The importance of enfranchising and educating 16 year olds

43% of 18 – 24-year-olds voted at the 2015 general election. Clearly, this is evidence of political disengagement in young people, which negatively affects our democracy because it means people aren’t choosing to vote, leading to more unrepresentative governments due to low turnout.

However, all is not lost. The Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014 gave 16 and 17-year-olds the vote and 75% of them turned out to vote with 97% reporting they would vote again in the future according to the Electoral Commission’s post-referendum report. This is evidence that 16 and 17-year-olds want to be heard but aren’t. I see this as a massive missed opportunity.

The future prospects for our democracy can be improved by enfranchising and thereby engaging 16 and 17-year-olds. If this can be achieved, they will become engaged adults who want to vote, leading to higher turnout and more representative governments. 

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Energetic new approaches to stimulating Green Growth in West Midlands

I was delighted to attend a well attended Energy Capital Conference at University of Birmingham recently as part of my campaign for the election of the West Midlands Metro Mayor.

Through work I did at Birmingham City University I got involved with manufacturers first of electric vehicles and then driverless cars. It involved building collaborations and different business models required to lift us into a different future that we can hardly imagine at the moment, a future that’s clean, green and a pleasure to live in.

I see this area as an area we can ‘own’ and take leadership. The Mayor’s role for me is about building on our transport and energy credentials. The link between energy generation and connectivity has never been more vital. The two go hand-in-hand and we need to own and develop these in tandem.

As one of my colleagues has observed:

Electronics in a typical family car account for more than 50% of its value. There are no fewer than 100 microprocessors in the average car today, around 15 million lines of code running a luxury car. There are more sensors and computing power in a midsize car than the Apollo space craft. Additional electronic systems are being introduced with the development of electric and hybrid vehicles, such as battery management, electric motor drives and energy recovery systems.

We have a real chance to lead in production of electric vehicles, in driverless vehicles, in local energy, battery power and renewables production. Worldwide over 1.2m EVs were sold last year however, international climate targets anticipate 20m EVs by 2020 and 100m by 2030.

The West Midlands needs to ensure we have our share of this market. Jaguar Land Rover will be investing £650m in EVs and have been looking for government to invest £450m in infrastructure. It could mean as many as 100k new jobs directly and through the supply chain.

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WATCH: Tim Farron speech: How a clean energy revolution means Britain can lead the world

This week, Tim Farron gave a speech on clean energy and its potential to boost Britain’s economy.

Watch it here. The text is under the cut.

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Lib Dem Lords aim to kill new Tory restrictions on disability benefits

The Liberal Democrats have tabled a motion to kill Government attempts to severely restrict disability benefits.

The move follows an announcement by the Government that they will be tightening the criteria for claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which could see diabetics and those with mental illnesses stuck without support. The Government has introduced these restrictions after losing two cases at tribunals.  From the Minister’s statement:

The first judgement held that needing support to take medication and monitor a health condition should be scored in the same way as needing support to manage therapy, like dialysis, undertaken at home. Until this ruling, the assessment made a distinction between these two groups, on the basis that people who need support to manage therapy of this kind are likely to have a higher level of need, and therefore face higher costs.

The second held that someone who cannot make a journey without assistance due to psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person who needs assistance because they have difficulties navigating. By way of example, the first group might include some people with isolated social phobia or anxiety, whereas the second group might include some people who are blind. Until this ruling, the assessment made a distinction between these two groups, on the basis that people who cannot navigate, due to a visual or cognitive impairment, are likely to have a higher level of need, and therefore face higher costs.

Responding to the announcement Baroness Cathy Bakewell, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

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Observations of an ex pat: Alliance 101

The Western Alliance is in disarray.

Americans are sick of picking up the tab for protecting a rich Europe from a communist threat which no longer exists. Europe is terrified at being abruptly left in the lurch facing a corrupt, authoritarian Russian threat which has replaced the communist one.

In the meantime, Britain, the traditional number two in the Western Alliance, voted Brexit and pulled the rug out from under the EU–the political and economic arm of the alliance’s European end.

It is time for a refresher course in the Western, or Transatlantic, Alliance. It is time for a re-examination of the purpose of the alliance. So here goes, Alliance 101.

Franklin Roosevelt had a vision of a post-war world run through a United Nations headed by World War Two allies—America, Britain, China and Russia. France was a reluctant afterthought.

Each of the “great powers” was given a permanent seat in the newly-formed UN Security Council. With the seat came implied responsibility for a slice of the world—America was the Western Hemisphere; Britain (with French help) Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East; Russia Eastern Europe and Central Asia and China the Far East.
Unfortunately the dream was nothing more than that. A Britain prostate from two world wars still had to organise a peaceful retreat from empire. The French were in a mess. The Chinese were in a bigger mess and faced a civil war. Only the Russians and Americans emerged better off.

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Stoke and Copeland results show how far Lib Dems have come in two years

If the Stoke and Copeland by-elections had happened at any point in the last Parliament, the Liberal Democrats would have been squeezed until our pips squeaked. We’d certainly have lost our deposit as we did in both seats in the 2015 General Election in both seats.

The results showed how far we have come. Our vote more than doubled in both seats and we did well to avoid a squeeze into oblivion. In Copeland we pushed UKIP into fourth as that party’s voters clearly felt comfortable enough voting for Theresa May’s Brexit Britain Party.

In Stoke, you have to wonder how much …

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++Copeland by-election – Lib Dems more than double vote share and move up to third place, beating UKIP

Congratulations to Rebecca Hanson and the team for an excellent showing at the Copeland by-election, caused by the resignation of Labour’s Jamie Reed. Our vote share more than doubled from 3.5% at the 2015 general election to 7.25%. We moved up from fourth place to third – beating UKIP.

Dramatically, the Tories won the by-election in this normally rock-solid Labour seat. Psephologist John Curtice told the BBC that this was the biggest gain, in share of the vote, by a governing party in a byelection since the Hull North byelection in 1966.

Here is the result in full, plus some bar charts from the Press Association’s Ian Jones:

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMartin 24th Feb - 2:46pm
    David Raw: For how long? What do you mean? - For as long as Brexit threatens damage and is damaging - for the foreseeable future....
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 24th Feb - 2:20pm
    AngrySteve: I think you are right that the media wanted a sensational UKIP win in Stoke and played down the Conservative's chances. Had they been...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 24th Feb - 2:18pm
    @ Martin "our opposition to Brexit does allow us to develop a more sound platform of support." For how long ?
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 24th Feb - 2:14pm
    I hope Cathy Bakewell succeeds in this. Sad to say, it would be better if we started with clean hands. The roots of all this...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 24th Feb - 2:11pm
    Copeland rarely had a very strong Liberal, Social Democrat in the 1980s, or Liberal Democrat vote and apart from 1997 Labour did not have a...
  • User AvatarSimon Freeman 24th Feb - 2:07pm
    Neither of the parliamentary seats are ones with a history of Lib Dem voting so increases in the vote are at least a small step...