Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Some thoughts on the environment

This is the third of my series on "Policy Themes" in which I'm sketched out some thoughts on some of the big issues facing the country - and world - in connection with my selection campaign in Bristol South. The original can be found on my Facebook Page for those who do Facebook.

I believe these three themes (brexit, "inter-generational fairness" and the environment) will dominate politics for the next decade and more... but this obviously isn't the extent of my policy views, or that there aren't other issues that will pre-occupy voters. However, these themes will cut across the issues voters will raise - health and social care, education, jobs - and they will inform my thinking and responses on these issues.


BIG ISSUES 3 : The BIGGEST

Yes, yes, I know I said Brexit was the biggest issue, but climate change and the environment will have a much bigger, and wider, impact in the long run. And Brexit makes it worse - impairing our ability to be part of an internationally coordinated response, and potentially putting us at the mercy of those who argue for lower standards.

The science is undeniable (unless you're Lord Lamont) - and the future without systemic change is bleak. Science, innovation and engineering have been the drivers of economic development since the Industrial Revolution: they must now be the drivers of environmental protection.

The challenges that the world faces: reducing carbon emissions, feeding an ever growing population, generating and distributing energy, all require significant political will, research and investment to manage. Building a sustainable future is a problem for the planet - but we require national, local and individual policy responses too.

As well as increasing energy from renewable sources, we need to explore electricity storage techniques. As well as encouraging recycling, we need measures to drastically reduce, and reuse, the materials we use. Investing in research and development aimed at solving these problems will benefit the economy as well as the environment.

There are all sorts of ways to achieve change but I believe it is best done through education and (collective) behavioural changes, rather than coercion. Likewise, we must be wary of solutions that would seek to put the brakes on economic development. Reducing people's living standards, regardless of good intentions, will be counterproductive to the aim.

Politically, and economically, the answer is to change the direction of progress, not reverse it.

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.