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I'm Edward Molyneux, is a 24 year old political blogger. He is a member of the Liberal Democrats, a lover of all things politics, particularly the consitution. He works in the energy industry, is a keen cyclist and history buff.

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Briefing: Hereditary peer by-elections, neither Liberal nor Democratic

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There are many quirks of the British constitution, but the by-elections for hereditary peers must be one of the oddest. In 1999, when Tony Blair's Labour government removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit, it was forced to compromise – 90 hereditary peers were kept as a temporary measure, to ensure the second stage of reform – which we're still waiting for 17 years later.

When one of these hereditary peers dies or retires (something they've only been able to do since 2014) they are replaced by another in a by-election. A Lib Dem hereditary Lord Avebury died last month, and so the remaining three (yes, that's right three!) Lib Dem hereditary peers chose the replacement using the Alternative Vote – the apparently very complicated electoral system the British public rejected in 2011.

The three Lib Dem peers have a difficult choice to make, seven people have come forward to replace Lord Avebury. The two frontrunners are likely Earl Russell (a descendent of Whig Prime Minster John Russell and the philosopher Bertrand Russell) and Viscount Thurso (John Thurso, a former Lib Dem MP, who lost his Highland seat in 2015). The others include perennial candidate Earl Carlisle, Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor (great-grandson of Liberal PM David Lloyd George), as well as Lord Calverley, Lord Kennet and Lord Somerleyton - I've never heard of them either.

Personally, I'll be backing Viscount Thurso. One of many Lib Dem MPs swept away in the SNP landslide last year. A hard working MP with recent experience, he'll be a valuable asset in the Lords. He seems pretty confident himself, having not submitted a manifesto, unlike the other six.

Although it's probably time to end the practice of by-elections for hereditary peers (after all they certainly don't fit in with the party's name), at least the Lib Dems are guaranteed to win a parliamentary by-election this year.

To see my view on House of Lords reform have a look at my blog post from 2014 and, as always, let me know your opinions by commenting below or tweeting me.

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Image credits
Banner image courtesy of parliament.uk
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Ed-itorial: The EU - Turkey migrant deal is a mistake

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The new refugee deal between the EU and Turkey began last week. Any new migrants arriving in Greece will be deported back to Turkey, and for each person returned to Turkey, the EU will take in another who has made a legitimate request. This deal is a huge mistake.

The deal has good intentions, it intends to stop the people smugglers sending refugees out in rubber dinghies across the Mediterranean Sea and instead encourages people to stay put, applying for asylum legitimately. However, the EU is forgetting one thing, most of these people are desperate. The vast majority are fleeing a war-torn country and are desperate to get as far away as possible. Instead of stopping the people smugglers, they'll just come up with new routes to Europe, most likely a longer and more dangerous crossing to Italy, risking even more lives.

That is not the main problem. The bigger problem is with the EU cosying up to Turkey. I have no problem with Turkey joining the EU in principle, nor with the implications for freedom of movement that may bring.

The Turkish government is dominated by President and former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man whose ambitions for power know no bounds. Since his party took office in 2003, human rights and democracy have declined in Turkey. The free press have been taken into government hands, no criticism of government is tolerated and the Kurds have continued to be denied basic rights - they’re not even allowed to teach their own language in schools. Moreover, the Turkish government tacitly support ISIS in its fight against the Syrian Kurds - I’m not sure support for ISIS is in the EU’s best interests, nor will it help stop the refugee crisis - it seems obvious doesn’t it?

The EU has always championed democracy and human rights, countries must meet specific criteria to join, but it seems that the EU has put those principles aside to get Turkey's help - you can’t imagine the EU signing a similar deal with Putin!

The EU have lost control of this crisis. They’re unsure what needs to be done to resolve it, but this deal will not help. The EU needs to look closer to home, introducing proper migrant quotas and working towards a political solution in Syrian so the battle against ISIS can be focused on. The UK certainly needs to play a far bigger role in this crisis too. But signing away their own principles in deals with dictators is not the way to solve this problem.

As always, let me know your opinions by commenting below or tweeting me.

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Image Credits:
Banner picture - Syrian and Iraq refugees arrive from Turkey to Skala Sykamias, Lesvos island, Greece. Spanish volunteers (life rescue team - with yellow-red clothes) from "Proactiva open arms" help the refugees. -Taken by Ggia
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Briefing: The Scottish Lib Dems on Prisons

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It would seem that the Scottish Liberal Democrats have been reading my blog! Following on from my post last week on Michael Gove's justice reforms they have announced their opposition to jail terms less than a year.

At the moment, judges in Scotland are discouraged from sentencing people to less than three months in prison - instead saying community sentences should be used. The Scottish Lib Dems are proposing extending this to one year.

This is an excellent idea, nearly 60% of people sentenced to prison for three months or less are reconvicted within a year and the cost of processing these people is fairly high. Many will also not complete their full sentence. Community sentences will reduce the offending rate and the cost to the taxpayer.

Some may criticise the Scottish Lib Dems for being soft on crime - but this is far from the case. Prison, first and foremost, is for people who are dangerous, anyone who is sentenced to less than a year in prison is unlikely to be a danger. Second, a community order allows the criminal to give back to society, atoning for the crime committed - instead of simply locking them in a cell. Reducing the prison population will help to reduce crime not increase it.

This is an excellent policy decision by the Scottish Lib Dems and I hope the main party adopts it.

As always, let me know your opinions by commenting below or tweeting me.

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Image Credits:
Michael Gove - Source: Policy Exchange
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Briefing: Railway Franchising

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According to this BBC news article, the South-West railway franchise has only attracted two bidders.

I have little to grumble about my local service (apart from the price), South West Trains (run by Stagecoach). Yes sometimes the trains are delayed, but they've recently spent a lot of money upgrading many stations and they've added more carriages to my commute.

But, the lack of bidders is worrying. If train companies are unwilling to bid for franchises, the small amount of competition we have is becomes meaningless and the taxpayer will foot the bill.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is reviewing competition on the railways and has proposed four solutions. The most simple is increasing the amount of Open Access Operators – companies that compete with the franchise holder. On the East Coast Mainline, they have successfully driven the price of ticket's The most radical proposal is completely scrapping the franchise system and moving to licensing operators instead. The CMA's final recommendation is due in March.

With the continued failings in railways (and the massive cost to the taxpayer), I think the Lib Dems should support the licensing option. Licensing operators would increase competition, reduce cost to the taxpayer, drive down ticket prices and improve service – nationalisation will not without a generous subsidy. The free-market can work on the railways and the Lib Dems need to embrace it.  

As always, let me know your opinions by commenting below or tweeting me.

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Image Credits:
Michael Gove - Source: Policy Exchange
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Comment: We finally have a Liberal Democrat in Justice

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The Justice Department seriously lacked Liberal Democrat influence throughout the last government. The Conservative Ken Clarke did nothing, and Chris Grayling (also Conservative) implemented the ridiculous ban on prisoner's books, cuts to legal aid and introduced court charges. Even when Lib Dem Simon Hughes was parachuted in as a Junior Minister, he couldn't make Grayling listen to reason. After this, you'd be forgiven for thinking that things would get worse under a Conservative-only government. But the appointment of Michael Gove as Justice Secretary is a surprising breath of fresh air.

First, he overturned the ridiculous book ban, pointing out the importance of education to rehabilitation. He scrapped the changes to legal aid and new court charges, which would have prevented the poorest members of society from accessing the justice system. He suggested that prisoners who worked for qualifications and skills could "earn" early release and he said we should stop sending as many people to prison. A Tory said this? I couldn't believe it either!

Mr Gove is right to feel pleased...

Gove has introduced a new form of house arrest, where prisoners are only in prison during the weekends, allowing them to work during the week. They are electronically tagged and set curfews for when they are expected back from work. I don't know about you, but for me, losing leisure time whilst still having to go to work would be a very powerful punishment! (Maybe I'm in the wrong job…)

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced a pilot scheme of six 'reform prisons.' He said that prisoners were currently being failed by the system and, instead, they should be seen as "potential assets to be harnessed."

These reform prisons are essentially Free Schools but in prisons. Headteachers...I mean Governors will be given more control over their own budgets, they'll be prison league tables showing reoffending rates, literacy rates and how well they help prisoners find jobs, and prisoners who have committed minor offenses will no longer have to declare their criminal record on job applications - so they won't be discriminated against and can actually find a job when they leave.

These improvements will finally reward prisoners who want to change and move on with their life - instead of trapping them in a vicious cycle of reoffending. Of course, serious criminals should be in prison. However, for those who are not a dangers to society these changes will be the fresh start prisoners need.

This shake-up is incredibly radical and the Liberal Democrats should be ashamed that they missed the opportunity to undertake similar reforms while in government. They should rightly praise the direction of the reforms and aim to build on it further.

Mr. Gove has done fantastic work and I hope he continues - six years since the Coalition began it's nice to finally have a Liberal Democrat in justice.

As always, let me know your opinions by commenting below or tweeting me.

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Image Credits:
Michael Gove - Source: Policy Exchange
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