Tag Archives: The Independent Group

Change UK peacocking threatens to let jingoists and the far right run amok

As a lifelong active member of the Dutch party “Democrats 66” (D66), I know how difficult constitutional, structural and cultural improvements of state (and European) democracy can be. My party had both improving national democracy (example: direct election of the prime minister who would lead the formation of the post-election coalition government) and direct European elections in its 1966 founding manifesto,

As anybody consulting Wikipedia can read, D66 was founded by a coalition of both members of existing parties (including an orthodox Marxist one) and unaffiliated, new citizens who’d become concerned that Dutch politics was stagnating and becoming oligarchic. (From 1963 until 1967, there were three different coalition governments on the basis of the 1963 general election results).

So, I can sympathise with the pride of Chuka Umunna over assembling a similar British party (wanting to renew the existing party democracy, solidly pro-EU feeling; assembled from active party members and concerned unaffiliated citizens) in Change UK.

We entered the Dutch parliament in 1967 with a spectacular 7 seats (of 150) thanks to proportional voting, but struggled to be heard for years.

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The Independent Group won’t explain what they stand for, but we need to

In February’s issue of Prospect, Chaminda Jayanetti asked: “We know what the Independent Group are against—but what on earth are they for?” They’re not going to give a clear answer any time soon. Why should they, when being all things to all people will draw in new supporters?

It’s different for us. What we believe has been consistently misrepresented for nine years. We have to explain clearer what are we for, if we are to correct this.

Some think we’ve become the party of Europe, the EU-KIP party. But that’s a short-term issue for the moment. We need to explain about what we are for on the other issues of key concern to the electorate.

In the Social Democrat Group, we’ve been trying to answer this question. To think about social democracy in the Liberal Democrats, and why we are social democrats.

For me, social democracy means three things:
1) Protecting and helping the vulnerable
2) Making this work for the whole electorate
3) Doing what works over the long-term

These are important, and they are in tension with each other.

Who the vulnerable are will vary. Someone may be rich and powerful, but if they are being mugged, at that moment they are vulnerable.

We need to be careful about what kind of help we offer. When asked, those in poverty sometimes define it as a lack of choice and a lack of dignity. In this area, I think the Liberal tradition has a lot to teach social democrats.

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LibLink: David Boyle – The Lib Dems should act decisively – and join the Independent Group now

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Over on the Guardian’s Comment is Free, David Boyle uses his first-hand experience of the Liberal party/SDP merger to reflect on the new situation with the Independent Group of MPs:

…this is what I believe Vince Cable should do. As soon as possible, the Lib Dems should join the Independent Group in parliament. I suggest this partly for the good of the independents. Joining the 11 Lib Dems (plus Stephen Lloyd, who resigned the whip recently, but who would surely then follow suit) would double their size and give them momentum. The new group would then be almost two-thirds of the way to becoming the third largest party (currently the SNP with 35 seats), and closer to the public funding attached for policymaking.

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We must learn from the past to reshape the future

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On 25th January 1981 former Labour cabinet ministers Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams issued a statement which became known as the Limehouse Declaration.  This was to herald a new beginning for British Politics and yet here we are 38 years later with a new declaration born out of the same frustrations with the British Political system.

The opportunity to change British Politics for the better is here again, and we can either shout from the side-lines or join the team and play the game, no matter how much that prospect might scare us.

If the coalition has taught us anything it is that we cannot change politics by aligning ourselves with the status quo, the Labour and Conservative parties exist to take turns in holding power and they will do everything they can to ensure that nobody wrests that power from them.  Our job is to make it impossible for any one party to ever govern alone again, and the only way we can achieve that is in common cause with other smaller parties.

In deciding our response to the Independent Group, we must now ask ourselves a very simple question: “Is it our ambition to replace one of the big parties or do we want to change British politics for good?”

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What policy platform can we share with The Independent Group?

The first area of campaigning on a common platform other than fighting Brexit might conceivably be a drive to alleviate child poverty in Britain once and for all.

Our party committed ourselves to that principle in the comprehensive motion Mending the Safety Net, passed at the Brighton Conference of 2016, which prioritised reducing child poverty.

Now Heidi Allen MP, one of the three ex-Tory Independents, who reportedly attacked George Osborne in her Maiden speech in 2015 over his tax cuts to welfare benefits, has lately undertaken an anti-poverty tour of the country with Frank Field MP.

A new urgency is required to tackle child poverty following a report last Wednesday, February 20, from the think-tank the Resolution Foundation, which states that child poverty is projected to rise by a further six percentage points by 2023-24 to a record high. It explains, ‘In our projection, the majority of children who either have a single parent, are in larger families, are in a household where no-one is in work, or live in private or social rented housing  will be in poverty by 2023-24.’ The report’s author, Adam Corlett, demands that the Government reassess the continuation of working-age benefit cuts which contribute to this dire projection, which comes despite the slightly more favourable present economic circumstances of household income.

We may therefore hope that our own Welfare Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP may eagerly pursue along with Heidi Allen an end to the benefit cuts, which are currently expected to last another year from April. However, the priorities of the current twelve Independents beyond stopping Brexit are less clear-cut, so far as they are yet known.

Posted in Op-eds | 28 Comments

20 February 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Dishonest of PM to say technical education is a priority
  • Extension of no-fly zone will not prevent future drone chaos
  • Radical changes are afoot in UK politics – Cable
  • Davey: Sajid Javid has big questions to answer on Shamima Begum decision
  • Lib Dems indicate hazards for driving abroad after Brexit

Lib Dems: Dishonest of PM to say technical education is a priority

The Association of Colleges has warned that there is a “real risk to the long-term economic prosperity of the UK” if the Government’s flagship ‘T-Level’ policy is not implemented correctly.

T-Levels, which are due to be introduced in September 2020 will be equivalent …

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TIG’s not it

When you are an active member of a political party, the amount of the infrastructure of your life that is embedded in it is colossal. My husband knows that we have a bird of liberty as well as a spaniel determinedly pushing its way between us when we try to grab some time together.

Our lives revolve round election cycles and meetings and protest marches. And this blog.

Most of my best friends are in the Liberal Democrats. To be honest, I think they would still be my best friends wherever our lives took us, but, still, I share stuff with them that if we were in different parties I wouldn’t be able to any more.

Making the decision to leave is difficult and painful and not at all easily taken.

So when I see people leaving the Labour Party when they have finally reached the end of their rope with Jeremy Corbyn, I know how hard it must have been for them. I respect them for having the courage to do so.

I like some of them a lot on a personal level and I have no problem with working with them on the areas where we share common aims.

However, I am underwhelmed by their statement of values on their website. Some of them are fine – just a bit motherhood and apple pie.However, parts of it made me cringe:

…the first duty of government must be to defend its people and do whatever it takes to safeguard Britain’s national security.

It’s a bit hawkish. I get that they are trying to get away from the spectre of Corbyn, but the first thing above all else, when 3 million of our citizens are about to have their rights massively downgraded and people have trouble putting food on the table? Really?

There are also some real deserving/undeserving poor undertones to it – and an echo of that awful phrase “hard working families.”

I think the thing that bothered me most, though, was:

We believe that our parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people.

I get that they are restating the obvious that democracy is a good thing, but you can’t say that politics is broken and then say that our way of doing it is best. How much more powerful would it have been if they had said, as we do, that our political institutions need redesigning and rebuilding so that people get the Parliament that they ask for. If they did, the country would not be in its current disastrous pickle.

I lived through the birth of the SDP 40 years ago and it genuinely felt exciting. They used phrases like “breaking the mould” and talked about pursuing a reforming agenda in every area of life. This doesn’t have that coherent approach. It’s like TIG’s members can agree what they’re against – the various circles of Hell in Corbyn’s Labour – but writing a coherent vision statement has not come easy. In some ways their statement is more cry of pain than beacon lighting our path.

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18 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Amidst the conjecture caused by the launch of The Independent Group this morning, it might have been easy to forget that there’s plenty of other stuff going on…

  • Lib Dems: Rail reform proposals signals change needed
  • Govt consultations on plastic must be followed by action
  • On short prison sentences, Tories say one thing and do another
  • Cable: Honda decision another hammer blow to the UK economy
  • Lib Dems will work with like-minded MPs – Cable
  • Statement on the death of Paul Flynn

Lib Dems: Rail reform proposals signals change needed

Responding to the release of the report containing the Rail Delivery Group’s proposals to the Williams Rail Review, …

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Is being purist consistent with building majorities for change?

I’ve been vaguely following the debate triggered by today’s launch of The Independent Group, and I have to admit to a tinge of despair. The competing stances of “we look forward to working with them” and “they’re not proper liberals and we shouldn’t touch them with a bargepole” are hardly unexpected, and there are people that I respect on both sides.

But, of course, I’m a bureaucrat, inherently cautious, and I’m older and wiser than I once was. So I find myself wondering, what is it we want, and how can this help us to get it?

Think of it as being …

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  • User AvatarMick Taylor 23rd May - 8:39am
    John Marriott. Mt wife and I abandoned the Guardian once it started telling lies about LidDems in government. We took the I for a bit...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 23rd May - 8:39am
    @nvelope 2003 You seem to have overlooked the Iran/Iraq war, the one with Kuwait, Yemen etc and the wars between Israel and the Arabs, Pakistan...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 23rd May - 8:27am
    The PM's statement on her Brexit bill did not include publication of the details. She intends to bring it to the Commons after the recess....
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 23rd May - 8:12am
    Interesting that most of the glitterati, who intend to desert their normal parties, Heseltine, Parris, Callow, Cashman, to name just a few, appear to be...
  • User AvatarChristian 23rd May - 8:05am
    I’d be amazed if Change UK carry on after this election. There simply isn’t room in our political system to accommodate them and surely MPs...
  • User AvatarYeovil Yokel 23rd May - 8:02am
    For me it's been a bloody awful 5 years, not 3 - it was the surge by UKIP and the loss of our LD MEP...