1. Which of the following activities do you consider the most dangerous and why?
- taking a single ecstasy tablet
- taking an advanced motorcycle riding test
- giving birth
Giving birth. Around 100 women die every year in the UK whereas between 10-17 people die from taking ecstasy. Statistically ecstasy may be more dangerous because far fewer people take it than give birth. As far as I know, no-one has actually died taking the motorcycle test.
2. What four pledges would you put on the front of the next Lib Dem manifesto?
1. To build more affordable and social housing
( with a costed figure of say 400,000 homes a year)
2. To create new jobs in a greener economy (again, a costed figure as large as possible)
3. To reduce borrowing by taxing wealth and by cracking down on tax avoidance.
4. To promote peace through international law and to avoid military adventures.
3. A genie appears and tells you that you can remove one law and make one law; what would you remove from the statute book and what would you add to the statute book?
Remove: Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which outlaws abusive and insulting words or behaviour.
Add: All childcare to be tax deductible - the biggest contribution there could be to gender equality.
4. What balance should the committee give to the views of the leadership, the parliamentary panels and the membership in setting policy priorities?
FPC should listen to all these but the dialogue should be two-way. We want to support the parliamentary leadership but not to restrict our policy formulation to topics that fit the Westminster bubble. The party desperately needs to offer the public an independent message - what we stand for, not just to pose as the brakes on the Tories. Fighting the next election on the economic competence of the coalition would be disastrous.
5. How would you change the party’s procedures on gathering and analysing evidence when formulating policy?
I have served on policy working groups and watched with increasing dismay the current process where, although staff work very hard, the choice of witnesses is somewhat random. We need to invite evidence publicly and not be afraid to hear from specialists who disagree with us. Their contributions can only strengthen our policies. Loss of the Short money has left the party desperately short of policy staff. We also need to involve more party members and to use the hidden expertise they possess. In the East of England I have started a process of identifying where that expertise lies. I have tried unsuccessfully so far to revive the old Liberal Party practice of a travel pool for working groups, so that the cost of taking part is the same for all whether they live in Kensington or Newcastle or Penzance.
6. Which is more important - freedom from ignorance, poverty or conformity?
I have always emphasised freedom from conformity. There is no great value in the freedom to be the same as everyone else. Conformity carries ignorance and poverty in its train, ignorance because alternatives are suppressed and poverty because growth and opportunity require innovation and choice.
7. Are you a member of any (S)AOs or other pressure groups which might give us an insight into your policy priorities?
I am chair of Liberal Democrats for Peace & Security and have campaigned persistently against nuclear weapons. I am a member of Liberty and Amnesty and a former president of the Young European Federalists. I have also worked for years with Environmental NGOs and professionally lobbied the European Union on environmental policy and regional policy.
8. Which external bodies would you like to see audit the manifesto to see if our policies are workable?
Honestly, I hadn't thought about it. Actually auditing after we have written the manifesto is too late. We should seek external critique of our polices as we develop them not when it's too late.
9. What proposals do you have to improve the process of negotiating policy priorities for a coalition agreement in the event of another hung parliament?
Other countries allow a sensible period of time but the markets and the British media will probably not. I understand why preparations before elections for negotiations afterwards have to be confidential, but the negotiators should have guidance from FPC and conference as to red lines. I think it is a mistake to put too much into an initial coalition agreement. As the likely minority partner we are in a stronger position if the majority partner has to come back to us to negotiate on issues. Any coalition agreement must also provide for wider negotiation of new policies than the present quad of two MPs each. In any such discussion, the party outside parliament should also be represented.
10. If elected, how do you plan to engage with the wider party?
I want more members to be involved long before policy gets to federal conference. The current process of policy formulation is something of a secret garden and indeed a garden made up of plants from within the M25. As a start in the East of England, we (the Regional Policy Committee) have arranged for regional consultation sessions on defence and on work / life balance, subjects which will be debated at federal conference next Autumn. I would like FPC to engage with regional committees and for committee members to explain the policy process to local parties, something I would be glad to do myself.
11. Are you standing for any other committees, if so which ones, and if elected to more than one how do you plan to divide your time?
I'm also standing for FPC. The actual number of meetings for both committees is not too demanding. If elected to both, I would have to reconsider the amount of time which I currently spend on local and regional party bodies.
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