Tuesday, 21 October 2014
Thursday, 9 October 2014
Wednesday, 8 October 2014
Twice previously on this blog, I've related tales of having put a card in to speak at Liberal Democrat Conference only for me not to be selected. You can read about those instances here and here.
Well, today I broke my duck. I was called to speak in a debate on a motion containing measures to reform the banking market and availability of finance to small and medium sized enterprises. I spoke in favour of the motion, and an amendment that, in part, sought to promote the role of peer to peer lending in corporate lending.
Here it is...
Thursday, 18 September 2014
As decision day looms I've decided to put down some of my thoughts and to explain why I want my friends, family and compatriots to vote "No" tomorrow.
The vote itself has been a long time coming: arguments over the question, timing and prospectus have come and gone (and in some cases come again.) At the end of it, though, we have come down to this: an engaged electorate, an impassioned debate and a vote that, whatever the bookies say, is too close to call.
Viewing it from a distance, both frustrated and relieved at not being more directly involved, has been something of a roller-coaster ride. At times I've thought Better Together was doing its best to get a Yes vote, at others I've been reassured to see contributions from the likes of Charles Kennedy. Its been up and down - and unlike a roller-coaster it's left me stressed and distressed.
Of all the feelings I've felt, though, the more I consider the prospect of "Yes" vote, the emotion I find myself feeling, with a deep, visceral knot in my stomach is grief.
Grief at what Scotland will lose - membership of a 300 year old Union. The security of shared defence. The resources to back Scotland's Financial Services sectors - and to rescue it when things went so badly wrong. A shared sense of belonging in a political and social union more stable than any the world has ever seen.
Grief, too, at what the UK will lose. The contribution Scotland has made to our society - the thinkers, the philosphers, the leaders. Great minds who contribute much to our culture. Our shared history has made us what we are today - I want to see Scotland continue to play its part.
Whatever happens though, tomorrow will bring change - independence or greater devolution, In its wake it will also bring changes across the rest of the UK - a new settlement for England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or a more Federal UK.
So tomorrow, vote for change - and vote NO. Vote for a United Kingdom in which Scotland has greater powers, vote for a chance for a federal UK, vote for a shared future. But don't just vote, take the engagement of this debate and work to change your neigbourhood, town, country and this United Kingdom.
Keep up the pressure for change and work to make the future better for us all.
Sunday, 25 May 2014
Last night I went to see Matthew Bourne's production of Swan Lake.
I'd forgotten quite how wonderful it was: Sassy, witty, sexy, sensual, violent, it's a fabulous interpretation of the story. It's also a rare thing - a huge commercial success (it's 20 years old and still being performed to packed auditoria) with artistic merit.
Whilst ballet purists may not appreciate Bourne's appropriation of more modern styles of dance or his cultural references, it can't be suggested that the use of all-male swans is merely a gimick. The story is twisted, and the swans become much more swan like: graceful, yes, but aggressive and violent too.
And, of course, Tchaikovsky's score is magical.
P.S. You can see a bit more here.
Saturday, 17 May 2014
Sunday, 23 February 2014
Thursday, 20 February 2014
My piece for the Bristol Lib Dem website on Tuesday's Budget decision:
Politics can be murky business at times but in Bristol things are remarkably clear following the Budget debate yesterday: your Council Tax will be going up by 1.95% in April.
Something else is clear, too: all the parties had their price in supporting the Mayor's budget. Only one, though, was prepared to defend the ordinary Council Tax payer against an increase in this regressive tax.
Only one party recognised that, while the economy is starting to recover, household budgets remain tight and argued that people should be protected from increased costs, if possible.
Only one party had the vision to find the funding that would have enabled a Council Tax freeze: 50% from Central Government, the rest from council reserves set aside in case of various eventualities but often untouched for years.
Only one party... but the Mayor and Council rejected this approach, and voted through a budget that will see every Council Tax payer pay more.
So what of the other parties? Well, Labour are arguing that the Lib Dems' Freeze The Tax campaign is a cynical ploy. But whilst Labour talk tough and refer to a "cost of living crisis", they have refused to support a practical measure to address this. Now, that is what I call cynical.
They argue that they have managed to obtain a package of reversed cuts unlike any achieved by any opposition party in Bristol Council's history. The reality, though, is that all it took for them to move from a position where "we cannot support the budget" to a position of support was £1.3million of cuts reversed. £1.3million from a budget of £389million.
Ironically, £1.3million is precisely what a Council Tax Freeze would cost. But the source of the funds was different. Had Labour been prepared to negotiate, they could have had their amendment and a Council Tax Freeze. Like I said, cynical.
Meanwhile, the Tories - whose representative on the Mayor's cabinet is Deputy Mayor and has responsibility for Finance matters - were whole-heartedly in favour of the Budget. Indeed, they did not table any amendments to the substantive debate.
Whilst nationally Eric Pickles and other Conservative ministers pushed Councils to freeze the tax, the Bristol Tories chose to support raising them. The self-describing 'Party of Lower Taxes' does not, it appears, believe in them for Bristolians.
The Mayor - in a party of one - is often caricatured as still being a Lib Dem in all but name. After last night, though, I believe that that notion can be put to rest. He was adamant from the start that he would not freeze the tax - and with the help of all parties but his former one, he got his way.
Finally, the Greens - what was their contribution? Well, as with the Tories, they brought forward no amendments. They have variously said that this was because their arguments are national, that without Trident the Council would have more to spend, that a 'Robin Hood Tax' on financial transactions would be a cure-all, that they argued their case in Cabinet and behind the scenes and that 1.95% rise is modest and OK as below inflation...
Whatever, the over-riding impression is that, at best, they have failed to engage and, at worst, they would have wanted a higher rise such as the 4.95% being levied in Green-controlled Brighton.
So when your Council Tax bill arrives, and you're forking out more each month, remember that there was one party prepared to take a stand for freezing the tax, one party that wasn't bought off, one party that wasn't complicit in raising your taxes and one party that wasn't prepared to stand idly by.
It wasn't a cynical ploy and it really could have been achieved but for the other parties who took positions contrary to their rhetoric, policy or both.