A Timely Reform by Ian Ridley

Blog & web site of Ian Ridley

Julianne Regan releases new version of Martha’s Harbour for charity

September 24th, 2013

Martha's HarbourFormer All About Eve singer Julianne Regan has re-recorded their late 80s hit Martha’s Harbour. All proceeds will go to a fund set up to provide some financial security for the family and children of three fishermen who drowned in June 2013, off Ireland’s Waterford Coast.

Julianne has been involved in several projects over recent years, including my current favourite band, The Eden House. You can buy the charity version of Martha’ Harbour on Bandcamp along with some further solo tracks.

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9 Questions for Lib Dem Candidate Selections

July 26th, 2013

I have been a member of the Liberal Democrats for 22 years. I was usually happy to vote for the Lib Dem candidate on the grounds that if they had made it through the selection process, then they must be OK.

OK. Naive I know.

The Coalition and Nick Clegg’s leadership have rudely jogged me out of my complacency. Put simply the coalition has implemented too many policies that should never have made it into law. Leading Lib Dems have made poor tactical decisions and appear to be as out of touch with the impact of these policies as their Tory counterparts.

Yet I am still an active member because I am a liberal and because there are many other members who feel as I do.

Indeed, my analysis of House of Commons Divisions shows that many Lib Dem MPs have a record of opposing these policies. No doubt many potential candidates in 2015 would too.

There are also future issues to consider: Trident, deficit reduction, tax and the Living Wage, some or all of which may feature at Federal Conference in September as this Social Liberal Forum article discusses.

Soon my local Lib Dem party will start choosing our candidate for 2015. As a member, I will have a vote in that selection. More than ever, I need to make sure that I support candidates who reflect my views on liberal democracy.

Based on past troubles and the above coming debates, here is what I think we should be asking potential candidates:

A) Had you been elected in 2010, which of these coalition policies would you have supported?

    1. Increasing VAT to 20%;
    2. Localising Council Tax Benefit;
    3. The Spare Room Supplement;
    4. Free Schools/ Academies;
    5. Tuition Fees;
    6. Secret Courts.

B) Considering to the future, what are your views on:

    1. Replacing Trident;
    2. Introducing A Living Wage;
    3. Deficit Reduction.

Looking at the Coalition Policies, 1-3 have badly hit those on low incomes. 4 is causing confusion and wasting staff and volunteers’ time. 5 is a high-profile broken pledge. 6 is an attack on fair trials. This is not an exhaustive list. Just the worst of a bad bunch.

Trident II D5 Missile Launch

Trident II D5 Missile Launch – By Unknown (United States Navy) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On the future issues, the party must oppose replacing Trident. Most EU nations don’t have or need nuclear weapons. They are an expensive hangover from the Cold War. The Living Wage would help to end government subsidy of low wages through Tax Credits. And I do not believe the Liberal Democrats can be a distinctive alternative at the next election if they endorse Conservative economic policy from 2015 onwards.

The 2010 intake

How do our current MPs fare against these questions? There was no separate Division for the changes to Council Tax Benefit but all the rest are in Hansard. These 15 MPs either abstained or voted against at least half of the measures:

Greg Mulholland
Mike Hancock
Annette Brooke
Andrew George
David Ward
Michael Crockart
John Leech
Adrian Sanders
Julian Huppert
Bob Russell
Jenny Willott
Ian Swales
Tim Farron
Charles Kennedy
Simon Hughes

The list is ordered by agreement with the 5 questions that had Divisions. So Greg Mulholland and Mike Hancock top the list with 3 votes against Coalition policy and 2 abstentions each.

So, if you are a Lib Dem member / supporter as frustrated with the leadership of the Liberal Democrats as I am, take an active role and get like-minded candidates selected for your constituency.

If I have any time or money to help the 2015 Lib Dem campaign, I will be directing it at those candidates or the above MPs.

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Small Beer?

March 21st, 2013
Pint Of Beer

Photo: Ian T CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the changes in yesterday’s budget was a 1p cut in beer duty. Could it have been better targeted?

Making a pint cheaper by 1p is probably neither here nor there for pub-goers. Yet how much is it costing the Treasury? According to the House of Commons Library beer duty accounts for about 40p a pint and HMRC states that it raises just under £3.5 billion per annum. So a 1p cut is worth about £90 million.

The pub trade has been under pressure from duty and VAT increases, declining disposable income and more people drinking at home. Assuming that pubs are something that we want to keep, would it have been better to use this money to directly help individual pubs? The latest BBPA survey shows there are around 50,000 pubs in the UK. So if beer duty had not been cut, about £1800 per pub would have been available, more than double that if you targeted help only at the 20,000 or so Free Houses.

Many pubs are small business, so the budget should help anyway with the reductions in Employers’ NI rates. This extra pot of money could have further assisted pubs, perhaps in lower business rates or other tax breaks, rather than the broader approach of a token cut in duty that mostly helps big drinks firms and pub chains.

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