Political

Which Party is the Natural Home for the UK’s LGBT+ Voters?

It’s a question that is often debated over, which party better represents and stands up for the LGBT+ community? As a Liberal Democrat, it would be remiss of me not to state my own belief that my party has the best track record. However, I have *tried*, and I think pretty successfully, to compile an objective analysis on which of the UK’s seven major parties is the best proponent of the LGBT+ equality agenda.

Methodology

The crux of the ranking system for my analysis has been based around several key policies and legislative votes that have advanced the LGBT+ cause. For each topic, the party’s voting records have been recorded as a % of their parliamentary strength at the time of the debate. Parties were also rewarded if the policy appeared in their manifesto before it was enacted, a point for each year prior to its implementation. And a proportion of 10 points per topic has been allocated to each. A bonus point has been added to the party which governed at the time of the implemented policy, and a further one point has been added if there is near irrefutable evidence, that one or two of the parties led on the issue before it passed in to law. Secondly, on rare occasions, a party has forfeited a point for withholding the progression of LGBT+ rights. For example, when calculating points for the votes on the repeal of Section 28, the Conservatives were docked a point for introducing the legislation in the first place.

The topics considered were as follows;

  • Legalisation of same-sex activity
  • The declassification of homosexuality as an illness
  • Equalisation of age of consent
  • Civil partnerships
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Joint and step adoption for LGBT+ persons and couples
  • Equal access to IVF
  • Equal access to surrogacy
  • Allowing LGBT+ people to serve openly in the miltary
  • Declassification of Transsexualism as an illness
  • Right to change legal gender
  • Laws against hate speech based on sexuality and gender identity
  • Anti-discrimination laws
  • LGBT+ sex education
  • The MSM blood donation ban
  • Banning conversion therapies
  • The Repeal of Section 28
  • Alan Turing’s law
  • Immigration equality for LGBT+ persons and couples
  • Recognition of LGBT+ identity for asylum requests

Following the analysis of these issues, further points were added for each new pledge made by the seven major parties in their most recent manifesto, in this case, for the 2015 General Election. After these points were awarded, the percentage of national elected officials who identify as LGBT+ were calculated and a proportion of 10 points added to each party’s total. Finally, further considerations were made as to how much other actions by a party or their respective positions in politics were taken in to account. For instance, having an elected LGBT+ leader of any national branch of a party resulted in the rewarding of one additional point. If a party, supported other measures that disproportionately affected the LGBT+ community, they were docked up to 3 points. Finally, if a leader or senior figure of a party had brought the LGBT+ equality agenda in to disrepute by any of their actions or comments, they were docked one or two points, depending on the severity of their faux pas.

Party-by-party ranking and analysis

7. UK Independence Party

 

Strengths

UKIP failed to score a single point on the analysis of policy, though they have only recently won parliamentary representation. Regardless, the UK’s most ardent Eurosceptic party has failed to champion any pro-LGBT+ policies in any of its manifestos. It even adopted the policy of opposing same-sex marriage because it didn’t animate the daily discourse of the nation. UKIP do however boast one out LGBT+ representative, Scottish UKIP leader and MEP David Coburn.

 

Weaknesses

The main pitfalls of UKIP’s credentials for promoting LGBT+ equalities come not only from direct opposition ot pro-LGBT+ measures but also from a long string of homophobic blunders by candidates and members. Coburn himself has stated that ‘same-sex marriage breeds homophobia’. Another UKIP councillor once blamed localised flooding on the existence of homosexuals. Other gaffes included Nigel Farage calling for immigrants with HIV to be banned from entering the UK, MEP Roger Helmer supporting conversion therapies and the party’s Hastings PPC calling for “poofters to be shot”.

Score: -2


6. Scottish National Party

Strengths

The SNP have long claimed to be on the side of LGBT+ people, and that attestation carries a lot of weight. The SNP have voted pretty much unanimously in favour of LGBT+ rights whenever the situation has presented itself.  The party has supported a vast array of LGBT+ equality bills from equal access to IVF to civil partnerships and anti-discrimination laws. The SNP also boast an impressive amount of openly-LGBT representatives, with 6.72% of their membership in both Westminster houses, Holyrood and Brussels identifying as LGBT+.

Weaknesses

However, supportive though the SNP may be on issues affecting our community, they do not appear to prioritise them. LGBT+ rights issues appear in none of their Westminster manifestos until 2015, where just one is listed – a pledge to promote rights of LGBT+ persons internationally. The Scottish Nationalists are without a doubt LGBT+ allies, but their record suggests they have much bigger priorities.

Score: 13

 

 


5. Conservative Party

Strengths

The Conservatives’ last two leaders and the country’s last two Prime Minister’s have definitely been in the socially liberal camp of their party. Both David Cameron and Theresa May supported same-sex marriage, with the latter being heralded as a secret champion of the legislation. Former Tory MP Edwina Currie was also prevalent in equalising the age of consent, introducing a bill in 1994 which was eventually defeated by her own party and dissenting Labour members. The Conservatives also look set to implement Alan Turing’s Law in the coming weeks. The Scottish Conservative party also boast having an openly lesbian leader in Ruth Davidson.

Weaknesses

The Conservatives, under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s hold the indignity of being the first governing party in over 100 years to introduce anti-gay legislation with the infamous passing of Section 28. The Tories also opposed an amendment, alongside the Labour Party, that would have prevented Trans people divorcing when the right to change legal gender was enacted. In general, the Tory backbenchers tend to be much more socially conservative than their media friendly leadership, as evidenced by the party’s vote against same-sex marriage in 2013. Whilst, the Tories willingly boast about the passing of same-sex marriage under a Tory-led coalition government, just two pro-LGBT+ policies appeared in their 2015 manifesto. As well as this, just 2.74% of the Tory’s massive parliamentary strength across the UK is openly LGBT+.

Score: 16


4. Plaid Cymru

Strengths

Again, Plaid Cymru have consistently, and without exception, voted in favour of greater rights for the LGBT+ community. The Party of Wales also boasted an impressive roster of pro-LGBT+ ideas in their 2015 manifesto, with six policies ranging from improving access to Gender Identity Clinics in Wales, and overturning the MSM blood ban, an issue the party has led on. 5.88% of the party’s parliamentary and assembly representation is LGBT+.

Weaknesses

Unfortunately for Plaid, there parliamentary presence both in Wales and Westminster, has been scant, meaning their well-intentioned brand of pro-LGBT+ politics has had little effect on the lives of our community. There is no doubting which side of the debate the party falls on, but they have often been too small a party to make a meaningful difference to LGBT+ lives.

Score: 16


3. Green Party 

Strengths

The Greens have been gaining a reputation for being the new frontier of LGBT+ politics in the UK for some years now. They were the first party to support same-sex marriage in 2001, nine years before the pledge was matched by the next major party. The Greens also boasted the joint highest number of new pledges for LGBT+ equality in 2015, with an impressive eleven new policies.  These included innovative ideas to promote education access for Trans people, as well as LGBT+ specific teacher training. The Scottish Greens are jointly-led by openly-gay Patrick Harvie, who makes up 14.29% of their national legislative strength, though there are only seven Greens in office at all.

Weaknesses

Similarly to Plaid Cymru, the Green Party have a history of being too small a party to make much of a difference. The Greens are also ideologically opposed to coalition governments, meaning they are never likely to lead the front for LGBT+ people in office. As well as this, the Greens have adopted the practice of separate LGBTQI manifestos, something many in the community rightly find patronising.

Score: 21


2. Labour Party

Strengths

Without doubt, the Labour Party have led governments with the most changes for LGBT+ equality, including the legalisation of same-sex activity, Civil partnerships and joint and step adoption among other things. In fact, the amount of pro-LGBT+ policies that came to fruition under Labour governments compared to Conservative governments is staggering. In fact 70% of the policies analysed here happened under a Labour government. Impressively for one of the nation’s two largest parties, 4.5% of major elected Labour officials are openly LGBT+.

Weaknesses

However, whilst there is little room to refute New Labour’s achievements, their overall record has been somewhat patchy. The Civil Partnerships legislation which Labour enacted in 2004 was actually drafted by the Liberal Democrats. The Labour government are praised for ‘paving the way’ to same-sex marriage in 2013 but the party did not champion the issue in its 2010 manifesto. Disappointingly, Labour only championed five new policies for LGBT+ people at the 2015 election, again in a segregated manifesto.  Similarly, Peter Tatchell condemned the last Labour government for reneging on promises to ease asylum for LGBT+ individuals. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn must also be questioned for taking up to £20,000 from an Iranian State broadcaster, a nation where gay people are killed for their sexuality, actions he defends.

Score: 31

 


1. Liberal Democrats

Strengths

Britain’s largest liberal party has a long history of supporting LGBT+ rights. The Lib Dems were the first major party to support equal age of consent, the right to change legal gender and were the first party to oppose Section 28 and the MSM blood ban. The Liberals are credited with instigating same-sex marriage in 2013, a policy they have supported since 2010, a pledge not matched by the other two main parties. This was an achievement made with just 8% of MPs, and a bill spearheaded by Lynne Featherstone. As with all of the other major progressive parties, the Lib Dems have voted strongly in favour of LGBT+ rights, and boasted an impressive eleven new LGBT+ policies in their 2015 manifesto, the joint highest.

Weaknesses

However, the party’s role in the Coalition government led to the Lib Dems  opposing some but supporting many of the Conservative’s cuts to public spending. Studies show that the austerity enacted under the Coalition government negatively impacted the LGBT+ community more than the average straight person. Similarly, there are doubts over current leader Tim Farron’s commitment to LGBT+ rights, though he never voted against same-sex marriage as widely reported, he did abstain on one reading, a decision he claims to regret. He also courted controversy for refusing to deny that he thought gay sex was ‘sinful’.

Score: 53


 

Conclusions

From my research in to the history of LGBT+ rights in the UK, it is my belief that there is a grey area as to who is the greatest advocate of LGBT+ policy. Labour have undoubtedly overseen the most instrumental changes for the LGBT+ community whilst in power, but it is equally agreeable that the Lib Dems have had greater success, pound for pound, and have consistently been ahead of the curve compared to Labour and the Tories. The Conservatives remain a deeply divided party, and have as much to be ashamed about as proud about when it comes to their LGBT+ rights record. The civic nationalist parties, the SNP and Plaid Cymru have both proven to be allied with the LGBT+ community but are often hindered by other priorities. The Greens are creating a reputation for being leaders for the LGBT+ community, as evidenced by their impressive future pledges.  It is my belied that UKIP is the only ‘bad’ choice for LGBT+ voters, they are lagging far behind the rest.

I am confident that my points system has delivered the correct verdict, if you wish to comment, offer alternative views or systems of ranking then please share them with me! If you would like to see my workings, please e-mail me here.

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Why It’s Time To Abolish The Inheritance Tax

The saying goes that there are just two things in life that are certain; death and taxes. The Inheritance Tax inconveniently combines both of those pretty undesirable inevitabilities in to one fundamentally unfair package – and it’s time we got rid of it.

There is nothing nice about loss. The grief and mourning families go through when faced with the deaths of loved ones can be extremely traumatic. With that in mind, it seems simply wrong to take from families at times like these.

Of course, these sentimental reasons alone cannot form the basis for sound policy on taxation but they are valid nonetheless. Enthusiasts of the Inheritance Tax argue that taxing inheritance diminishes income inequality, a pertinent argument at a time where the gap between the have and the have-nots is getting wider and wider.

That being said, inheritance is money that has already been taxed, through income tax, property tax etc. This makes Inheritance Tax a double tax, an additional levy on money of which a fair portion has previously gone to the state.

This is profoundly unfair and one of the numerous reasons why the Inheritance Tax was voted the least popular in the United Kingdom. On top of this, the Inheritance Tax code is extraordinarily lengthy at almost 1,000 pages long and would take the world’s fastest speaker 10 hours to read out loud, a testament to reducing and reforming the ridiculously complex tax regime in this country as a whole.

Whilst income equality continues to be an economic ill that plagues British society, taxing people twice over is not the way to rectify it. The government’s cuts to Capital Gains Tax and inability to close down loopholes on giant corporations and the richest in society, who have hit the headlines for evading taxation in recent weeks, is a much more just way of remedying this issue. And, this approach would provide the bursary with far more than the Inheritance Tax could ever yield – which is a mere 0.25% of GDP by the way.

There is a case to be made that this tax is imposed to redress a society that is increasingly non-meritocratic – but this point is flawed. Surely it is conducive to a meritocratic society to allow a person to work hard, pay one lot of tax on their earnings, estate and other capital and then pass on whatever is left at the end of their life to the people closest to them?

It is an accepted instinct to provide for those closest to you. If the government comes swooping in to claim yet more money from a now deceased individual, who has worked hard for their entire life to leave for their family, how can we earnestly call this meritocratic? Where is the incentive to knuckle down and earn for your family if up to 40% of your savings are snatched from the hands of your grieving children?

Perhaps it isn’t fair that scrapping this tax could lead to a string of people benefitting from the work of distant ancestors, therein lies the real argument for the Inheritance Tax promoting meritocracy – however it isn’t convincing enough. Economic liberalism insists that an individual has control over their own earnings, even in death – after all, many benefits and privileges people have in life are determined purely by chance and luck.

If we are serious about giving people greater power over their own finances and futures whilst promoting meritocracy and reducing inequality then an Inheritance Tax, which is more punitive on the aspirational middle class than the slippery super-rich, is not the way to go.

Instead the government could place emphasis on a Luxury Goods Tax and by closing down tax loopholes and evasion – that is the fair way of getting the wealthiest to pay their share without squeezing the middle classes at an emotionally distressing time.

We must stop disincentivising people to earn enough to leave money to better their families’ lives once they have passed. After all, this money has already been taxed once; making it liable for taxation again is deeply unfair, unnecessary and not financially justifiable. The only things certain in life are death and taxes, who knew this old adage meant that death was taxable too?

 

Clinton or Sanders?

The race to be in the race for the United States presidency is heating up, with the primaries in sight. To be honest, I don’t like the American style of elections but this year’s is of particular importance nonetheless.

As a member of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, you can pretty much disregard entertaining any notion that I will support a Republican candidate in their quest to take residency in the White House.

In fact, that race seems all but one by Donald J. Trump, meaning the battle to be the Democrats candidate is more crucial than ever.

Martin O’Malley, thanks for coming, but you haven’t a prayer of running in this race. The Democratic nomination is between veterans Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

omalley-sanders-clinton

The internet is littered with tests to match your views with those of each candidate and with each test I have taken, I have found myself with Hil-Rod in second, and Sanders or even O’Malley in first place.

There is a lot to be admired about Bernie Sanders’ pledges to tackle the shocking socio-economic inequality seen throughout the United States, looking to emulate the social democratic governments of Scandinavia.

These aren’t my politics but they’re admirable nonetheless. Clinton, on the other hand is a seasoned liberal campaigner, who is seemingly getting more liberal as her career progresses.

A lot of criticism for Hillary has come from her previous stances on same-sex marriage which saw her oppose the legislation. Of course, this isn’t really relevant. As Americans would say, you have to give props to Sanders for having the foresight to champion such a law for the last three decades at least but the fact is, Clinton is now committed to progressing and protecting LGBT+ rights.

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On perhaps the biggest security issue in the States at the minute, Sanders is taking a devolved stance on gun control laws and failing to launch a meaningful assault on the lax tyranny that leads to thousands of slaughtered Americans every year.

On the other hand, Hillary’s stances on gun control are far less moderate and are a much braver stance against what is a resolute opposition in Republican ranks.

It is also worth remembering that Clinton has recently served as the US’ foreign secretary, and in a world where problems are becoming more and more globalised, she can lead from experience and expertise.

Ultimately, Sanders’ social policy is admirable but Clinton’s political brand is closer to my own. And given the threat that their likely opposition, Donald Trump, presents with his brand of US nationalism and fascism, the progressives Stateside needs someone who can actually beat his bombast in a two candidate run-off.

Sure, Bernie Sanders seems like a lovely guy, with economically questionable ideals, such as his 90% tax rate call, but if you give Americans the choice between socialism and fascism, they will pick the latter every single time.

Hillary is not perfect, of course she isn’t, but she is a competent politician with sturdy political ideals, economic sensibility and a history at the forefront of American diplomacy. She can beat Donald Trump’s brand of neo-fascism, whereas Sanders cannot.

Winner: Hillary Clinton

350px-hillary_for_america_2016_logo-svg

2020 UK General Election Prediction

The idea of trying, and likely failing miserably, to predict a General Election in five years time appeals to me – so I’m doing it.

I’ve tried to be objective and somewhat scientific by looking at previous trends in UK elections but here is my prediction for 2020.


 

Conservatives

Buoyed by their shock majority win in 2015, the Tories enjoy five years in charge on their own. The Tories won’t be particularly affected by the EU referendum result. The party will continue to fudge economic figures and their austerity will still be preferred to weak opposition from Labour. The election of widely popular Boris Johnson will be a big boost prior to 2020.

Labour

Perhaps the hardest to predict. Jeremy Corbyn’s reign won’t stretch until the next election, eventually moderates and the electorate will kick him out of office. Hillary Benn seems like the front-runner to take the helm, so let’s assume he’s successful. Labour will avoid another SDP style split and perhaps won’t be as battered as many expect.

UKIP

After, the EU referendum defeat, Nigel Farage’s party will slow down in the polls – their purpose will be spent. Of course, they won’t vanish in to a puff of smoke, the SNP had been buoyed by referendum defeat. The reactionary politics on issues like immigration and terrorism which give their party life will still be prominent in 5 years time.

Lib Dems

There is no bigger opportunity for a centrist party in the UK than now. Of course, as fate would have it, Britain’s liberals are at their lowest recent ebb. Tim Farron is a great campaigner and at his best can lead the fightback. However, if he fails, they face terminal irrelevance. No party’s place is more precarious than the Lib Dems’.

SNP

The SNP train will come to a gradual break by 2020. Nicola Sturgeon will be unable to keep civic nationalism sexy in Scottish politics in 5 more years as their poor record in Holyrood shines through, along with a string of corruption scandals. They will still be the largest party north of Hadrian’s Wall – comfortably in fact.

Greens

The toughest to predict, their steady upward trend will probably be interrupted by Labour’s lurch to the left and whatever scale of revival the Lib Dems undertake. It’s hard to make a case for political obscurity for the Greens, they still have a purpose.

Plaid Cymru

Scottish nationalism won’t quite be replicated in Wales. I think Leanne Wood’s prediction that Plaid’s time is yet to come may take a little longer to come true, but they could win votes from unsatisfied Labour supporters.


 

Popular vote

CON: 39.9% (+3.0%)

LAB: 25.9% (-4.6%)

LDEM: 14.9% (+7.0%)

GRN: 7.9% (+4.1%)

SNP: 4.0% (-0.8%)

UKIP: 3.4% (-9.2%)

PC: 0.7% (+0.1%)

Seats

CON: 355 (25)

LAB: 190 (42)

SNP: 46 (10)

LDEM: 34 (26)

PC: 4 (1)

GRN: 2 (1)

UKIP: 0 (1)

 

Nadiya’s Victory Is Socially Important

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.

Xenophobia and Islamophobia are still rife in this country. In London, one of the nation’s most cosmopolitan and presumably tolerant cities, Islamophobic hate crimes rose by 70% over the last year, and 60% of those crimes targeted Muslim women. Why? Because of the repugnantly stupid assumption that being Muslim and having Islamist sympathies are mutually exclusive.

And despite immigrants being a net contribution to our economy, and despite the fact that Britain is in fact only filled 2% to capacity, immigration is the biggest concern for the nation’s voters and 57% of people think immigration should be ‘reduced a lot’.

After Nadiya’s victory, she said ‘I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can do it. I’m never gonna say “maybe”. I’m never gonna say “I don’t think I can”. I can and I will.’

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.

Cameron’s Telling Porkies

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.

So whilst it fills my heart with joy to hear support from David Cameron for gender, LGBT+ and BAME equality, forgive me if I remain profusely sceptical of this sudden change of priority. I just cannot overcome the questions that damage the legitimacy of his rhetoric. For instance, where was this concern in the European Parliament in June this year when the party voted against protecting the rights of LGBT+ citizens and a woman’s right to abortion? Where was this concern when David Cameron appointed, not just one, but two opponents of same-sex marriage as Minister for Equalities? Where was this concern when the Prime Minister allowed a free vote on same-sex marriage, leading to the majority of Tory parliamentarians rejecting the bill?

Why did you offer Lynne Featherstone so little support for her ‘blind job application’ proposal and campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation in a generation, and instead wait until the Liberal Democrats were out of government before you could claim the credit for our hard work? Why is it that the Conservatives have one of the worst records in the whole of the European Parliament on defending and advocating for gay rights? Where was your sense of injustice when George Osbourne announced cuts to maintenance grants and tax credits whilst easing the burden on the wealthy by slashing corporation and inheritance tax?

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.

LGBT Equality Parties
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.

An Open Letter To Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

Dear Tom Watson,

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.
Yours faithfully,

Chris Whiting

“You Are #LibDemFightback”: 10 Liberals Who Can Lead The Party’s Recovery

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!

Norman Lamb

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.

Kirsty Williams

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.

Josh Dixon

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.

Jo Swinson

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 Nawaz

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 Munt

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

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.

Catherine Bearder

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.

Zack Polanski

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.

Chris Whiting

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.

Liberal or NDP?

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

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.

Winners: Liberal 

Economy

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.

Winners: Tie

Healthcare

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.

Winners: Tie

Foreign policy

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.

Winners: NDP

Social

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.

Winners: Tie

Electoral

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.

Winners: Tie

Environment

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.

Winners: Liberal

Education

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.

Winners: Tied

Immigration

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.

Winners: Tied 

Leaders

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.

Winners: Liberal

Conclusion

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.

Winners: Liberal

I’m a Liberal Because…

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 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.