May 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The following piece (published today), my first for excellent new website ‘The Noticeboard Daily, sets out my thoughts about last night’s local election results for the Liberal Democrats and how there is hope among the rather disappointing results:
April 8, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I wonder if you, like me, follow Canadian politics and, especially, the fortunes of The Liberal Party of Canada?
If you don’t then you probably won’t be aware that recent years has sadly seen a decline in its fortunes.
For most of the last Century, the Canadian Liberals were that country’s Government.
However, the past few years have not been kind for them and in Canada’s last General Election, held in May last year, it returned just 34 seats in the House of Commons…losing, for the first time, it’s place as being either the Government or the Official Opposition.
Rather reminiscently of the situation here, The Liberals are now Canada’s third party.
They are currently led by Interim Leader Bob Rae MP, following the resignation of previous head honcho Michael Ignatieff after the disastrous election result.
There’s lots of talk that when the contest for the next Leader takes place (which, for some reason I’m yet to quite understand, won’t be until next year), the torch will pass a generation to 40-year old Justin Trudeau MP.
Mr Trudeau is the son of legendery former Liberal Leader and Canadian Prime Minister, the late Pierre Trudeau, (who was PM from 1968 to 1979.)
Being the son of a former Prime Minister already gives him a spotlight, but Mr Trudeau also has good looks and relative youth to go with his strong political lineage.
Indeed, he recently showed off his physical prowess and youthful male virility in a charity boxing match.
He took on and beat Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau.
This rather puts Tony Blair’s beating aged European leaders when cycling at an international summit a few years ago in the shade!
If he does become his Party’s next leader I’m sure Mr Trudeau will realise that as his Party no longer has the Parliamentary strength it once did, it must find new, innovative ways to reach out to the electorate.
It must literally punch above its weight.
It’s something we Lib Dems here in Britain have been doing for many long years and, especially, since entering into Government.
With 57 MP’s we are clearly dwarfed, in terms of Parliamentary numbers, by Labour and the Conservatives.
But, we Lib Dems are nothing if not fighters, both in community politics at a local level and at Westminster.
We’ve managed to get in the occasional powerful jab…whether it be raising the lower end tax rate or re-linking pensions to earnings…but we need to be very aware that one of our larger rivals may be ready to knock us out with a killer punch.
One such shot across our bows could well be the proposed changes in terms of how Government and related agencies can snoop on our electronic communications.
We must resist such illiberal moves at all costs.
For if we don’t, we’ll not only become a less liberal and free country…as a Party we’ll lose our Unique Selling Point.
And that, I suggest, could really leave us face down on the mat.
Facing the ten count.
‘We need to make sure all of our children get a good start in life…’ My latest piece for ‘Left Central’
April 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The following is my latest blog post for ‘Left Central.’
It challenges my fellow Liberal Democrats to challenge Education Secretary Michael Gove’s rightward-lurch when it comes to how our children are educated.
In this piece I also defend the concept of comprehensive education.
March 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This is my debut piece, published today, for ‘Shifting Grounds,’ an excellent new blog dedicated to discussing a new politics for the Common Good.
In it I give my initial reaction to yesterday’s budget.
March 17, 2012 § 1 Comment
The following is a link to my latest blog post for ‘Left Central.’
It sets out why, this week, I’ve joined ‘Liberal Left,’ a left-wing caucus within the Liberal Democrats.
March 17, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The following is my first blog post for ‘Left Central,’ a new blog network for the leftward leaning.
It gives my reasons for why I, as a Gay man, support marriage equality and why the bigoted views we’ve heard from one or two Catholic Bishops and others are demonstrably wrong and, I’d argue, only serve to prove how extreme they are.
March 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
This weekend I’ve been at Liberal Democrats’ Federal Spring Party Conference, in Gateshead, Newcastle.
As many (if not all) of you will be aware, the main issue for most members surrounded the Coalition Govt’s Health and Social Care Bill…trying to get my Party to withdraw its support for it was certainly top of my priorities.
What follows is the speech I’d hoped to give if the anti-NHS Bill motion had been debated (which, sadly, as we all now know, it wasn’t) and had I been called to speak (your comments on it are welcome, remain polite though please):
“CONFERENCE, I’m proud to be a Liberal Democrat-proud to be a member of a Party that remains ‘political,’ that is adult enough to accept and even welcome the fact that we won’t always agree with each other on everything.
Indeed as both Liberals and Democrats it’d be odd if we did.
So, I acknowledge that not everyone will agree with me when I say:
This is a bad Bill.
Bad for us as a Party, yes, but much more importantly than that bad for the NHS and, therefore, bad for our nation.
Let me be clear, I welcome Liberal Democrats in Government.
I’m proud that it’s Lib Dems who’ve taken the lowest paid out of paying income tax altogether-with more to come.
That it’s Lib Dems who’ve re-linked pensions to earnings.
And that it’s Lib Dems who’ve ensured help for children from underprivileged backgrounds via the Pupil Premium.
I welcome these measures and many more besides.
But, we can’t let these undoubted achievements-and our love our Party-blind us to the fact that we are also doing some things that make many of us deeply, deeply uncomfortable.
From parts of the Welfare Reform Bill to the Free Schools and Academies agenda.
And, at the top of the list, the Health and Social Care Bill.
I love the NHS.
It is one of our greatest national institutions.
I’ve used it all my life and so have my parents and so did my late Grandparents.
Indeed, I’ll never forget the kindness with which an NHS Community Hospital cared for my late Grandmother, Bessy Hulbert, in her final days.
She was ninety years of age and extremely frail.
The very dedicated NHS staff, the doctors and nurses and others, looked after her with care and affection.
Though, by that time, her life couldn’t be saved, she had care and dignity in her final days.
That was the NHS at its best; free-at-the-point-of-use, the best care being provided, yes, by a State-run service, where what’s important is the care you receive, not your ability to pay.
As Dr Evan Harris has pointed out-even with the relatively minor concessions that we’ve managed to ring out of the Tories, The Bill ‘fails to provide the required safeguards against existing NHS services being destabilised by competition.’
As he also makes clear, ‘The remaining problems are significant. (From) the failure to hold in check the drive towards the privatisation of commissioning to making the Bill worse-after the so-called ‘listening exercise’-by requiring GP’s to promote both choice-and thus competition-and ‘innovation,’ above the deep-seated problems of unfair access to healthcare and gross disparities in health outcomes.’
I agree with him when he says, ‘no Liberal Democrat should support a Bill with that order of priority.’
This motion makes clear that either the part of The Bill that makes reference to private competition be withdrawn from The Bill or our Party-from the Deputy Prime Minister down-should withdraw its support for it.
Our Party Leader often, correctly, talks about doing the ‘right thing.’
Well, today, we have a chance to do the right thing.
To stick up for doctors, nurses, other NHS staff, and most importantly patients.
And tell our leadership to tell the Prime Minister to Drop The Bill!’