Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Green Edition

Yesterday I along with, presumably everyone else on the Lib Dem membership e-mail list, received an e-mail from Simon Hughes (in his capacity as President of the Green Lib Dems) with regard to the party's achievements on Green Issues. Unfortunately I didn't have time to blog last night, so here I am, at the coo's tail as usual.

Those of you who follow Caron's Musings may already have seen her take on the e-mail which got her on the wrong foot from the off - and with good reason. Here, however, is the main text, complete with the links provided. 

Two weeks ago, Chris Huhne, as Energy and Climate Change Secretary, led for the government when his Department's Energy Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons. This creates the framework for the Green Deal, a comprehensive programme of energy efficiency improvements for housing and office buildings, cutting both energy bills and emissions. Householders and business will be able to see up to £10,000 invested in insulation, at no up-front cost, paying back the investment through the lower energy bills they will enjoy as a result.

Last week, Chris Huhne announced the government’s ‘carbon budget’ for the mid-2020s, setting a legal requirement for a 50 per cent reduction (from 1990) by 2025. This creates the certainty businesses need to put in place long-term investments in the expanding low-carbon industries – renewable electricity, electric cars, home insulation. This is the most ambitious legally binding carbon budget set by any government anywhere; and by putting the UK at the forefront of the international debate, we will be able to push the EU and the international community towards further emissions cuts world-wide.

And this week, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, revealed details of the Green Investment Bank, the world’s first green development bank. Up and running from April 2012, this will use an initial £3 billion of public money to lever an additional £15 billion in private investment towards the low-carbon opportunities that are opening up – particularly in offshore wind and energy efficiency.

I was this party’s first environment spokesman over twenty years ago. It makes me proud to see what so many of us campaigned for all those years ago being made a reality now we’re in government. This is a key part of what we Liberal Democrats bring to the coalition, and none of this would have happened without us. As Nick said yesterday, ‘the LibDems have long been the greenest of the main three parties - the difference now is that it is not just a green party but a green party of government’.

Simon Hughes MP
Over on Lord Bonkers' blog, he has an excerpt from a very favourable report on these developments - from the Telegraph, believe it or not!


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

In Which Every Party Gains (or should have...)

Here are excerpts from the three main party manifestos for the last election, in no particular order. See if you can work out which is which:

"We will work to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second chamber to replace the current House of Lords, recognising that an efficient and effective second chamber should play an important role in our democracy and requires both legitimacy and public confidence."
"We will ensure that the hereditary principle is removed from the House of Lords. Further democratic reform to create a fully elected Second Chamber will then be achieved in stages. At the end of the next Parliament one third of the House of Lords will be elected; a further one third of members will be elected at the general election after that. Until the final stage, the representation of all groups should be maintained in equal proportions to now. We will consult widely on these proposals, and on an open-list proportional representation electoral system for the Second Chamber, before putting them to the people in a referendum."

"Replace the House of Lords with a fully-elected second chamber with considerably fewer members than the current House."
The answer? The first is the Conservative Manifesto, the second is the Labour Manifesto and the, third curiously, is the Liberal Democrat one. 

There is something slightly odd about the fact that this one of the key policies and long-standing policies of the party be reduced to just 19 words (plus a further 5 in the summary of key priorities) but perhaps this a measure of how straightforward the policy was - simply an elected second chamber with no ifs, buts or further qualification.

The Labour proposals appear to be more thorough but the commitment was to consult on their proposals before putting them to the public in a referendum (along with AV) so this was rather less a cut and dried policy as it would seem at first reading.

Today the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (with the apparent wholehearted backing of the Prime Minster) has published a draft bill and white paper detailing proposed reforms. You can get more details by following the link, and on this BBC News report, but this excerpts summarises the proposals:
"The draft Bill sets out firm proposals, while the White Paper considers alternative options on which the Government remains open-minded.
The Government is committed to a wholly or mainly elected chamber and both options are reflected in what is published today.
The draft Bill illustrates how a reformed House of Lords with 80 per cent of elected members could look, with the remaining 20 per cent appointed independently to sit as cross-benchers. Alongside this, the White Paper sets out the case for a 100 per cent elected chamber."
Overall, what is being proposed is similar to what was in the Labour manifesto but, unfortunately, they have not responded favourably. Instead the progressive agenda is being carried forward by a Conservative/Lib Dem government.

In one respect this would appear not to be a Lib Dem Gain - after all the draft bill is for a majority rather than wholly elected house and every party accepts the need for reform - but the win is House of Lords reform at all. It is the presence of the Lib Dems in the coalition that has driven this forward - without us it may well have been kicked into the long grass or faced the same fate as every previous attempt at reform over the past 100 years.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Nick lists some Lib Dem Achievements...

In a post here on Wednesday I mentioned Nick Clegg's speech at the National Liberal Club, marking the first anniversary of the coalition government. As part of that speech he discussed what he sees as some of the challenges for the party and for coalition government in the next few years as well as listing some of the Liberal Democrat successes achieved so far.

Many of these have already been mentioned on this blog, but here is a list of the things Nick chose to highlight in his speech:

"...cutting income tax for ordinary taxpayers
ending child detention 
increasing the state pension 
introducing free nursery education for disadvantaged 2 year olds 
adding a quarter of a million apprenticeships 
increasing tax on capital gains 
reining in the banks
creating a Green Investment Bank and a green deal
getting more money into schools to help poorer pupils."
Earlier, there was an interesting section of the speech emphasising the Lib Dem's strength on the the economy in the last parliament and giving a vision of a rebalanced economy for the future:
"But we also needed a Government willing to embark on the long-term changes necessary to fix the economy for the future. Short-term repair and long-term reform: that’s the Liberal Democrat economic agenda in government.
The Liberal Democrats were in the lead in identifying what was wrong with the economy long before the last election. The dangers of the deficit, for one: in fact I remember being criticised for warning of the depth of the cuts that would be required.
But we have also been warning for years about the way in which the economy had become dangerously lopsided; too reliant on London and the South East; pumped up on private and public debt; at the mercy of an under-regulated banking sector; and struggling with a creaking infrastructure.
It is this Liberal Democrat analysis of what is wrong with the economy that underpins the Government’s approach to putting it right.
Reform of the banking system. A Regional Growth Fund to support businesses across the nation. A Green Investment Bank to build the green infrastructure needed to cut carbon emissions.
In short, a rewiring of the economy to ensure sustainable, balanced growth."


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Accentuating the Positive

There hasn't been a lot for the Liberal Democrats to cheer about in the past couple of weeks and the blogosphere is awash with analysis of where we're at and how we remedy the situation. An excellent post in this regard can be found at Caron's Musings in which she reacts to Nick Clegg's speech this morning.

One of the key factors which has been identified for rebuilding the electoral base is the communication of the positive impact of the party on the coalition - not just on our pet issues but also on those issue which resonate most with the public. I think Caron's picked a particularly unsung Lib Dem Gain in the example she uses here:
"By suggesting that the Liberal Democrats be more assertive about their differences he makes it sound like we need to argue our case more in the Government. It's more that we have to do it in public. I know that our ministers have robustly fought and won arguments within the Government. Remember that mad idea of Osborne's of cutting Housing Benefit for people out of work for a year? That's gone. And who got rid of it? I'll give you a clue. It wasn't any Tory. It was our ministers calmly and feistily acting on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable."
Over on Stephen's Liberal Journal, in his post reacting to Clegg's speech, he lists some of the issues and areas where the Lib Dem influence on Government policy has been stronger and gives the lie to Conservative claims that this is not the case (reported here):
"David Cameron is denying claims that Lib Dems have "moderated" the Conservative agenda. So Dave, as the Browne report suggested uncapped tuition fees, would the debacle of yesterday where [it was suggested] students paid full fees have become a reality for all without Lib Dem intervention? Would this have been brought in without any requirement on the Universities to help the poorer students into Higher Education? Would the income tax threshold have risen so far ahead of inflation, to ease the burden of your VAT increase on the poorest families? Would you have returned pensions in line with earnings, something your party has said for a long time they were against?"
There's a mountain to climb, and many other electoral tests to come, but there is also a lot of positive things to shout about even if things may have been somewhat negative of late. As well as learning the various lessons of last Thursday, we cannot and should not forget them. And we should communicate them as widely as possible.


P.S. Stephen's post also features a bit of classic New Romantics in direct contravention of what Nick says about not going back to the Eighties! :-p

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

What Have the Lib Dems Done for Us? A Poetic Response

Courtesy of Caron at Caron's Musings - which you really should visit, favourite and re-visit, this excellent video has come to my attention:

You can see more of the performer, Chris Young, on his website and his other website and you can follow him on Twitter.