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Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Martin Thomas compared the rush towards Brexit to the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade. He also highlighted the huge cost of leaving the EU. Where would we find the tens of billions? The Government seems to have no plan on how to deal with this.

My Lords, the Telegraph reports today that the EU Bill for a Brexit divorce is €60 billion. It is made up of existing annual budget commitments until 2019, pension obligations and other longer term liabilities. The European Commission concedes that the United Kingdom should be allowed to offset against that Bill its share of the assets of the EU, perhaps between €15 and €20 billion, so we are left with a net hefty €40 billion or so to stump up as the price of divorce.

What does the Government’s White Paper say about this prospective liability? Absolutely nothing. Do the Government agree we have a price to pay? If so, how much? We do not know. This is not a poker game, and this is just one card in a whole stack of cards. The Government’s argument is that to disclose our negotiating position on any issue would harm our national interest. I do not believe for a moment that that is the reason for their reticence. If you do not disclose your hand, and keep your cards close to your chest, there is no measure by which the public can judge whether your negotiations are a success or failure. Whatever deal can be dragged out of the negotiations can then be termed victory. That is exactly what David Cameron did a year ago. The Government cannot be seen to fail. Where they create a desert, they call it peace.

My noble friend Lord Campbell of Pittenweem pointed out yesterday that if the deal goes pear-shaped, as we believe it will, the members of the public who voted for leave will look the other way, and everybody will blame the politicians. Yet Brexiteers heap scorn on our suggestion that the people of this country should be given ownership of the deal that is negotiated by ratifying it in a referendum. Let them own it. No, the Government say, “You gave us the mandate to start the process, so you must accept the result”. Well, fair enough. Press the Article 50 button and let the Conservative Party take the consequences. This is where I enjoyed the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, yesterday—I regret to say that he has just deserted his post. Like a good general, as Jo Grimond once reminded us, he marched his troops towards the sound of gunfire. There is no longer any point in attacking Her Majesty’s Opposition. It is rather like the fall of France in June 1941, when the leadership had deserted and left behind strong pockets of courageous resistance; the Free French have become Free Labour.

The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, spends his six minutes attacking the Liberal Democrats. He is a latter-day Earl of Cardigan, leading the charge of the Brexit brigade. He bellows at our Benches: “Yours not to make reply, yours not to reason why, yours but to do and die”. The Russian gunners thought the Light Brigade charged the guns at Balaclava because they were drunk. I think the Brexiteers are, for the moment, intoxicated, but merely by the success of their campaign. Unfortunately, it is we in Wales who will share the depths of their hangover.

Wales is a net beneficiary of European funding to the tune of £680 million annually. Importantly, EU funding is based on need, not on a calculation of population share, like the Barnett formula. For example, Welsh farmers receive £274 million each year in direct subsidies under the CAP. These are significantly above the Barnett share of UK receipts. It reflects the marginal nature and low incomes of much Welsh farming. Are the farmers going to receive this support after 2020? Will they face the destruction of their industry by cheap imports or by a trade deal with New Zealand, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cohen, spoke of a moment ago?

Take the support for the poorer parts of Wales. The European Social Fund is due to invest £800 million in Wales in tackling poverty, supporting people into work and increasing skills among young people and the most disadvantaged. Will the Government commit to replacing this funding after 2020? Take economic development. The current ESIF programmes are investing more than £1.1 billion in research and innovation, business, renewable energy and urban development in Wales. We have spent years creating a single market, removing barriers to trade, standardising our regulations and creating a level playing field for us all to serve a market of 400 million people. It is not good business to abandon it all. Progressives believe that it will lead to the impoverishment of the people of this country.

The noble Lords, Lord Forsyth and Lord Robathan, who indulged in some light skirmishing earlier today, are both right. We are the enemy—to Brexiteers, to Trump’s vision of America and to populist politics everywhere. We are progressives. We stand instinctively for co-operation, not conflict, in Europe; for universal human rights; for social welfare and the health service; for the solution of environmental issues across borders; and for a common standard of justice throughout Europe. We have been led along these paths by Lloyd George, Keynes, Beveridge, Attlee, Nye Bevan, Roy Jenkins and many others. The wheel will turn again.

Thirty-six years after Balaclava, Rudyard Kipling reflected on the aftermath of the famous charge in his poem “The Last of the Light Brigade”:

“O thirty million English that babble of England’s might,

Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;

Our children’s children are lisping to ‘honour the charge they made—’

And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!”

 

Neoliberalism & productivity

Feb. 26th, 2017 01:08 pm
[syndicated profile] chris_dillow_feed

Posted by chris

Chris Edwards says the privatizations started by Thatcher “transformed the British economy” and boosted productivity. This raises an under-appreciated paradox.

The thing is that privatization isn’t the only thing to have happened since the 1980s which should have raised productivity, according to (what I’ll loosely call) neoliberal ideology. Trades unions have weakened, which should have reduced “restrictive practices”. Managers have become better paid, which should have attracted more skilful ones, and better incentivized them to increase productivity. And the workforce has more human capital: since the mid-80s, the proportion of workers with a degree has quadrupled from 8% to one-third. Lplong

Neoliberal ideology, then, predicts that productivity growth should have accelerated. But it hasn’t. In fact, Bank of England data show that productivity growth, averaged over 20 years, has trended down since the 1970s.

Why?

It could be that neoliberal reforms did give a short-lived boost to productivity. I’m not sure. As Dietz Vollrath says, economies are usually slow to respond to a rise in potential output. If there had been a big rise in potential output, therefore, it should show up in the data on 20-year growth. It hasn’t.

Another possibility is that the productivity-enhancing effects of neoliberalism have been outweighed by the forces of secular stagnation – the dearth of innovations and profitable investment projects.

But there’s another possibility – that neoliberalism has in fact contributed to the productivity slowdown.

I’m thinking of three different ways in which this is possible.

One works through macroeconomic policy. In tight labour markets of the sort we had in the post-war years, employers had an incentive to raise productivity because they couldn’t so easily reply upon suppressing wages to raise profits. Also, confidence that aggregate demand would remain high encouraged firms to invest and so raise capital-labour ratios. In the post-social democracy years, these spurs to productivity have been weaker.

Another mechanism is that inequality can reduce productivity. For example, it generates (pdf) distrust which depresses growth by worsening the quality of policy; exacerbating “markets for lemons” problems; and by diverting resources towards low-productivity guard labour.

A third mechanism is that neoliberal management itself can reduce productivity. There are several pathways here:

 - Good management can be bad for investment and innovation. William Nordhaus has shown that the profits from innovation are small. And Charles Lee and Salman Arif have shown that capital spending is often motivated by sentiment rather than by cold-minded appraisal with the result that it often leads to falling profits. We can interpret the slowdowns in innovation and investment as evidence that bosses have wised up to these facts. Also, an emphasis upon cost-effectiveness, routine and best practice can deny employees the space and time to experiment and innovate. Either way, Joseph Schumpeter’s point seems valid: capitalist growth requires a buccaneering spirit which is killed off by rational bureaucracy.

 - As Jeffrey Nielsen has argued, “rank-based” organizations can demotivate more junior staff, who expect to be told what to do rather than use their initiative.

 - The high-powered incentives offered to bosses can backfire. They can incentivize rent-seeking, office politics and jockeying for the top job rather than getting on with one’s work. They can crowd out intrinsic motivations such as professional pride. And they can divert (pdf) managers towards doing tasks that are easily monitored rather than ones which are important to an organization but harder to measure: for example, cost-cutting can be monitored and incentivized but maintaining a healthy corporate culture is less easily measured and so can be neglected by crude incentive schemes.

 - Empowering management can increase opposition to change. As McAfee and Brynjolfsson have shown, reaping the benefits of technical change often requires organizational change. But well-paid bosses have little reason to want to rock the boat by undertaking such change. The upshot is that we are stuck in what van Ark calls (pdf) the “installation phase” of the digital economy rather than the deployment phase. As Joel Mokyr has said, the forces of conservatism eventually suppress technical creativity.

All this is consistent with the Big Fact – that aggregate productivity growth has been lower in the neoliberal era than it was in the 1945-73 heyday of social democracy.

I’ll concede that this is only suggestive and that there might be another possibility – that the strong growth in productivity in the post-war period was an aberration caused by firms catching up and taking advantage of pre-war innovations. This, though, still leaves us with the possibility that slow growth is a feature of normal capitalism.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

The party splits show Corbyn out of line with party voters

I love trackers because the same question is asked in exactly the same way each time the question is put so and as PBers will know I’ve regularly report the above BREXIT finding from YouGov.

The latest movement is all within the margin of error and we need to see further polling before any conclusions can be drawn but it does come out at a key moment politically with the Article 50 Bill going through the Lords.

I just wonder, and I know people will howl at me, if we are seeing the Tony Blair effect. Labour’s most successful leader ever might have a bit of a reputational problem at the moment but he is lucid in a way that none of the current party leaders are.

This was the first time the tracker question has been asked since he made his speech. To another question:

Government managing BREXIT well or badly? (YouGov)
WELL 33% -3
BADLY 46% +3

Mike Smithson


[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Roger Roberts pointed out that the most famous phrase from the campaign, the one which the Leave campaign’s director credits it with winning, the £350 million a week for the NHS, was a blatant lie and that alone justifies the people being given a vote on Brexit. He also added that the Government could not be trusted on its reassurances as it had already broken promises on refugees.

My Lords, when we are told that the people have spoken, we are referring to the one-third of the electorate who supported the Leave campaign. I would say that the people have not spoken. They were taken on a ride in a bus built in Poland by a German company. On its side it said, “When we are out of the EU, we will have £350 million a week to spend on the NHS”. That was the promise, yet in Arron Banks’s recently published book, The Bad Boys of Brexit, he says that from the beginning they knew that it was a blatant lie. One of the biggest donors, giving £5 million to the Leave campaign, has said that they knew from the beginning that it was a blatant lie.

If it was a lie, is it not possible that the result of the referendum was because of a lie on the side of a bus? In all probability, by the Leave campaign’s own admission, the referendum was won on a blatant lie. If that was so, we have every right to ask the people to consider it again when the time comes. It will determine the future of every one of us—our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This House can either go along with a lie or it can decide that we are going to stop this here.

People say that we can rely on the Government. I have heard it argued that we can sort out the minutiae of this. I hope that the Government’s promise to do this is firmer than their promise to bring 20,000 Syrian refugees to the UK and to provide a home for 3,000 unaccompanied children. I do not trust this Government to keep their promises.

The difference between 23 June and today is that we have a different Administration in the United States. When people voted, Obama was President of the United States. Today we have a very different presidency —a Trump presidency. Every day we recoil in disbelief at the news from the US, the daily edicts of an Administration who are totally unpredictable. We only have to go the other way—to Russia—and, again, we have questions.

I am not going to speak at great length but, at this time of tremendous instability in the US, in Russia and perhaps in other states in Europe, I suggest that this is the very worst time for us to weaken the European Union. We are the basis for stability. We have our faults. We know that the European Union has its faults, but our own UK Parliament and Government also have their faults. What could be worse than for us to withdraw from Europe? It could be the beginning of the unravelling of the European Union at a time when we need it more than ever before. I would urge this House, at every opportunity, to secure not only our own future but the future of other countries in the world by voting to stay, strongly committed, at the heart of the European Union.

 

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Barbara’s theme was the effect of Brexit on young people and businesses in her home town of Bristol and the need to recognise the worries of those who voted Remain and not to forget about them.

My Lords, I wish to speak about some of the issues that have been raised by people and organisations in my own city of Bristol. The first thing to say is that the moralistic argument that “the people have spoken” has a rather hollow ring in my city, where a large majority voted to remain in the EU. They have spoken too and they feel that no one in government is listening to them.

Bristol is a highly successful city with an economy driven by an innovative business community which is based on strong links with the EU, particularly aviation and its supply chains throughout the south-west. Through the partnership of its two world-class universities, it is also a test bed for technological and environmental development and a trailblazer in the creative, media, digital and microelectronic industries. It is Britain’s leading smart city and was the European Green Capital in 2015. Bristol is a city of small companies. Having read some of the case studies in a local chamber of commerce survey, I do not recognise the description that I heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish. The small firms in Bristol very much value working with the EU. Due to the skills shortages in this country many of them are dependent on recruitment from the EU and EU workers’ freedom of movement. They feel that the constraints that may be put in their way may well lead some of them to consider operating from Europe, where access to skills and freedom of movement fit much more with the kind of businesses they run.

Bristol is a city of young people. Many noble Lords have mentioned that the remain vote was much stronger among young people. There is a very strong tradition of internationalism in Bristol, which has a young people’s culture. It has one of the highest graduate retention rates in the country and is part of a very innovative, international culture, in partnership with EU countries and colleges. One thing that I have not heard mentioned today is the importance of those shared cultural heritages.

As an international port, Bristol welcomes people from other countries. It has many diverse communities and is not a homogenous city. We need to acknowledge that many cities, particularly in this country, are in the same position. When talking about divided communities, we need to think about the difference between our cities, which are sometimes defined as the economic powerhouse of our country, and other areas. Bristol is a city that welcomes people from outside the UK, and the distressing plight of the EU nationals there is a matter of great concern. The barriers that have been put in their way as they have tried to apply for residence are legendary. I had a group of them here yesterday. They told me that the form they have to fill in consists of some 85 pages. It is the longest of any EU country. For these people, many of whom have lived here for 40 years, worked here and paid their taxes, surely this is a most distressing state of affairs. Not only have barriers been put in their way, they have been subject to hate crime. Many of them tell me that they have lived here for 40 years. They came to this country because they valued its qualities of fairness, justice, constancy and a culture where they feel at home and where people from other countries feel welcome. Their experience since the vote has been quite the contrary. I spoke to people yesterday who told me that they are not sleeping; they are depressed, and their families are suffering as a result. All they want is reassurance—to know that they are welcome and will have the rights they have had over the last 40 years. I will most certainly support an amendment to the Bill that will give them those rights.

To come back to the argument that “the people have spoken”, when I talk to young people, more and more of them tell me that they are quite shocked to find that the only political party they have to support them is the Liberal Democrats. They have spoken to other parties and they are not—
That is borne out by the increasing numbers of people who are joining the Liberal Democrats for that very reason. If you read their reasons, you will understand why.

There was also a challenge to the point that somehow the punters are not interested. They are very interested in my city, and they were very interested in Richmond Park, where that was a key issue in the by-election. Maybe some people are not interested, but many are.

The outcome of the referendum was a huge shock and disappointment to people who have devoted their lives to co-operation and peace, internationalism, shared common values and beliefs. These will not be dismantled so easily. Despite this, we respect the right of others to differ. We do not say, “They got it wrong”; I know it is a jolly good phrase that gets passed around, just like “The people have spoken” and “Brexit is Brexit”, but we do not say that at all. None of us in this Chamber or in this country can know what the outcome of the negotiations will be. We also know that things will change. How many people on 23 June would have believed that Donald Trump would be elected? We know that circumstances can change, which is why we in this party are absolutely committed to the idea that people should vote and should have the final say on any deal that emerges. Two years is a long time—even a week is a long time in politics—and so much can change. As others have said, this started with the people, and so it must finish with the people.

 

 

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

David Chidgey spelled out some of the consequences of Brexit on our trading partners in Africa.

My Lords, from the Prime Minister’s 12 point plan, the clear intention is that the UK should be destined to leave the single market and the EU customs union. It does not require too much scrutiny to work that out. That is in order to pursue bilateral trade agreements with faster growing economies outside the EU. In considering this Bill, it is not therefore unreasonable to consider the impact on the economies of the countries with whom we trade within the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific groups and beyond.

In the Prime Minister’s 12 point plan, point 8 refers to the establishment of free trade into the European market through a free trade agreement, and point 9 is about concluding new agreements with other countries. It is blindingly obvious that this means that the UK will leave the EU customs union and the single market, while assuming it can establish a free trade agreement with the EU that is unlike any existing agreement.

I was fortunate to secure a debate on Africa and the EU economic partnership agreements—the EPAs—on 17 November last year, recorded in Hansard Volume 776. In his response to that debate, the Minister of State commented that UK leadership had secured,

“the world’s most generous package of market opening for developing countries”,

of which, 44 are in Africa, in which I have a special interest.

With Brexit, the Minister stressed that, while the UK remains part of the EU,

“we … remain governed by the EPA arrangements”,

and,

“all rights and obligations will apply, including our commitments to developing countries through the EPAs”.

He said that we enjoy,

“strong trading relationships with many developing countries, and we will look to strengthen those ties in future. That will be part of the negotiation package as we move forward”.

I repeat:

“That will be part of the negotiation package, as we move forward”.—[Official Report, 17/11/16; col. 1642-44.]

At the same time, the Government have set as a priority a target of increasing trade and investment with the Commonwealth, estimating that Commonwealth trade will surpass $1 trillion by 2020. However, until Brexit is completed, the UK is bound by EU regulations, which forbid members from negotiating trade agreements with others, including the Commonwealth nations. That is, of course, where the dichotomy lies—between ambition and reality, emphasising clearly why the outcome of these negotiations must be sanctioned by Parliament before any deal is ratified.

In its paper for the Commonwealth secretariat, well-known economists Mohammad Razzaque and Brendan Vickers confirm that,

“Once the UK has formally exited the EU, however, all rights and obligations under these various agreements will cease to apply”.

They also point out that, between 2000 and 2015, sub-Saharan Africa merchandise trade with the UK increased from $6.5 billion to $12 billion. Significantly, the same countries achieved far greater expansion in trade into the rest of the EU over the same period, with their exports far more than doubling—from just over $30 billion to $71 billion over the same period. Despite its relatively low market share of EU trade with Africa overall, the UK remains an important destination for countries such as Botswana—we take 40% of its exports here in the UK—while for Kenya we take 29% and for South Africa 26%. The impact of Brexit is bound to include a decline in exports to the EU from these and other African countries if the EPAs exclude the UK in the future.

Furthermore, any erosion of preferences in the UK market for the many current value-added products could have an adverse impact on the continent’s plans for structural economic transformation, as set out in the African Union’s development plan, Agenda 2063. More than 20 ACP countries face most favoured nation tariff increases on the value of their total exports to the UK, amounting to some $250 million. South Africa would have to pay the largest import duties, of about $80 million, while its neighbours Swaziland and Namibia would face a potential tax bill of 8% of the value of their exports.

As Razzaque and Vickers point out, there are a number of policy options that the Government could pursue for EPA countries. For the least developed countries, or LDCs, the UK could devise its own generalised system of preferences, or GSP, building on and improving arrangements for the world’s poorest countries. The UK could also reduce non-tariff barriers and introduce more relaxed and more generous rules of origin. It could follow the Australian and Canadian models, which require recipient countries to add only 25% to the local value for goods to qualify for duty-free access. A UK offer of trade preferences could extend to services in line with the agreed least developed countries waiver under the World Trade Organization, or WTO.

A key issue is whether the UK can accede separately to existing EPAs or whether it can install replicas for ACP countries that have signed the deals with the EU. The Government will have to consider not only whether the replication of EPAs is possible but whether it is worth pursuing at all.

As we can see, Brexit will have a profound and far-reaching impact on our trade with African countries, in or out of the Commonwealth. I look forward to the Government’s response in terms of negotiating Brexit with the EU prior to further deliberation by Parliament and before asking the people to endorse that decision.

 

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

One in five species on Earth now faces extinction, and that will rise to 50% by the end of the century unless urgent action is taken. That is the stark view of the world’s leading biologists, ecologists and economists who will gather on Monday to determine the social and economic changes needed to save the planet’s biosphere.
….
“Rich western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate,” said biologist Paul Ehrlich,

It’s obviously total bollocks therefore isn’t it?

“We want to build highways across the Serengeti to get more rare earth minerals for our cellphones.

Cellphones don’t particularly use rare earths, can’t think of any reason at all you’d buld a road across the Serengeti to get rare earths either.

Perhaps the distinguished professor and FRS means minor metals like tantalum which are used in cell phones but is just too ignorant to know the difference.

Not that that helps me with the Serengeti reference.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Dick Taverne looked at the nature of democracy and concluded that the people must be allowed to change their mind. He also spoke about parliamentarians having a duty to speak out against the country taking a disastrous course of action.

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Low, who is not in his place at the moment, I want to talk about democracy. I never thought that, one day, speaker after speaker in a Commons debate, on an issue of immense significance for Britain’s future, would announce that, although they believed that Brexit would gravely damage our national interests, they would nevertheless vote to leave because the will of the people must be obeyed. They did not say, “Of course, we have to take the decision of the people very seriously, but in the end we have to make up our own minds”; they declared, in effect, that they were not in Parliament to exercise their own judgment but were delegates who had to vote the ticket of populist correctness.

Out goes the tradition of parliamentary democracy, with its checks and balances; out go Locke, John Stuart Mill and others, who created liberal democracy, which has been much admired; and out goes Edmund Burke, who argued that MPs were representatives, not delegates. The doctrine of Rousseau now rules in Westminster, that the will of the people must always prevail, a doctrine much admired by autocrats ever since the days of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety. With great respect to my noble friend Lord Ashdown, the idea that the will of the people equals democracy or the national interest is a fallacy. Before the Second World War, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin all commanded overwhelming public support and represented the will of the people. That hardly made them democrats or left their countries better off. Today Putin and Erdogan are among the most popular populists. They boast about their majority support. Are they democrats, even though they suppress dissent and trample on the rule of law?

Of course, the view of the majority matters. It is often, in my view, probably generally right but there have been times when the majority has been disastrously wrong. In 1938 Chamberlain came back from Berchtesgaden with a piece of paper, declaring, “peace for our time”. His message was almost universally acclaimed. Only a few dissented against the wish of the people. They were led by Churchill, who was denounced as a warmonger, a pessimist and, no doubt, a moaner. Then Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.

I fear that the vote for Brexit will turn out to be one of those occasions. If we are heading for disaster, we do not lie down and give up but fight to avoid it and point out the dangers of what we are heading for. If after the very short period for negotiations there is no deal or one that leaves us all much poorer, must MPs accept that we must still leave the European Union because the June vote requires them to act as lemmings? Mrs May graciously allowed Parliament a vote on the final deal, if there is one, but even if her deal is a very hard Brexit, Parliament’s only choice will be either to accept or to reject and fall off a cliff—no chance for the people to change their vote if they change their mind or because circumstances have changed.

In fact, circumstances have changed. We now know, as several speakers have pointed out, that curbing immigration is the Government’s first priority, not economic welfare. In addition, Mr Trump was elected President. The United States used to lead the world as the champion of free trade. Now it is “America First”. He threatens a trade war with China. His election, like the Brexit vote, encouraged every protectionist and nationalist in Europe. What price then for the Brexiteers’ promise of a bonanza of free trade? Worse still, having decided to abandon the European Union, Mrs May feels she must cosy up to someone who wants to destabilise the European Union itself, has doubts about the importance of NATO, seeks a new deal with Putin as a strong man he greatly admires, and who declares that torture is an effective weapon against terrorism because torture works.

The forecasts of most independent economists that we are now in the calm before the storm may prove wrong. So far there is no clear evidence of a significant shift in public opinion. If there is none before the end of next year, it is doubtful that Brexit can still be avoided. But if opinion does shift, because the economists are right and the pound falls further, inflation rises, employment suffers, more companies emigrate and living standards decline, or if increased dependence on the good will of Trump repels the public—a future symbolised by Mrs May and Mr Trump walking hand in hand—the June verdict must be open to review. Brexit is not yet a done deal. A new referendum will not be a rerun of June, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, because this time we will know what Brexit means. Its consequences will not be speculation but reality.

It is also said that the June verdict is irreversible. Dictatorships do not allow people to change their mind but in a democracy no decision is ever irreversible and if people feel they have made a mistake, they must be allowed to change their mind.

In her famous Bruges speech, Mrs Thatcher made a profound observation about Europe when she said that,

“on many great issues, the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice. I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone. Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence or in our relations with the rest of the world”.

Is now the time, in the Trump era, for Britain to leave and weaken the European Union, ourselves and our influence in the world?

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Sorry, but I hate john Naughton

Feb. 26th, 2017 11:40 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Estimates for private per-capita consumption from 1760 to 1831, for example, suggest that it rose only by about 22%.

I don’t think that’s true, I think we’ve a terrible mismeasurement problem there. But let us assume that it is and we can see why I hate John Naughton.

Because he’s diving into the economics meets technology bit, that’s fine, I do it a lot myself. But without understanding the economics he’s talking about, not fine. It’s the only there that grates.

Leaving aside the aftermath of the Black Death, fairly special circumstances, that’s the fastest growth in personal consumption per capita up to that date.That 70 years is almost certainly more than it rose in the previous 2 centuries.

And that’s a hugely important economics point. In fact, it’s the one we want to explain. 10,000 years of agriculture and the only time living standards rose was when everyone else die. Then something else happens an we get, for the first time, substantial, sustained growth in the living standards of everyman.

It’s actually “the” economic question. What the fuck happened and how do we make sure it doesn’t stop?

“Only”?

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Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Jeremy pointed out that out of nearly 200 speakers, only 3 were, like him, born after we joined the EU. He talked about how younger people would have to live with the consequences of Brexit, despite being against it. The Government’s hard brexit approach harmed their future.

My Lords, it remains a remarkable piece of good luck if you are born in our country and a remarkable judgment if you choose to make our country your home, but I am fearful about our union of nations and I am especially fearful for the views that our young people have about their future.

The Leader of the House and I have at least one thing in common: with our birthdays 18 months apart, we have lived all our lives in a country that has been a member of the EU. We are, I understand, two or only three Members taking part in this debate, of 190 speakers, for whom the UK’s membership of the EU is older than we are. The majority of the people of our country of our age and below voted to remain; the Leader of the House is in a minority. Britain’s youngest voters will have an average of 60 years to live with the consequences of the Government’s decisions in the coming two years. Sixteen and 17 year-olds—those with the most at stake—were denied a say, and very many of them are now frustrated that they are denied a voice. If with some good fortune I am now at the halfway point of my life, I fully acknowledge that I may need to come to terms with living in a country that I passionately believe is going on the wrong path. I may have to come to terms with that and we may not be able to turn back.

We use our best judgment in this House on legislation for the future’s interest, but we know that we cannot easily bind our successors. However, with this Bill the Government are explicitly telling us that we are binding our successors, who will be living with the consequences long after most of us are dead. So I refuse to be silenced on having a say if my say is different from that of the Government of the day, and I refuse to be intimidated about having a vote in Parliament on what kind of agreement is in the best interests of the country and its future. Indeed, as this is of such seismic importance, the people of the future—the next generations to come—should have a real say as to what is in their best interests, especially since we are now having to bear down on the reality of the commitments and promises, many of which were known to be mistruths, given to us during the referendum campaign. I am reminded of what Sir Walter Scott said:

“Faces that have charmed us the most escape us the soonest”.

We are now having to pick up the pieces for the next generation.

So far, the Government believe that the future is for them, and them alone, to decide. It was their decision that we should have no formal participation in the common economic market or a free trade area or the customs union or the regulatory bodies. These decisions were based on new Conservative Party policies—made only in months—and there was little mandate for them, not to mention any cross-party consensus. As I say, these were seismic choices made by one party according to what it defined as the will of the people. A Government elected by not even 25% of the electorate made choices based on a referendum won by a narrow majority of those who voted but a minority of the electorate as a whole.

The Government have set extreme parameters which months earlier they argued passionately would be highly damaging to the country. I agreed with them then and still agree with their previous position. The recent White Paper is weak in comparison with its pre-referendum predecessor. The economic facts and realities have not changed. Indeed, the challenges ahead are immense, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, that some are perhaps insurmountable. How unkind history would have been if Keynes had been reputed to have said, “When I change my mind, I change the facts. What do you do, sir?”

The Government are approaching this alone, and they should not do it alone. In Scotland after the referendum I saw—as we all knew it would—that a winner-takes-all approach would be wounding and perpetuate a deep division in the country, which is hard to heal and continues to be hard to heal. That is why there was a Scotland Bill as a result of cross-party consensus and a commission, with a radical transfer of fiscal and welfare powers after it. But even with the Scotland Act, many people in Scotland on the losing side of referendum feel aggrieved. In many respects, the response by the Government to the EU referendum simply confirms the suspicion that we now have a UK Government which is effectively an English Government playing for an English audience. They play the lines of the unionists when it suits the play, but when they retire for the curtain call the real personality of their character as an English-only party comes to the fore. “Party first” will not do now. You respect the result of a referendum not by courtesy but by action.

What has been quite hard to accept in the debate so far has been many on the government side saying that they would not even countenance the people having a say on the deal. I ask myself why the Government have not ruled out a second Scottish referendum. All of the rhetoric in this debate suggests that they would never countenance a referendum after the previous one for Scotland—when the margin was much stronger and the issue much clearer—but the Government do not say this. They say that the people have a right to decide, and in fact, in confidential briefings to the press before Christmas, the Scotland Office floated the idea that it may well consider another referendum, but only after a Brexit deal is arranged. Is this perhaps for political imperatives? We cannot afford political imperatives any more.

People of my age and younger, who will have to live with the consequences of the next two years for the rest of their lives, and perhaps come to terms with this in the context of a whole different world order, will perhaps agree with the American comedian and commentator who came up with the term “truthiness”: the notion that if I feel something to be true, it must be legitimate. This may well be the new Trump doctrine, but surely it cannot be the Brexit mantra. Our next generation will live with the consequences of this. They need to have a say on whether it is in their best interest, and I will refuse to deny them a voice whenever I have an opportunity to vote in this Parliament.

 

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Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Transport spokesperson Jenny Randerson made the point that it was going to be much more difficult to transport goods across Europe – giving the example of the 88 documents it took in 1988 to export something to Italy. At the moment it’s just 1, but if that increases, business will suffer.

My Lords, I start by making a point about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Robathan. I just want to clarify that the Liberal Democrats are not asking for a second referendum; we are asking for a first referendum on the outcome of the Government’s negotiations. I see nothing at odds with democracy in the electorate changing their mind. In my experience, they change their minds every four or five years.

I am a member of one of the EU sub-committees of this House, and week after week we take evidence from major British businesses. When asked what sort of trading arrangements they would like to see in the future, almost without exception they have said, “Something as close to what we have at present if possible, please”. They want, and indeed expect, the Government to honour the promise in their manifesto to remain in the single market.

We must accept the decision of the referendum but I will not accept the Government’s interpretation of that result. It was a clear result but a narrow one. Therefore, the Government’s winner-takes-all approach to the result is completely unacceptable. The 52% should be respected but so should the 48%. The Government are intent on ignoring the views of the 48% so it falls to this House to give them our full attention. The Government’s White Paper was one of the most depressing documents I have read in many years. The view expressed throughout it was that we are the best; that the world owes us a living. The fatal hubris shines from every page.

I speak on transport. Time and again I have heard the Secretary of State for Transport tell gatherings of transport professionals that all will be well because they need us more than we need them. What is not factored in is that there are 27 of them and only one of us—for each individual EU country, trade with us is a relatively small part of their economy. Our EU sub-committee has taken evidence from Ministers too, of course. Depressingly, they speak only in percentages and billions of pounds. They fail to speak of hundreds of jobs or of individual companies. I have no doubt that over time our industries will adapt to the change but individual businesses will go to the wall and there will be casualties along the way. Transport is heavily integrated across the EU. Across the various modes, from aviation to road haulage, transport businesses can operate freely from one EU country to another. We have a huge stake in this. We have, for example, the EU’s largest aviation sector and the Government cite this as a strength. In fact, it is a point of weakness. There is much for the rest of the EU countries to gain if we were to be removed from a fully competitive position. There is no reason why Germany or France, for example, should not mop up our markets if, for example, easyJet could no longer fly easily and freely from one EU country to another or within any individual EU country.

Trade in all industrial sectors stands on the shoulders of the transport industry. We cannot succeed if we cannot transport our goods or personnel. I remind your Lordships’ House that in 1988 it required 88 separate documents to transport goods from London to Rome. It now takes one document. If we go back even a few steps towards 1988 it will cost time and money and increase complexity. There will be a huge impact on our ports, on Eurotunnel and on the individual businesses and industries that create the goods that the lorries and so on are transporting. The Government talk of friends across the other side of the world, with exotic trade deals in China, South America and so on. The large shipping lines and airlines will adapt, but parts of the transport sector cannot adapt. For the bus operator taking tourists down the Rhine valley, for instance, a thriving tourist trade in China is no use at all. Ferries cannot operate on the other side of the world, across long distances. HGV operators can operate only with neighbouring countries, and Eurostar and the Channel Tunnel are pretty immovable. So for these reasons, the transport industry can cope with the single market but not a hard Brexit.

Across the world, countries trade most intensively with their neighbours. The reasons are obvious: distance costs time and money and makes your goods less competitive. Despite the vote on 23 June, we cannot ignore the realities of geography. The EU countries are our neighbours and it would be economic suicide to abandon them. We must remain part of the single market.

The Government need to see the reality of this. They need to recognise the dangers of a hard border in Northern Ireland. They need to recognise the rights of EU citizens living here and they must acknowledge that the referendum gave them the power to negotiate and not to decide our final destination. The voters must decide that.

This journey started with the people and it must end with the people. I will vote in due course for amendments that implement that.

 

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Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Defence spokesperson Judith Jolly continued on the theme of peace and security. She said that losing our place in the defence infrastructure of Europe would be harmful. She also made the point that the exchange rate changes since 23 June had added hundreds of millions of pounds to the cost of our defence imports.

Yesterday, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, spoke of the vision of what was known as the Common Market. My first vote was in 1975, in the referendum to remain in that Common Market. Although I was born in the 1950s, the war still cast a shadow. I was a young woman, newly married to a junior officer in a very, very much larger Royal Navy—one which could certainly cope east of Suez—and the idea of binding states in trade to avoid conflict appealed to me then, as it still does.

Britain’s withdrawal from the EU comes at a time of great global instability. Russia, resurgent and hostile, flies nuclear sorties through UK airspace, harasses NATO’s eastern flank and claims to be seeking a “post-West world order”. The American President expressed ambivalence towards NATO as recently as last Wednesday. Europe has been wracked by a wave of extremist attacks, and the chaos swirling in the Middle East shows no sign of abating. Against this bleak backdrop, the passage of this Bill will set in motion the greatest upheaval of UK foreign, economic and domestic policy in recent history. I submit that the triggering of Article 50 will also have—and, indeed, has had—a profoundly negative effect on the UK’s defence and security.

As I noted last July in this House, Brexit means losing our place in defence institutions such as Europe’s common security and defence framework. Last July, it was clear to us that the loss of access to these important networks might hold unknown risks to our ability to defend ourselves, but last July Donald Trump was not President and NATO did not seem any more at risk than at any time since the end of the Cold War. In difficult times, we must preserve our global alliances and friendships, and yet this Government have failed to provide assurances that they will work to preserve our key security links with the continent after triggering Article 50.

I would be grateful if the Minister could reassure the House that, in this hard-Brexit world, our defence alliances with mainland Europe have not been overlooked. Defence and security should not be bargaining chips to be pushed back and forth across the negotiating table; they are essential commitments which protect our citizens and those of our allies. We cannot allow our withdrawal from the EU to jeopardise or sour our security alliances, and yet the Government’s approach risks doing just that.

It is not just our European alliances that are at risk. Since the 23 June referendum, the pound has fallen by more than 20% against the dollar. At the end of last year, RUSI predicted that if the decline were sustained, the cost of Britain’s defence imports could increase by around £700 million a year. This means, in effect, a 2% cut in the purchasing power of Britain’s defence budget. Last month, a National Audit Office report on the MoD’s equipment plan found that the MoD had already eaten through the £10.7 billion of headroom built into last year’s budget to provide flexibility. That report found that,

“The affordability of the Plan is now at greater risk than at any time since reporting was introduced”—

an effect of the declining exchange rate.

There is, in short, a significant rising threat to the affordability of the defence of the UK. Despite the commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defence, the continuing capability of the British military to meet strategic objectives is far from guaranteed. Just last week, the International Institute for Strategic Studies reported that, in 2016, Britain failed to meet that spending commitment despite the Government’s 2015 pledge to commit at least 2% of GDP for defence for each and every year of this decade. These rising costs might necessitate a revisiting of the 2015 SDSR or else there will be a reduction in expected UK defence capabilities at a time when the world is becoming markedly less secure.

The Government will need to accept that the effects of Brexit on defence will require either a substantial rise in taxes or cuts to vital domestic services. If the UK Government cannot accept these options, they must admit to British citizens that their borders will be less secure and their security more uncertain; they must acknowledge that they have broken their NATO spending commitments at a time when NATO’s future is already uncertain. It is clear that, in just a few months, Brexit and this Government’s Brexit strategy have made the UK less secure and less well defended.

It is not clear, however, that on 23 June last year voters assumed these risks. Leave campaign leaders promised that Britain would reclaim its place on the global stage, yet Brexit has left UK forces less able to defend key interests and has seen the UK diminished within its network of alliances. Brexiteers promised more secure borders, yet our borders are set to become less secure against those who wish to do us harm. They promised us more money for services such as the NHS, but the Government might now have to slash those services if they are to defend our borders and interests in an increasingly unstable climate.

In short, while 52% of voters cast ballots last June for a departure from the EU, they did not vote for that destination. On matters of defence, that destination seems increasingly bleak. My noble friend Lord Paddick and other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, have said that the voters should have a final say.

 

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Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future.

As a former Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Brian Paddick knows his stuff when it comes to matters of crime and security. He talks about the process of inter-country information sharing taking weeks or months rather than instantaneously as present. So much for Brexit making us safer. 

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, is in his place, I will thank him for the opportunity to debate this legislation which we might not have had if he had not played such a good role in the Supreme Court. As our party spokesman on home affairs I want to make absolutely clear that I support the protection of the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK and of UK citizens living in the EU.

This afternoon I seek to make only one point and to use one example to illustrate that point. The British people did not know the full consequences of leaving the EU at the time of the referendum and did not therefore make an informed choice. They are entitled to a vote on the final deal. As the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, said, none of us, on either side of the argument, knew what the full consequences of leaving the EU were going to be at the time of the referendum—and, of course we will not know definitively until the negotiations are complete, although there are some things of which we are certain and which I will come to.

Let us be honest: no one, least of all the Conservative Government, thought much about the consequences of a leave vote because they never believed it would happen, as the noble Lord, Lord Darling, has just said. That is why the people need to decide, once they can make an informed choice, whether to accept the final deal negotiated by the Government. One thing is for sure: it is the people who started the process that will lead to the negotiations to leave the EU. Therefore, it is only the people who should decide, by means of a referendum, whether they want to go through with it once they have all the facts.

I come to my example. As the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal said yesterday, the Government’s White Paper sets out in detail the 12 objectives for the negotiations, one of which is to continue to co-operate with our European partners in important areas such as crime, terrorism and foreign affairs—the noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, clearly articulated how important such co-operation is. My noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire pointed out yesterday:

“The White Paper also pledges to maintain close co-operation on internal security, intelligence and crime, but without accepting judicial oversight of such sensitive issues. That will not be possible”.—[Official Report, 20/02/17; col. 30.]

A major plank of the leave campaign was to make the UK Parliament sovereign and for law to be decided by British courts. But, as I shall seek to demonstrate, essential co-operation with the European Union on issues of terrorism, serious and organised crime, policing and justice—matters that are the primary role of any Government to keep their people safe—cannot be achieved without ceding sovereignty. To be effective in combating terrorism and serious and organised crime, such as people trafficking and child sexual abuse, and to bring to justice criminals who flee from the EU to the UK or vice versa, there needs to be a mass exchange of information between the countries of the EU and the UK.

At the moment there are shared electronic databases, with more due to come on stream in the coming months. They enable a police officer who stops a suspect in the street in the UK to check instantly whether they are of interest to the security services anywhere in Europe and whether they are wanted under a European arrest warrant. Fingerprint and DNA samples found at the scene of a crime can be checked across the EU in seconds, minutes or hours, rather than in the weeks or months—if it could be done at all—that it would take using Interpol.

These EU databases are subject to data protection law agreed by EU member states. Compliance is overseen by the European Court of Justice. At the moment we have a say as to what these EU data protection laws are. When we leave the EU, we will not. If we are to continue to have access to these vital databases, we will have to comply with EU data protection law over which we will no longer have any say.

The Government have also said that they will no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. So who will adjudicate on our compliance with EU data protection law? The Government may say that there should be a bespoke body specifically to adjudicate on such matters, as it suggests in its White Paper. This will obviously duplicate the work currently undertaken by the ECJ. Who is going to pay for this bespoke body that will ensure that the UK complies with EU law over which we will have no say? One thing is for sure: it is not going to be the Mexicans.

The British people believed that we would be safer outside the EU. They believed that we would no longer be subject to EU law and that we would no longer have to pay anything to, or for anything to do with, the European Union. That is what they were told during the referendum debate, whether in good faith or not. The reality is that we will either be much less safe if we no longer have access to the information held on these EU databases, or we will have to give up sovereignty by complying with EU law over which we will no longer have any say. We will either still be subject to the ECJ or we will have to fund an alternative body to adjudicate on these issues. Not many people realise this, and even fewer realised it at the time of the referendum.

This is why we are proposing an amendment to the Bill which will enable the British people to decide on the final deal when they know exactly what the consequences of leaving the EU are. This is not necessarily because they were misled or did not understand, but because it is only now beginning to dawn on all of us what the full consequences are going to be. As the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, said, what is not democratic about giving the final say to the British people?

 

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Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Robin Teverson was the first Lib Dem peer to talk about citizenship and specifically the rights and freedoms granted to us by our EU citizenship that we are about to lose.

My Lords, I have tabled an amendment on Euratom. Contrary to what the Leader of the House said yesterday in her opening speech, there is no mandate to leave Euratom. It is not part of the EU and it seems that, as a country, we are in danger of cutting off our nose to spite our face for no reason in terms of an electoral mandate.

Today, I want to speak primarily about my great-grandfather, Samuel Miller. He was a master sergeant in the Middlesex Regiment in the late 19th century. I think that he served in South Africa but in the late 1870s he was posted to Dublin. There, he fulfilled his military duties and one year later, in 1880, my grandmother, Edith Blanche—later Leddra—was born. Because of that accident, I was able to take on Irish citizenship and indeed did so in 1996. I am a dual national. Therefore, after Brexit takes place, I will be able to have all the privileges of a European citizen, but that will not be the case for the 16 million people who voted to remain part of the European Union. Not just those with relatives who were born in other EU nations but those born in Ireland will also be able to decide whether to continue to have those privileges as European citizens in the UK beyond Brexit.

Perhaps I may remind your Lordships of some of those privileges. They include non-discrimination alongside other European nationals, the ability to move and reside without hindrance in European Union countries, the ability to work within the European Union, to establish a business, to export and to trade without red tape, the ability to have diplomatic representation, the ability to use our qualifications throughout Europe, and of course the right to healthcare and a European health insurance card when travelling in the EU.

I looked through the White Paper with a great deal of interest. As other noble Lords have said, it is not very long. Strangely, although there were a number of comments about reinforcing UK citizens’ rights in the rest of Europe, it said absolutely nothing about the 16 million of us who will be denied those privileges and rights through the vote of the 17 million. On that, there is a complete void. It is because of that that I feel that those 16 million who along with me voted to remain—I am not going back in history; this is just how it was—have been abandoned by this Government. It is not mentioned in the White Paper. There is no plan for us to retain those rights.

I have spoken with the European Parliament. It is my intention with other parliamentarians who have a similar concern not to negotiate with our own Government—I have no questions for the Minister today, because the Government cannot give what I am asking, nor do they have the power to do so—but to take a delegation of other parliamentarians to meet the rapporteur of the European Parliament and to ask it to protect those rights of our citizens either through membership or associate membership, and to try to achieve that where our own Government have clearly failed and have no interest.

 

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Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Sue Miller talked about her worries about peace and security and that Brexit would hasten the rise of nationalism and populism in Europe. She also highlighted concern for EU nationals and the distraction that Brexit causes from other issues which need to be dealt with.

 

My Lords, one effect of growing up as a post-war child was hearing the amount of discussion and determination among the political classes that we would never have another war in Europe. At the top of my list of worries about Brexit is that we shall see an insular, narrow-minded nationalism taking hold and turning us from an outgoing, internationalist nation into an inward-looking nation.

We have heard much in the past day and a half about interdependence, which has to be one of the keys when we think about what we should do next. Brexit is not all about trade, although to listen to the Government you might think that it was. I firmly believe that, first and foremost, it should be about peace and security. I agreed strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, when he said yesterday that endangering peace and security in Europe would be grounds to reject the deal. Incidentally, although I agreed with some of the speech made by Tony Blair, I thought it ironic he should tell everyone to rise up. When more millions than were ever seen all rose up and marched when he was Prime Minister, he took not a blind bit of notice.

Many of your Lordships will know that I spend a lot of time in France when I am not here. My experience of reaction to the UK decision to seek Brexit is that it has been one of extreme concern that it will accelerate the rise of extremist nationalist parties. That is happening all over Europe now. Europe and its member states therefore have many concerns and worries other than negotiating a Brexit deal with the UK. Those whose job it is will of course concentrate on it but, politically, any deal will have to be negotiated against a fast-changing political picture in Europe. It is not as though our negotiating partners will stay unchanged. By the end of two years the Europe with which we are negotiating will be very different. It may be a much longer timescale than the Government are thinking.

In the meantime, I worry what we are going to do about the day-to-day legislation we should be looking at. My noble friend Lord Bruce of Bennachie put it so eloquently yesterday when he said that day-to-day life will be sacrificed. We will be spending time on the great repeal Bill and not on all the other incredibly important issues. There are so many pressing issues in the area which I concentrate on in this House—the environment, agriculture and food—yet the immense changes that are going to happen as a result of Brexit will be a threat to our food quality, animal welfare standards, family farms and landscape. If at the end of this we have a hard deal where WTO rules apply, we will see our food production driven down to the lowest common denominator. It would be a disaster in so many ways. It would not be accompanied by lower food bills: another day-to-day effect will be people seeing those go up.

Over the course of this debate it has bothered me that in the Government’s mind there appears to be a direct trade-off between UK citizens living in the EU and European citizens living here. In fact, UK citizens living in the EU face 27 different sorts of issue and their position is not necessarily equivalent to that of EU citizens here. The Government should, therefore, settle the situation of EU citizens here—thereby creating some good will—but at the same time do far more to help British citizens abroad, who have been left with no information, not even a helpline. The Government could decide now to give much more information about the future to those people who have to plan to relocate and find new jobs, schools for their children and care for their elderly. This would be about not the result of the negotiations but what their rights are now. That has been put on the sidelines because of this so-called trade-off.

There has been much talk of patriotic duty: I believe mine is to try and do what is in the best long-term interests of this country. As my noble friend Lord Newby said at the beginning of this debate, it is unconscionable to sit on our hands. If there is no deal, or the final deal is appalling, or it threatens peace and security, there is an absolute duty on us as parliamentarians to call a halt. I hope we will amend the Bill in order that we can offer that safety net to the Government and the country.

 

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Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future.

As you would expect from Shas, who has done so much to speak up for and help refugees, she mentioned the border with France and asked what happens to the Le Toucquet agreement. She also pointed out the irony of Boris Johnson’s comments that Brexit would be like sunlit uplands. When Churchill used that phrase, he was talking about a united Europe.  

My Lords, as a signatory to the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I would like to draw attention to the impact of Brexit on the UK’s trade, aid and security policies relating to developing and post-conflict countries. Aid to developing countries is under attack almost daily by elements of the press. Just this Sunday there was a report in the Sunday Times about using Brexit as an excuse to divert aid to eastern European countries to buy their good will. Will the Minister give an assurance that Brexit will not be used to divert the 0.7% of GNI devoted to development aid and that only countries on the DAC list are eligible for ODA? The fact is that development aid fulfils an essential task: not only is it right to help the poorest in the world but it is essential if we are to reduce the factors that push people out of their own countries and, in desperation, lead them to seek shelter with us.

It is a pity that on leaving the EU we will not be able to influence its attempt to manage the largest mass movement of people we have seen since the Second World War. The Calais camp on our doorstep may have been demolished but the problem has not gone away, and refugees are returning to the region because they have nowhere else to go. Can the Minister say, now that we have declared ourselves to be on the road to a hard Brexit, what consideration the Government have given to the Le Touquet agreement between ourselves and the French, whereby they police our border on their soil and vice versa? Can the Government guarantee the border will not move to Dover?

I will return to the broader subject of the impact of Brexit on aid, trade and security in relation to developing countries at later stages. For now, I would like to talk about the rights and wrongs of the process by which the Government are taking us toward Brexit, which is the undeniable result of the advisory referendum, albeit with a very small margin. What is happening is the stuff of nightmares. It is unprecedented in British history to have both the Prime Minister of the day and the Leader of the Opposition on the side of extreme risk-taking. But how else can we characterise their willingness to enter Brexit negotiations with hard-line rhetoric seemingly designed to remove any vestige of good will towards us? The only option we will be given at the end of this do-or-die road is a vote to take it or leave it. Given that the exit options have the potential to change our country so fundamentally, surely it is only fair and democratic that we ask the people what kind of Britain they want to live in. The process started with the people; it should end with the people.

I genuinely do not understand why that is controversial. The only reason why anyone would oppose that that I can think of is if “take back control” did not include the people. Come to that, the Brexiteers did not want it to include Parliament either. Who is meant to take control? Them? An unelected Prime Minister? What happened to trusting the people?

There are those who say that it is the patriotic duty of Peers to wave this Bill through. If noble Lords do not mind my saying so, that is utter tosh, because what, then, is the point of us? It is indeed our patriotic duty to debate and scrutinise this Bill and any amendments it attracts. It is then incumbent on each and every one of us to vote according to what we believe to be in the best interests of our country—and hang the consequences.

When people voted to leave the EU, by and large they did not vote to leave the single market. During the Richmond Park by-election, I knocked on many doors. Many who had voted to leave last June also voted for the Common Market in 1972. They do not want the hard Brexit that the Government are offering them. That is why Liberal Democrats, with their clear message on fighting against a hard Brexit, against leaving the single market and in favour of safeguarding the future of EU nationals, were able to overturn a 23,000 Conservative majority against a popular local MP and send Sarah Olney to Westminster. Let me end this point by quoting Winston Churchill, who said,

“the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science”.

That was prophetic in 1940 and is perhaps prophetic again today.

Boris Johnson said that Brexit would take us to “sunlit uplands”, but my theory is that, as we plod our weary way uphill and look back on the grassy meadows bathed in mellow light that we leave behind, we will hear the curfew toll the knell of parting ways. I hope that noble Lords will pardon my taking liberties with Gray’s Elegy, but it is not as grave a liberty as that taken by Boris Johnson in his shameless parody of Churchill’s words. The “sunlit uplands” that he referred to were those of a united Europe, which our Government seem content to put at risk.

 

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Shas Sheehan concentrated on the cake and the eating of cake that is inherent in the Government’s position – and points out that Government is unlikely to get what it wants. She looks at the effect on trade and universities.

My Lords, with 190 of us speaking, there are about 23 of us for every line of this short Bill, but that shows how important the Bill is. There were powerful speeches yesterday, including from the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, who spoke at 12.07 last night. There was even unprecedented applause from the Public Gallery for my noble friend Lady Smith of Newnham after her passionate defence of EU citizens living here. There have been brave and passionate speeches today, such as those from the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, and the noble Lord, Lord Liddle. But, for me, the most moving speech yesterday was that of the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, who likened the debate to an elegy. The UK’s involvement in the European project might turn out to be, he said,

“a fine, if ultimately doomed, cause”.—[Official Report, 20/2/17; col. 74.]

We appear to be on course for much more than a Lord Patten Hong Kong moment.

In the UK, we rarely learned about the EU as a project for peace, even though in recent memory on our continent there have been conflicts in the Balkans, Northern Ireland and Cyprus, with freedoms brutally suppressed in eastern Europe. Nor was it often pointed out in the UK that almost half of our trade is with the EU. We look at the US and marvel at how it could possibly have elected Donald Trump. Round the world, including in the Commonwealth, I have found that people wonder at how we could have voted to leave the largest, wealthiest and strongest trading bloc in the world.

So how does this Bill chart our way forward in the light of the referendum result? There are indeed different routes, and I seek clarification in the Prime Minister’s speech. She prioritises controlling borders over our membership of the single market. She rejects the European Court of Justice, which adjudicates that single market, yet she wants the maximum,

“freest possible trade in goods and services”,

for British companies in the EU. She says that “we may wish to retain” elements for our strong industries—for example, the financial services and automotive industries. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill, pointed out yesterday, we are not the only ones negotiating; there are 27 others. What will they make of the words “we may wish to retain”?

Recently, in Berlin, I spoke on a panel with two Brexiteers to German businesspeople. Like Merkel, to a person they said, “No cherry picking”, even if it damaged their immediate interests, lest the EU as a whole be undermined. Our Prime Minister agreed in France that she would not cherry pick. In which case, what then for the financial services and automotive industries? How does the UK prioritise sectors of its economy? What about the pharmaceutical industry or high-tech? What happens as our economy changes? Any privileged access for certain sectors must mean some kind of equivalence in regulation. Do we invent another ECJ? Theresa May wants us to have a customs agreement with the EU but does not want to be in the customs union. What would this mean, given our interconnected supply chains? What would be the threshold for it being possible to have deals elsewhere?

Our trade with the rest of the world has been growing, seemingly unhampered by our being in the EU. However, in 2015, India took only 1.4% of our goods and desires a trade agreement that prioritises freer access to the UK, and New Zealand took only 0.2% of our goods. Yes, we must redouble our efforts, but we must also recognise the significance of the EU market to us and our greater ability to secure good trade deals via the EU.

We understand that there will not be a hard border in Ireland, but how is that to work? Are we about the see people trafficking displaced from Calais to Ireland?

We gather that we will not be paying what are described as “vast amounts” to the EU. It is not mentioned that the net amount is under 1% of GNI.

We wish to maintain our lead in science and the universities, but we already see EU students looking to Canada rather than the UK. We hear that Oxford and Warwick are considering campuses in Paris so that they can access EU funds.

We are told that we will have no cliff edge but transitional arrangements. However, the Government also make it clear that we are willing to walk away. That means that risk remains.

The Prime Minister’s speech appeals to those who voted for Brexit and seeks to address the concerns of those who oppose it. The problem is whether the two strands are compatible at all. My noble friend Lord Marks described this as the biggest foreign policy mistake in decades, so let us look at our position in the world. Justin Trudeau apparently feels lonely on the world stage, and one can see why. The EU is still the champion of liberal democracies and the rule of law, though populist movements even now challenge that. Populism has achieved an extraordinary result in the USA. We see a revived Russia active on Europe’s borders, in Crimea and Ukraine, threatening the Baltic states. The global world order is shifting eastwards. By 2050, China will be the largest economy in the world, with India in second place and Indonesia in fourth. Being part of the EU gave us disproportionate impact in global affairs. We are all members of NATO and, with France, we serve as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We have indeed served as a bridge between the US and the EU; others will now become that bridge. The world is an unstable place and we must all be aware of populist, simplistic movements across our continent—not surprising in the wake of profound economic crisis.

This short Bill presages a long and complicated process. Parliament must be fully engaged, including meaningful votes at the end. If, at that end, we judge that what has been negotiated turns out not to be those sunlit uplands and is not in the interests of our now divided country, we must not be afraid to say so.

 

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

This speech was the exception as Kishwer is the one peer who will be supporting the Bill. We covered earlier in the week her decision earlier in the week. Here she explains her position and says that we should just leave now and then re-engage with the EU in a different way further down the track.

My Lords, I need to make a few declarations. The first is that I have the privilege in this House of chairing the EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee. I would say this, but in my opinion it is the most significant committee at this point in terms of the angles that it is looking at, such as financial services and the EU budget. My other declaration is more personal. I am married to a German, I have lived and worked in France, and I have a house in Italy. So I have a big dog in this fight, not a little whippet.

However, I have to tell the House that on the passage of this Bill I will be voting with the Labour Opposition and the Government Benches. Why do I take the position I do? It is not because I am any less a remainer today than I was on 23 June—I am every bit a remainer; as I explained, I have a deep and personal motivation to wish that the result of last June had not happened. But I believe that a second referendum entails risks for which the price is too high: too high for the country overall and too high for the other European countries. It has been stated that the people voted for a departure but not a destination. In my view, people had a very clear idea of the destination: the destination was a break from the EU. I agree that they did not know exactly what the terrain would look like, but they knew they were taking a risk.

A vote is always conducted on imperfect information. There is an inherent risk in any decision about the future, whether it is intervention in Syria or, as on this occasion, the EU. Take as an analogy the Scottish devolution referendum in 1998. At the time, Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem unionists in Scotland were told that the electoral system was such that no single party could take power alone and so the nats would not be able to take power and re-open the independence question again. We all know how that turned out. Take the euro. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, voters in several EU states had a referendum on joining the currency. In their nightmares they could not have imagined the financial crisis and the banks too big to fail nearly bringing down the sovereigns. In Greece, Italy and indeed even in Germany, people could not have known what was to hit the euro in less than a decade. People always act on imperfect information.

The other reason why I believe that we now have to implement the result is the referendum Act of 2011. Let me remind the House that that Act commits us to a referendum if further powers or competencies are passed to the EU that entail treaty change. That is the current situation. There are people across this House who wished to try to defeat the Act—I was one of them—but we failed. We now have a situation where treaty change, driven by the exigencies of European integration, is inevitable. This House knows that the eurozone crisis, the security issue, the need for joint co-operation on immigration and a host of other things will bring the Europeans to the point at which they will need treaty change, if not in the next five years then in the next 10. We would have had to take this issue to the British people anyway, if not in 2016 then perhaps in 2026.

Let me turn now to the central purpose of the Bill, which is in effect to trigger Article 50. While it may be theoretically possible to revoke Brexit while the talks on the question are still going on over the next two years, politically we cannot revert to the status quo ante. It is contrary to what the other 27 countries of the EU envisage in terms of their understanding of Article 50: that in effect it is politically irrevocable.

Once we have passed this Bill, there is no longer any possibility of a negotiation where the UK could go into the talks again with a set of demands on the proviso that if they are not good enough we will have another referendum. I say “again” and “another”, because we have already done that. From 2013 a referendum was promised if the Conservatives won the election. After 2015 the Government spent a year renegotiating a new settlement with the EU, securing what I think was a very good settlement. However, we were not able to sell that to the people, and here we are.

The EU has seen the latest bout of UK-inspired disruption for six years now, since 2011, with at least a further two years to go. The idea that we can try the same thing again and again shows a profound misunderstanding of how the EU works and ignorance of our partners’ patience and preoccupations. They will not go into an Article 50 negotiation or give us any serious terms if they believe that we will prolong the agony, theirs and ours, with the risk that we might have the same result after another vote. In fact, the contrary is likely to happen, as there is already a view across the Channel that what we were offered last year was too generous. So to stop others from using the same ploy we are likely to lose some of our opt-outs and special exemptions. To keep united, the EU needs us to move on so that it can resolve the myriad problems confronting both the Union and us.

Janan Ganesh writing in the Financial Times today lays out a future for Britain’s relationship with the EU where we, the remainers, will have to mobilise, to make our case, and to wait for new relations to evolve. Bit by bit, the UK will have to renew its engagement with the EU if it is to thrive and not just survive. Pragmatism will be driven on that occasion by the voters themselves, again. He says:

“Brexit is an idea whose only effective rebuttal is its own implementation”.

It will take time and it will take patience. I hope to play my small role in the passage of this Bill.

 

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by TSE

But is there another Jeremy Hunt bet you should be making?

William Hill have a market up whether Jeremy Hunt will be Health Secretary on the 1st of January 2018. I think taking the 2/5 on him being Health Secretary on the 1st of January 2018 is the best option. Here’s why you’ll be getting a 40% return in less than ten months.

One of the things to take from the Copeland by-election is that Labour’s attempts to use the NHS to win votes isn’t effective as these tweets below confirm.

So that should help Jeremy Hunt going forward, politically speaking a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party is as impotent as a battalion of eunuchs, any problems with the NHS won’t be effectively exploited.

Given the way Jeremy Corbyn goes through shadow cabinet members*, it is entirely possible that constant reshuffles might not allow any shadow Health Secretary to be in the role long enough to become effective at holding the government to account.

Additionally I think Mrs May has learned from David Cameron’s example and will not make annual reshuffles, so I’d expect scandals notwithstanding, Mrs May won’t be holding a major reshuffle this year, so again that should make Jeremy Hunt secure.

Since VE Day, only Nye Bevan and Norman Fowler have served as Health Secretary longer than Jeremy Hunt has today, such endurance in looking after the NHS, which has been described as the national religion, points to an adroit politician.

Were Theresa May to fall under a bus, or were she to last as Prime Minister for a decade, Hunt would be young enough to be a plausible to be her sucessor. Coral are offering 80/1 on Jeremy Hunt as next PM, it might be worth a flutter.

TSE

*My favourite statistic of the week

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

It’s possible to consider this announcement in several different ways. Which way you do will depend upon what you think is the appropriate level of cynicism about various players in Indian politics. For we’ve municipal elections coming up in Delhi and the Delhi Chief Minister and his Cabinet have announced a 36% rise in the minimum wage in the run up. And just before greater scrutiny starts in the run-up to that election.

New Delhi: The Delhi cabinet on Saturday approved a 36% hike in the minimum wages for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers. If LG Anil Baijal clears this proposal, Delhi will be the first state in the country to provide the highest minimum wages to the working class population.

The politicians are not, of course, providing a minimum wage to anyone. They have made a decision about how other people must spend their money, something rather different. For public sector workers it is the taxpayers, for private sector, at least in the first instance, employers. But the politicians can indeed claim that they’ve done something, just not quite what it is that is being claimed:

As per the Cabinet’s decision, the minimum wages for unskilled persons will be Rs 13,350 per month against the existing Rs 9,724 per month. For semi-skilled and skilled persons, it will increase from Rs 10,764 to Rs 14,698 and from Rs 11,830 to Rs 16,182 per month respectively.

Remember the important thing here, it is not the AAP nor Kejriwal paying these wages, they are merely using the law to insist upon wages paid by others.

The Arvind Kejriwal government just gave a Holi bonanza to the city’s labourers by increasing their minimum wages by over 37%. The timing of the announcement assumes significance as municipal elections are scheduled in April for which the model code of conduct is likely to be imposed mid-March.

Which is where the appropriate level of cynicism comes in. And you are entirely at liberty to apply whatever level you see fit. At one end of the scale we might say that the government is proving that it is making life better for the poor. In the middle we might say that it is doing so and also proving that it can get things done, no mean feat just before an election. At the far end of entire unreasonableness we might say that they are bribing a sub-set of the voters with other peoples’ money.

I have to admit that I’m more toward that unreasonable end. But then I think that all politics works that way so do not regard this as anything surprising.

Perhaps the most important point about this is that it doesn’t in fact matter very much. For there is only a very small part of the Indian workforce (perhaps higher in Delhi than elsewhere but still) which is in fact in the formal and registered sector. And of course legal minimum wages only apply to those who are in that formal sector.

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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