Thursday, November 17, 2011
Back in 1970, seven people met to re-found North Buckinghamshire Liberals. The association had collapsed at the General Election of that year. One of this gallant band was Ilsa Greig, who has just died a few days short of her 89th birthday.
Liberalism in the UK owes a huge debt to a handful of people who refused to be pushed aside and fought for liberal principles against all odds. Ilsa was an inspirer and motivator for many people over the decades – many will remember her networking at national conferences, bringing people together and encouraging their Liberal careers.
As a young woman in Austria she survived the horrors of the Nazi Anschluss. All her life she has stood up to bullies and told everyone the truth as she saw it. A wonderful and sometime unsettling colleague, who always made it clear there is no contradiction between loyalty to a cause and fortright honesty in debate.
Milton Keynes Liberal Democrats are now a vibrant and effective political force, competing for control of the City Council. Many key campaigners were nurtured and encouraged by Ilsa over the years.
Thank you for your life, Ilsa.
Her funeral will be on Tuesday 22 November 10 am in Crownhill Crematorium, Milton Keynes.
Monday, November 14, 2011
The Independent Taskforce on Student Finance is today (14 Nov 2011) holding a ‘Students Finance Day’ .
The taskforce says:
"This is a national day dedicated to explaining the 2012 changes to student finance in England. The main aim of the campaign is simple - to ensure people understand how the new student finance package works before they make a decision as to whether they can afford to go to university. The day is being organised by us alongside the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) and the Higher Education Liaison Officers Association (HELOA)."
This is building on the work of Martin Lewis and others to provide accurate guides for students and their families. In particular to knock on the idea that from 2012 students need to pay three times more during their study period than students registered in 2011 and before.
There is a website for the taskforce with links to several very useful resources.
One resource is a video prepared by Bournemouth University which is particularly effective.
Let us hope that 2012 cohort students get the message and can make their educational decisions based on facts.
A thought. From October 2012 there will be people at Universities on the old system and on the new, able to make direct comparisons between their respective financial situations. I wonder if this will influence opinions on which of these cohorts is the better off?
Labels: student fees
Friday, November 11, 2011
There tends to be exceptionally serious programmes on TV in this week also, so I have a habit of serious thinking and reading at this time rather than unalloyed celebration at the passage of years.
Todays memory of war is on a semi-palindrome date 11th Day of 11th Month of 11th Year numbered in the 2000 series Common Era.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Hats off to the Economist which features a piece by the author of a new book on the International Arms Trade.
Andrew Feinstein comments:
In 2010 84% of retiring generals in the Pentagon went into employment with the big defence contractors. Lawmakers seldom vote against any of these gargantuan projects. They get a lot of campaign contributions from the large defence contractors, and the contractors ensure that there are jobs on these contracts in every single congressional district, even if it’s just a couple of people sitting around a table surfing the internet.
This means that anyone who votes against these projects is accused by the lobby of voting against jobs in their own constituency.
A Pentagon whistleblower I interviewed, Chuck Spinney, describes the system as a self-licking ice cream.
Feinstein in the Economist’s online More Intelligent Life ‘Quick Study’ feature.
Odd questions that come to my mind. What is the situation in the UK? Do we have self-licking ice-cream relationships with former military and civil service personnel taking up roles with the arms industry after retirement? (1)
Should MPs with significant defence establishments in their constituencies be banned from sitting on defence committees?
And should LibDems be using our presence in government to prise out more information about all this so public debates are better informed? If this is not happening, why not?
This is a matter of political will. The imperatives of national security and commercial confidentiality legitimately conceal some aspects of these deals, but they’re also used to hide the malfeasance that takes place. There needs to be greater transparency, particularly around the use of middlemen.Feinstein was a South African MP who resigned in protest over failures to investigate a $5 billion arms deal and now heads Corruption Watch in London.
Secondly, we need far stronger regulation of an industry that quite literally counts its costs in human lives and is highly under-regulated. There are negotiations in the UN at the moment for an international arms-trade treaty, but it will have to be tough with meaningful enforcement methods.
I would also suggest that no weapons manufacturer should be allowed to make any political contributions.
See Quick Study, a new series on The Economist's Prospero blog that offers a crash course in a particular subject, delivered by an expert in the field, with some suggestions for further reading and for more useful links.
(1) is a rhetorical question really…see Lewis Pages book 'Lions Donkeys and Dinosaurs' for some thoughts...
Feinstein, A (2011) “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade”. Hamish Hamilton.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
There has been a bout of fire-flecked muttering on possible ‘Plans B’ for the economy.
Now I do have misgivings about some of the coalition strategy – because I feel there is no magic solution and any strategy has strengths and weaknesses. It would be helpful to recognise the weaknesses and deal with them rather than ignore them. Still less just demonising and insulting those who try to point them out.
Do we need to look again at very basic economic ideas seemingly absent from public discussion?
For example, what happened to the Keynsian concept of the multiplier? I have seen no real discussion of this in our defences of the Coalition strategy. And does the Coalition economic strategy imply the resurrection of the version of Saye’s Law (so-called) that Keynes claimed to have refuted? In other words, is the idea alive again that there is a natural level of employment which will be achieved when the economy balances?
As an Old Keynsian (J.K. Galbraith flavour in my youth) I need to go back to some basic texts and think these through. Anyone else for the journey?