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Peace, Retrenchment, Reform Part I

In December 1905 Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman (C.B.) became Prime Minister and a month later he led the Liberal Party to a landslide victory. It was by some margin the most radical government to date.  115 years ago C-B still chose the old Liberal campaign slogan of “Peace, Retrenchment, Reform”.  Over a century later James Oates thinks the future success and prosperity of our country now depends on rediscovering our Radical traditions and has written three articles on translating them into a coherent programme for the future.  This is the first essay: “Peace”.Peace: The Place of Britain in the WorldThe challenges we faceLiberalism, from the Midlothian campaign of 1880 onwards, has always been an outward looking ideology.We understand that there are core democratic principles that do not change, no matter what the country or the culture. These principles are enshrined in the United Nations Charter and include an unbreakable commitment to the dignity of the individual, the equality of …
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An Ever Flowing Stream

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:4
The response in Britain to another murder of a Black Man by American police has been curious. The UK is much more comfortable inhabiting the past than discussing the future.Working out a path towards a more just and fair society is hard to do, it involves discussing the warp of the crooked timber of humanity, accepting difference, making uncomfortable choices. So, we did not do that. We choose instead to condemn the past, rather than build the future. This is not to say that there is nothing to condemn in the corpulent complacency of the tycoons of the slave trade. The profits in trading human lives were made in suffering and blood that seems inconceivable to any rational human, and yet it was so. Nevertheless, the past is no less difficult than the future, for every Edward Colston there was a William Wilberforce. Eventually the British Empire was among the very first to abandon slavery and the…

Post Truth and Justice

The past decade has seen the rise of so-called "post truth" politics.  Instead of mere misrepresentation of facts to serve an argument, political figures began to put forward arguments which denied easily provable facts, and then blustered and browbeat those who pointed out the lie. 

The political class was able to get away with "post truth" positions because the infrastructure that reported their activity has been suborned directly into the process. In short, the media abandoned long-cherished traditions of objectivity and began a slow slide into undeclared bias and partisanship. 

The "fourth estate" was always a key piece of how democratic societies worked, since the press, and later the broadcast media could shape opinion by the way they reported on the political process. As a result there has never been a golden age of objective media, but nevertheless individual reporters acquired better or worse reputations for the quality of their reporting and the j…

We need to talk about UK corruption

After a long hiatus, mostly to do with indolence and partly to do with the general election campaign, I feel compelled to take up the metaphorical pen and make a few comments on where I see the situation of the UK in the aftermath of the "Brexit election".

OK, so we lost.  We can blame many reasons, though fundamentally the Conservatives refused to make the mistakes of 2017 and Labour and especially the Liberal Democrats made every mistake that could be made.  Indeed the biggest mistake of all was allowing Johnson to hold the election at all, when another six months would probably have eaten the Conservative Party alive.  It was Jo Swinson's first, but perhaps most critical, mistake to make, and from it came all the others.  The flow of defectors and money persuaded the Liberal Democrat bunker that an election could only be better for the Lib Dems, and as far as votes were concerned, the party did indeed increase its vote by 1.3 million.  

BUT, and it really is the biggest…

The Will of the People

Many of the most criminal political minds of the past generations have claimed to be an expression of the "will of the people"... The will of the people, that is, as interpreted by themselves. Most authoritarian rulers: Napoleon III, Mussolini, Hitler, have called referendums in order to claim some spurious popular support for the actions they had already determined upon.

The problem with the June 2016 European Union was that the question was actually insufficiently clear. To leave the EU was actually a vast set of choices, not one specific choice. Danial Hannan, once of faces of Vote Leave was quite clear that leaving the EU did NOT mean leaving the Single Market: “There is a free trade zone stretching all the way from Iceland to the Russian border. We will still be part of it after we Vote Leave.” He declared: “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market.”

The problem was that this relatively moderate position was almost immediately outflank…

Brexit update...

The political discourse over most of my lifetime has been "who are these lying liars who are lying to me". It is incredibly rare to get an interview that tells you who a politician and why they believe what they believe. No wonder we get the "you are all the same" on the doorstep. The fact is that on all sides of the political spectrum and, indeed the Brexit debate, there are genuinely honest and caring people trying to do their best for their constituents and the country- often at considerable personal cost. 

That a small group of fanatics have been able to hijack politics, injecting poison and lies- yes Nigel "reach for my shotgun" Farage and Dominic "misleading" Cummings, I'm talking about you- is deeply regrettable. The media who create an equivalence between true and false in the interests of "balance" are at least as guilty as politicians themselves. The BBC prefers the "entertainment" of a political cock fight to th…

Breaking the Brexit logjam

The fundamental problem of Brexit has not been that the UK voted to leave the European Union. The problem has been the fact that the vote was hijacked by ignorant, grandstanding fools who interpreted the vote as a will to sever all and every link between the UK and the European Union. That was then and is now a catastrophic policy. To default to WTO rules, when any member of the WTO could stop that policy was a recipe for the UK to be held hostage by any state with an act to grind against us. A crash out from the EU, without any structure to cope, was an act of recklessness that should disqualify anyone advocating it from any position of power whatsoever. That is now the most likely option because the Conservative leadership, abetted by the cowardly extremism of Corbyn, neither understood the scale of the crisis, now had any vision of how to tackle it.

Theresa May is a weak and hapless Prime Minster, and her problems started when she failed to realize that there was a compromise that w…