This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tory Hypocrisy on Europe - Letter to 'Herald Express' 170907

Marcus Wood doesn't let inconvenient facts get in the way of his latest attempt at political point scoring through the pages of your paper.

He accuses the Lib Dems of hypocrisy with regard to a potential referendum on the EU Reform Treaty. He fails to note that the Liberal Democrats went into the last general election promising a UK referendum on the EU constitutional proposals which collapsed in 2005 when Dutch and French voters rejected them. It is right that our people have a full debate about our future relationship with Europe as Sir Menzies Campbell has recognised by offering the most radical referendum proposal of all - namely about our membership of the EU itself ! Do you support this Lib Dem proposal Marcus ?

If any party is being hypocritical it is his own Conservative party ! The EU we have today was hugely shaped by the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty, both signed by the Tories, but without reference to the British people. Even Marcus, on his online 'blog' admits in respect of Maastricht that "I think we should have offered a referendum on the issue and so do most modern Conservatives".

Lastly, as should now be clear, and contrary to the claims of Marcus Wood, the Lib Dem position is wholly different from that of the Labour government. Wishful thinking from the Tories is no substitute for debate based upon the facts ! Wrong again Marcus !

This was in response to the following letter laughably headlined LIb Dem support for Labour puzzling :

Guess what, once again the Liberal Democrats are demonstrating hypocrisy of the highest order, this time over the European Constitution; a law that would give a great deal more power to the EU, and reduce our right to make our own laws and foreign policy.Pro-European Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell has now formally sided with Gordon Brown in refusing to allow the British public a say on the Constitution.

"My judgment is a referendum is not necessary on this document," he said in an interview ahead of next week's Lib-Dem conference in Brighton.

With the backing of the Lib Dems, Gordon is now certain of enough votes to ensure that this treaty will get through parliament without the British public having a say, in spite of having made a clear manifesto pledge that we would be given a vote.

These are the very same Liberal Democrats who make a living complaining endlessly about a lack of democracy and who demand referendums of everything from road pricing to the monarchy.

Our local MP has himself made desperate attempts to force our elected mayor to hold a referendum of the vital question of, er, whether Torbay has one casino or two. Yet it would appear he will calmly vote to deny you or I a say in one of the most fundamental changes to our constitution since the Act of Union in 1707.


Torbay Conservatives prospective parliamentary candidate

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bye Bye lots of West Country Lib Dem MPs ?

The West Country - and I don't mean Bristol or those 'south Midlands' places like Gloucestershire ;-) - is one of the stronghold areas for the LD's. Equally, it is one of the most euro-sceptic parts of the UK ! Therefore, it is my view that lots of LD seats are at risk if the party chooses not to accede and allow the British people a say, via referendum, on the EU Reform Treaty.

It is strange to find Liberals not 'trusting the people', especially when tactically and politically it is the right thing to do, even if the result doesn't 'turn out right'.

As recently as the May 2007 local elections evidence [in Torbay at least] suggested that the respectable UKIP vote came as much, if not more, from erstwhile LD supporters as from former Tories. This is one of the few things that Marcus Wood (Tory PPC for Torbay) and I have ever agreed upon.

So what's it to be, follow the lead of 'mediocre Ming' or listen to the voice of the electorate ?


Friday, September 07, 2007

Your perception of the Lib Dems ?

There is a growing concern among many MPs that the party has allowed itself to be caricatured as a protest group for the middle classes by taking too little interest in social justice. This is alleged in a piece in 'The Guardian' yesterday. Is this your perception ? It was mine prior to joining the party and there is still a hint of that in my mind.

That may possibly hold some water nationally, but as the only party campaigning and opposing the Tories in Torbay, I believe it isn't true locally.

Anyone got a view on this ?


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Not quite Yellow, Red or Green politically !

Recent posts by Tristan Mills and myself asking if we are, respectively, too right / left wing for the Lib Dems has set me thinking some more. My influences cut across all three shades of progressive political thinking, thereby pleasing few people, other than myself ! My thoughts can be summarised as such :

I'm hopeful that you have all ascertained that my views cut across yellow/green/red [but never blue] thinking. I share the commitment of many ordinary Labour members in seeing that greater equality of **outcomes** is essential for a fairer and more harmonious society - one that we can all feel ‘ownership’ of. Without such, L/liberal notions of 'freedom' are meaningless! As I said in that previous post, to paraphrase the LD constitution - no-one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity - but what real freedoms exist if one lives in inadequate housing, suffers from poor health or is on a subsistence level income ? Choices ? What choices do such people have ?

From the Greens (party and movement) I embrace the promotion of more localised economies and ideas like credit unions, time banks, LETS and localised currencies. Ideas around Citizen’s Income are also intriguing, but practical, affordable or sellable ? The way Greens do not separate out productive paid work from informal work is one that should challenge us all policy wise.

Further as a fairly libertarian rather than statist ‘left’ I am keen to support mutuals and co-operatives as an alternative to public / private monopolies.

From the Liberal camp the commitment to civil liberties, decentralisation, progressive taxation, environmentalism and internationalism all pull me towards the LD’s. As liberals / Liberals well know power needs to be pushed down to the lowest practicable level and for people to take greater charge of their own communities, so ideas like restorative justice and community panels suit this former community worker whose ethos is to work with, as much as - and in preference to - for, individuals and communities. Empowerment and participatory democracy are key motivations for me, rather than the top-down, passive, Toynbee / social democratic 'we'll do it **for** you approach.

I regret all three main parties seem wedded to economic liberalism. As for NuLab the cult of personality that was Blair, the Iraq war, PFI, Academy schools and perhaps a greater support for nuclear power are issues that took me away from that party. Civil liberties issues such ASBOs, ID Cards, ‘anti-terror’ proposals / detention without trial reveal an authoritarian streak within NuLab. I cannot subscribe to this.

Look how many new laws Blair brought in ? But, to what result ? Now the prisons are full - where next ?

In truth there are many fine people within the Labour party - certainly people I can do business with. However, beyond narrow policy differences, I am very aware that it is only the LDs in Torbay that provide a counter to the [locally] resurgent Tories. So despite an eclectic range of influences the Lib Dems are where I feel both most comfortable and politically useful.

Certainly I was a child of the Thatcher years and I’m in politics to counter the politics of greed, authoritarianism and self-interest that the the Tories represent.