Author Archives: David Thorpe

What if productivity statistics are not truly telling the tale?

In the Autumn Statement, Philip Hammond spoke at length about the productivity crisis in the UK, and how he intends to address it.

And doubtless, the creation of higher skilled jobs, of better broadband, of better trains, will all make it easier for UK workers to do more, benefitting the workers and the economy alike.

But what if the productivity statistics are wrong?

Although they hardly belong to the same generation as me, I have three friends or acquaintances who have yet to reach retirement age, but have pension provisions sufficiently large that they are not seeking employment, nor do they claim unemployment benefit.

The government has such folk as a zero in the productivity number, they don’t appear in the unemployment data, nor in the wage data.

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

Responding to the anti-globalisation backlash

Ever lost a lover and then spent hours replaying the whole of the time you had together back in your mind?

If you engage in such reflection it’s often possible to see with hindsight where the cracks started to appear, and the happiness shunted to a road leading to subsequent despair.

Liberals have been shell shocked by a 2016 that has produced a slew of political upsets, and created a stew of uncertainties about the prospects for a progressive future.

The elevation of Donald Trump to the White House is merely the latest in a long line of upsets that have confounded the pundits.

Posted in Op-eds | 60 Comments

With his Trident stance Corbyn shows himself to be no fan of ‘new politics’

Few words stir the heart of the politically interested than ‘a new politics’, and quite right too, for who on earth wants the status quo?

But the utterer of that rather normative phrase is immediately pitched a political challenge, to keep on board those who are the bedrock of their support, while also delivering something challenging enough to be new.

Jeremy Corbyn is a man with far less personal ambition than he has integrity and honour, and that may be ‘new’ for a politician in the UK right now, but it is not enough to qualify as ‘new politics’.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

The economic case is limited, but liberals should support Sunday trading anyway

 

As the years of my youth sweep by me, increasingly I am drawn towards the comfort blanket of nostalgia, but when it comes to public policy making, such vanities must be cast aside and answers framed by the chill of the contemporary, and the pragmatic must instead rule the roost.

It is this increase reluctance to fight the dying of the light and instead embrace maturity that has caused me to pause, and embrace the idea of Sunday trading.

For personal and professional reasons I tend to view all policy decisions though the prism of their economic efficacy , rather than the madrigal of sentimentality that sometimes frames Liberal Democrat policy making.

But despite there being negligible economic advantage to the UK from a relaxation of the Sunday trading laws, I believe the Liberal approach is to favour a change in the law.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 61 Comments

The economic consequences of tuition fees 

 

Volumes have been written on this site and elsewhere about the political, moral and social impacts of the coalition government increasing tuition fees in the last parliament.

I do not propose to rekindle that debate, but rather to examine the emerging, and potentially very long-term economic consequences of tuition fees.

Whilst the UK economic recovery started to gain a genuine depth, public policy makers and private sector market participants alike commented on both the narrowness of the recovery (the rate of growth being pedestrian for an economy exiting recession), the lack of wage growth, the subdued level of capital investment and lack of productivity growth.

Some of those metrics, notably wages, have shown improvement more recently, whilst demographic changes and the impact of quantitative easing on asset prices carry much of the blame for some of the other structural ills that have haunted this economic recovery.

But it is the contention of this article that the tuition fee rise has had a direct impact on the progress of the UK economy in recent years and will continue to do so in two distinct ways.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 86 Comments

Opinion: The twin intellectual conceits that damned the Liberal Democrats’ election hopes in 2015

 

History has the delightful habit of rendering as fools those who propagate the consensus view of a contemporary event, not because the consensus is ever totally wrong, but because it is comfortable and provides comfortable answers to snuggle up to, rather than looking deeper into the harsh eyes of reality and the bigger truths that are revealed.

And so it is with the Liberal Democrat post election postmortem. The consensus view huddles around the notion that it was only tuition fees and anger about the coalition that lost it, but we knew about those from a long way out and still felt we would get more than twenty seats. Two slivers of reality that the Lib Dems could not bring themselves to acknowledge drove our total of seats down further.

The first of these conceits, and the one that is both the least contentious and the most uncomfortable, is that we were too blasé in believing that our traditional campaign tactic of talking up the local and ignoring the national would work. It has of course been effective in the past, but it was hugely conceited to assume that rival parties would not be working on ways to crack that particular code. Of course the coalition made it easier for it to happen, but we signalled what we were to do, with rhetoric in the national media about our ’57 by-elections strategy’, signposting the direction of our campaign to all.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 37 Comments

Opinion: What the Liberal Democrats can learn about democracy from the people of Ireland

I cannot be alone amongst Liberal Democrats, after the general election result we have just been through, in questioning the collected wisdom of the UK electorate.

Fortunately, as an Irishman, my faith in the collective wisdom of the people has been dramatically restored by the result of the equal marriage referendum in Ireland, as my people lustily endorsed equality, and cast off the comfort of bigotry to which it is easy to resort in times of economic strife.

But, just as Ireland becoming the first country on earth to enshrine this type of equality into the law by popular vote will, I hope, act as a beacon for other states around Europe and the world to follow a similar path, I hope that the Liberal Democrats also manage to learn the lessons from Ireland’s result.

Of course, the Liberal Democrats have much of which to be proud in these matters, being the driving force behind the introduction of marriage equality in the UK.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 27 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPeter Watson 3rd Dec - 11:44pm
    @David Pearce & @Johnmc "The other left parties ..." Tories and Lib Dems look pretty interchangeable as far as voters in Richmond Park are concerned....
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 3rd Dec - 11:35pm
    David Steel is one of the signatories today of a letter to The Times on Lords reform. Previously he achieved legislation which included voluntary retirement...
  • User AvatarPeter Andrews 3rd Dec - 11:20pm
    To be fair to Trump the one China policy is a total nonsense, when the USA clearly supports Taiwan including militarily.
  • User AvatarJohnmc 3rd Dec - 11:02pm
    Indeed. It'd be liberal to give the beggar some cash, suggest they buy lunch and then leave them to make their own decisions, surely?
  • User AvatarJohnmc 3rd Dec - 10:59pm
    The other 'left' parties did contest Richmond Park - I think everyone's forgotten that this used to be a lib dem seat until 'nice' zac...
  • User AvatarJohnmc 3rd Dec - 10:58pm
    It's very likely that the scots parliament could derail brexit. The SNP are assiduous students of the constitution, and while others doze off they will...