West Midlands Liberal Youth

University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats have issued the following statement:

The Liberal Democrat society at the University of Birmingham is very pleased to announce a joint campaign with the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual, Transsexual, and Queer Association on the topic of equal marriage. At the moment, we are organising to hold an joint event to signal our unwavering support for the equal marriage proposals put forward by the government. The Liberal Democrats, in government,  are promoting an agenda of equal rights and equal opportunities for all in society.

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University of Birmingham Liberal Democrat society takes a stand on equal marriage

The Liberal Democrat society at the University of Birmingham is very pleased to announce a joint campaign with the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual, Transsexual, and Queer Association on the topic of equal marriage. At the moment, we are organising to hold an joint event to signal our unwavering support for the equal marriage proposals put forward by the government. The Liberal Democrats, in government,  are promoting an agenda of equal rights and equal opportunities for all in society.

 Watch this space for future events, action days, and talks on this crucial topic.

A New Voice for the North

Professor Paul Salveson MBE (General Secretary, Hannah Mitchell Foundation)
The political shape of the United Kingdom is changing rapidly and the North risks losing out. The debate over Scottish independence is only the most obvious sign of a major shift, together with last year’s overwhelming vote for more powers to be given to the Welsh Government. In addition to Scotland and Wales, both Northern Ireland and London now have substantial devolved powers. Only the English regions continue to be dominated by London-based civil servants.
As well as a democratic deficit, there is increasing evidence that the ‘North-South Divide’ is back with a vengeance. Research by Newcastle-based think-tank IPPR North has shown a widening social and economic divide within England. The North is experiencing higher unemployment, more business failures, lower life expectancy and less investment in basic infrastructure such as transport.
The Hannah Mitchell Foundation has been formed to campaign for elected regional government for the North and held a well-attended public launch in Bradford earlier this year. It has excited mixed views; some politicians who supported calls for regional devolution in the last Labour Government have yet to recover from the disastrous 2004 referendum in the North-east which sent a very clear ‘No thanks’ to Tony Blair and John Prescott. It was seen as another layer of bureaucracy with little power. We’ve got to draw lessons from the 2004 experience and move on.
We’re drawing support from across the North of England and we think it makes sense to look at ‘the North’ as a whole and include Yorkshire, the North-East and North-West in a ‘super-region’ which could have powers similar to those enjoyed by the Scots. This should not be about taking power away from the local level, but gaining a range of powers from Whitehall and Westminster. The slide into economic decline will not be reversed by local authorities struggling to maintain existing services, nor the new, but grossly under-funded Local Enterprise Partnerships, on their own. There is a desperate need for strategic intervention at the regional level – on transport infrastructure, economic development and skills, to develop a vibrant Northern economy.
Nobody would under-estimate the difficulty of moving towards regional government for the North. Yet the need to counter, on the one hand, the economic and political dominance of the south-east, and the increasingly confident and autonomous Scots and Welsh, is becoming increasingly urgent. An ‘English Parliament’ is not the answer to the North’s problems; it would only reflect and consolidate existing inequalities. The North needs its own voice, as part of a more democratic England – within the United Kingdom. It’s not about being ‘anti-South’. It’s all about being ‘pro-North’.
The Hannah Mitchell Foundation has been formed to build support for regional devolution within the centre-left, which includes Greens, Liberal Democrats and non-aligned socialists as well as Labour supporters. As the momentum for regional devolution gathers pace, we recognise that a broader, cross-party and more widely representative organisation will be needed. Scotland had its ‘Constitutional Convention’ in the 1980s which brought politicians, business leaders, voluntary and faith organisations together. The North needs something like it. A ‘Council for the North’?
The Foundation is named in memory of an outstanding Northern socialist, feminist and co-operator who was proud of her working class roots and had a cultural as well as political vision for the North. Her autobiography, The Hard Way Up (1968), is a very honest account of her life, which included just a fortnight’s ‘schooling’. She went on to become an accomplished speaker, writer and activist for the fledgling Independent Labour Party (ILP). She was involved in the women’s suffrage movement and campaigned across Lancashire, Yorkshire and the North-East. Her socialism was of the ethical, humanistic kind which became so popular across the North where the ILP was strongest. That values-based politics needs reviving in a form relevant to the 21st century. The Foundation is exploring ways of engaging with young people and the North’s diverse ethnic communities. That needs to feed in to ideas for how a future elected regional government might work. Nobody wants it to become a cosy retirement home for ex-MPs and former council leaders.
It’s very early days, but the Foundation has already attracted lots of interest and is becoming the catalyst for a new approach to Northern politics. As one Yorkshire MP, Angela Smith, said recently “This time we have to do it; no half-baked proposals with few powers!

So where does power lie in our modern democracy?

This blog was written by Tom Pike and it was first published by Birmingham University Conserative Future here

There are many theories to power, be they liberal, socialist or otherwise. Many have been developed over centuries of thought, which pick apart the very nature of our society and world order. But of all the theories that I’ve come across, one sticks out more than any other, and it is the reason I hold such strong free-market/anti-state views. It’s called Public Choice theory, but don’t ask me why, because it seems to explain why any one but ’the public’ makes choices today.

Public Choice theory is modern, having only really taken off during the 1960’s, but I believe it grants a very realistic and worrying view of Britain’s power structure, and exposes many very deep scars which socialism and Keynesianism unintentionally inflicted on our country. It was heavily developed by the US economist James Buchanan, who won the 1986 Nobel Memorial Prize for his work, and who advised Margaret Thatcher through the Institute for Economic Affairs during the late 1970′s.

Just like capitalism, Public Choice theory is based on two simple assumptions about human nature. Firstly, that humans are principally self-interested. That’s not to say we’re selfish, which is somewhat more immoral, but rather that we will always aim to fulfil our wants and desires, economic or otherwise. Secondly, that humans are rational; when presented with a series of options, we will select whichever makes us the most happy for the least cost. Rational Choice theory, as it is called, has come under substantial intellectual attack in the past, and I don’t personally believe that all humans act completely rationally all the time, but as a model for human behaviour, I’d say it provides a pretty good analysis.

So what does it say about government?

Public Choice theorists take the view that government is a battle ground between two competing types of people: civil servants and politicians. Neither are friend or foe; they are simply humans, like us, making the same rational and self-interested decisions we would in their shoes.

Civil servants are ultimately interested in their status and lifestyle. To improve their status, they must ensure that whichever department they have control of, whether it be the education department of Pembrokeshire County Council, or the entire civil service itself, has the largest budget and workforce as possible. Size equals importance, and they use a wide range of tactics to achieve and vehemently defend both. To improve their lifestyle, they must make contacts, usually with big businesses, the media and other wealthy and powerful groups with vested interests. By providing these groups with what they want, be it a simple cabinet paper or memo, or access to national decision makers, the civil servants receive kickbacks: everything from social events to corporate directorships after leaving the service.

Politicians are interested in fame, and a place in the history books. Key to achieving both is taking and then maintaining political office, and both of these are themselves achieved through positive press coverage, which leads to vote winning. This is often why we see politicians on both sides of the House advocating policies which make little real economic sense, but are strong sound bites.

As Thomas Sowell once said ‘The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.’ This isn’t to say that politicians don’t have principles; it’s just that those which get to the top are usually willing to compromise or twist their principles the most, while those which remain ‘ideologically pure’ tend to remain on the fringes and achieve little real change (Ron Paul a regrettably good example). But the very nature of democracy involves many interests coming together in support of one broad goal, and if you can’t compromise, you can’t construct that coalition of support you need to take office.

But the key point to remember about both civil servants and politicians, is that they’ll always argue they are acting in the ‘public interest’. And believe it or not, they’re not always lying. But you can certainly be sure they’re acting in their own personal interests.

For example, a supposedly running joke in the Westminster village is that it was decided to use the construction of Britain’s first motorway to link central London to Yorkshire, along the spine of the country, not because north-south traffic was heaviest here (I believe this was actually the A1, the ‘Great North Road’…) , but because it would run close to many civil servants’ homes in the Home Counties and some of the country’s best shooting grounds.

For whatever reason the M1 was designated the London-Yorkshire motorway, clearly building motorways was in the public interest, but very likely in the personal interest of those whose choose to do it, and exactly where they went in the interest of those who drew the route. After all, what sane man chooses to build Britain’s next nuclear power plant next to his own country house, adjacent to the county landfill site, and across the road from the maximum-security psychiatric hospital? He’s not going to put a motorway through his own back garden.

Later in this series of posts, I will explain what we need to do to limit the actions of these people. But for now, and despite what the video may say, I will ask you not to naively believe that the beast that is the British bureaucracy was gallantly slain by eleven years of Thatcherism. Such an organisation, born from the war, strengthened by a post-war socialist government, and then maintained for forty years by the Keynesian collectivist consensus continues to live today. True, it’s less bold and overt than it might once have been, but it still lurks and it still possesses the power to strangle our economy and our freedom.

David Laws announced as chair of manifesto working group

The Federal Policy Committee of the Liberal Democrats has confirmed the appointments to the party’s 2015 Manifesto Working Group.

The full membership is:

  • David Laws MP, Chair
  • Sharon Bowles MEP, Vice-Chair
  • Duncan Brack, Vice-Chair (FPC Vice-Chair)
  • Nick Clegg MP (Leader, FPC Member)
  • Tim Farron MP (President, FPC Member)
  • Duncan Hames MP (FPC Chair)
  • Cllr Dr Julie Smith (FPC Vice-Chair)
  • Dr Julian Huppert MP (FPC Vice-Chair)
  • Jenny Willott MP (FPC Member)
  • Baroness Sal Brinton (FPC Member)
  • Jo Swinson MP
  • Lord John Shipley

The announcement was confirmed to the Parliamentary Party Meeting of the Liberal Democrats tonight [Tuesday].
In an email to Liberal Democrat party members, Chair of the Federal Policy Committee, Duncan Hames MP, said:
“I am delighted to announce that Federal Policy Committee last night approved Nick Clegg’s nomination of David Laws to Chair the 2015 Manifesto Working Group and the twelve-strong group as a whole.
“Alongside David there will also be two Vice-Chairs – Sharon Bowles MEP and Duncan Brack.
“The Manifesto Working Group will take a lead in the drafting of the 2015 manifesto. The group is constitutionally responsible to the FPC, in consultation with the Parliamentary Party. It will also undertake a wider consultation exercise with party members.
“Nick Clegg has charged David Laws and the Working Group with thoroughly stress-testing the deliverability and affordability of the future manifesto and to build on the approach of the last manifesto by clearly identifying our top priorities for a future government.”
Commenting, David Laws said:
“I am very pleased to have been asked by Nick Clegg to chair our 2015 Manifesto Working Group. I look forward to working with our Federal Policy Committee and our MPs and party members to put together a package of policies that will address the big challenges being faced by the country.
“Our task is to build a strong economy and a fair society. I believe that we are the only UK political party which can be trusted to deliver on both of these public priorities.”

University of Birmingham Liberal Democrat Society Meeting Minutes – 7/1/13

Attending: John Belsham, Ellis Palmer, Jonathan Wharrad, Matthew Dougherty.

Apologies recieved: Oliver Ingamells, Hannah Lane.

Social Media

  • WordPress – Plan going forward is to nurture content and encourage more views through social Media etc.
  • The development of the Twitter account is going well, with MPs, including party President, Tim Farron, now following the account.

Liberal Youth – Elections and Conference

  • Liberal Youth elections are ongoing; the Society is not actively participating in these.
  • We also decided to submit a proposal to host Liberal Youth Conference in June on Guild premises.

Debate and future panel event

  • Unfortunately, the constitutional reform debate has postponed due to the Debating Society being unable to find speakers to present the case against; the Society found the speakers to present their case and submitted the necessary forms.
  • A panel event was sketched In for the seventh week of term, and perhaps another Smaller scale speaker event at another time.