The Q#2 quintet

Here are the five posts published on this blog between April and June that recorded the most hits:

  1. Taxpayers and ‘the right to the city’:  alternative narratives on cuts to Housing Benefit (25 April)
  2. Groundbreaking economic finding during higher education policy development? (4 April)
  3. Up to the task? Dealing with housing market volatility  (17 May)
  4. Think tanks and the policy process: right, wrong and possibly both at the same time (3 May)
  5. Harsh but fair? Marquand on the Liberal Democrat leadership (14 May)

Thanks for reading. And commenting. Even when you’re disagreeing with me :-)

Advertisements

Greece and the augurs of global disaster

Current events in Greece are genuinely transformational in more ways than one. Clearly the Greek economy is in a heck of a mess. It is not at all obvious whether either of the future directions on offer – eye-watering austerity, on the one hand, or default, exit from the euro and return to the drachma, on the other – offers the better economic route forward for Greece. But it is clear which direction European authorities see as better for the wider Eurozone.

Greek default would create turmoil and render the viability of the Spanish, Italian and Irish economies questionable as creditors sought to reassess and downgrade their holdings of sovereign debt. It would pose serious questions for banks across the Eurozone, in particular in France and Germany. While Greece accounts for a very small component of total Eurozone economic activity it is the symbolic significance of a default – and the profoundly negative chain of events that it could set off – that is feared. Read more of this post

Access denied

Yesterday saw Ken Clarke present the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to Parliament. While the focus has been on the sentencing U-turns, that is a bit of a sideshow. Any liberal with a concern for rights, and in particular the rights of the relatively less powerful in society, should be deeply concerned. The proposals for reform of legal aid are, by any standard, alarming. David Allen Green has described them as ‘horrific and wrong-headed’. That isn’t hyperbole. Read more of this post

The Big Society and Community Politics: My Contribution to #SLFconf

[This is the text accompanying my presentation to the Social Liberal Forum Conference: “Liberalism, Equality and the State”, City University, 18/06/11. Not all of it was delivered on the day, because of the way the session panned out and because there’s too much of it. My thanks to my co-contributors Mark Pack, Simon Hebditch and Lee Chalmers – and to everyone who attended – for a really interesting session.]

“ … a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (MacBeth, Act V, Scene V)

David Cameron clings tenaciously to the Big Society as the organising concept behind his approach to state and society. He does so in the face of almost universal indifference and incomprehension from political opponents, the public, and many on his own side of the House. One is tempted to invoke the above quotation from Shakespeare and leave it at that.

That would, however, be unfair. It would also be a mistake.

Because the Big Society could signal something significant. Although not, perhaps, what its architects intend.

My aim here is to reflect a little on the idea of the Big Society, the consequences of the context in which the idea comes forward, and what it might have in common with the more venerable Liberal idea of Community Politics. In considering these issues it is essential to distinguish clearly between intention and outcome. The pursuit of the Big Society has the potential to set in train processes that may lead to outcomes quite unlike those intended or sought. Read more of this post

Failures to care for vulnerable people: what lessons to draw?

The practices exposed by Panorama last week at Castlebeck’s Winterbourne View care home were profoundly shocking. The case continues to develop – several further arrests were made this week. Ghandi said that “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”. What we witnessed at that particular care home suggests our claims to greatness are debateable. And, of course, rumbling in the background we also have the Southern Cross debacle. There are grave concerns over the future of the country’s biggest private provider of care homes for older people. There appears to be a government guarantee on the table to see that residents are provided for, but no promise of a bail out.

Searching questions are quite rightly being asked. How can we have got into this situation? It is maybe rather late to be waking up to the issues here. Nonetheless, it is welcome that they are getting their moment in the spotlight. Let’s hope some positive changes result. But are the right lessons likely to be drawn from current troubles? Read more of this post

Conference, security and the ‘managers of unease’

The additional security provisions for the Liberal Democrat September conference in Birmingham have attracted considerable high profile comment in the Lib Dem blogosphere. Bloggers including Caron’s Musings, Aunty Sarah and Mark Thompson have registered significant and fundamental concerns. A explanatory post by Andrew Wiseman at Lib Dem Voice, in response to a strongly critical post by Dave Page, has generated substantial comment.

The concerns are several. Three stand out. First, it appears – though it is not entirely clear – that it will be the Police who accredit those who are able to attend Conference. The criteria against which potential delegates will be assessed are not clear. Nor is the basis upon which someone might be rejected. There appears no right of appeal. So not only will the Police stand in judgement over who is able to participate in a lawful democratic assembly, but the process will be utterly non-transparent. Second, the additional data submitted for accreditation can be stored by the Police indefinitely. While that might at first sight appear to contravene the Data Protection Act, there are widespread exemptions for the security services. Third, a key reason for accepting the Police and Home Office position that accreditation is necessary is that not to do so would risk rendering the conference uninsurable.

The proposals for accreditation might seem unexceptional to many because they have been in use at Labour and Conservative conferences for years. Critics have seized on this debate as indicating that Liberal Democrats are not a “serious” party. Read more of this post

Back on the ‘path

[Originally posted on Bristol Running Resource, 04/06/11]

Yesterday’s Towpath 10k was my first outing at 10k for more than three years. Having missed the Bristol 10k last month I thought I’d enter the next local race that I could get to, if only as a target to keep the training moving forward. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve run the Towpath 10k since I ran for GWR in the 2005 Inter-club Mob Match.

So how did it go? Read more of this post