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Coalition marks 100 days in power

August 18, 2010

I’ve always tried to be an open and accessible politician.  Back in the mid 1990s I was one of the first councillors in Bristol to have an email address.  I’ve had a web site for over a decade and am a Facebook enthusiast…and unlike many MPs I manage my own Facebook profile, rather than getting an intern to do it!  I’ve been a blogging and Twitter sceptic and resisted constant urgings to try them out.  But I’ve decided to cave in on the former and give it a go.

So why now? Well politics has entered a new era.  The 100 day old coalition has changed the nature of political debate.   I was on Radio Bristol’s breakfast show this morning talking about how politics had changed – the 2010 general election will be seen as a watershed moment.  Many certainties about how we conduct politics in Britain have been shattered or at least severely shaken.  I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching and mental adjustment myself.  I know from my mail that many constituents have strong views on the coalition.  Almost every conversation I have with anyone these days pretty soon gets to what I think of the coalition.

What’s really surprised me since the second week of May is how positive most people are about it.  I expected a lot of abuse and hostility.  Yes, I’ve been told that the Lib Dems are finished or “I think you’re great but I now hate your party.” But they are far outnumbered by people saying that they like the fact that two parties are working together and that the country feels as though it’s being governed in the national interest.  But what’s good about all this is that people are discussing what the new government’s doing and are up for robust debate.  The Leaders’ Debates in the election seemed to spark greater enthusiasm for politics and hopefully this can be sustained.

So I’ve decided to join the blogosphere and stir things up myself.   One of the joys of being an MP is that no two days are the same.  I meet a huge variety of interesting people and take part in and witness many events that shape Bristol or the country at large.  Over the last 5 years I’ve written hundreds of web articles and Facebook updates but have left out a huge number of events or occasions that made it to my diary but have not been published.  So I’ll now be writing a mix of serious political observations and personal musings.  It may take a while to develop my blog style and I’ll be interested to receive constructive feedback!

So, what can I say about the Coalition’s 100 Days?  Taking power against a backdrop of shattered public finances is not the best springboard for  the first peacetime coalition since 1931, the last time political parties came together to govern.  We couldn’t announce some uplifting aspiration such as landing a man on the Moon (OK, I know Kennedy made that pledge just after his 100 days) so have secured some more prosaic achievements.  First among these must be stable and confident government.  There were some dire predictions that coalition government wouldn’t work in Britain.   The “markets” wouldn’t like it and most of the press commentariat were against it.  But the new ministerial team have hit the ground running. They’ve announced plans to get a grip on the public finances, green the economy, restore our civil liberties and set in train the most ambitious programme of constitutional reform ever undertaken.

The Coalition Agreement already gives scope for this administration to be one of the country’s great reforming ministries.  Events will happen, ministers will fly kites – some of which will deserve to have their string cut very quickly and I’m sure the ride will sometimes be bumpy. But both parties are determined to make the coalition work.  After 100 days I’m getting more used to it, though not yet fully comfortable.  But after another 100 days I’m confident that I will be able to be point to many ways that the government is changing things for the better because the Lib Dems are in the coalition.

66 Comments leave one →
  1. August 18, 2010 7:14 pm

    Welcome to the blogsphere, very good to see you here! Am I perchance the first to comment here too?

  2. August 18, 2010 7:42 pm

    Welcome aboard, Stephen! It’s going to be a challenge for you to find the time to keep this updated – I only manage every day or two. Good luck with it and well done for branching out into the unknown.

  3. Thangam Debbonaire permalink
    August 19, 2010 8:19 am

    It’s good to see my MP showing commitment to open-ness. Could you possibly be more specific about how you think the coalition’s policies are going to affect your constituents? For example, how do you explain this week’s announcement that, contrary to election promises, the coalition is considering cuts to winter fuel payments and bus travel? Could you possibly let your constituents know whether the coalition has carried out the Gender Impact Assessment on the budget cuts, which is required by law, as Theresa May reminded George Osborne by letter recently? Could you possibly explain to your constituents why you are supporting cuts which will disproportionately affect women, disabled people and poor people, as service users, tax payers and employees in public services? We would all like to know where you stand on these and other matters and I look forward to hearing more about this on your blog, so that we can all be kept informed. Thanks.

    • August 19, 2010 12:02 pm

      It’s early days both for my blog…and the government’s programme, so I’m sure we’ll have lots to debate over the next few years! The first stage of the spending review will be reported to Parliament on 20th October – everything until then is either press speculation or at best kite flying by ministers. The key word in your post is “considering” – nothing is decided yet! But on Winter Fuel Payments – the last Labour government had already planned to standardise eligibility at age 65 in 2020. The Lib Dem manifesto actually proposed bringing this forward to fund the extension of the allowance to disabled people under 60, who also have high home heating costs.

      • August 19, 2010 1:55 pm

        Stephen, thanks for replying promptly and well done for getting stuck in to the blogosphere. Whilst I accept that some things are not yet done, I was actually asking about what you think the effects of proposed cuts could be on your constituents and the effects of those which have already happened. Could you possibly respond to my question about the impact on women in particular? You must be aware of Theresa May’s letter to George Osborne warning him that the coalition risks breaking equalities legislation and of the Fawcett Society’s legal challenge on the subject. Where do you stand? Has the coalition government conducted adequate Equalities Impact Assessments on the proposed and actual cuts? if so, how much notice has been taken? If not, why not – they are legal obligations which I am sure you would support. Hope you can clear that up, thanks Stephen.

      • Darren Lewis permalink
        August 20, 2010 8:59 am

        I’d be interested in reading your response to Thangam’s question…

        Oh and welcome to the Blogosphere. I’m sure we can have some engaging discussions. I hope you won’t be excluding any questions from Labour constituents?

  4. Ruth Hennell permalink
    August 19, 2010 9:53 am

    Hiya Stephen being one of those people who urged you to join twitter (at Stokes Croft Street Fest!) it’s great to see you made it to the Blogosphere!!! (even tho I must admit I only sporadically blog these days). Anyways you say you’re interested in constructive blogging feedback so having had some experience with that I would suggest that blogging can be in a little more informal/chatty style, although as you say you will obviously develop your blogging style as you go along.

    Other suggestions
    Pictures/photos would be nice for longer posts where possible and sub-headings (example above) can be really useful in longer posts. Also try adding keywords to your posts, it might seem unnecessary now, but in the future it will make it much easier for people to find a specific topic amongst lots of blog posts, further to this it will help you create focused posts, for example this could potentially be 2 posts – 1 about 100 days + one about starting a blog.
    Oh yeah and promotion is pretty important too, nothing is more annoying then writing a blog and hardly anyone reading it.

    Hope this all helps and look forward to reading more posts soon!

    • August 19, 2010 12:04 pm

      Thanks Ruth – good advice. Alex, my friend and colleague who has helped me with the set up will no doubt be teaching me all those other tricks.

  5. August 19, 2010 10:16 am

    Hello, Stephen – welcome to the Blogosphere: it’s a rarified environment and won’t be inhabited by your fan-base! And congratulations on surviving 100 days with the weirdest of fellow-travellers – who’d’ve thunk it, eh?
    The last thing I said to the assembled multitude on the College Green Speakers’ Corner (and indirectly, for what it’s worth, to you) was, essentially: if the majority of the electorate vote consciously or unconsciously for a ‘hung’ parliament on May 5th, just imagine if Mr Clegg chooses Mr Cameron as a bed-fellow and not Mr Brown (sic)’. The resulting Con/Dem [last time I’ll mention that splice] coalition is, arguably, the last thing the majority of LD ‘tactical’ voters would have wanted/expected/preferred.
    And give us a clue here as to how on earth you are going to fight for Electoral Reform when all that is on the table is the measly crumb of AV.

    all the best
    Ricky Knight

    • August 19, 2010 12:09 pm

      Thanks Ricky, nice to hear from you. Hope you’ve recovered from the election! My batteries are now just about topped up. I will be making the case for a YES vote in Bristol in the AV referendum. Dumping first past the post is a step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see what Labour do on this – given a referendum on AV was their election promise.

  6. BenC permalink
    August 19, 2010 10:24 am

    Welcome to the blogosphere and best of luck with it.

    Can I clarify one statement in your post?

    You say the Government has ‘set in train the most ambitious programme of constitutional reform ever undertaken’. That strikes me as an extraordinarily ambitious claim – hyperbole perhaps?

    Constitutional reform has certainly had some defining moments (perhaps you could pick out joining the EEC in 1972, Great Reform Act, incorporation of the ECHR into UK law, Freedom of Information legislation – and many others I’m sure) but, while constitutional reform is clearly a significant part of the Agreement, I struggle to see changes that quite warrant the claim you make. AV appears to be the main plank – whatever the merits of this, it falls a long way short of PR and does suggest a more modest description of the Government’s plans.

    I’d be interested in your views on this.

    • August 19, 2010 12:18 pm

      Ben – there’s a lot more than AV in the coalition agreement. By the end of this year there should be proposals for a new second chamber to replace the House of Lords – a reform delayed for 99 years so far! The govt will also reform party finance and election spending. Both parties in the coalition have been saying for years that government is over-centralised, so there will be plans to reinvigorate local govt and give more local control over other public services. There may be an elected Mayor for Bristol – a proposal I won’t support unless it comes with enhanced powers and a wider geographical remit than the ludicrously truncated Bristol boundary.

      • BenC permalink
        August 19, 2010 1:08 pm

        OK: House of Lords reform, changes to election spending and party finance – all good stuff, but my point was about your claim this amounts to the biggest constitutional reforms ‘ever’, which seems 0ver-stated.

        One other point – the ‘re-invigoration’ of local government you mention unfortunately doesn’t form part of Michael Gove’s education plans, where free schools and the hasty expansion of the Academy programme completely and utterly bypass any kind of accountability via elected representatives at local authority level. The local authoroity role is not just being weakened, it is being completely removed. Such schools will be accountable only to the Secretary of State – it’s hard to imagine a more ‘centralising’ proposition. Opposition to this is the subject of a motion at Lib Dem conference and I hope Lib-Dem dissenters on this issue are listened to.

  7. August 19, 2010 10:43 am

    Welcome to blogging, I look forward to some open debate

  8. Gus Hoyt permalink
    August 19, 2010 10:49 am

    Dear Stephen,
    I am very pro-coalition in theory, it should lead to intelligent and balenced government.
    However, your party’s version of coalition seems to be nothing more than assuming the role of lap-dog.
    If you and Clegg open spoke out against the policies that were against your strongest beliefs it would be one thing, but to make deals in private and all publically congratulate yourselves is, frankly a disgrace!
    Coalition is not submission; it is co-operation. Your blind allignment with Cameron has weakened your integrity and has highlighted that non-Lib-Dems greatest of fears; that you will bend political views for a taste of power and lime-light.
    This really is a sorry example of how coalition gvernments might opperate in this country and I fear it may scare off many potential electoral reformers.

    • August 19, 2010 12:23 pm

      Gus – this is the first coalition govt in the lifetime of anyone involved in, or commenting on, British politics. So yes we are making up the rules as we go along and no doubt both parties will be unhappy at different times. Once the govt has got some legislation under its belt – then we can judge whether it’s got a strong Liberal streak in it or not. But I would ask everyone to remember this is not a Lib Dem majority govt – so we can’t get our own way on everything…and neither can the Tories.

    • Ruth Hennell permalink
      August 19, 2010 12:29 pm

      Hi Gus I’ve actually been quite impressed by the coalition, the Lib-Dems seem to have been punching above their weight, as the junior partner, of course they can’t get everything they want, but I don’t think they are letting the Conservatives tell them what to do either, of course that doesn’t mean they always win… I must admit I don’t know much about how coalitions work in other countries, would be really great if you could suggest a country which has a coalition you think works well for me to look at, particularly one which is more open as I do agree it seems like lots of things have to be done behind doors to save face, but I am not sure of another way!

      • Gus Hoyt permalink
        August 20, 2010 12:05 pm

        HI Ruth and Stephen,
        it certainly would be nice if the “Liberals” were “punching above their weight” but, apart from media coverage, I would beg to ask for real examples?

        I prefer action over propoganda.

        The only truely Lib-Dem policy (not shared before the election with the COnservatives) seems to be electoral reform. True democracy (that would indeed lead to further coalition governments – and for examples look at New Zealand and Germany) in the form of PR has been sacrificed for AV. Truely a travisty. This is itself tied in with Conservative boundary changes.

        Considering that electoral reform is in public debate generally it seems a real shame that the Lib-dems have given up on yet another core principle and watered down the only real victory they might have secured.

        It is time people stepped away from blindly supporting parties and started looking at the policies they are introducing. Supporting the Tory’s policies is enabling them, NOT watering them down as is so often touted.

      • Leo permalink
        August 20, 2010 12:18 pm

        Hi Gus,

        I don’t think full PR was ever a realistic possibility, much as I would have liked it, because neither Labour or the Tories are prepared to support it.

        Breaking the government over something that is simply unacheivable in this term, would be pointless, wouldn’t it?

  9. Patrick Andrews permalink
    August 19, 2010 11:00 am

    You have not replied to my emails sent several weeks ago regarding your attitude to Conservative undermining of the BBC.

    • August 19, 2010 12:29 pm

      My office has mailed you with an explanation. But for everyone else’s benefit it’s that I’ve received over 170 emails on the BBC and am waiting for a reply to my letter to Jeremy Hunt. When people write to me about govt policy we always ask (under Labour as well as the new govt) first for the official govt line and when that is received I reply to constituents with a copy together with my own views. On the BBC – I certainly do not support any proposals that would jeopardise its future.

    • Patrick Andrews permalink
      October 27, 2010 11:20 am

      Still no reply to my email. You do not seem to be a very good constituency MP – I am now very unlikely to vote for you.

      • October 27, 2010 12:10 pm

        I will check why this is the case. There have been lots of mails on the BBC so a standard response has been written which means I don’t see each reply (as they are all the same). So if yours has been missed it will just be an admin error, which will be corrected.

        As to the points you raised here on science – the budget has been protected in cash terms, which is a good settlement.

  10. August 19, 2010 11:17 am

    Welcome to the blogosphere Stephen – always a good thing to add to the plurality, more and varied opinions stimulate better discussion.

    I’m very much in favour of parties working together appropriately and am following the coalition with some interest. I very strongly disaagree with a whole range of policies they have adopted however, not least on the economy aand on the environment. For instance do you think that getting rid of the Sustainable Development Commission will help the coalition plans to ‘green the economy’ as you put it?

    • August 19, 2010 12:31 pm

      well what about cancelling the Third Runway at Heathrow? And ruling out expansion at other outer London airports? Chris Huhne is a great choice for DECC and I’m sure the coalition will be much greener than the previous govt.

      • Gus Hoyt permalink
        August 20, 2010 12:10 pm

        It is time everyone admitted that the Third run-way was pretty much off the cards due to financial reasons pre-election.

        What about BRISTOL airport Stephen?

        What about the possibility of GM crops? Cutting DEFRA’s funding by 40%, permitting new dirty coal and nuclear power stations, of scrapping micro-generation grants, of allowing the market to decide on renewables?

        Greener than the last government? Not so far, and how about setting REAL goal-posts? Why must we always aim so low?

  11. Patrick Andrews permalink
    August 19, 2010 11:52 am

    Do you feel that you have represented your constituency’s interests? I cannot help thinking that the reckless cuts are affecting Bristol West very badly. Do you not think that increasing income tax would be fairer than making people unemployed (eg in the cull of the quangos)? I would rather pay more income tax than lose my job. It seems that you are not representing the interests of students who form a large part of your constituency.

    I feel that the Liberal democrats are underselling their influence. You could moderate the extremists like Hunt (on the BBC), Gove (on schools) and Osbourne (on the economy).

    • August 19, 2010 12:34 pm

      there are no cuts yet, “reckless” or otherwise. We’ll have to wait until 20th October. But there were going to be cuts whoever formed the govt in May. In every hustings and public meeting during the election (I did over 20 of them) I made it crystal clear that cuts were coming and it would not be painless. But let’s all wait for the details before rushing to judgement!

      • August 19, 2010 1:13 pm

        That’s not quite true is it, The Coalition Government have agreed £6bn in year cuts, I have already met people who have been made redundant in the last few weeks as a result of those.

      • BenC permalink
        August 19, 2010 1:31 pm

        There are cuts already – how on earth could you suggest otherwise? Schools, for example, have had their capital ICT budgets reduced (in-year, as well); Building Schools for the Future has been cut; funding for energy efficient schools etc etc. And that’s just in education.

        Whatever the rights or wrongs of these cuts – they have happened. It’s one thing to seek credit for saying you were open about the need for cuts, but simply wrong – and slightly baffling – to say there haven’t been any. Very odd.

    • Gus Hoyt permalink
      August 20, 2010 12:14 pm

      Congratulations! Spoken like a true Osbournite.

      Completely deny all reality and responcibility. You deserve a cigar, pretty blue badge and a pat on the back.

  12. August 19, 2010 1:13 pm

    Stephen you simply avoid my question altogether – if you want to give a postive impression surely you have to engage with people properly? I asked ‘…do you think that getting rid of the Sustainable Development Commission will help the coalition plans to ‘green the economy’ as you put it?’ And you replied…

    ‘well what about cancelling the Third Runway at Heathrow? And ruling out expansion at other outer London airports? Chris Huhne is a great choice for DECC and I’m sure the coalition will be much greener than the previous govt.’

    Whilst I welcome the decisions on airports as far as they go I did not ask about them and am much more interested in whether the approach of the govt to the economy has sustainability embedded in it! So, will you respond to my question? And in addition tell me why you think this govt will be much greener than the previous one, given that getting rid of the Sustainable Development Commission is hardly a great start (there are a whole range of other examples I could give too eg planning to flog off nature reserves all over the country…).

    • Gus Hoyt permalink
      August 20, 2010 12:15 pm

      Hmmm, no reply?…..

  13. Leo permalink
    August 19, 2010 1:14 pm

    Hi Stephen, great to see the blog, and impressed that you’ve managed to respond to every one of the comments posted on it. Having a blog online is one thing, using it to actually engage in the feedback is another so it’s pleasing to see that happening here – though I wonder whether you’ll be able to sustain that over time.

    I don’t have any scientifically surveyed analysis of public reaction to the coalition, but was talking about it last night with a couple of friends. One of them, who I would have regarded as a staunch labour supporter, surprised me by being quite philosophical regarding all the planned cuts – e.g. “it was going to have to happen”. I very much doubt this pattern will be repeated throughout the country however.

    A second friend, largely sympathetic to the Liberal Democrats pre-election, seems to be a little critical of what he regards as flip-flopping on electoral reform (E.g. no STV).

    Personally, I think it’s really too early to tell. I understand that the Lib Dems are the minority party in the coalitition and under those circumstances, full PR was going to be unlikey – AV is a small step in the right direction.

    Regarding the cuts it seems to me that they were going to have to happen, and it will inevitably be painful.

    Biggest positives of the coalition so far, for me, are the fine words regarding taking back civil liberties – lets hope these translate into actions; and the mere fact of having a government where differences of opinion are not regarded as terminal signs of weakness.

    I hope that this will lead to a long-term difference in how politics is covered in the media and public – getting away from the desperate and counter-productive need to pretend that everyone in government has exactly the same worldview.

    I think it is interesting that Simon Hughes was able to call for a Lib Dem coalition veto recently and even talk about coalitions with Labour after the next general election, without this being jumped on by the media as indications of imminent fragmentation. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come.

    Also fascinating to observe how rapidly Labour’s media profile seems to have plummeted in opposition (and this is not a good thing necessarily – simply an observation).

    • August 19, 2010 4:20 pm

      Hi Leo, thanks for thoughtful and balanced comments. I believe AV is a positive step forward – we really can’t have another general election under FPTP. In the coalition negotiations neither Labour or the Tories were ever going to offer even a referendum on a proportional system. In fact Labour could not even guarantee us the legislation on AV – many of their MPs are against. What I hope will happen in the run up to next May is that we can put together a YES campaign from all parties and outside parties.

  14. Charlie Bolton permalink
    August 19, 2010 1:41 pm

    Good luck with the blog.

    If you wan’t my advice, for God’s sake, don’t piss off the local football clubs – or if you do, switch comments off for a few days!

    I hope you have the courage to be critical of the coalition when you believe it. I find blogs which are always on-message a trifle tedious.

    • August 19, 2010 4:23 pm

      Hi Charlie – agree about not pissing off any of the clubs! Hope you’re enjoying life away from the Council. I’m certainly not intending this blog to be a propaganda outlet for the coalition.

  15. Fflyff permalink
    August 19, 2010 2:31 pm

    The idea that there have been no cuts yet seems odd. I’m sure some of the sessions have been boring, but have you really slept through them all? This is the most frightening government I have seen, and I’m a lot older than you. Everything I value about the country seems to be being dismantled about our ears, and you seem remarkably complacent about it. Privatisation in the past has rarely led to greater efficiency and yet the reorganisation of the NHS, the education system – who will schools be answerable to? It’s a funny kind of democracy. And all without a proper mandate from anyone. I’m horrified.

    • Patrick Andrews permalink
      August 19, 2010 3:05 pm

      I agree with Flyff. People have been given notice of losing their jobs since this government came to power so cuts are real already and I think at least some of them are gratuitously harsh. There seems a real danger of a double dip as I think the Lib Dems know in their heart of hearts and you should be using influence to stop the mad ideological Tories. Without your support, they cannot do it.

      • Leo permalink
        August 19, 2010 3:20 pm

        I have a lot of sympathy for anyone losing their job – but surely job losses are an inevitable consequence of the debt we have, and would be taking place regardless of the make-up of the government?

        What’s the evidence for the cuts being the consequence of “mad Tory ideology”, rather than an attempt to reduce our debt?

  16. Patrick Andrews permalink
    August 19, 2010 4:14 pm

    Does the debt have to be reduced so quickly? Blanchflower who called most things vastly more correctly than Mervyn King does not think so.

    Evidence of mad Tory ideology

    1 The support for free schools rather than the school rebuilding programme
    2 Cameron’s statement that public sector will be small even if/when the economy recovers.
    3 Hunt’s attacks on the BBC even though the BBC has nothing to do with the debt
    4 Lansley’s NHS proposals.

    Plus many more madcap ideas by this very extreme and ideological government.

    • Leo permalink
      August 19, 2010 4:45 pm

      I’ve read articles from what seem to me to be credible economists, arguing both for and against cutting sooner rather than later.

      To be honest I’m not an economist and find it difficult to figure out which of those voices are correct. I think that probably applies to most people.

      I can understand the rational of the argument that putting the cuts off is simply delaying the inevitable, will get us further into debt in the meantime, mean more debt in the long run, and possibly even result in a Greece-type situation where the required cuts are so massive as to run the risk of serious civil unrest.

      On the other hand, I can see the argument that cutting too quickly could result in the “double-dip” recession.

      Who can tell which is right? It’s a tough call, and I honestly haven’t heard a water-tight argument on either side. Generally I think it’s wiser to deal with a problem as soon as possible, don’t sweep it under the carpet;which makes me lean towards the former option. But I appreciate that may be a gross simplification – so overal, it seems to me that only history can tell.

      Will have to read up on the mad ideology points you mention 🙂

    • August 20, 2010 5:04 am

      Well, let’s take it step by step.

      Do the cuts have to be made? Yes. The structural deficit is believed to be 8% of GDP, an astonishing figure. It’s not just that Labour overspent, it’s that too many businesses have gone under, hence there won’t be enough tax to pay for Labour’s expenditure for a long time.

      Do they have to be made so quickly? What difference does the speed make? Having grudgingly accepted that cuts are necessary, the left are clinging to the notion that they’re being made too quickly.

      The matter is entirely one of growth management. Will the cuts damage consumer and business confidence or not?

      The recent growth figures suggest otherwise. They suggest that Clegg was right to change his mind and that Blanchflower is wrong.

      By far the biggest threats to the British economy are fourfold:

      1. Europe, particularly the Eurozone, is in a mess. Banks are exposed to a Greek default, not to mention a Portuguese, Spanish, Irish, Italian default. This (along with the new majority voting) is why the EU agreed to bailout Greece.
      2. The US is in a mess. It’s all about confidence and the hundreds of articles about bad economic news don’t help.
      3. The UK housing market is still roughly 100% overvalued according to average cost vs average earnings. Expect another housing crash if one of the above happens.
      4. Inflation has been deliberately allowed. Again it’s a matter of expectation and all the articles about allowing inflation will just encourage sellers to raise prices.

      If these external shocks happen, there is nothing the Govt can do to stop us going back into recession. So are we better off making the cuts sooner or later?

      The sooner the deficit and the debt come down the better. If growth falls, tax income falls and the deficit goes up. There’s a point of balance where the deficit goes down fastest. Osborne’s plans look extremely optimistic, both in terms of private sector growth and ability to cut budgets.

      Maybe these two will balance out.

  17. August 20, 2010 12:26 pm

    Hi again Stephen, I am pleased that you seem to be determined to keep up debate on this blog and to answer questions, so I am respectfully asking you again if you could answer, in relation to your first blog, my question about the equalities impact assessment? It is a legal obligation for public bodies to carry out these assessments and then to take all reasonable steps to avoid discriminating against a particular part of the population, such as women, or ethnic minorities, with any specific policy change. The Fawcett Society and the coalition government’s equalities minister have both raised the concern that the cuts are likely to affect women disproportionately (and TM also mentioned other groups). COuld you please comment on this, and let us all know what you think of the impact of the first 100 days on women in particular? Or just let us know if there has been an equalities impact assessment and if so, where we can find it? This does seem relevant to your first blog. Thanks.

  18. August 20, 2010 12:30 pm

    And evidence of mad tory ideology: focussing on the £1.4 billion estimated to be lost to benefit payment errors and so-called benefit cheats rather than the £17 billion estimated to be lost by tax fraud, evasion and avoidance. When the poor rob the system the Tory party will clamp down, when the rich rob the system, they look the other way. Is that really what you wanted, as a Liberal Democrat? Are you likely to argue that the coalition government should be doing something about the missing billions from tax evasion/avoidance?

  19. August 20, 2010 1:00 pm

    What practical measures could be implemented to stop tax evasion?

    • Thangam Debbonaire permalink
      August 20, 2010 7:06 pm

      It was a LibDem commitment to clamp down on tax avoidance, so I am guessing Nick Clegg has some ideas which we would all welcome – Stephen can you tell us how LibDems are encouraging Mr Clegg to make this argument to Mr Cameron?$1370643.htm

      • August 20, 2010 9:45 pm

        Didn’t Labour make the same commitment in 1997? I strongly suspect it’s the latest equivalent of raising public spending (only now without raising taxes or increasing the national debt) ie winning votes through abusing lack of economic/fiscal understanding.

        The problem with closing loopholes in tax avoidance is that there are always more loopholes, and multi-millionaires will pay accountant £hundreds of thousands to find them. Or they’ll just go non-dom.

        The only proven ways to cut tax avoidance are to:
        1. Simplify the tax system.
        2. Cut taxes so they’re not worth avoiding.

  20. Kelvin Blake permalink
    August 24, 2010 2:59 pm

    Hi Stephen,

    All the best with the blog. Its important we have those in power using all the channels of communication to debate and discuss the important issues of the day.

    Kind regards,


  21. upendian permalink
    August 24, 2010 6:20 pm

    Charlie Bolton wrote: “If you wan’t my advice, for God’s sake, don’t piss off the local football clubs – or if you do, switch comments off for a few days!”

    Stephen Williams wrote: “agree about not pissing off any of the clubs!”

    Oh right.

    We can really see how this version of “democracy” works here then eh? Might will become right, with mafifa thuggery given free rein! So long as the bosses keep shelling out for beer and circuses to keep their gang happy, they can get away with whatever they want.

    • Charlie Bolton permalink
      August 27, 2010 2:23 pm

      I was thinking more in terms of the amount of flak you get for it….I think I have form for pissing of one of the local clubs.

      • August 27, 2010 5:17 pm

        Yes, if you thought tribalism in politics was bad…

        I imagine flack has diminished since Coppell left as few City supporters are expecting a full ground now.

        As someone who was confused which was the Director’s Box at Ashton Gate (the only difference is the seats have a bit of padding), I think you should let Lansdown do it as he’s paying. Just make sure to get some decent concessions out of Sainsburys.

      • upendian permalink
        August 31, 2010 7:45 am

        Sorry if it wasn’t clear that my comment was directed at the entire football business. Football (and sport in general) has been turned into an industry. An industry that has enormous economic power and the political power that goes with that.

        This grotesquely powerful industry behaves like a bully boy. For examples just look at the vile neo-colonialist way that South Africans were treated during the WC2010. Closer to home, look at the way the football industry gets away with privileging their own football creditors over other people they owe money to, like HMRC (that’s us, folks, and our public services) or ordinary businesspeople, when these clubs run themselves into debt, as many of them inevitably do.

        The football and sports industry is as greedy as the financial industry. It produces nothing and just leeches off the rest of us, and then tries to intimidate people who question it.

  22. Sonia permalink
    August 25, 2010 12:31 pm

    Low income families with children and older people will be hit hardest by the coalition government’s first Budget, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has claimed. The say that the tax and benefit changes announced in the emergency Budget in June are “clearly regressive”. The treasury has said they don’t accept these findings, but as a Lib Dem are you not concerned by these findings?

  23. Patrick Andrews permalink
    September 15, 2010 4:50 pm

    Will you be signing this?

    It seems vital that scientific research is supported.

    • September 16, 2010 4:10 am

      Patrick – I’m in Washington DC on a Parliamentary delegation this week, so can’t deal with the EDM. Please can you mail me on and I will look at it when I’m back – Parliament is in session from 11 October – which is the next date I could sign

      • September 16, 2010 8:49 pm

        So while you are telling public sector workers they have to lose their jobs, the poor that they will have benefit cuts you are on an all expenses paid trip to the USA, have you learned nothing?

  24. Patrick Andrews permalink
    September 21, 2010 9:30 am

    I wonder how this trip is going to help the people of Bristol West – might the money spent on these kinds of trips not be first candidates for cuts that “will not affect front line services”?

    • September 23, 2010 8:25 pm

      Patrick – I am now back in Bristol after12 days in the USA, in 3 different areas. The delegation is an annual event taking place every year since 1945. The costs are primarily met by the American State Department. When my jet lag has faded I will be posting a few articles about the visit. But just to knock one thing on the head now – delegations from around the world are visiting Britain every week. At any point in time there will be at least one delegation of British Ministers or Parliamentarians abroad. Surely in our globalised world it’s essential that decision makers meet up with each other?

  25. Patrick Andrews permalink
    September 24, 2010 9:53 am

    I was being provocative to be honest and of course it is good to meet up and learn from each other. Any other attitude is the promotion of ignorance. But do you think this meeting is more important than scientific research that is going to be cut?

    • September 24, 2010 10:01 am


      12 days in the USA – sounds remarkably like a free holiday dressed up as work. Of course politicians have delegations all over the world to eachothers countries – a mutual provision free holidays at the expense of the tax payers of the world. Have you heard of video conferencing? if you want to meet you don’t have to travel. I wonder if you will publish the complete diary of your trip and engagements – you were ‘at work’

    • Leo permalink
      September 24, 2010 10:45 am

      i.e. “I was being deliberately fascetious in order to stir things up rather than honestly putting the point”.

      Yep, that’s the attitude I want to see more of in politicians.

      • Leo permalink
        September 24, 2010 10:46 am

        PS My prior comment was directed at Patrick.

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