Author Topic: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition  (Read 2395 times)

Jubal

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #30 on: September 21, 2020, 05:21:45 PM »
It's the Liberal Democrat conference next weekend. I will be going and proposing a couple of tweaks to party policy - one in favour of a wider range of public engagement measures after COVID-19 than the party's working group favours (specifically, they're very in favour of sortition strategies, which on the specific issue of a pandemic really aren't very good because they are quite hard for more marginalised or unwell people, the worst affected by the pandemic, to actually engage with). The other is in favour of explicitly mentioning and incorporationg biodiversity into how we approach planning for after COVID-19, including favouring nature recovery networks as an approach (which in short involve working out how to create corridors between habitats that wildlife can move along: this is really important to ensure populations don't get isolated and then collapse due to lack of genetic diversity).

One big ticket debate will be on whether the party should adopt UBI - this is extremely likely to pass, though it's also quite possible that the new leadership will then slowly try to water it down and make it a small universal payment (which is fine but doesn't do a lot) rather than a real minimum income. The other perhaps even bigger argument will be on our strategy regarding the EU - the leadership clearly want to try and water down our pro-EU stance quite a bit and have been trying to bounce conference into backing them, which I suspect won't work very well for them not least because a lot of other senior party figures are absolutely spitting blood about some of the machinations behind this - Ed has made himself a lot of enemies very recently.

The rest of UK politics rumbles on. Keir Starmer seems to be polling better than Boris Johnson as to his leadership capabilities but is strenuously avoiding having much of a position on anything - Labour are still a point or two behind the Conservatives in most polls. I wonder how much of the Conservative dominance is Brexit related though still: as the debate moves on it may prove to be rather brittle.
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dubsartur

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #31 on: September 21, 2020, 09:40:18 PM »
One of the controversial aspects of a UBI is that to get some of the benefits you have to get rid of the old programs targeted at the worthy poor.  Just paying poor people is quicker and avoids the overhead cost of deciding which of the poor are really worthy in any one program's definition (and managing one subsidy for groceries, another for rent, a third for single parents ...), but people are attached to the names of programs and full of reasons why their sinecure is for being worthy not being poor.  And I hear that the period since 2008 has been hard for poor British people.  What do Liberal Democrats in the UK think of that?

Irongutz

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #32 on: September 22, 2020, 12:16:20 AM »
Some interesting elements to consider, on the whole I'm really glad that people are discussing them in an open forum as it allows me to have a sort of port-hole into internal political situations around the UK and thread-appropriate areas

Always been difficult to find politically contested arguments and what party or demographic was associated and affiliated with them; Perhaps because the UK is generally 4 different countries and it seems to have a lot of layers that make it hard to gauge whether something is just an emotional sentiment on a local level or a political conversation at a regional level (which I'm interested in), or a national headline which I'd receive anyway through one of the local proxy news outlets

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Jubal

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #33 on: September 22, 2020, 12:35:34 PM »
What any group think isn't monolithic of course.

Regarding dubsartur's point: generally, I don't think this is hugely a point of debate about UBI in the UK: there aren't actually that many varied systems for cash payment for living costs since everything got rolled into the awful Universal Credit system, which everyone except the Conservatives now kind of dislikes (arguably UC isn't actually that bad as a theoretical delivery system for benefits, it's just that it was cut back really hard while being implemented so people lost money hard as they moved onto it and it had huge IT problems so it's got an unsalvageable reputation on the left). I think the two big things which would be necessary but tricky to realise the full potential of a basic income would be to have it used for student living cost support and to dovetail it properly with pensions - there'd be some pushback on the latter I suspect. The other thing to note re the mix of subsidies is that you probably actually do still have to manage separate housing and disability payments even with a UBI: housing costs are so variable in the UK that paying just enough to someone in London would mean dumping vast additional sums on people who live in poor bits of the north, and disability likewise has hugely variable costs that probably need independent assessment. The big financial benefits to UBI aren't actually the decreased administration costs, but the income security, which gives you a far more flexible labour force (easier to move and retrain if you're not too poor to do so when out of a job), and to things like healthcare where lower stress levels can genuinely decrease strain on the system.

The big anti-UBI argument in the UK is "if you pay people without forcing them to work they won't work". Which actually we know from pilots isn't true, but it's still the core argument one hears. I don't know a lot about the demographics of UBI support: most of the places that seem to have strong UBI campaigns are urban and northern. The Lib Dem group in Hull is where a lot of the most pro-UBI people in the party hang out, Sheffield has a strong UBI network, and Leeds council recently passed a pro-UBI motion put forward by the Liberal Democrat group there. So there's definitely an explicit pro-UBI activist network in the UK in a way that there wasn't five years ago. My guess is that UBI support tends to skew more northern, urban, educated, and young, in general: it tends to appeal most easily to people whose work is irregular in its hours and availability, so contract and gig workers, who again tend to be younger and more urban.

As to the Lib Dems' stances on poverty: we're against it, unsurprisingly, but there's a difficult internal split because of the party's time in government (2010-15) between members who argue that the austerity measures taken during that period were justified to stabilise finances and people like me who think they weren't justified and leaned far too hard on the poorest to pay for problems they hadn't caused. In general the party agrees more about the future than the past on this, and has sat left of Labour on benefits for the poorest since about 2016. (Labour have generally tended to advocate spending more money in total in recent years, but much of that is on universalising benefits that are currently means tested - for example, making free childcare available to middle class as well as badly off citizens). Part of the issue for both Labour and the Lib Dems is that both are very, very middle class parties with lots of people talking about social issues who've never really experienced them, and who are nominally committeed to "making politics more diverse" but don't understand what the barriers to that look like when you're on the other side of them. I mean I include myself in that, but I do what I can to work with people who do understand these things on a more personal level. The Conservatives meanwhile now have older white working class people among their core voters, mostly appealing to them on more conservative cultural principles.

Re what Baragon said about the UK being four different countries: yes, though some are more different than others. :)

Sorry that was a bit of a ramble, hopefully it contained some interesting oddments.
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Jubal

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #34 on: September 30, 2020, 10:04:32 PM »
Lib Dem conference went pretty well! I helped moderate stuff and got a co-written motion and two amendments passed.

Some further thoughts:
https://thoughtsofprogress.wordpress.com/2020/09/30/lib-dem-conference-2020-a-party-with-a-voice/
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Othko97

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2020, 08:23:16 PM »
Right now I feel particularly frustrated with UK Politics, thanks largely to being a citizen of Greater Manchester. For those not in the know, the UK government decided that Greater Manchester needed to be boosted up a tier in the new system. This decision may have been entirely justified, although cases in Manchester have been declining without the additional measures. Manchester has already been under additional restrictions compared to the rest of the country for months, and our businesses have suffered a lot already. Now the government wanted to close a large portion of pubs (any that don't serve "substantial meals") along with a litany of other businesses staffed by minimum or low wage workers. This would have been entirely laudable and acceptable, apart from the fact that the government were only willing to compensate those made unable to work 66% of their lost wages. 66% of minimum wage is essentially a pittance that may not even cover rent in some cases, so naturally our local government pushed back to get the additional funding to boost that to 80%.

Despite having no problem affording extortionate amounts for their corporate friends (£7000 per head per day for Serco's Track and Trace shambles, not to mention the millions for ferry companies without ferries or PPE suppliers who have never made PPE), the government could not even stretch to give Manchester the money it needed to reach this reasonable request. Especially frustrating is the fact that Manchester had already given back  more[\b] than requested back from previous Coronavirus relief.

I don't know, often I feel the London/Not London divide being a lifelong inhabitant of Greater Manchester, but this really pushed that feeling given Manchester is supposed to be the second largest economic power in the country.
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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #36 on: November 15, 2020, 01:30:41 PM »
Is it a completely crazy idea that anyone who earns less than a certain threshold should be compensated their full wages if furloughed or forced to self isolate? Is it such an insanely complex twist? I get that most people are spending less money whilst in lockdown, but if your income is normally close to your basic living costs then even losing 20% of your wages can fug you sideways.

Jubal

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #37 on: November 25, 2020, 10:32:25 PM »
The UK government is abandoning its commitment to a 0.7% GNI international aid budget - saving a fraction of the money that it's spent in recent months on, among other things, lorry parks to deal with their own failure to negotiate functional trade deals, ferry services with no ferries, and test & trace systems that don't actually work at all.

It's not even a good move from a hard-nosed strategic POV even if you're not a hippie liberal like me who cares about things like children not growing up starving - the amount of money it saves is negligible compared to the fact that Britain desperately needs to not lose international standing further so people take it semi-seriously as a player without us being politically joined at the hip to one of the two larger powers we sit between post-Brexit. We need to bring something to the table for that to make sense, and a really effective international aid infrastructure is a really important part of that because it's one of the ways we actually make geopolitical friends outside our own backyard.
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dubsartur

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #38 on: November 26, 2020, 04:22:12 AM »
I lived through the Harper years of systematic destruction of institutions so I sympathize!

With Dominic Cummings out of his job ... have people in the UK talked about his intellectual context?  The couple of blog posts I flipped through were very much in the neighborhood of the rationalist / right libertarian circles of autodidacts with big ideas in the United States, people like Tyler 'Marginal Revolution' Cowen, Eliezer 'LessWrong'  Yudkowski, Scott 'SlatestarCodex' Alexander, Robin 'Overcoming Bias' Hanson, or Michael Shermer.  The blog posts were regurgitating their ideas in a less articulate form, like the bloggers rely on books for many of their more convincing ideas.  The Americans did not have so many rants about elites / the civil service but that has been a part of discourse on the right in the United States in general and California in particular since the New Deal.  This 2019 Jonathan Heawood piece in The Guardian uses the term 'rationalist' but does not drop names and explain what 'rationalist' means in this context.  This piece is much more helpful but in a website I don't know https://unherd.com/2019/08/dominic-cummings-is-no-chicken/

Edit: one last edit ... there was a long tradition in this rationalist / right Libertarian world of rants against higher education, often in pseudo-economic and psychological language ("signalling," claims that education does not increase income because the kind of people who seek degrees are the kind who would do well on the job market regardless).  Bryan Caplan's "The Case Against Education" is a highbrow version by a university press but Heinlein was already whining about progressive high-schools in the 1950s.  Vicious attacks on book learning are pretty common among autodidacts who don't have the respectful audience they feel they deserve, but it fits with Cummings' anti-establishment word salad.

I had a phase playing around with big ideas and finding the weak spots in them, but I would not want to be in a country run by someone grabbing whichever of them looks shiny!  I am more an "the easiest person to fool is yourself" kind of thinker and I'm terrified of the people who think that because they are clever and studied one subject for a long time, they can master the next one over a long weekend.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 07:38:51 AM by dubsartur »

Jubal

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #39 on: November 26, 2020, 09:36:11 AM »
UnHerd is AFAICT mostly right-wing, though a few left-wing, opinion writers and bloggers who think that they should have a space to float ideas that would be considered objectionable or too far off the beaten track in a regular publication. They do publish some good pieces now and again, but their general alignment is towards contrarianism more than anything else.

The term rationalist always feels to me ironic, since one of their primary characteristics seems in practice to be the out-of-hand denial of their own irrationality (which is in itself an irrational act, since an actor attempting to be rational needs to be aware of and account for their own human tendency to not think rationally about things).
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dubsartur

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #40 on: November 26, 2020, 06:01:29 PM »
Anyways, I am asking because I read a lot of Brits talking about anti-Semitism and different flavours of Marxism and accelerationism in their politics, but not saying "hold on, the Prime Minister's wazir / rab ummâni is the kind of person who knows what Rocco's Basilisk is."  Political journalists are deeply intellectually incurious (they often spend 20 years writing the same column), and worshipful of Old Media authority and face-to-face relationships.  The LessWrong crowd never got a major publisher or newspaper interested like the Richard Dawkins / Sam Harris New Atheists did, and they mostly live in California and a few other parts of the United States and spent time with other people who have a great love of ideas and great confidence in the ability of their rationality to conquer any problem, not with writers of opinion pieces.

Its symptomatic that journalists barely acknowledge that blogs exist (and when they do with a visible sneer) but embraced birdsite like a lover they have not seen for a year.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2020, 12:50:56 AM by dubsartur »

Jubal

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #41 on: December 06, 2020, 10:07:44 PM »
In fairness, Brits talking about anti-Semitism and Marxism and accelerationism may imply you're reading a very Labour/old left heavy segment of political analysis and commentary, and those people don't tend to have much of an opinion on Conservative personnel or trying to understand anyone outside the Labour paradigms. We could do with more people on the left taking that sort of approach though.

In other news in the UK: a major judicial decision this week has prevented the prescribing of puberty blockers to young people with gender dysphoria, on the basis that some people regretted having had that treatment. This causes some literal and immediate problems: the regret rate for puberty blockers, whilst important to consider at around 2%, is a tenth of that for knee operations and nobody is considering banning those, and we know that untreated dysphoria tends to be very mentally damaging to young people who have it. But there's a much more worrying aspect, which is that the arguments used are essentially that under 16s can't unilaterally consent to medical procedures even when diagnosed as needing them by a medical professional. This opens the door for further cases which in particular could attack e.g. the right to young people having abortions (not in fact a hypothetical, as the lawyer who won the Tavistock case has fought anti-abortion cases on exactly the same legal argumentative basis, and now has a large new piece of case law to point at in those). It is an extremely scary time right now for trans friends who feel that their right to exist in the UK is being progressively chiselled away and publicly attacked as the years go by.
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Pentagathusosaurus rex

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #42 on: December 08, 2020, 02:03:10 PM »
Is it now flat out impossible for children to receive treatment with puberty blockers then? I haven't followed anything in the news at all for a while but for some reason I was under the impression that you could still receive the treatment but there would be additional administrative/legal hoops to jump through first.
I can understand some concern about children starting the transition whilst they're still impressionable or whatnot, especially with the changing trends in gender dysphoria in the last decade but surely the clinicians treating these children should mostly be able to help them identify whether or not the treatments are right for them.
Unfortunately I suspect transgender rights are going to be used as a political pawn for quite a while yet, with the real political actors not actually caring very much about the wellbeing of anyone affected by it.

Jubal

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #43 on: December 08, 2020, 02:15:52 PM »
If the decision is confirmed after the Tavistock's appeal, yes, it will be illegal to prescribe them for gender dysphoria on the grounds that the patient doesn't have appropriate capacity to consent (it will still, I think, be legal to prescribe them for early onset puberty, which is the other thing they're used to treat, like if a child starts hitting puberty effects at eight or whatever). And yeah, I don't think anyone's really suggesting a free for all on use of blockers and it's always required the doctors to sign off on it - indeed one of the bonus dangers now is that there'll be a spike in people trying to source black market versions of these treatments. I just think that like any other issue, it should be between the medical professionals and the patient to work out what the right treatment is. I wish that wasn't a controversial opinion!
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Pentagathusosaurus rex

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Re: UK politics: Post-Brexit edition
« Reply #44 on: December 08, 2020, 02:35:28 PM »
Ahh I see. Well I haven't read into this much at all but I don't really see the need for this ban at all, and I don't understand the argument that a child is unable to consent to this particular treatment when many other kind of treatments are fine. Perhaps if these patients are under the impression that there will be no side effects at all before they undergo treatment, but if this is the case then surely the clinicians who fail to explain the treatment properly are at fault rather than the treatment itself (just like with any other medical procedure).