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Posted by Mark Pack

Eight or nine council by-elections this week? It was scheduled to be nine, but one ward in South Oxfordshire produced only a Conservative candidate at close of nominations, resulting in their election unopposed. The other wards see seven Liberal Democrat candidates in total, a slip on the last few weeks but still up on some of the poor runs of the past.

First in, a Conservative hold in a ward that used to regularly have Liberal Democrat candidates until last time (2015). Good to see that pattern returning.

More results as they come.

These by-election results round-ups cover principal authority by-elections. See my post The danger in celebrating parish and town council wins for your own party for the reasons to avoid straying too often into covering town, parish or community council by-elections.

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Posted by Mark Pack

If you want someone to blame for the fact that adopting a core votes strategy and targeting tightly to win seats are sometimes seen as opposites, then I’m a good person to pick. Sorry. And if you think you really like one and really dislike the other, hoping that arguing for one is a way to dis the other, then bank that apology ready for after you’ve read this piece.

What then is, or rather should be, the relationship between these two approaches? Votes at election time come from one of three sources:

  • Core votes are the long-term loyal supporters of the party. They are the starting point.
  • Local votes are the support won over the year-round local campaigning and by high profile, effective candidates.
  • Tactical votes are the final piece in the puzzle, those who are persuaded to vote for us not so much because we’re us but in order to stop them.

The problem the party faces (and it isn’t new) is that we rely on a massively imbalanced mix of that core, local, tactical trio.

It starts with us having very few core votes – people who think of themselves as Liberal Democrats and pretty much always vote for us. Currently that figure is at around 5%. It has been higher in the past but not that much higher even when the party has been scoring above 20% in UK-wide elections. There was no heyday pre-2010 of a large core vote, which is why between successive general elections there was always a very large churn in our vote even when the overall totals were looking (for us) healthy.

Having a small core vote means you start a long way from the finishing line in elections. It means you have to work that much harder to win. When you are a smaller party and with less money and media backing than nearly all your rivals, that is asking an awful lot. Those Lib Dems who manage it are amazing. They are also fewer in number than we’d like because of the size of that ask.

To make matters worse, it also means that we’ve over-relied on the local votes and the tactical votes to get over the winning line. Over-relied because, very welcome though such votes are, they come with downsides.

First, the downsides of having to over-rely on local votes. Liberal Democrats do tend to be better and harder working local campaigners all year round, and our best Parliamentary candidates do tend to be better than those of other parties at local campaigning. But there’s nothing uniquely Liberal Democrat about doing an annual residents’ survey, preferring to walk off your Christmas excess accompanied by a pile of leaflets or preferring door knocking to gardening in the spring. Other parties can do this too.

We can take some pride in just how much the other parties have copied what Liberal Democrats often pioneered. Self-pride, alas, isn’t convertible to votes.

What’s more, local votes are susceptible to a national squeeze. It is no coincidence that the Liberal Democrats have done worst in general elections were at 7am on polling day it has been most uncertain who would be Prime Minster the next day. Popular Liberal Democrat candidates and MPs have gone down to defeat as voters have decided to focus on who they want as Prime Minster, not as their next MP. (The local constituency ratings of many Lib Dems MPs in 2015, for example, was very strong. That didn’t save most of them.)

To make matters worse, that local vote reliance does not scale well as the size of a constituency grows. More and more, however, we face contests on wider scales. Regional lists in Scotland, Wales and London. Police and Crime Commissioner elections. Directly elected Mayors. The shift in the last twenty years has been to more elections across larger areas. It is also a shift away from the best territory for local vote seeking – smaller areas where a candidate can get well known and where a small team can run an intensive campaign machine.

There’s a similar problem with the over-reliance on tactical votes. For a start, many of those new, larger contests do not use first past the post and nor do local elections in Scotland. There are still some tactical voting type arguments that can be used (especially in contests using the supplementary vote) but they are pretty ineffectual at best. Then there’s also the harsh reality of the party’s current strength: we’re in a far worse position to appeal for tactical votes across elections at many levels than we have been for a long time.

I’m definitely a fan of appealing to tactical voters; it is one reason why I so often defend the use of good bar charts. The reality, however, is that this important part of the overall trio of source of votes can only take a diminished part of the burden of election winning.

All these limitations with tactical votes and local votes brings us back to core votes. With the mix of election types and systems we now face – very different from the party’s 1990s campaigning glory days – and with our current political situation we need that contribution from core votes to be far stronger.

We also need it because it is the insurance policy through tough political times and difficult choices. If one large chunk of our support is really voting for us because they don’t like Labour and another large chunk because they don’t like the Conservatives, then having to make a choice in a hung Parliament or in a major Parliamentary vote is always going to risk disaster because choices split apart our support. (Imagine what a 2005 hung Parliament with a Lib Dem group having to choose between Blair and Howard would have been like.)

For all these reasons, we need to rebalance and built up massively that core votes part of the trio.

It won’t bring success on its own. But it gets us to the starting place from which local and tactical votes can then bring success. And of course when it comes to turning local and tactical votes into extra seats, that means getting those votes in the places where they generate the most seats.

Getting a core votes strategy right, therefore, is about creating the circumstances in which a targeting strategy can work. Their power comes from their combination.

Vince Cable’s message for Diwali

Oct. 19th, 2017 08:00 pm
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Posted by The Voice

Full text is below:

The festival of lights is upon us once again; across the country streets will be aglow with lights and decorations as thousands of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists gather to celebrate the ancient festival of Diwali.

Celebrations such as these speak to our shared human experience, causing us to see beyond that which too often divides us. There is a universal capacity to resist evil, hate and ignorance, this is particularly significant given the intolerance and division we continue to witness across many parts of the country. Let us all use this time to reignite the lamp of kindness and compassion within ourselves.

As you gather with family and friends to light the Diya, pray and exchange gifts I wish you a peaceful and joyous time. Shubh Diwali!

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Posted by Caron Lindsay

Most often these days, I can’t even force myself to watch Question Time and I’m interested in politics. It’s become such an unbalanced, thoughtless shouting match which rarely yields intelligent observation. The liberal viewpoint is rarely represented and the frequent presence of the most unpalatable voices from the right wing tabloids or extreme right wing politics just makes me want to weep.

Tonight, though, we are in for a treat.

Not only are we going to get our amazing Sal Brinton, but also on the panel, fresh from Strictly, is the one and only Reverend Richard Coles. He will no doubt bring a bit of good humour and thoughtfulness to the proceedings.

Lisa Nandy was one of the editors of The Alternative, the book advocating a progressive alliance.

We might see a spat between brexiteers Chris Grayling and Tory Peer and Next CEO Simon Wolfson, too. Wolfson isn’t showing any sign of “bregret” but he has been critical of the Government’s approach to Brexit. 

It all happens at the usual time of 10:45 on BBC1. If you’re on Twitter, join in with the discussion at #bbcqt.

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

The Federal Policy Committee Report

Oct. 19th, 2017 02:16 pm
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Posted by Geoff Payne

The Federal Policy Committee met again on 18th October 2017. This was a fairly heavy agenda this time and decisions were taken that will reach some distance into the future.

Association of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Peter Price presented a report on the work of ALDE. The organisation has a total of 59 member parties throughout the EU and members of the Liberal Democrats have traditionally played a significant role within it. It is governed by a Bureau, a Council and a Congress, the latter meeting annually. Motions and papers can be submitted and there are usually quite a lot of them, often on what are regarded as difficult subjects. Brexit has featured in the past. We have previously submitted motions on the treatment of LGBT+ people in Azerbaijan and on the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration (along the lines of our own motion at conference in Bournemouth).

Peter said that the aim of participation was to build contacts and mutual understanding. However, there have been problems in securing close Liberal Democrat involvement in the motions process owing to a long lead-in time for the submission of motions and a relatively short timescale within which to input and secure agreement with others thereafter. Peter recommended a greater involvement by the Federal Policy Committee officers.

Robert Woodthorpe-Brown also took the committee through some of the recent work of ALDE and stressed that our involvement will continue post-Brexit.

There were questions raised about whether there was general support for our Brexit stance and what was being done to help the position of BAME people across Europe.

Representative to Federal Conference Committee
Many of the various party committees are permitted to elect members to other committees to ensure that there are good communications between them.

The representative from Federal Policy Committee to Federal Conference Committee (FCC) had recently been elected to FCC in their own right following a resignation and therefore a new person had to be identified. There were two nominations, Alistair Calder McGregor and Sally Burnell. The committee held an election and Sally Burnell was elected.

Policy Development Issues
The committee considered in some detail its policy programme moving forward into 2018 and 2019.

There are a number of working groups presently in progress. They were to report to the 2017 conferences but the snap General Election caused them to be postponed. They are now to report to the 2018 conferences instead:

Spring 2018:

  • Education
  • Rural Communities

Autumn 2018:

  • Power to the People
  • 21st Century Economy
  • Britain in the World
  • Community: Immigration & Identity

Some further policy work was commissioned:

  • Manifesto Themes Paper: this will set out the party’s key policy positions and will be produced in an attractive design like the one from 2013. It will be debated in Autumn 2018.
  • University Funding: David Howarth is presently putting this paper together and a draft will be ready by December 2013. There will therefore be a consultation session at conference in Spring 2018.

There remain several papers that have been agreed but which are yet to be timetabled. The committee agreed that they would be set up and report to the 2019 conferences. They are:

  • Health and Social Care
  • Taxation
  • Climate Policy
  • Race Equality
  • Crime, Policing and Justice

The committee agreed to prioritise the one on Race Equality. That group will be set up immediately and it will report to conference in Spring 2019. There are four further areas that require work. They are:

  • Housing: the committee decided to ask the relevant spokespeople in Parliament and Local Government to consider this issue and prepare a series of policy motions to deal with the most pressing matters. The last time the party had a housing policy paper was in 2012. This was stressed to be an urgent issue.
  • Inequality: this is an important area of work but it is one that can integrated into others that have been agreed. For example, the taxation paper can deal with issues reducing inequality through taxation and it may be that we would want to update our policy on wealth taxation through a motion to conference. There would also be a section on inequality in the Manifesto Themes Paper for Autumn Conference 2018. The committee was clear that we needed to emphasise this area.
  • Natural Environment: there will need to be a paper dealing with changes in Government policy that have taken place recently and with the impact of Brexit, which will be great. The relevant spokespeople will be invited to consider whether a motion to conference is required.
  • Democracy at Work: two members of the Federal Policy Committee were invited to consider this question and consider what action is required and whether it should be in the form of a spokesperson’s paper, motion or anything else.

There were a large number of contributions from members of the committee over what should be prioritised. Several people said it was vital that we articulated our values in our policies and there was general agreement about that.

The Policy-Making Process and Support to Spokespeople
The committee also discussed the question of policy-making generally and, in particular, the support we can provide to spokespeople. A paper was circulated from Richard Kemp and Chris White identifying several areas in which the current system might be improved and suggesting that a number of policy teams be established around the main cabinet responsibilities. The Federal Policy Committee would be represented, as would be relevant spokespeople and others. This paper was welcomed by the committee.

There was a further paper from Your Liberal Britain suggesting that small policy teams be appointed to ensure that ideas from the membership in particular areas are fed through to spokespeople and their advisers. Those groups would be self-sustaining and would allow spokespeople to be supported by relevant experts. This paper was also welcomed and agreed.

It was stressed that it was important that all the different elements in relation to policy-making link up and communicate.

Conference De-Brief
The committee went through the various votes taken by conference on the motions that it had submitted.

All of the motions submitted by the committee were passed by conference. There were a couple of amendments made to them and the committee was happy with most of those. There were two matters that the committee had resisted but which passed nonetheless. They were on Safe Building Standards in Homes (the amendment concerned the Fire Service) and Corporate Responsibility (that amendment concerned workers’ representation on company Boards).

The FPC amendment to the Brexit motion also passed.

Manifesto Feedback 
At Conference in Bournemouth, there was a session in which members could feed back on the manifesto, what they liked about it and what they did not like so much. The session was well attended. The committee spent some time going through the various comments and the submissions on email and taking them on board.

There were a number of general themes that emerged from the session:

  • Generally people liked the content of the manifesto,
  • There was a desire for focus on small number of easily communicable policies which exemplified our values. People would have liked something like the front page top four/five priorities from earlier years,
  • There was a dislike of pitching for opposition as opposed to power,
  • Some would have preferred a stronger focus on economic policy
  • There was a desire for specifically crafted offers to appeal to variousgroups, e.g. young people, families, BAME and generally more spelling out of the practical benefits of our policies,
  • There were some complaints from candidates in particular that the manifesto launch came after a lot of hustings had already taken place and they could have done with earlier release of key policies/messages.
  • On specific policy criticisms, there was some push back on the anti-Brexit focus of the manifesto and the legalisation of cannabis.
  • Some thought we should have claimed more credit for coalition achievements.

There were a couple of comments from members of the committee. It was stressed that there needed to be improved links between policy-making and campaigning.

Party Strategy Update
Jeremy Hargreaves reported to the committee that the Federal Board was developing an overall party strategy. There has been concern in the past that there are many areas of the party that operate in silos and it is hoped that the development of a strategy will involve all stakeholders and get them to work together better.

A confidential paper was circulated setting out the way in which the strategy was taking shape. Members of the committee made a number of comments and suggestions about it. Those will be fed back to the Federal Board which will continue its work.

The final strategy will be taken to Spring Conference in 2018. A further draft will come back to Federal Policy Committee before that.

Your Liberal Britain Vision Statement
Your Liberal Britain is an organisation which seeks to promote greater involvement by members in policy-making. Recently, they have been involved in producing a new vision statement for the party which was consulted on at conference and which will be voted on later. You can see it here.

Jim Williams said that there will be some resources produced for Local Parties and Working Groups about how they can use it. It is also being taken to conference in the Spring.

Membership Engagement Update
Duncan Brack reported to the committee that work was underway to update and improve the policy pages of the party website. Some of the content is out of date.

There is also a guide being finalised to encourage Local Parties to discuss policy at their Annual General Meetings. That will be circulated shortly.

The committee is also planning to run a session on drafting a motion at a forthcoming Federal Conference.

The committee has also now appointed a full slate of representatives to the different bodies in the party, including Regions, Specified Associated Organisations and Associated Organisations. There was a discussion over what was to be expected from members in liaising with them. It was stressed that the FPC contacts need to get in touch with their Regions.

Equalities Impact Assessment Update
The committee has always run an audit of its policy papers and motions to ensure that any equalities impacts are known and can be addressed. A small group of people generally carried out those audits and reported back.

Belinda Brooks-Gordon updated the committee on how the process is to work moving forward. A number of people have been identified to help with the task. That includes members and non-members of the FPC. They will provide invaluable help to the committee and to chairs of Working Groups in the future. Belinda is also to arrange to meet the chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats.

* Geoff Payne represents the English Party on the Federal Policy Committee. He is also one of the Vice-Chairs of Federal Conference Committee. He chaired the Criminal Justice Working Group.

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Posted by Mike Smithson

Ladbrokes has some new markets up on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations which look interesting but I’m not sure if any of them offer any value.

The options are above with 5/4 being offered on no deal being agreed before the Article 50 deadline 18 months on from now. Note the way the bookie is defining what a deal actually is.

The 4/1 on Britain still being a member of the EU at the end of 2019 and whether there will be a third Brexit referendum (the first was in 1975) before the end of 2019 both could come good but the odds are not long enough for me to be tempted.

There is a huge amount likely to happen in the coming months both in Brussels and at Westminster. The Government is going to struggle with its “Great” reform bill in both the Commons and the Lords and things could move in any direction.

At the moment we cannot say with any certainty who the next prime minister is going to be and whether indeed the Tories will still be in power at the due date.

Mike Smithson

The Fight for Equality Goes On!

Oct. 19th, 2017 11:44 am
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Posted by Kirsten Johnson

I have been inspired by Paul Walter’s excellent series on this site for Black History Month. If you have as well, I encourage you to write a blog for Black History Month and send it in.

American by birth, I am guilty of unconscious bias which permeated through my upbringing. Many people don’t recognise the racism which lies beneath the surface in the way they relate to one other. Of course overt acts of racism make the news, but it is the little interactions and assumptions which bother me, as they are unconscious and difficult to shift.

My brother and family live just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. On a recent visit to see them, I made time to take my three daughters to the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthplace in Atlanta. Getting them to appreciate the issues of racial equality/inequality, and the enormous contribution Martin Luther King made, was, I considered, a duty.

Part of the National Historic Site complex is an excellent Visitor Centre, with films and first-rate displays, including the “Children of Courage” exhibit, telling the story of the children of the Civil Rights movement and challenging our youth today.

I was especially moved by the experience of sitting in Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was baptized, ordained at the age of 19, and then co-pastor with his father, Martin Luther King, Sr.  Hearing MLK Jr.’s voice preach through the loudspeakers made history come alive, and transported us back to the 1960s in a powerful way. I went away troubled yet determined, what can I do to break down barriers and further equality?

The girls and I sat by the Eternal Flame, pictured above, and quietly reflected on the sacrifices many have made to further the causes of freedom. This is in the grounds of the King Center, established in 1968 by Dr King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

57 years ago today Martin Luther King was arrested during a sit-in demonstration at Rich’s department store in Atlanta. Almost a year later, on October 16, 1961, he met with President John F. Kennedy and urged him to issue a second Emancipation Proclamation to eliminate racial segregation. His repeated advocacy led to the U.S. Congress passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The legacy of Martin Luther King is immense. Without his leadership, self-sacrifice and determination, our world would be a different place. He and his wife are buried in front of the King Centre, on a marble island in the middle of beautiful, still, reflecting pool. The gravestone reads: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m Free at last.”

He’s just lovely when he gets angry

Oct. 19th, 2017 11:22 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

I pretty much make it a matter of policy to ignore whatever Tom Worstall has to say.

Tom? It’s not even good publicity, is it?

So far, so good. It is indeed true that there need never be a shortage of money. But Worstall continues, saying:

The underlying error is that economics isn’t the study of money. Sure, monetary economics is interesting enough, but that’s not the core of the subject. Instead, we note that there are unlimited human desires but only scarce resources with which to sate them. Changing the amount of money in circulation doesn’t change the number of those wants, however, nor the resources we have with which to satisfy them. It only changes the counting we’re doing as we do so.

Before you throw your hands up in horror I should note that Worstall does reveal here his deep knowledge of, and unfaltering belief in, neoclassical economics. What he is saying is wholly orthodox economic teaching, taught day in and day out in universities across the world. It is quite literally the case that in general equilibrium based macro economic thinking, which dominates the thinking and teaching on this subject the world over, that money is effectively ignored. As too, incidentally, is taxation.

The study of an individual market is partial equilibrium, not general. Further, general equilibrium is microeconomics, not macro. Even, money is not ignored, it was there in Walras’ first model and has continued, in general, to be there since.

Failure to appreciate this permits Worstall to make some pretty wild, and glaringly false claims. For example he says this

Because it’s the resources which are scarce. Take health care, for example. There’s the labour needed to do it, the buildings to do it in, the implements with which we do it and so on. But at any point in time there’s only a given amount of each of those things. Increasing the money supply doesn’t increase the amount of any of them.

Of course, the economy is not a zero-sum game, it is always possible to train up or import more labour; we can build more hospitals, make more medical equipment. But more money doesn’t increase the resources from which we can do all of those things.

Three thoughts follow. First, there is the most extraordinary suggestion implicit in this that the availability of money demand within the economy does not change behaviour. Or to put it another way, that if more money is dedicated (whether by tax or not does not matter) to healthcare demand then there will be no reaction to this monetary stimulus in the real economy and nothing will happen as a result: no new health care will follow. What Worstall is saying here is that demand cannot apparently alter supply in the real world.

Well, no, I don’t. Instead I talk about total resources being, at any point in time, fixed, meaning that if we wish to divert more resources to health care hen w will, inevitably, have less of something else. We can indeed increase total resources over time. That’s not what he says I say at all.

Second, what he’s also saying is that if there is underemployment in an economy working at less than full capacity (both of which are true in the UK at present because we suffer massive disguised unemployment in the form of under-employment) then adding to the money supply cannot stimulate a greater supply of goods and services to the economy. This is glaringly obviously untrue. He also ignores the positive multiplier effects of such spending in that situation, although they are now widely documented.

I also don’t say that. What in fact I do say is:

It is possible to get all Kenyesian about this and say when in recession we can boost output of all things – and maybe there’s some truth to that. But that’s not what our simplistic money tree peeps are saying. Instead, they are insisting that because we can print more money then there’s no shortage of the resources we need to do whatever we want. Which is, of course, complete tosh.

When we’re at full employment, about where we are, when GDP is about at potential, roughly where we are, then the only method by which we can have more of something is by having less of something else. Or, of course, by increasing the efficiency through which we produce things from our scarce resources over time. Neither of these options is waved away, aided nor hindered by printing more money.

I don’t even claim this:

Which is a pretty big claim, because what he is actually suggesting is that using money as a mechanism to direct resources towards investment has no impact on outcomes in the real world, when that is very obviously untrue.

Instead, all I’m saying is that increasing the amount of money does not increase the amount of scarce resources.

In which case he needs to explain why he is so obsessed with preserving the right of money to hide in tax havens, and why he is so obsessed with preserving existing monetary wealth distributions, and why he is so opposed to progressive taxation that might redistribute this money that he says has no impact on the well being of those who own it.

I’m not, I’m not and I’m not.

Except that he hints at the answer to all these three questions in one telling paragraph where he says:

Money’s just the way we count who controls those resources, it’s not a measure of what we can put to work at all. Thus printing more money doesn’t alter the fact that we must still choose which activities we’re to devote what resources to, there is no get-out clause here.

But this is not true. Because if in the process of printing money we change who controls resources we really do change outcomes.

But that’s not my point Senior Lecturer, is it? Rather, that the scarce resources are still scarce whoever directs their use. Thus, use of more resources to do one thing means fewer to do some other.

So in fact what Worstall has written indicates three things. The first is the bankruptcy of conventional macroeconomic thinking to which he, and the greater part of the academic community, subscribe.

General equilibrium still isn’t macroeconomics.

Actually what’s true is we can’t do everything, but that changing the way we control money by letting government print more of it to achieve social goals can very fundamentally change our constrained reality.

Shrug. Sure. Who gets to spend the money will indeed change what it gets spent upon. And? That still doesn’t mean that doubling the number of pound coins increases the scarce resources we can devote to the health service.

As an example of failed reasoning Worstall takes some beating. Buy don;’t expect me to engage with him again: once a decade is enough when faced with folly of this level.

Wonder if he’d listen to someone he trusts as they explain his errors?

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Posted by Antony Hook

Kent is known as the Garden of England and the Gateway to Europe.

As a County Councillor, you will rightly expect me to be proud of the place. It’s England largest county authority with 1.82m people.  It has a significant economy (GDP about £37 billion in 2015).  We have everything from Blue Flag beaches (where you can quite often find a Lib Dem peer swimming…) to UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Our history has been shaped by being only 17 miles by sea from continental Europe. Today it’s just 75 minutes by ferry or 35 minutes in the tunnel.  So the connection with Europe is really important for us socially and economically.

About 11,000 lorries full of goods pass through Kent ports per day.  That represents a lot of jobs.  Jobs for the lorry drivers and ferry crews.  Jobs for people who design and manufacture the imported and exported goods. Jobs for people who then use those goods to create further wealth.

When there are problems at the ports (such a strike in Calais) the whole of the county’s motorways grind to a halt, which is a big political issue in itself.  Daily commutes that normally take an hour suddenly take 3 hours.  Family life is hugely disrupted.  It’s hell.

But, most of the time this freight that is so important to our economy passes through seamlessly.  A lorry from the EU clears the port in two minutes.  A lorry from outside the EU’s Customs Union takes 20 minutes.

In Kent, people are very concerned.  If we leave the Customs Union and every lorry has to take 20 minutes coming through Dover (or a similar time going to over way) then we are going to have very serious problems.  The Port of Dover has produced a video predicting 17 mile queues.

It is clear to Liberal Democrats that we should stay in the Single Market, and especially in the Customs Union. Numerous territories are in the Customs Union but not the EU, including our beloved Channel Islands for example.  That may well be what Northern Ireland gets and 17 miles of water between us and the Continent do not make us less important than Northern Ireland, which is lucky enough to have a devolved government to speak up or it.

A majority of Kent residents voted to Leave the EU on 23 June 2016. But they were promised that trade would carry on before. This was said in the Leave leaflets through the doors.  I took part in numerous local Remain/Leave debates where the Leave speakers said there was no question of trade being disrupted and there would be no customs barriers.  Kent voted to Leave the EU on the basis trade would carry on as before.  If we are outside the Customs Unions it can’t be the same.

Liberal Democrats are the second party on Kent County Council.  As the Official Opposition, we have tabled a motion for all options to be considered.  This will be debated in today’s session at County Hall.  We will probably reach the motion some time in the afternoon.

I don’t know, writing the day before, which way the Conservatives will vote.  But I know Liberal Democrats are on the side of the people.

You can read the motion here.

You can watch the debate here.


* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

Are Early Day Motions Pointless?

Oct. 19th, 2017 08:24 am
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Posted by Robert

At Westminster, an Early Day Motion is a motion tabled by an MP, calling for a debate on a particular topic. The motions rarely get debated, but they draw other MPs’ attention to particular issues. EDMs are a sort of petition system, exclusive to members of the House of Commons.

I had always taken it as a given that EDMs were a useful tool in a campaigner’s kit. If one Member of Parliament is allied to your cause, they can table an Early Day Motion… which then gives supporters of the campaign a reason to write to their own MPs about the issue. By requesting that your elected representative signs the EDM, you are effectively asking “please put it on record that you support this issue”. This is useful.

During the course of the Libel Reform Campaign, we made much of the fact that 249 Members of Parliament had signed EDM 423, which was a lot. It was also significant that the motion had cross party support.

The disappointing fact that some EDMs do not attract cross party support is often a useful data point. For example, of the 36 people who have signed EDM 37, condemning the imprisonment of Raïf Badawi in Saudi Arabia, none are from the Conservative Party, who are currently in government. Since Badawi is in prison for the crime of setting up blog that discussed liberalism, it is odd that no Tory wishes to put their name to it. Perhaps they simply haven’t been asked… but perhaps the Conservative whips have asked them not to, for reasons of diplomacy. (This is infuriating to campaigners, but as I blogged previously, there may be good and honest reasons why this is so.)

It is possible, however, that if one seeks genuine change rather than posturing, EDMs are a distraction. While working on the Raïf Badawi case, I wrote to some MPs asking them to sign the EDM. I received this reply from one Member of Parliament:

I very rarely sign EDMs for the following reasons. First, they have absolutely no impact at Westminster.

Second, PR companies and the like suggest to their clients that they should pressure MPs to sign them when they know full well that they are political placebos with negligible impact but they can claim that their influence has made MPs sign EDMs. 

Third, I am told they cost the taxpayer (each) about £300 a month and there are hundreds of them. I do not like that at all in view of my first two points.

One MP I could name signs almost every one, but I think that to be dreadful because he knows full well that they achieve nothing. But it gets that MP off the hook! Not one EDM has made it through to legislation in my time.

The EDM on libel reform disproves that last point, but the others are worth considering. The £300 figure is a factual claim which I will check. But if the EDM process is not particularly respected by MPs then it might not have the parliamentary influence that campaigners assume, and those ‘PR companies’ assert.


Oct. 19th, 2017 08:02 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an American science advocacy group known for its stance against global warming, would like to inform us all of the dastardly behaviour of the fossil fuel companies.

The UCS’s recent paper links global climate changes to the product-related emissions of fossil fuel producers, focusing on the oil, gas and coal producers as well as cement manufacturers. The paper criticises those companies for their impact on climate change, such as the rise of sea levels and the increase in global temperatures.

The point of the paper is to assign responsibility – and thus the potential job of clearing it all up – to those who dug and pumped up those fuels.

The problem with this is that the basic contention is tosh. For whatever responsibility there is for emissions lies not with those who made the supply, but with those who demanded it. It’s you, me and our grandparents and our selfish desires for transport and warmth in winter to blame here.

We Are More Unequal Than Ever

Oct. 19th, 2017 07:15 am
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Kirsten Johnson

My dismay over inequality was one of the two main issues (the other poor mental health care provision) which drove me into politics in 2014. I jumped in with both feet, determined to be a voice for the voiceless and make the world a more equal place.

But here we are in 2017 and the IPPR report just out shows we are more unequal than ever. The report was commissioned by Channel 5 to mark the launch of the second series of Rich House, Poor House, which sees two families from opposite ends of the wealth divide switch places. The report shows that the wealthiest 10% of households has five times the wealth of the bottom 50%. Absolutely ridiculous, that so much wealth is disproportionately in the hands of the few.

Our Lib Dem Leader, Vince Cable, who is also a gifted economist, comments:

This report reveals just how unequally wealth in the UK is distributed. When the richest 10% of the population are almost 1,000 times wealthier than the poorest 10%, it puts the very existence of social mobility in 21st century Britain into question.

Vince goes on to say what we need to do about it:

Tackling inter-generational inequality and the growing concentration of wealth will require radical solutions, including reforms to the taxation of land, property and inheritance.

Our current tax system, by focusing on income rather than wealth, facilitates the accumulation of unearned assets while punishing productive activity by individuals and businesses.

One of the most influential books I have read in recent years is the late Sir Anthony Atkinson’s last book, Inequality. Published in 2015 by Harvard University Press, Atkinson brings a life-time’s research together into a highly-regarded, peer-reviewed epic tome on how to fix inequality. His 15 proposals to limit the extent of inequality are worthy of reflection and debate. The ideas are fleshed out in detail in his book which I commend to you.

And still another report highlights the inequality in pay within our society: the Social Mobility Commission’s report on low pay has found millions of workers remain trapped in low-paid jobs.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson comments:

We urgently need to invest more in education, including adult learning, to improve social mobility and help people escape from poverty.

Employment rules must be made fit for the 21st century, to strengthen rights and increase security for workers.

Getting rules and regulations right are key to furthering equality. It’s good to have Vince and Jo leading the way in fighting inequality, giving their voices to the voiceless.


[syndicated profile] complicity_blog_feed

Posted by Zoe O'Connell

Last night, I gave a talk at Pembroke College as part of Cambridge Hub’s Michaelmas Series. The topic was censorship.

This morning, I woke up and saw that the headline story in The Times is Jo Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, wanting to “guarantee free speech” at universities.

It is worth noting there is already a law that ensures freedom of speech at universities, but it would seem that Johnson wants even more extreme guarantees. The existing law is not invoked or referenced when we have one of the regular fusses about high-profile figures having their right to free speech violated. That is because they are not being censored.

Despite existing free-speech laws, there is already quite a bit of censorship at our Universities, and it comes from two sources. Neither form is good, and neither should be extended. Paradoxically, increasing the latter of these two forms of censorship is precisely what Johnson’s proposals will do.

The first is the PREVENT duty. That duty is supposed to target all extremism that leads to terrorism. Controversially, it usually ends up targeting Islamic and other non-white forms of extremism. In a university context, it is used to question room bookings and the nature of invited speakers. I doubt Islamic societies at universities will be welcoming Johnson’s statement today. It is unlikely the duty will be relaxed in support of “free speech”.

The other source is the de-facto censorship of students and student protest against influential media figures.

Wikipedia says censorship is “the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information”. I have mentioned PREVENT, and there’s no doubt that duty involves censorship even if there is disagreement over the desirability of PREVENT overall. China censoring WeChat is an example of that most in the West would regard as negative, and we have also seen cases within LGBT+ communities of censorship gone wrong with unintended consequences.

There is a common theme in those cases. Positive or negative and deliberate or accidental, it is those with power doing the suppression.

What is not censorship is selling only eight tickets to an event and having the venue cancel, as happened to Kate Smurthwaite. Smirthwaite seems to believe “free speech” means she can demand people listen and that venues give her a free platform. Consequently, she used her media contacts and influence to spin a story about how students were suppressing her free speech. The publication of her ideas was undoubtedly not restricted as a result. Quite to the contrary, the resulting media fuss and claims to martyrdom at the altar of free speech gave her an even more prominent platform.

Peter Tatchell was not censored when a student learnt he was due to speak at the same event as her and pulled out. She did not want to share a platform with someone she believed is racist and transphobic. Her withdrawal was not public, but Tatchell’s outrage at being unable to demand the energy of someone less powerful was. He used every possible media outlet he could muster to denigrate her.

A particular shout out needs to go to Julie Bindel at this point, who has repeatedly claimed to be censored herself but has just resorted to issuing legal threats against Brooke Magnanti, a.k.a. Belle De Jour. It is not surprising that Bindel’s claims have not received any media coverage condemning her attempts at silencing. There is a common theme running through these claims of censorship against media figures. Allegations are always targeted at those with less power.

There is a chilling effect hidden within these false claims of censorship, however. Those whom the allegations target become figures of derision in the press with no way of responding. They do not have their voices heard. I was at the event held in parallel to Greer’s Cambridge Union slot, and I know several of the students involved felt traumatised by resulting coverage. They are less likely to now engage in activism.

Media outrage is increasingly invoked to shut down legitimate free speech rights such as protest and running petitions. It happens merely because high-profile disagree with protests or feel threatened.

Ratcheting up that rhetoric will only increase the pressure on students to conform. Contrary to what Johnson believes it will not broaden the minds of young people. Instead, it will teach them that the powerful will not tolerate criticism.

The post Student speech to be censored at UK universities appeared first on Complicity.

Ah, yes, well, senior lecturer

Oct. 19th, 2017 07:28 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

A dream of a world where economics is the liberating and not the dismal science

The source of the name being Carlyle, who was most upset when it was proved to him that paid labour was more productive than slave found that his ideas about who how and why there should be slavery were proven invalid.

All of which makes that an entirely valid dream for the Senior Lecturer, doesn’t it? I dream of an economics which can ignore reality.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Liberal and progressive sites appear to be among the victims of a policy Google announced on April 25, designed to boost “reliable sources” of information, after Google and other technology companies were criticized for allowing low-quality and even fraudulent websites to proliferate during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Utilizing tools from Google, a web analytics company called SEMrush and other methods, Damon calculated that since April, search result traffic to the World Socialist Website has dropped 45 percent as of Sept. 16. He found similar declines at several other left-leaning sites, including AlterNet, Democracy Now!, Common Dreams, and Truthout, all of which have editors who review articles before they are published.

WSW is owned by the International Trots so that seems like a good set of nutters to down play.

But, of course, that’s not what the snowflakes have been calling for. We want the other set of nutters banned, not us!

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

Table – Commons Library

Why BoJo/Andrea/Phil/David/Amber might be cheering Nicola on

The group of constituencies that have seen the most dramatic changes over the past two general elections have been the 59 seats in Scotland.

At GE2010 when Labour lost power there were no changes at all north of the border with what was then Gordon Brown’s party retaining all 41 seats that it held on an overall increased Scottish vote share. The SNP had just 6 seats with the LDs 11 and the Tories just 1.

Then came the huge changes in 2015 in the aftermath of the IndyRef nine months earlier. LAB lost all but one of the 41, the LDs lost 10 and the Tories remained with just one Scottish MP.

The SNP found itself with 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats and displaced the LDs as the third party at Westminster.

Move on to June 8th this year which proved to be something of a disaster for Sturgeon’s party losing 21 seats and holding onto the 35 listed above all of them with much reduced majorities.

    Two years after gaining 50% of the Scottish vote the SNP’s biggest vote share in any constituency was 46.7% leaving a lot prospective rich pickings for the main national parties particularly LAB

If LAB is to return to government then much of the current seat deficit it has nationally with the Tories will be made up from battles with the SNP not the blue team.

One of the problems we have with ongoing analysis of this is that there is very little regular Scotland only polling. Trying to assess what’s happening north of the border from the Scottish sub-set in national polls is fraught with danger.

So in many ways whoever is Tory leader at the next election might be secretly cheering the SNP on.

Mike Smithson

Interesting definition of optimism

Oct. 19th, 2017 04:39 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Well no. Get real. This strategy has failed. Without an analysis of the “p” word, patriarchy, we remain powerless to change it. Either a) men are just naturally aggressive because of testosterone, women are passive breeders, and this is biologically determined, or b) there is a power structure in play here that can be challenged.

I am going with b) because I am an optimist. The concept of patriarchy is overarching and universalising, it is trans-historical and nowhere near cross-cultural enough.

Hmm, well, yes, could be

Oct. 19th, 2017 04:15 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

A female medical student who began treatment to become a man has warned how encouraging children to undergo such procedures could create one of the “great medical blunders” of our time.

Kate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, had injected herself with hormones causing her voice to drop and her face to grow prominent hair. However, she later abandoned the treatment after deciding she was not transgender.

Explaining how she had been encouraged to undergo the treatment after visiting online forums, she warned that “great harm” could be caused by groups eager to coax parents and their children into believing a child struggling with their sex was simply born the wrong gender.

In an interview with Radio 4, Kate, who began her treatment in her early 20’s, said she believes that had her confusion over her sex happened today she could well have undergone treatment but later regretted it.

“I’m very concerned that if I was a teenager now or even younger that I or my parents would be pushed to consider me then as transgender,” she said. “I would have welcomed that at the time. I wanted to be a boy when I was younger because boys were allowed to be assertive and confident. A young person may now take hormones or have surgery and later regret it.

“By giving treatment to young children we may be perpetrating a great harm. And we might look back on this in 30 or 50 years and see it as one of the great medical blunders of the 21st Century. I don’t know. If someone had offered me that as a child. I would have taken it and I would have ended up regretting it.”

This is a surprise, eh?

Oct. 19th, 2017 04:12 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Christy Turlington, one of the world’s most recognised supermodels, has accused the fashion industry of being “surrounded by predators” as it braced itself for a slew of sex harassment claims in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Ms Turlington broke cover to denounce the business for leaving vulnerable young models – both female and male – at the mercy of “some creepy playboy type”.

Vast numbers of would be wannabes, all chosen for looks, and a limited number of places…..

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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October 2015


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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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