Wednesday, 8 August 2018

More from the frontline in Bristol South...

This is the latest in a series based on posts on my Facebook Page for those who don't do Facebook, but are interested in my selection campaign for Bristol South.

If you're a member in Bristol South, you should have had your PPC mailing - if not, then please contact the Returning Officer! (Send me an email at andrewcbrownukATgmailDOTcom if you need his details). Please read the mailing carefully, particularly the arrangements for postal votes. If you can't make the members' meeting on the afternoon of the 18th August, please arrange for a postal vote instead! Please also note that, although you will receive two manifesto documents, the other candidate has withdrawn.

As I noted in my previous post, I'm going to try and flesh out some of the ways in which I view the big issues facing Bristol South and the Country over the next couple of weeks - but your questions are also welcome.


BIG ISSUES 2: Building a Fairer Future for All...

...or, to use the buzz-phrase, "Inter-generational fairness".

We've come a long way from "we've never had it so good" and in many respects it the current generation of young adults is the first in a long time to suffer a dip in living standards relative to their parents.

Yes, they have iPhones, Smashed Avocados, and huge flatscreen TVs (but so do their parents). What they don't have is access to affordable homes, should they choose to buy, or a rental sector which works to the benefit of tenants. Meanwhile, pensioners receive a range of universal benefits, the triple lock for pensions, and are often fortunate enough to have accumulated substantial private pension benefits from "Defined Benefit" schemes that are no longer available to younger workers.

At least, that is the way that this issue is normally presented, reflecting a very middle-class view of the world. And the solutions normally presented do little for those whose outlook is even more bleak. However, there are a number of valid issues here: and there are several nettles to be grasped.

Amongst other measures, I would be in favour of abolishing the triple lock in the next parliament, linking pensions solely to average earnings and inflation - and would review the scale and scope of universal benefits provided to pensioners. We need to reform the private rental sector, with longer leases and greater rights for renters. We need to make pension savings more attractive, and more rewarding - I would favour a flat rate relief that provides a bonus for basic rate savers, whilst reducing the relief to higher and additional rate payers.

And we need to build more homes: not just flats, but houses too: for ownership, private letting and social rent. But we need to build more than just homes - we need to build communities, and to ensure that relevant amenities are provided: schools, doctor's surgeries, dentists, parks, shops - not just for the big developments, but for those where multiple smaller developments amount to the same things. We need to build on brownfield sites, and we will need to build on greenbelt too, and we need to think very carefully before we consider building up as the answer.

More radically, we need to seriously consider the development of a Universal Basic Income - to provide people with greater flexibility of income - and the implementation of some form of Land Value Tax, and a shift to the taxation of unearned income and wealth, and away from Income and Consumption Taxes.

In all of this, though, we need to consider not just the needs of the middle classes, who shout loudest, or the young professionals lunching on North Street, but the folks in Hartcliffe or parts of Bedminster that estate agents don't call Southville.

Monday, 6 August 2018

An announcement

This is a version of two posts made over on my Facebook Page. For those who don't do Facebook, I'll be posting here regularly over the next couple of weeks.

After a bit of a false start, I was able to announce on Saturday that I am a candidate in the selection for a Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol South. Unfortunately, due to a late withdrawal, I'm now the only candidate (other than RON: "Re-Open Nominations")

Nevertheless, we are now in a two week campaign period - messages of support or volunteers to help are welcome! If you are a Bristol South resident and message me here, you may save yourself a phone call or three later in the campaign!

Over the next few weeks, I'll try and flesh out some of the ways in which I view the big issues facing Bristol South and the Country - but your questions are also welcome.


BIG ISSUES 1: The BIGGEST

The first of my policy position posts deals with the biggest issue in British politics: Brexit.

It will come as no surprise that I oppose Brexit: I campaigned against it in 2016 and believe that re-applying for EU membership should be part of the Liberal Democrat's policy platform should it not be averted. Indeed, a commitment to the European Community (as it was) is part of the preamble to the Party's constitution.

It should also come as no surprise that I regard Labour's attempts to face both ways on the issue as not just disingenuous but damaging to the country's interests. Had Labour committed early on to retaining membership of the Single Market and Customs Union, and sought to work with like minded Tories, then we might not now have been staring down the barrel of a "no deal" Brexit.

And if I were an MP, I'd have been voting against this government at every turn.

But we are where we are.

If selected, I will be an advocate for an "Exit from Brexit" - and will work with others to this end. Whilst I would gladly never participate in another referendum ever, I support having a "people's vote" on the pragmatic grounds; having started this with referendum which (in part) played on a perception of politicians being disconnected the people it would be dangerous, and fuel for the populist fire, for those same politicians to overturn the result. [Unfortunately nuanced debates about non-binding referendums and the meaning of representative democracy would be lost in the resulting uproar.]

I will challenge our MP's record on Brexit: supporting Article 50 and opposing a number of Brexit Bill amendments that would have sought to retain SM and CU membership.

More widely, I will highlight the other damaging effects that Brexit will have on the Constituency, City and Country: whether economic, social or cultural.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Reading Habits: Mid Year Update.

It is (over) halfway through the year and I thought I'd do an update to this post in which I outlined my intention to read more books by women this year... So, how am I doing?

Well, I think I'm doing well.

Dialling the stats back to how they stood at the end of June, I had read 29 books - well ahead of target, which was 40 for the year.

Last year 64% of the books I read were by male authors. This year, to date, that's been 45%. In terms of individual authors read, just 41% have been male.

In absolute terms, I have read 16 books by 13 female authors - outstripping the 15 books by just 6 women read over the course of the past year by some way. Many of these have been authors I've read for the first time, some as a result of recommendations both here and on Facebook: Jeanette Winterston, Naomi Alderman, Maya Angelou, Mary Shelley, Val McDermid, Jane Harper, Mary Beard, Susan Hill, Natasha Pulley, Jessie Burton.

So, while I still have huge piles of books by men to read, I've been making efforts to buy and read additional books by women. Much of this has been virtual or audible stockpiling: I'm trying to resist adding too much to the physical piles!

Should you be inclined, you can follow my progress on my goodreads page.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

IDAHOBIT

Last Thursday (17 May) was International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia*. Here's a piece that I wrote for Lib Dem Voice on behalf of LGBT+ Lib Dems, of which I am Secretary. The original piece can be found on Lib Dem Voice, and on the LGBT+ LD site.

On this day in 1990, the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of ‘mental disorders’. Since 2004 the anniversary of this has been used to promote awareness of the legal and cultural discrimination LGBT+ people still experience around the world.
In the UK that we have come a long way towards achieving equality – and yet we know that, for many, there is still a stigma around their sexuality or gender identity. Imagine being a teenager struggling to reconcile same-sex attraction with the teachings of their parents, or religion. Think about why you may not know many people who are openly bisexual, or those who have multiple partners in consensual polyamorous relationships. Consider the workings of the “spousal veto” which insists a trans person’s husband or wife must consent in order for them to gain gender recognition.
IDAHOBIT is about celebrating the diversity of human sexual and gender expression and challenging the barriers to people living their lives as openly as their cis, straight peers.
In the UK, this year’s day takes place against a backdrop of the current media storm over self-ID for trans people. This is the proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act such as to reduce the hoops that trans people have to go through to replace their birth certificates. Despite what you may have read, it’s not a licence for any man who wants to perv at naked women to walk into the female changing rooms at the local swimming pool. There are, after all, already rules against that sort of thing. It is merely the UK catching up with such notoriously socially liberal states as Ireland.
This year’s theme for IDAHOBIT is “alliances for solidarity” – and that, to us, sums up what we’re about as an organisation: solidarity with all under-represented, discriminated and persecuted groups. LGBT+ Lib Dems believe that you can’t build equality on the back of another minority or under-represented group. This is why we are vociferous in opposing those who hide their transphobia beneath a cloak of “feminism”. It is why we insist on referring to Same-Sex Marriage as just that – it’s not “Equal Marriage” whilst the spousal veto remains. It is also why we strive to ensure that we do what we can to give additional weight to the L, B and T+ in LGBT+: in a society that has become more accepting of gay men, there is much that remains to be done.
Tackling discrimination in all these forms, and others, is not just an LGBT+ fight, but a Liberal fight. After all, as the preamble to our party constitution has it, “No one [should] be enslaved by … conformity.”

*IDAHOBIT in the UK and Australia, IDAHOTB in the rest of the world. An explanation of this can be found here.

Friday, 12 January 2018

On Nigel Farage and a deal referendum

Two posts on consecutive days? That's not something that's happened for a long time! Although this is, essentially, a re-hash of some thoughts I posted on Twitter earlier.

There was much excitement amongst "Remain"* campaigners today when Nigel Farage announced he was beginning to come round to the idea of a second^ referendum. His thinking being that a second** "leave" win would kill off any further thoughts of re-entering the Union "for a generation". On this last point he is right - just as it took dissenters^^ from the 1975 result over a generation to reverse that decision.

(Of course, for all his talk of the finality of the 2016 vote - the day democracy stopped, folks - we know that his campaign would have continued had the result gone the other way by, well, by any margin.)

Anyway, lots of people jumped on this news - arch remainers*** Ian Dunt, AC Grayling and Nick Clegg, amongst others, made hay whilst the Lib Dem Press Team and prominent spokespeople went to town on the news.

But why? Or, at least, why the lack of trepidation?


I mean, it's not as if Farage hasn't a record of being disingenuous, is it?

Now, I know that the polls are showing a lead for remain over leave now - and that is welcome, as far as it goes. But for the majority of the population, the matter is settled, so the question is considered moot. If it were to be reopened, whether on the nature of the deal agreed or otherwise, the numbers would rapidly change - and the narrative and tone of debate would be even worse than before.

Now, this isn't intended as a council of despair - but it is intended as a dose of realism. It's also not intended as an argument against having a deal referendum. That's a policy I support, albeit I would have liked the party to have also adopted a line that categorically said election of a Lib Dem majority government^^^ prior to actually leaving would be a mandate to reverse the process. Would such a policy have made a difference at the last election? I doubt it, but I'm not about to second guess when the next election may be, the role Brexit may or may not have in that, or the outcome.

No, I support the policy on the pragmatic grounds, outlined in part in this exchange:


Put simply, I think the restoration and exercise of Parliamentary Sovereignty followed by the throwing out of Brexit would plunge this country into a much greater level of turmoil than another referendum. I'm not suggesting war, but there would be substantial civil unrest and political instability. In addition, the forces of xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism (not to mention other forms of hate and discrimination) that the Brexit vote has given licence to would then be unleashed in a way we have not seen in a century.

So, back to Farage. He has his own agenda, and we ought to be very, very careful in the way we react to his pronouncements. Rather than reacting with glee, his words should give us pause.



*One of the things I bitterly, bitterly despair about is the way Brexit colours *everything* in our political debate, and huge swathes of people identify, or are identified as, "Remainers" or "Leavers" without either side seeking to engage with the other. There is a lot of speaking in echo chambers, or slinging mud, insults, sneers and jeers at the "other side" and not a lot of anything constructive. And, before anyone else says it, I don't consider consider myself blameless in this regard, although I do try to avoid sneering: that's just not a pleasant, or Liberal, thing to do.

^Shorthand. I prefer to call it a deal referendum. Or "a first referendum on the facts." But as far as a choice between staying in or leaving the EU/EC is concerned, we've had two of those already.

**in short order.

^^Farage himself would have been only 11 at the time when 67% of those who voted opted to secure a brighter future for themselves and future generations.

***Gah, even I'm doing it now.

^^^I know, I know.