It all starts here…hopefully!

October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

So, this is the first day of what could turn out to be a really important week for me and my fledgling political career.

On Wednesday night I’m off to an event being put on by my local authority, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, for all potential Council candidates- where current Councillors and officials will be telling those gathered a bit about what it means to be an elected representative.

Should be an interesting evening…must remember to take my notebook and pen!

Then, on Friday afternoon, I’ve got my selection interview with the local Lib Dem selection panel.

To say I’m going to be nervous is an understatement.

I just hope my passion for the village I live in and hope to represent comes through.

Then, on Saturday, I’m off to the Lib Dem’s East Midlands regional conference in Nottinghamshire and am putting myself forward to be elected to the parties regional executive.

So, all in all, as I said earlier, a really very important week for me.

Will I soar ahead or fall at the first hurdle?

By this time next week we’ll know.

I support this Coalition…but higher tuition fees is a step too far!

October 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

Let me be clear.

I support this Government, I believe the Coalition is right for Britain, and I applaud 99.9% of what the Liberal Democrat Secretaries of State and Ministers are doing within the administration.

Further to that I believe this Government is seeking, time and again, to be fair to the most vulnerable and poorest people in our society, from protecting health and schools spending, the setting up of the Pupil Premium, the taking out of income tax altogether thousands of the country’s lowest paid workers, the protecting of spending on aid to developing nations, and on and on.

However, I’m afraid on one issue I have, if I’m to be true to my conscience, to break away from the Coalition’s policy, indeed to oppose it.

That is on the issue of higher education tuition fees, a totemic issue for us Liberal Democrats.

Now, I’m a supporter of Vince Cable, he’s one of our parties genuine stars…but on this issue he and the Government are wrong and I support those Lib Dem MP’s, including Lib Dem Presidential candidate Tim Farron, in saying unless substantial changes are made they’ll be voting against it.

I, of course, understand that-in coalition-comprimises have to be made but it does rather seem that the Lib Dems are having to compromise more than our partners.

This issue, of how to fund higher education, it would appear to me, is a compromise too far.

I await the details to be announced but I can’t see that, as Mr Cable claimed in an e-mail to Lib Dem members this week, this is a ‘fair and progressive’ policy for higher education.

How can we expect to retain the trust of the electorate if, for ten years or more, we called for the abolition of tuition fees, top up fees etc and now claim that, miraculously, raising fees is somehow ‘progressive.’

It will take a lot for me to be convinced that this is anything other than a retrograde step.

The SDP has won the argument…and Liberals must not forget it

October 5, 2010 § 3 Comments

For a political party that eventually had a very sad, lonely, exit in the early 1990’s, the SDP (Social Democratic Party) has had a major impact on modern British politics and, I would argue, has won the argument in terms of how we should run our country.

Each major party, even the Tories-though they may not admit it or even recognise it in themselves-is battling for that centre-left ground which, for a brief shimmering moment, the SDP once dominated.

I was just ten or so when the SDP disbanded and, you may not be surprised to hear, politics was not exactly my first priority, but I’ve no doubt that had it have been around when I was making a choice about which party to join, I may well have stapled my colours to the SDP mast.

It truly did represent a ‘third way’ in British politics…different to the Labour left and the Conservative right.

And if the early 90’s was about ‘new’ Labour acquiescing to parts of the Thatcher legacy, then the Noughties were all about the Tories, however begrudgingly, accepting an SDP centrist style philosophy, if only in their rhetoric.

The one party which seems unable to capitalise-for want of a better word-on the acceptance of mainstream social democracy is the one in which that tradition was enveloped-to create a singular ‘third force’ In British politics, the Liberal Democrats.

I am a social liberal, I believe in fairness, in social justice, in everyone being given a fair go.

I believe in this Coalition-it is the right thing for Britain- but so called ‘Orange Book’ Ministers must remember that, as Lib Dems, they are the successors to two fine traditions; not only the cause of liberalism (individual liberty, personal freedom, etc) but also that of centrist social democracy (fairness, decency.)

I’m thankful that the likes of former SDP MP’s, Charles Kennedy and Shirley Williams, are supporting this Government but am also certain that they will be there to point out, when needed, when true socially liberal beliefs have to be centre stage.

We’re re-shaping British politics for good.

It must be effective for all of those millions of people who rely on our party to promote freedom, fairness and the need to be green.

UPDATE (04/12/’10): I am, of course, aware that the SDP continues, as a regional/local party, in parts of the country.

When I talk of its ‘death’ in this post, I’m referring to when it ceased to be a national political force.

This Government must act to stop Human Trafficking

October 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

For a number of years now I have been a supporter of and a campaigner with the anti-human trafficking NGO’s ‘Stop the Traffik’ and ‘Hope for Justice’ and have interviewed the two respective leading lights of those organisations; for StT, the Reverend Steve Chalke, who is an advisor to the United Nations on Community Response to Human Trafficking, and for HfJ, Ben Cooley, an incredible young man committed to tackling this modern-day slavery.

From my years of campaigning I know that the issue of Human Trafficking is a very serious one, and something that must not be ignored by Governments across the West.

Before I discuss the issue surrounding the response by the Coalition to this problem, let us just remind ourselves exactly what Human Trafficking is:

‘…to be deceived or taken against your will, bought, sold, and transported into slavery, for sexual exploitation, sweat shops, child brides, circuses, sacrificial worship, forced begging, sale of human organs, farm labour, domestic servitude.’ (According to ‘Stop the Traffik.’)

You may well be now asking, just how big can this problem be?

The answer, very sadly, is huge.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the statistics:

*1.2million children are trafficked every year (estimate by UNICEF)

* At least 12.3million people are victims of forced labour worldwide-of these, 2.4million are as a result of human trafficking (source: a global alliance against forced labour, International Labour Organisation, 2005)

* 600,000-800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Of those, around 80% are women and girls, with up to 50% being minors. (U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report, 2005.)

* The majority of trafficked victims arguably come from the poorest countries and poorest strata of the national problem (ILO, 2005)

So,  now we come to the response of our Coalition Government to this issue.

The Government has decided not to opt-in to draft European laws on human trafficking.

Toward the end of August a Home Office spokesperson, attempting to defend this position, said:

‘While the draft directive will help improve the way other EU states combat trafficking, it will make very little difference to the way the UK tackles the problem as there are no further operational co-operation measures which we will benefit from.

‘Opting in now would also require us to make mandatory the provisions which are currently discretionary in UK law. These steps would reduce the scope for professional discretion and flexibility and might divert already limited resources.

‘The government will review the UK’s position once the directive has been agreed, and will continue to work constructively with European partners on matters of mutual interest.

‘By not opting in now but reviewing our position when the directive is agreed, we can choose to benefit from being part of a directive that is helpful, but avoid being bound by measures that are against our interests.’

Though it leaves a slither of hope for the future, this really isn’t good enough.

This Government needs to unite with its European partners in tackling this issue, not leaving itself on the sidelines.

Hundreds of thousands of people, especially many children, are relying on us to do what is just and right.

We must not fail them.

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