Monday, 9 August 2010

Speak out. Speak loud.

In doesn't matter who you are or where you're from or what you believe in or what you do. Freedom of speech is a civil liberty.

Liberal Youth are standing up for our civil liberties.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Opinion: Getting rid of ContactPoint – a great day for liberalism

I would imagine Liberals throughout the country breathed a collective sigh of relief this past week when they opened their newspapers or turned on their computers to find the intrusive ContactPoint database was to be switched off at noon on 6th August.

28th February 2010 was the beginning of the end for ContactPoint.

On this day, an emergency motion submitted to Liberal Youth Spring Conference found its way through the ballot and ended up for debate on the final day of our conference. During the debate, we acknowledged the good points of ContactPoint and, whilst we understood its flaws and noted that the intention had been honourable, the fate of ContactPoint – at least in the eyes of Liberal Youth – was clear. We wanted it gone, and we wanted it gone now.

We could not believe that the system had been approved in the first place, that the safeguards put in place were not nearly strong enough for a databank designed to house the details of 11 million children and those responsible for them, and that 330,000 unchecked people would have access. It wasn’t reasonable, it wasn’t an answer to the Victoria Climbie case, it was simply a Labour overreaction that would further infringe our civil liberties.

At a time when the federal party did not have a policy on this dangerous database, the emergency motion passed through our spring conference almost unanimously. Soon after, it became Liberal Democrat policy and appeared in the party’s General Election manifesto. Then, to our surprise and delight, scrapping it became Government policy. Now, after a long hard fight – from the party, civil liberties campaigners and the public – we have the result we were always after.

It’s time to say goodbye to ContactPoint and give a warm welcome to the return of our civil liberties.

Liberal Youth have been the leading voice against this system. If it hadn’t been switched off, we would have kept fighting, because we recognised just how dangerous this database was to us and to young people across the country.

Liberal Youth have been referred to, both internally and externally, as the ‘conscience of the Liberal Democrats’ and, whether true or false, Liberal Youth will keep fighting for our civil liberties – at conference, during Freshers’ Week, and as we approach the Freedom Bill in autumn. Expect nothing less from Liberal Youth than our full support for the abolition of intrusive databanks – from ONSET to the Common Assessment Framework to the proposed Communications Database. We believe firmly that our data was never meant to be used against us, and intend to speak out and speak loud on the issues that matter to us.

Getting rid of ContactPoint is a great Liberal Democrat success – our children are safer, our data is protected – we have taken a large step in the right direction. But, now we’ve taken one, let’s, as a party, start running. We can fight for Identification, Referral and Tracking (IRT) systems to be abolished, for Control Orders to be terminated, and for steadfast opposition to extradition to countries where a fair trial cannot be guaranteed or that have not abolished Capital Punishment.

Mark it in your diaries: 6th August, 12 noon. A great day for liberalism, and the day we started getting our civil liberties back.

* Sarah Harding is a General Executive Member and Policy Officer for Liberal Youth. She also blogs at

Monday, 2 August 2010

Money, Money, Money

There is something about summer that always makes me want to take up a hobby. This usually involves taking up a sport, or attempting to learn a language. (Although this never usually gets beyond the 'hello,' 'goodbye','my name is' and 'can I have a coffee' stage..)

This summer I am determined to learn more about how the economy works and attempt to find out what those polished looking men and women in Canary Wharf really get up to.

The recession has suddenly made the world of high finance a bit sexy. I'm sure in a couple of years we will have Hollywood blockbusters detailing the collapse of Lehman Brothers, or BBC dramas about Adam Applegarth's exploits and Northern Rock's collapse.

Yet its worrying that its taken the recession to ignite interest into what is Britain's biggest industry. While we may not all know the technicalities behind putting a car together or mining for coal, we can certainly understand how these primary industries work and how money and profit can be made.

As the crash highlighted, even top politicians and financial institutions couldn't fully comprehend how the complex markets operate.

Its hardly surprising. Since light touch regulation in the 1980's was introduced the industry is constantly being flooded by new products and practices. During the property boom, mortgages allowed to be given to people who could not afford them were being sliced and diced into lots of different packages and sold on, the result of which we all saw. The trouble is money floating round in the ether is just that; the more removed the knowledge about where it came from and its security then the higher the risk of things going wrong.

I read an excellent blog post today by Robert Peston in relation to the new rules being drawn up by the EU to improve banking supervision. He makes the point that the jargon used by the Basel Committee who are writing these rules cannot be understood by anybody outside the committee that wrote it; yet the potential repercussions for getting it wrong could impact us all.

Its very difficult to have a political argument about something like the future of banks and how they should be taxed and regulated without having some sort of knowledge about what exactly is going on.

So, Im off to learn about Credit Default Swaps and the Libor rate. I may be some time....

RECOMMENDATION: Philip Coggan 'The money machine: How the City works'