Recent e) Briefings Articles



CIC: Are petitions the way forward?

by Douglas Clark     December 8, 2008 at 2:07 pm

All this week, Liberal Conspiracy will finish reviewing the Communities in Control White Paper (link corrected) launched by Hazel Blears.

Chapter 4: Having an Influence, deals with the enhancement of the right to petition and also discusses ways to encourage electors to vote. But it covers a lot of other things too.

The chapter also tells us what this is not about.

We are not proposing government by petitions, nor are we suggesting that the role of elected representatives in taking difficult decisions should be undermined. But, we do believe that stronger petition powers will enable more people to have their voice heard and help elected representatives do their jobs better.

This is at least clear cut.

Frankly, this chapter should have been at least two, or probably three or four separate sections. It tries to cover too many topics under the catch all heading ‘Having an Influence’ and even the introductory paragraph does not, at least in my view, do justice to the depth and breadth of the subject matter.
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CIC paper: Access to information

by Justin McKeating     November 27, 2008 at 8:57 am

Liberal Conspiracy is publishing a series of discussions about the government’s Community Empowerment White Paper. This is a summary of the third chapter.

Chapter 3: Access to information
How can I find out information in a way I understand and can use?

Information is power say the paper, and a lack of information leads to powerlessness. Jargon can ‘alienate, confuse and frustrate citizens’ and be exclusionary. Barely half of local authority residents feel that their council keeps them very or fairly well informed about the services and benefits it provides.

The Internet is a powerful information delivery system but those without online access should not be forgotten. Information across the range of issues is being made available via the likes of NHS Choices. The government wants to support the use of new technologies.

A ‘Digital Mentor’ scheme in deprived areas will support groups to develop websites and podcasts, to use digital photography and online publishing tools. Community radio can have a unique role in working within communities.

Comments
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CIC paper: Can British citizens become ‘active’?

by David Keen     November 19, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Liberal Conspiracy is publishing a series of discussions about the government’s Community Empowerment White Paper. This is a summary of the second chapter.

Chapter 2: Active citizens and the value of volunteering
The government wants to “make it easier to be involved in voluntary and community activity” and proposes:

Volunteering
– Community Allowance pilots – paying people to do community work without losing benefits.
– Job Centres to help people do volunteer work.
– £2m more to support people with disabilities.

Mentoring
– Developing a strategy for extending mentoring

Citizenship
– A review of citizenship education in schools.
– a ‘Take Part local pathfinder programme’, offering information and training on being an active citizen for adults.
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Is the ‘Community Empowerment’ plan any good?

by Don Paskini     November 17, 2008 at 8:38 am

Liberal Conspiracy is publishing a series of discussions about the government’s Community Empowerment White Paper. Hazel Blears said blogs are not constructive enough; this is the first such project where readers have volunteered to review different parts of the paper. Consultation on this paper is due to end soon.

I’ve been asked to kick off with an overview of the principles which inform the strategy. Other authors are covering the points related to particular chapters and local authorities.

The aim of the white paper is “to pass power into the hands of local communities so as to generate vibrant local democracy in every part of the country and give real control over local decisions and services to a wider pool of active citizens.”

Unlike some government white papers, there is no ‘one big idea’ in the white paper, for better and for worse. Instead there are lots of smaller ideas, which are grouped under the headings of being an active citizen, accessing information, influencing local decision-making, holding decision-makers to account, getting redress when things go wrong, standing for office and community ownership and management of local services.
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Abortion Rights: A delay not a setback

by Unity     October 21, 2008 at 5:32 pm

So, efforts to update the UK’s existing abortion law through amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill appear to have ended in a politically expedient cop-out and some of the worst excuses in living memory, despite bill having originally been drafted in such a way as to allow, if not invite, the submission of abortion-related amendments.

Oh well, at least it saves me the bother of pointing out the belated Field-Dorries amendment, which proposed that a joint ‘grand committee’ of 17 MPs and Peers would ruminate on the subject of abortion for 9 months before bring forward recommendations that parliament would be required to enact within two years is a complete and utter constitutional nonsense – parliament cannot be bound, in advance, to a future course of action even by a unanimous vote of both houses let alone by the deliberation of ad hoc committee.

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I blame the lazy liberal media

by Sunny Hundal     October 21, 2008 at 9:27 am

Both Polly Toynbee and Cath Elliott have written good pieces for the Guardian on this government’s failure to stand firm on HFE Bill amendments and follow through with a progressive pro-choice stance that should be the cornerstone of any vaguely left-wing government.

Instead, as Ms Toynbee rightly points out, New Labour has become scared of Nadine Dorries MP and the tons of supportive, misleading propaganda that has poured from the Daily Mail and Telegraph. Which begs me to wonder why the hell there wasn’t an equally vicious counter-attack in the left-liberal press. Why haven’t the Guardian or the Independent asked the sort of questions about Nadine Dorries MP and her campaign that we have on this blog?

Partly, I’m beginning to agree with the feminist complaint that the male-dominated left actually ends up saying very little on issues like abortion. They’re out there campaigning against the war in Iraq but when a bit of solidarity is needed with women from Northern Ireland, the comrades are busily inspecting their shoes. Liberals especially, too afraid to touch an issue like abortion for fear of offending anyone, have barely attempted to go on the counter-attack in the media.

The Channel 4 documentary that exposed Nadine Dorries’s close links to the bigoted, fundamentalist Christian organisation: Christian Concern For Our Nation, offered a veritable feast for an angle that could be used to ask questions about how was funding Ms Dorries’s campaign and why she was hiding her true agenda on abortion and smearing journalists like Ben Goldacre. What did we get? Uncomfortable silence, and some bleating now the vote has came up again. I admire the right on this regard: they have ideological positions and they’ll run happily run a quasi-propaganda campaign to support it. The left-liberal press is on the side of public opinion and has a ton of bullshit to shoot down, and they still can’t do a good enough job to push their case. No wonder New Labour is in retreat.

Sins of Omission

by Unity     October 8, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Over the last year or so, perhaps the defining characteristic of the anti-abortion lobby’s ‘contribution’ to the public debate surrounding the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has been their willingness to resort, increasingly, to tendentious and disreputable lines of argument.

Why this has happened is relatively easy to understand.

The major problem facing the anti-abortion lobby is that, for all their efforts to poison the public debate in support of their prohibitionist agenda, public support for the principle that women have the right to access safe, legal, abortions services remains rock solid at around 65-70% in any reputable poll. If nothing else, the majority of the British public understand that the alternative to legal abortion is not no abortions but a return to unsafe backstreet abortions will their attendant horrors.

The ‘moral’ argument for prohibition has been lost and lost decisively and its because of that, that anti-abortionists have turned, instead, to a stream of extremely specious and sophistic arguments about the supposed ‘rights’ of the foetus and to the wholesale misrepresentation and bastardisation of medical and scientific knowledge about pregnancy, foetal development and abortion. continue reading… »

Our complaint against Nadine Dorries MP upheld

by Sunny Hundal     September 24, 2008 at 7:55 pm

A few months ago I submitted a complaint, with the help of some Liberal Conspirators to the Parliamentary Standards Commission against Nadine Dorries MP. In short, it was regarding her blog. Last weekend I had a response.

The most relevant parts of the letter stated:

The rules of the house, however, do require Members to make a clear distinction between websites which are financed from public funds and any other domain. At the time of your complaint, Mrs Dorries’ website did not meet that requirement. Nor was it appropriate that she use the Portcullis emblem on the weblog given its contents. And the funding attribution on Mrs Dorries’ Home Page should have been updated to reflect that the funding came from the Communications Allowance and not from the Incidental Expenses Provision.

To these three technical aspects, our complaint was upheld. But, the Commissioner adds:
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Dishonesty Dorries Rides Again

by Unity     July 1, 2008 at 4:48 pm

If there’s one thing worse than a cover-up, its a badly executed cover-up, and you’ll find no better example of the latter if you take the time to visit the website of Nadine Dorries.

To give a quick recap of the story so far, a short while back, Sunny put forward a formal complaint to the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards in regards to Dorries’ ‘blog’ – i.e. the bit of her website that used to have a comments facility until she got caught making false allegations about Ben Goldacre in a parliamentary committee report.

The complaint, itself, raised two basic issues.
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Dorries facing Standards investigation – updated

by Unity     June 9, 2008 at 5:01 pm

I’ve already broken this development over at The Ministry, due to LibCon being offline for a while this afternoon, but I can now confirm that Nadine Dorries is being asked to give a formal response, by the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards, to the complaint lodged by Sunny a little under a month ago in regards to her apparent failure to observe parliamentary regulations relating to the content of her official website, which she appears to fund from her parliamentary allowances.

The complaint, which is being dealt with under the new Communications Allowance regulations, alleges that Dorries’s personal ‘blog’, which is incorporated into her official website and which, it appears from the home page, is/was funded using the Incidental Expenses Provision, breaches regulations governing the content of websites funded from parliamentary allowances and the use of the House Emblem, i.e. the official portcullis device.
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