The most watched television programme of the year was the final of a baking competition. Almost a quarter of the nation tuned in to see Nadiya Hussain win the Great British Bake Off, a competition comparable to those held at village fetes the nation over. But Hussain’s victory is much more important to British society.
For many of us it seems bizarre that a programme about baking is so revered at all and probably that extra bit bizarre that it has the power to help change social attitudes in this country. I wish Nadiya’s victory was as understated as the victories of her predecessors – but it isn’t, because she’s Muslim.
If we were in any doubt that Islamophobia and xenophobia weren’t still high on the list of Britain’s social ills, we were shown that wasn’t true this last week. The Conservative MP and Home Secretary Theresa May made a disgusting attack on mass immigration an affront to ‘cohesive society’ this week and was upstaged just a few days later when the aforementioned Hussain, a British woman of Bangladeshi heritage, scooped TV’s biggest prize.
After Nadiya’s win, The Daily Mail tenuously and disgustingly made every pathetic effort to stringently link her heritage and ethnicity to terrorism, indirectly attributing her to the 2005 bombings in London by referring to the fact her wedding took place in the same year as relevant…seriously.
Yes, all Nadiya did was step out of her comfort zone and bake, and bake well for that matter. But, without trying she has endeared herself to millions and counteracted the damaging messages from the right of the political spectrum that British Muslims are less British than the rest of ‘us’, and that generations of immigration damage the fabrics of society. We need more messages of equality, inclusivity and tolerance in this country – and a baking competition is doing far more than our government to promote that. Nadiya Hussain is the deserved winner of the Great British Bake Off, but her greatest victory isn’t her dazzling lemon drizzle wedding cake but her unintentional yet vital uprooting of stereotypes and bigotry.
David Cameron must think politics is rather easy. First, he wins a majority in the Commons, subsequently his coalition partners are obliterated, then his right-wing copycats are left virtually unrepresented and now, his main challengers have flown off to the unappealing left. He even managed to brush off any lasting damage made by the swine kind, unlike Ed Milliband before him. The Conservatives seem to think they’re in for a peaceful stroll to another majority in 2020 – provided, of course, that their latest set of falsehoods goes unchallenged.
When politicians are afforded such good fortune, it breeds arrogance, and with it, complacency. The Prime Minister addressed his adoring audience at Conservative Party conference on Wednesday. The party’s leader made an unexpected play for social justice, ending poverty and the case for progressive conservatism –whatever that is. He pledged to make this next government about the ‘proud tradition of conservative social reform’, showing that David Cameron is nowhere near as adept at political history as he is subterfuge. My point is, Mr. Cameron – we’ve heard this lovely chatter all before and seen nothing from you.
The Prime Minister alluded to the introduction of new policy for protecting LGBT+ people from discrimination, citing the coalition’s deliverance of same-sex marriage as a record of deliverance to that end. It’s wonderful to see the leader of a Conservative Party talk about LGBT+ rights, and even more wonderful to hear his comments met with enthusiastic applause from the Tory delegates in attendance. But if history is anything to go by, the Tories seem to be more interested in monopolising the electoral support of social groups than championing their cause.
It is clear that Mr. Cameron has become terminally self-righteous. He really wants women, BAME and LGBT+ people in this country to believe that his ‘compassionate conservatism’ has substance – it doesn’t.
Why do ethnic minorities and women still report disproportionate amounts of racism and misogyny among the party’s ranks? Why does the Conservative Home Minister think that immigration is an unavoidable affront to social cohesion? Why are the compassionate Tories so anti-immigrant? Why are they so reluctant to accept the same amount of Syrian refugees in five years that the Germans are taking in in a day?
How can David Cameron stand on stage and one minute spout cosy yet vapid egalitarian rhetoric then the next minute maul the poorest by cutting tax credits, lacerate LGBT+ citizens by slicing funding for mental health services which they disproportionately need more than everyone else, ignorantly vetoing progressive plans for age-appropriate sex education for straight and LGBT+ students and generally brutalising these must vulnerable groups with unnecessarily brutal austerity measures?
I’m sure I speak for everyone in the Liberal Democrats when I say that I welcome any Conservative Party support for tackling inequality – the more, the merrier. But, we have seen this all before and I stand by summation that the right of politics only ever want to be seen to help promote equality, they never actually care enough to do it. So now, Mr. Cameron it is time for you to walk the walk, now we’re not there for you to pin all your ills on. If you really do care for equality, put your social liberalism where your mouth is.
I was so heartened, like many, to see Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn call for a ‘kinder politics’. However, given your not so kind and frankly laughably hypocritical comments about the Liberal Democrats today, am I to assume this is the first Labour u-turn under yet another feckless leader?
So, we’re a “useless bunch of lying sell-outs”? I presume this has largely stemmed from the last five years and our part in the coalition government. Did we lie about tuition fees? No, we didn’t – we didn’t and couldn’t deliver our policy because there was no money left by the last Labour government to fund it. I also think it would be wise to abstain (pun intended) on whipping us with the tuition fees stick considering it was your party who introduced them in the first place, and your party who has broken even more promises on tuition fees than us, and what’s worse is you were in majority government for eleven years and could have done what you liked.
Sell-outs is a funny insult to levy at a party that has been consistently liberal for the entirety of its existence; delivering same-sex marriage, the welfare state and the pupil premium among other things. Labour on the other hand have flitted through endless streams of populist trends in an attempt to find any lingering whiff of power you can. Are you socialists? Are you centrists? Are you small c conservatives? Who knows? I suspect you don’t either.
I get tired of the piousness from the Labour Party, who have consistently attacked other (and I use that term extremely loosely) progressives, whilst doing very little to that end themselves. You have successfully attained the loyal support of many vulnerable social groups but beyond having their support do you have any actual interest in them? Labour didn’t have same-sex marriage in their manifesto in 2010 and you didn’t implement it in the thirteen years of power you had prior to that. In fact, almost every single piece of pro-equality legislation the Labour Party has ever passed has been implemented because you were sued in to doing so or because a Liberal drew up the proposals for you.
The Gender Recognition Act? Allowing gays in the military? Forced on to the Labour government by the European Human Rights Convention, like so many other pro-equality pieces of the time. What about equalising age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual couples? The charge against that very movement in 1994 was led by David Blunkett, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary. And what about the Welfare State, set up as outlined in the Beveridge report? It did not come from the fresh-thinking or strong principles of the Labour Party but from William Beveridge, a member of the old Liberal Party.
And what about the illegal Iraq war? A conflict fought on false pretences which has almost irreparably stoked tensions in the Middle East, caused countless needless deaths of civilians and the Armed Forces and contributed to four million people leaving Syria and seeking refuge around the world. And by the way, who was it in Calais talking about this humanitarian crisis and calling for us to take more refugees in? It wasn’t the four squabbling Labour leadership candidates; it was Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats.
In fact, just this week, Labour vetoed a monumentally progressive debate on scrapping Trident at party conference because you were afraid your apparently sturdy principles, which nobody can identify, would upset your Trade Union overlords.
Maybe you’re upset that ‘we got in to bed with the Tories’. Are we the real Tory enablers? No. Labour are the party who launched campaigns slamming the Liberal Democrats for their role in government, ignoring all the positive manifesto pledges we successfully made in to law and the sterling job we did at tampering the truly heinous Conservative government we’re left with now. If it wasn’t for Labour conflating this nonsensical version of events, we wouldn’t have lost so many Tory-Lib Dem marginals and maybe we’d be ‘in bed’ with you instead.
It’s not like you’re exactly showing yourself to be stern opposition to the newly unrestrained Tories. Let us not forget the mass abstention from the Labour Party on votes that threatened the very existence of our National Health Service, the one you so reverently yet incorrectly boast to have created. So what is Labour’s idea of promoting social equality? Separate manifestos for LGBT+ people? Tough-talking xenophobic mugs? Patronising pink buses?
To be honest, Mr. Watson, this quote would be funny if it weren’t so sad and weren’t so damaging. Whilst your party sat in a hall waiting the result of its recent leadership election, patting itself on the back for its gender diversity as man after man addressed the packed venue of Labour members, the Liberal Democrats were reflecting on a job well done in government. We were reflecting on how we made the country a better place for people on low income, school children, gay and lesbian couples among others – and just how devastated we were we lost so many excellent female MPs too.
The Liberal Democrats are not perfect, we made mistakes, plenty of them. But are we ‘useless’? Are we ‘lying sell-outs’? No, we’re not. The Labour Party has reaped the rewards of its inaccurate reputation and as a result has become the greatest hindrance to social and economic equality in this country.
So instead of slinging mud from the halls of an auditorium in Brighton where your party so arrogantly and so wrongly revels in its own ego, we’re out fighting this awful Conservative government and making a meaningful, and better yet, genuine stand against inequality and injustice. Maybe one of these days, you would like to join us.
The Liberal Democrats are down but they’re not out, excluding our leader and party president, these ten Liberals can be at the forefront of the Lib Dem fightback!
Despite being defeated in the leadership election, Norman Lamb is still a politician of real quality. His extraordinary work towards improving treatment of mental health in coalition government means Norman will find being the party’s Health spokesperson a breeze. Norman is a rare breed of politician; he’s widely liked outside of party lines – he even received a glowing report from The Daily Mail! Health issues are always at the forefront of British politics and Norman has the qualities to make people listen to our plans for the NHS.
The Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is one of the party’s best parliamentarians. Kirsty’s leadership will be crucial in leading the Lib Dem revival in Wales. Kirsty is a dedicated and passionate liberal with an irresistible charm, her record in the Welsh Assembly, particularly on education and providing children and young people with greater opportunity needs to be exploited. Her track record and natural poise mean she is one to watch in the party and should consider standing for deputy leadership.
He probably thinks I’m taking the piss by including him but that’s only partially true. As the most senior member of Liberal Youth and experience at the very top of the party, Josh has the tools to lead the Lib Dem Fightback online and with the young’uns. Josh is a respected member of the Social Liberal Forum and can help the party regain positive traction with younger audiences. Josh’s tweets and life in general may be a bit tragic but his politics are great and I’m sure given the opportunity, people will respond to that.
Most people’s tip to be the party’s next deputy leader. Jo Swinson’s defeat in the 2015 General Election was undeserved and is considered a travesty within the party. Swinson flourished as Junior Equalities Minister in the Coalition government and is renowned for putting tackling gender discrimination at the forefront of her politics. Jo Swinson is a passionate advocate for equalites regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or ability, the Lib Dems can thrive in these areas of policy because the Tories will not prioritise them over the next five years.
Maajid is ever the controversial and divisive figure, but I think his expertise is vital. In an increasingly uncertain world, Nawaz is the perfect man to lead the Lib Dems on policy concerning Islamism and the emergence of the so-called Islamic State. It is crucial we as Liberals redress the culture of disenfranchising Muslims in Britain and Nawaz can help the party on it’s way to attaining a broad, range of views on the matter.
Tessa is another leading former MP who has allegedly long had her eyes set on deputy leadership. Munt has proven herself to be a capable and resilient politician, already expressing her desire to stand again in the constituency she lost just four months ago. Tessa’s speeches at Lib Dem Autumn Conference were confident, punchy and inspiring and her steely determination and unwavering gumption are exactly the assets the party needs to recuperate.
Lynne Featherstone is one of the party’s most internally popular politicians. As a minister in the Home Office, Featherstone paved the way for same-sex marriage to be legalised in the coalition government and also set about ending the heinous practice of FGM. As one of the new ‘kamikaze peers’, Featherstone will once again be at the forefront of the party, tackling Energy & Climate Change – an issue that is often overlooked. Lynne Featherstone has a natural aura that makes her likable and personable and let’s face it, her outstanding legacy speaks for itself.
As the party’s sole MEP, poor Catherine Bearder has her work cut out for her ahead of next year’s EU membership referendum. But make no mistake, Catherine Bearder has her seat on merit and has the tools to lead the party’s unashamedly pro-European stance. Of course, Bearder will need the help from the wider Lib Dem membership but Catherine’s position of influence could help her and our party be on the right side of history by championing EU membership next Autumn.
I really like Caroline Pidgeon but Zack Polanski would have been my tip for the top of the Lib Dems’ GLA list. As he showed during the party’s rally at this year’s Autumn conference, Zack can really make liberalism exciting. His pure exhilaration and passion for liberal politics and the people he desires to serve means he is arguably the best example of how the Lib Dems can rebuild from the grassroots up. There are a finite number of people, if any, more likeable in the party than Zack and if that translates he can be at the forefront of the party’s grassroots and capital revival.
And finally, there is me. As the best blogger in the Liberal Democrat world and generally the best liberal ever, I am undoubtedly the party’s best asset. I mean I’m 200/1 to be the next leader for goodness sake, I’ve as good as got it – in fact, I’ll eat my hat if it doesn’t happen. Seriously though, members of Liberal Youth and avid social media users like me can also make a massive difference to the party’s fortunes but I’m just going to list my name… for the attention.
My first Liberal Democrat conference this week was a thoroughly enriching experience. As a dedicated member of a party at its lowermost ebb in recent memory, having the opportunity to collude with like-minded individuals was invaluably refreshing and will do wonders in aiding our ‘fightback’.
In truth, Lib Dem conference is a strange land filled with gospel choirs, jovially witty songs and jokes about the breaking Prosciutto Affair. A place where I’m Paddy Ashdown’s idol, Nick Clegg is a humble giant and Alistair Carmichael stays up to discuss skinny jeans in to the early hours of the morning. However, despite the breezy spirit and happy-go-lucky merriment, the lasting legacy of autumn conference in Bournemouth is a serious one, a clear direction for our party to go to next.
Alistair Carmichael told me that he had noticed me in the auditorium after the Trident policy vote and expressed that he was struck by how ‘pissed off’ I looked – which was fair, because I was. A loaded debate which favoured the parliamentary party’s and established Lib Dems’ stance saw the party defer on making a real policy on Trident either way, this limp-wristed policy is all too indicative of our contemporary public perception – and we need to counteract that.
Economic sensibility is not somewhere we lost votes, in fact, I’d be willing to wager that our economic credentials are considered among the finest in the country, at least that’s what The Institute of Fiscal Studies thinks. Yet, we have lost our identity as a radically progressive party, or at least, it has been diluted and overshadowed by others. Small ‘l’ liberals in this country care about economic sensibility, of course they do, but they care about civil liberties, they care about internationalism, they care about recreational drugs, euthanasia, equalities and social justice and we need to rediscover that unapologetic vibrant liberalism that makes our ideology so popular the world over. It’s as Tim Farron noted in his first keynote speech; we need liberals to become Liberal Democrats.
My views were shared by a friend I made, a long-term party member who was attending his first conference, named Fareed. He and I spent many hours agreeing with our fundamental vision for our party and it was one we relayed to an enthusiastic albeit exhausted Norman Lamb late on Tuesday night. Although, we agreed on our collective vision, Fareed was able to articulate it far more successfully than I, a further testament to how enriching a strong membership can be. The Liberal Democrats need to make noise, we spent five years in a gruelling coalition government and barely anybody knows what we did whilst in power. We didn’t shout loud enough about delivering same-sex marriage, raising the personal allowance and ending child immigration detention centres. When parties and movements make noise, the people follow. UKIP have chirped on and on about the corrupt establishment politics of Brussels and Westminster and have seen a remarkable rise in the popular vote and too a win in last year’s European elections. Similarly, the SNP were able to bang the drum of Scottish independence last year and made such a racket that they won nearly every single Scottish seat in Westminster. People are intrigued by blare, titillated by dynamism and enthused by effervescence; I’m calling on my party to be one of unadulterated, uninhibited loud liberalism that will inspire Britons from St. Ives to Shetland.
My friend Fareed then went on to provide me with a stunning metaphor for our party. He is an avid fan of Classics, and particularly stories from the Iliad. During a lively chat at the bar this week, he told me the story of Cassandra, a woman punished by the gods with the curse of being able to foresee the future but never being able to convince people that she was being truthful about her predictions. It was during this casual sharing of interests that his eyes widened and he uttered the all too prophetic and tragically accurate phrase; “we’re the Cassandra party”. We were right about the welfare state, we were right about Iraq and we were right about the coalition. I, like Tim Farron, am absolutely fed up with being right and losing elections.
It was perhaps fitting that it was actually Charles Kennedy who left me feeling the most inspired to rectify that. During the remarkably observed and excruciatingly emotional tribute to our late, great former leader, a quote eerily echoed around the auditorium, a last contribution by Charles to his party, and a blueprint for our ‘fightback’; “This is what we should be passionate about. If it makes us unpopular in certain quarters, let’s be unpopular for what we care about, what we believe in, and what defines us and what we think is best for our country.”
It really is rather that simple, the sagacity of Charles Kennedy can lead us to the top yet again. We as a party have made mistakes, of course we have, but liberalism is a brand that provides hope for every single person the world over. We need to change, we need to move away from the comfort of vapid centrism and embrace the radical alternative that holds together our every tradition. The time is now to make a racket, take the fight to the government and make liberalism the brash politics that charms voters. Now, four months after our near obliteration, we are convalescing at an encouraging speed. Loud liberalism will save our party and our country. More than ever, the Liberal Democrats need Britain and Britain needs the Liberal Democrats – please don’t let us be right without power again.
Canada’s 2015 General Election is in full swing. Just like in the UK, the opinion polls can’t seem to call it, but in the Great White North, there is not an unpredictable two way race but three genuine contenders all vying it out for power. As a member of the Lib Dems in the UK, I am thrilled to see a liberal party and a socially democratic party vying it out at the top of the polls. The question is; which is the best choice for Canada?
Using the ISideWith website, I have cherry-picked 28 non-Canada specific issues to compare the parties on.
Domestic policy always dominates election discourse and as we’ll see with the trend of this post, there is little room for disagreement between the Liberals and the NDP. On issues like protecting citizens phone calls and emails from government snooping, both parties take an encouragingly liberal approach by opposing such measures. Both wish to stop sending non-violent drug offenders to prison. And both are keen to put public interest at heart by investing in vital commuter rail links and nationalising the energy sector to protect citizens from economic extortion. Justin Trudeau has been much firmer over talk of abolishing the Senate but the NDP are officially on side with that issue too. On Quebec sovereignty, I favour another referendum much like we saw in Scotland – both the Liberals and the NDP are anti-Quebec independence. The only real difference in this area is that of national daycare. Whilst, I respect and like the NDP’s pledge to offer the policy to all families of all economic situations, at a time where Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have led Canada back in to recession, I prefer the more sensible Liberal plan to offer it to poorer families who really need the support.
The one that everybody worries about; the economy. As I mentioned, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has left Canada in a recession for five consecutive months and lagging far behind over developed Western nations, Canada used to glide in front of in a fiscal capacity. On three of the four economic issues I selected, the Liberals and the NDP are concurrent. Both reject plans to tax the pensions of retired workers and both pledge to utilise economic stimulus to aid the economy during recession – really positive and progressive economics. Whilst, I wouldn’t be so quick to increase corporation tax in the UK, I feel differently in regards to Canada. I don’t support a drastic increase but given the nation implements a globally low rate of 15%, a modest increase to 20% could raise revenue to ease the deficit. The NDP would have edged this section thanks to their morally righteous commitment to only pursue free trade with countries that respect the human rights of its citizens, something the Liberals haven’t stipulated as a deal breaker, but Mulcair’s minimum wage plan is rife with subterfuge and would only benefit 1% of workers in Canada – for that reason, it’s a dead heat.
The NHS is the crown jewel of British politics and the Canadian health system is considered as good, if not better than the UK’s. Of course, health care is a vital public service and I oppose any cuts to it. Thankfully, that’s not even on the radar for either party and they agree on all four issues regarding healthcare. Both want prescriptions and preventative dental care to be included in Canada’s Universal Healthcare plan, if only such a thing was on the agenda in across the pond. It encourages me to see that marijuana legalisation is being treated as a health issue and encourages me that both parties are staunch supporters of adopting that very position. However, I’ve taken an extremley liberal position on the policy of forcing parents to vaccinate their children for preventable diseases. Both the NDP and the Liberals want that to happen but I would prefer fierce support of vaccination but I’m not sure I like the idea of forcing someone to do something with their child, no matter how positive the outcome may be.
The Liberal Democrats in the UK pride themselves on being internationalist, so it would be reasonable to assume the same attitude was adopted by these two parties. Both parties take progressive and diplomatic approaches to foreign policy by pledging to raise foreign aid from the paltry Canadian rate of 0.4% and by rejecting any plans for Canada’s military to get more involved in Iraq. Whilst, I would never be one to advocate for a large defence budget, I am not too disgruntled by both’s plans to increase spending on the military which stands at under 1% of GDP, especially given the rising global threat from ISIS and Russia. The clincher in this area of policy was the C-51 bill, an act which gives counter-terrorist services a mandate to infringe civil liberties in name of security. Disappointingly the Liberals support a slightly better version of the Conservative bill – but it remains an affront to liberalism, and hypocritical of the party to support. The NDP opposed the bill in parliament and as a result are the best of the pair for foreign policy.
Social policy is yet another draw. I can’t say I expected anything else from the parties either. Both the NDP and the Liberals are in support of euthanasia, an issue I take a passionately liberal stance on and both are challenging the Islamophobic rhetoric of the Conservatives by refusing to back any movement towards banning the wearing a niqab during civil ceremonies.
The appetite for electoral reform is as big in Canada as it is in the UK. The difference is, they have parties in a position to do something about it. Despite the fact, it can often work to both’s benefit, the Liberals and NDP are in favour of establishing a proportional electoral system to better reflect Canada’s popular vote. Both are unsurprisingly in favour of allowing corporations, unions, and non-profit organisations to donate to political parties – either would have earned extra brownie points for proposing a donation cap.
On the two environment issues I chose, there is unsurprisingly little to separate the two. It’s important to prevent climate change and protect the environment, the Liberal plan to subsidise production and consumption of renewable energy sources and to increase regulations on businesses is a responsible one with sound and fair intervention. The NDP want to go a little further by incentivising business to use greener energy. Whilst, the intentions are admirable, it’s in effect, a double subsidy that wouldn’t be wise given the economic state of Canada and the fact environmental protection is part of a businesses’ duty to the people and its country and not something the electorate should have to shell out for.
I don’t side 100% with either party on the one education issue I picked. Both the Liberals and the NDP want to abolish university tuition fees. I would rather the rates were lowered and a fairer repayment system was installed but I don’t object to their shared alternative plan and I’m still very movable on this topic.
I’m fervently against the right’s efforts to demonise immigrants and immigration. The process of immigration is a net economic benefit to a nation and a country as sparsely populated and steeped in multicultural history, society and foundation as Canada should welcome immigration with open arms. Thankfully, both the Liberal party and the NDP agree with me.
Having watched one of the leader debates, I was really impressed with the poise, conviction and passion of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, something I’ve consistently found when I’ve been exposed to his campaigning. He is popular, relatable and exciting. However, despite popular consensus, I cannot warm to Thomas Mulcair who seems warm, stoic, dry and patronising. Any slant against Trudeau’s age is just condescending and ageist. He looks like a better candidate for Prime Minister than Mulcair.
Having weighed all of these issues up, there really isn’t much to separate the two parties. To be honest, I think a vote for either is a good choice for the Canadian people. If anything, the Liberals just about pip NDP as the best choice for Canada, but there’s not a lot about the New Democratic vision that I can disagree with or actively condemn. If these two parties manage to find themselves in first and second then the future is bright for Canadian politics. The best of the rest are the Greens with Bloc Quebecois miles ahead of Stephen Harper’s Conservative party, who are simply awful. I endorse a Liberal party victory in the Canadian election but given how unlikely an outright majority is, a coalition of some sort would be grand.
After some gentle peer pressuring from Josh Dixon, I decided it might be a good idea to verbalise why I am a liberal and to be honest, I’ve found it tricky. I don’t want to toot my own horn too much but I usually just plonk myself down in my swivel chair and write whatever comes to mind but I struggled to attack this task.
In fact, it was only until I was in a queue to buy underwear in Debenhams today that I figured out why I think the way I do.
I have always been one of those people who has strong opinions. Since I was young, I’ve had an opinion on just about everything, usually meticulously thought through and passionately defended – it earns you both plaudits and critics.
Weirdly, I wasn’t really interested in politics until 2010, sure I had my views on certain social issues but I wasn’t really too invested in the whole political process. Unsurprisingly, I was an early victim of Cleggmania. I watched the leader debates that year and was really struck by the consistent liberalism that Nick showed. And apparently, my entire school was, the Lib Dems won a landslide in our mock election the following week.
From then on, I studied British politics at A2 level and found my sympathies consistently aligning with the Liberals, I had decided where my loyalty and morality lied. As I would later find out, I’m a third generation liberal; both my mother and grandmother have been fierce liberals their entire lives.
Liberalism really is quite wonderful. Sure, there’s internal debate within the Liberal Democrats over whether social liberals like myself or economic liberals are the best placed to deliver the end goal of maximised individual liberty but what a great debate to have! How great is it that we can challenge each other over which freedom is greater and which virtue of freedom we should progress further.
There are few things that offend me more than inequality and authoritarianism. I don’t believe the state should be able to tell us what we can and can’t do with our bodies. If we choose to do something, we should be able to, as long as it’s no detriment to anyone else, we should have full autonomy over our destiny.
Likewise, it’s easy for me as a gay man to fight for LGBT+ equality but the real integrity of a liberal comes from fighting for equality from the areas in which you are unfairly privileged. I’m middle-class, white, male and able-bodied but I am passionate about putting forward an agenda that will restore parity among humans regardless of their gender, race, class, sexuality or physical ability.
Liberalism really is great. It’s an ideology that has brought so much good to every part of the world, including this country. Without liberalism we wouldn’t have social housing, pensions, national insurance, women’s rights, LGBT+ rights including equal marriage, and of course, the crown jewel of British politics, the Welfare State.
I’m a liberal because I want the government to provide a safety net, to intervene when it’s needed not hold our hand every which way we turn. I believe that every individual should be allowed to get on in life unburdened by senseless prejudice and unaffected by an overbearing state intent on taking our civil liberties. The biggest affront to liberalism is authoritarianism clad in red, purple and blue. If you agree with this sentiment then you’re a liberal, and you should probably be a Liberal Democrat too.
Five years ago, if you had suggested I move to London, I would have been horrified. I would have said it was riddled with pollution, crime, arrogance and tubes – and flat out refused to go. But recently I have seen that London has a lot to offer, so much so in fact, I think it’s time we made a couple more.
Metropolis…London is the focal point of UK economics
It’s not just business that excel by the River Thames, incomes are a lot higher in the capital too. The average income in London is approximately 60% higher than in Stoke-on-Trent. Internationally, London is still growing faster than Austin, TX, the fastest growing city in the United States and domestically, London’s growth puts other regions to shame too. The Greater London area experienced growth at twice the rate of the South West, the second fastest growing region in the UK, and an astonishing five times more than the East Midlands in last place. The economic disparity between regions isn’t just evident from growth but also in government investment. Research councils have found that the state spends seven times more per person in London than it does in Northern Ireland. Funding in Wales and the Midlands is also considerably lower than London and the South East. There is no disbelieving that London is placed on a national pedestal by the establishment and there’s little doubt that people outside of London are sick of it. Although, it may seem like it’s all gravy in London, if they even have that down south, with economic growth, high incomes and business start-ups galore, the reality isn’t that rosy for the average resident. This heightened wealth in the Big Smoke has also led London to become the nation’s leader in falling housing affordability, meaning inequality is a tangible concern. And that is really the gruesome irony of all this. London is host to an obscenely disproportionate amount of the nation’s economic opportunities but so few can actually meet the expense of moving there to find them.
How much is spent in each region per person
No matter how vacuous his rhetoric may be, the chancellor is right to address the issue of London centrism – but it’s important to understand that this is not just an economic issue but a social one too. There is a substantial sense of resentment from those north of Watford towards the capital and it’s easy to appreciate why. London has become too big for its boots, being seven times larger than the UK’s next largest city and twenty times larger than the capitals of Wales and Scotland. In fact, it isn’t just population that makes London too large for anyone’s benefit, it also hoovers up a lot of the nation’s press attention with London-specific issues like tube strikes being covered as headline stories on national platforms – I’m sorry, Londoners but nobody else cares. In fact, 49% of news articles in national newspapers are focused on events in London and the South East and that is excluding the on-goings in Westminster, this has caused a staggering attitude of self-importance.
The heightened sense of importance is not the fault of Londoners but they too can feed in to it. Common quips that anywhere north of London is the ‘north’ is pig-headed acrimony that has ignited the flames of Scottish independence, cries for regional parliaments and apathy toward the political system in general. It’s a national tragedy that people feel the need to move to London to achieve fulfilment both personally and in the regards to their careers. As a matter of fact, one in three of all 20-30 year olds who relocate in the UK move to London. I aim to be one of those people for those very reasons – but I wish I didn’t have to be. I wish being so far removed from the capital didn’t cause me so much stress and disillusion, but for myself and many others that is the case. Anti-depressants are prescribed to more and more people the further away you get from London and urban life in general, showing the need to redistribute our attentions to hubs dotted around the country.
The shade of grey depicting where anti depressant prescriptions are more numerous
London is a massive economic advantage to the United Kingdom, it’s a fantastic city that promotes growth, business and opportunity. Yet, it is not infallible and its shoulders aren’t broad enough to carry the nation’s economy on its own. In France, Germany and Spain, all nations of a similar population to ours, there is more than one global economic city. We need a Barcelona, a Lyon, or a Munich in Britain. If we can take the essence of what makes London so successful and redirect it in to not just a Northern powerhouse but a Midlands powerhouse too. By doing this, we will ease the ridiculous housing prices in London by redirecting those desperate to move to the capital to other major hubs of opportunity and we will temper the disgusting and illiberal disaffection so many young people feel if they can’t find a life for themselves in London. It really doesn’t matter if it’s Manchester and Leicester, Birmingham and Leeds or Cardiff and Glasgow, all that matters is that we spread the capital’s economic acumen more fairly across the country by moving towards a more balanced ouput and greater parity on spending per person in all regions. London is not the be all and end all of the United Kingdom and nor should it be, let’s give the rest of the nation a chance to thrive. I hope to move to London one day, but the fact of the matter is, I shouldn’t feel I have to.
Liz Kendall’s comments that Labour have been the best institution for equality in this country have pissed me off. I know I’ve spent some time negatively campaigning against Labour recently and it’s not endearing and I will cut back, but these lies that Kendall purports and many other Labour supporters too seem to work and as a result, it prevents genuine pro-equality parties from making a change.
So here’s a list of all the times Labour has been quite blatantly anti-equality;
Anti-electoral reform: Labour want to keep the first past the post system where votes for themselves and the Tories count for more than votes for other parties
Same-sex marriage: Labour failed to introduce same-sex marriage in 13 years of majority government yet still boastfully claim to be the only party that can deliver equality. It didn’t even appear in their 2010 manifesto. The Lib Dems delivered the policy in five years of coalition government.
Iraq war: Labour falsely entered the country in to a war, or in retrospect a massacre, against Iraq on a false pretence.
Gender recognition act:Labour were sued in to passing this legislation, allowing people to change their legal gender.
Gays in the military: see above.
Equal age of consent: Labour’s shadow health secretary David Blunkett led the campaign against equalising the age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals in 1994.
Civil partnerships: Passed the unequal civil partnership bill due to requirement of the EHRC – were not solely responsible for even drafting the bill.
EHRC: Forced Labour in to introducing the equality policy they did between 1997-2010, almost none was off their own back.
Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson: Labour government refused to recognise Celia and Sue’s marriage in Canada in the UK despite lengthy campaigning.
Trans people in marriage: Labour voted against trans people being allowed to change their gender if it meant their marriage would in turn become a same-sex marriage.
The welfare state: Labour can take a big chunk of credit for enacting the welfare bill but the ‘imagination’ Liz Kendall claims Labour has, certainly wasn’t used here. It was pretty much entirely the work of William Beveridge, a Liberal.
Disability equality:Legislation was first introduced by the Tories in 1995
Flapper election: Again, enfranchising all women to the vote was introduced by the Tories and campaign in the 20th century led by the Liberals.
Gay marriage support: Only 64% of Labour members polled in 2010 supported same-sex marriage, less than the Lib Dems and only slightly more than the Tories.
Labstention: Labour MPs decided to abstain leaving Lib Dems, Caroline Lucas of the Greens and the SNP to oppose the Tory’s welfare slashing bill in vain.
Immigration mugs:Decided to make mugs stating they would be tougher on immigrants.
Harriet Harman’s Pink Bus: Patronisingly used a gimmick riddled pink bus to attract female voters to Labour
Separate manifestos:Still use separate manifestos for LGBT+ people and women as if their needs are completely removed from all others.
Labour, to their credit have been involved and have led charges for some equality legislation in the past and it would be duplicitous for me to claim otherwise, but pretending to be the ‘leading party’ in equality is counter productive and evil. So please, Labour, step up to the plate or shut up.
There are plenty of reasons for students of De Montfort University, like myself, to be proud. Up until a couple of years ago, DMU was barely on the higher education map, until mass investment transformed the university in to being the most improved higher education centre in the UK two years running. However, while I am proud of how the university has improved and continues to progress, I cannot sit idly by whilst they give out unjust awards to credit-stealing politicians.
Last week, DMU vice-chancellor Dominic Shellard travelled to Downing Street alongside several undergraduates to present Prime Minister David Cameron with the most prestigious award one can receive from the university. Why? He was the chosen recipient because of ‘his work’ towards introducing same-sex marriage. Now, the cynic in me thinks this award was actually given to Mr. Cameron for publicity and the excuse of same-sex marriage was just a guise to hide the real intentions of a university intent on promoting itself on a national scale. However, for the purpose of this argument we’ll assume they feel he earned it on merit.
I am certain the VC and the university as a whole didn’t set out to offend anybody, but unfortunately they have. As a result of the ill-advised decision to award Mr. Cameron, DMU’s LGBT+ society has launched a campaign to have the award stripped and given elsewhere. In a statement released the day after David Cameron received the award, the society called for a clear rational for giving the Prime Minister the award and in turn discredited the decision.
David Cameron is not the LGBT+ equality champion that deserves recognition. Many in and out of the LGBT+ society have called for Lynne Featherstone of the Liberal Democrats to instead obtain the award for the far larger role she and her party played in making same-sex marriage a reality. In turn, we in the LGBT+ society of DMU have criticised the University for the lack of correspondence with the society over their decision to reward Mr. Cameron on our community’s behalf. In fact, many think it’s obscene that DMU would choose to award a man who in the past voted against repealing Section 28, who has led a party that has supported economic and immigration measures that disadvantage LGBT+ youths and LGBT+ asylum seekers, and a man who has appointed Equalities ministers who voted against the very legislation for which he has just been rewarded.
If this wasn’t enough, it seems bizarre that the university would choose to honour a Conservative Prime Minister who has just slashed the maintenance grant for the poorest students, who raised tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 during the last parliament, and whose austerity measures have decimated vital youth services up and down the country.
The university has already agreed to discuss the concerns of the LGBT+ society. However, it is important that we as students and LGBT+ people let De Montfort University know that is not okay to award a man for work he didn’t do, and in spite of the negative impact he has had on many LGBT+ people in this country. I think I can speak for most LGBT+ people in Britain when I say that we’re thankful for every Green, Labour, Plaid, SNP, Northern Irish and Tory MP that supported the Lib Dems’ same-sex marriage bill. However, if my university wants to reward people for bringing this policy about, they shouldn’t credit the Prime Minister who happened to be the incumbent at the time of the bill’s passing, and cast one vote like every other MP. Instead they should reward the Liberal Democrat who pushed this bill through parliament armed only with sheer guile, at a time when no politician was even talking about this issue. It’s crystal clear, De Montfort University; this award belongs to Lynne Featherstone.