, public inquiry into allegations of British Government complicity in

    Posted in Conference and News | Also tagged , , and | 3 Comments

    Nick Clegg’s blogger interviews

    This morning a group of 10 bloggers interviewed Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. The questions ranged over a wide area and here are a few selected highlights:

    MPs’ expenses: Nick eloquently made the link between safe seats and good behaviour by MPs: “if you want to keep MPs honest, don’t give them safe seats for life … safe seats corrupt public life”. He said his one real regret over how he had handled the issue was not making the point more forcefully that whilst the party was not free of “blemishes”, no Liberal Democrat MP had been involved in the serious …

    Posted in Blogger Interviews | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

    Nick takes ‘The Toynbee Test’

    Over at the Guardian website, there’s a 16-minute video conversation between Nick Clegg and political commentator Polly Toynbee. You can watch it in full here.

    Posted in News | Also tagged | 8 Comments

    Compass want Lib Dems at its conference

    As a visitor to LibDemVoice you may or may not be aware of the work of Compass – the influential pressure group that campaigns for a more democratic, equal and sustainable world. Compass is about building a broadly based Liberal Left politics and as a Liberal Democrat activist we wanted to introduce you to our important work and to invite you to attend our National Conference on Saturday 13 June.

    We believe that both the Tory and Labour leaderships want to turn back as soon as possible to the failed politics of the pre-crash – both in terms of the old economy …

    Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and | 14 Comments

    Guardian endorses Lib Dems in Euro elections (more or less)

    Following the endorsement of its sister paper the Observer and its leading columnist Polly Toynbee, the Guardian editorial today all-but formally recommends its readers vote for the Lib Dems in this Thursday’s Euro polls:

    The case for supporting the Liberal Democrats is now very strong. Anyone who believes Britain should be an engaged member of the European Union – who does not believe scare stories about the Lisbon treaty and who wants to back a party that campaigns on this – should vote Lib Dem. So should anyone who cares about constitutional renewal. Nick Clegg’s party has ancestral

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 11 Comments

    Polly Toynbee: vote Liberal Democrat

    Things are indeed achanging in the Guardian Media Group. Sunday say The Observer unequivocally urge its readers to vote Liberal Democrat for the first time. And now Polly Toynbee is urging a vote for the Liberal Democrats in the European elections and in many local elections too:

    Throw out bad councils, and vote for Lib Dems in Europe
    The most consistently wise party on Europe, never flirted with Tory press populism, but that principled stand came at a high price. On the economy or crime co-operation, “stronger together, poorer apart” is a good Lib Dem pro-EU slogan. They best deserve

    Posted in News | Also tagged and | 16 Comments

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