Author Archives: Ed Randall

Opinion: Intelligent quantitative easing is best hope to stop the bleeding and begin reviving the patient

At our party Conference in Birmingham I described accelerated fiscal consolidation as pure poison: “Poison for the party, poison for the Coalition and, most important, poison for the country.”

I know that Liberal Democrats in ministerial office cannot be heard to say such things in public. But Liberal Democrats who do not have to labour under the restraints of office should be making it plain how oxymoronic ‘expansionary accelerated fiscal consolidation’ really is.

They will be in good and growing company.

The announcement of a further round of Quantitative Easing (QE) – much larger than the financial press had anticipated and a month …

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Opinion: Is the Chancellor ready to listen to the best economic brains in the Cabinet?

Having just left one party conference, where I was able to deliver my message on the shortcomings of the Coalition Government’s strategy to revive the UK economy and to promote my alternative take on the official Lib Dem approach to party policy development, in advance of the next General Election, (see Facing the Future ), I am now waiting to hear what George Osborne has to say at the Tory party conference in Manchester, in just a few days’ time.

Labour really is – as Alistair Campbell has recently put it – the third most interesting party in the …

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Opinion: pots and kettles – names and games and a journey towards political maturity

Michael Collins, a lecturer in twentieth century British history at UCL, has predicted at Open Democracy–Tuition fees just the beginning of Lib Dem troubles that the “SDP contingent” in the Liberal Democrats faces an existential battle with “coalition Liberals” over the future of the party.

Collins’ fantasy Lib Dem politics isn’t very convincing but there are a growing number of matching accounts, which mirror his portrayal of Liberal Democrat division, include accusations of unprincipled behaviour and go on to predict the party’s demise. It seems reasonable to respond to Collins’ account of ‘Lib Dem troubles’ with a little history and …

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Opinion: With Liverpool in my mind

A mistaken diagnosis that leads to mistaken and damaging policies: an invitation to Liberal Democrats to reflect on coalition policy before they meet in Liverpool in September.

The coalition government is committed to urgent fiscal retrenchment. Measures agreed between the coalition partners mean that the coalition has adopted £6 billion of ‘early’/Conservative public sector spending cuts, cuts that Liberal Democrats previously opposed.

The coalition’s emergency budget announced an increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20%, to be introduced at the beginning of 2011. The VAT rise was presented as an essential part of a plan to accelerate the elimination of a …

Posted in Op-eds | 26 Comments

Opinion: The British electorate did not speak with one voice – but we must

The British electorate has spoken!

On Thursday, and (given the numbers of postal votes cast in the 2010 General Election) for many days before, the British electorate ‘spoke’. But it didn’t speak with one voice.

For decades our electoral system has suppressed dissent and aided those who dismiss fundamental disagreements as ill-considered discontents. First past the post in UK parliamentary elections has been a variant on Henry Ford’s famous maxim – you can have any colour, providing it’s black.

But the British electorate isn’t made up of post box red or royal blue electors. It has been multi-coloured for a long time …

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments

Opinion: A Diminished Clarke – a picture of electoral calculation and desperation

What Ken Clarke has been sent out to do (FT.com – requires registration) – and has been willing to do – diminishes him. It can hardly diminish his party.

Ken Clarke is a fervent European but he has been willing to return to the frontline of Tory politics. No doubt he believes he has done a deal…and he has calculated that he can hold back the forces of Euro-scepticism in the Tory party. The gag he is now prepared to wear, on European matters, is a measure of how unsound his judgement has become.

He has a point when he complains …

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Opinion: Baleful – keeping our heads despite the ‘debate tsunami’

The fact that Tim Bale, an academic from Sussex University and author of The Conservative Party; From Thatcher to Cameron, is represented in the FT as attempting to answer a silly question about the Liberal Democrats illustrates the extraordinary nature of the ‘debate tsunami’ that has struck British politics. It also serves to underline the need to resist any temptation (limited I know so far as most Liberal Democrats are concerned) to build castles in the air, on the basis of a few days of post ‘debate’ polling.

Bale’s piece is entitled: ‘Lib Dem Revival not yet a Revolution’. There is, of course, a slight problem with the …

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Opinion: Fair taxes – radical and challenging Liberal Democrat plans

Stuart Adam and Mike Brewer of the Institute of Fiscal Studies argue, in their April ‘observations’ piece on Liberal Democrat tax cutting policies, that it is meaningless to make the claim that the poor pay more of their income in tax than the rich.

However, no sooner do they make this observation than they go on to confirm that official statistics show this is the case. No one, they explain, disputes the ONS data which shows that the poorest fifth of households paid 38.7% of their income in tax. Neither is there any dispute that this compares with a tax take of £25,926 or 34.9% from …

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Opinion: It’s all very well agreeing now Gordon, but after 13 years how can your party be the change we need?

I think Nick is right – we need change”
Gordon Brown to Andrew Marr (18th April 2010)

Gordon Brown keeps agreeing with Nick Clegg but he doesn’t seem to understand where this agreement is leading. It leads directly to the following question, for the man who now admits he has had one damascene experience after another: “How can you or your party be the change we need?”

Gordon Brown has long had trouble reading the runes (and much else besides). He says he has been appalled by dishonest dealing in the City. He admits that he personally should have done better in …

Posted in Op-eds | 6 Comments

Opinion: Osborne and Cameron – proving they are unfit to govern

George Osborne and David Cameron are given to policy stunts which they should know by now will come back to haunt them. I’ve written about it before  on Lib Dem Voice.

And this time they really have messed up big time. Should they win the election they will undoubtedly live to regret their foolishness on National Insurance and, most especially, the public sector savings they have cavalierly claimed can easily pay for it.

The people who know about these things – not company bosses who are quite understandably interested in reducing their company tax bills – have come out against Osborne and Cameron’s electoral cynicism and imprudence.

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Opinon: Wolf at the door – and about time too!

In his piece entitled “Back to the Future”. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times hits most nails on the head. He also sets a challenge for those who want to do more than occupy the green benches to the right of the Speaker’s chair.

He believes that Labour and Conservative politicians have simply turned their backs on the need to fashion and campaign for economic and social policies that equip the UK to meet the challenges of the decade ahead. The formula for economic growth that emerged under Thatcher, which was inherited and uncritically maintained by Blair and Brown, relied …

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Opinion: Opportunities abound and our opponents have rarely been so uncertain and unconvincing

Alistair Darling’s pre-budget and pre-election speech was well done. Good knock about in which he steered clear of presenting a budget. David Cameron’s response not only rivalled Darling’s in terms of vacuity, on economic policy, but was too angry by half given the emptiness of his own party’s plans and proposals.

Nick Clegg did fine. It wasn’t a riveting parliamentary performance but it was a workmanlike and honest response to the budget speech, and it did what Nick and Vince must have hoped it would do: it got out the LibDem message efficiently and ensured that key LibDem sound bites …

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Opinion: Who can trust Cameron?

In June 2006 Professor John Curtice, commenting on opinion polls and shifts in the UK political environment said: “It looks as though we may have entered a new political era”. Andrew Grice, The Independent on Sunday’s Political Editor, observed that the Independent’s ‘poll of polls’ showed “David Cameron’s rejuvenated Conservative Party a seven-point lead over Labour.”

The focus of their political analysis was the impact of a recently elected Conservative Party leader on UK party politics. Here was a leader who had set out to detoxify the Tory brand, and he and his party appeared to be making significant headway.

David Cameron had, according to Andrew Grice, called on …

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Opinion: The Avoidance of Embarrassment Principle

There is one principle that Labour politicians seem willing to test to destruction in the English courts. It is the avoidance of embarrassment principle. The Foreign Secretary has not only tried to apply that principle in court, in full public view – where he has looked increasingly ridiculous in the Binyam Mohamed case – but his legal representative has also tried to pursue the principle in private, in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to conceal his master’s shame and the
Government’s hypocrisy.

Even though the Government appeal in the Binyam Mohamed case was dismissed the Foreign Secretary told the House of Commons that …

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BBC economics: a little simplistic when it mixes the economic and political

Stephanie Flanders, the BBC’s economics editor, can be listed amongst those who have some influence on the public discussion of economic policy making in the UK. So her ‘Stephanomics‘ – which is part of the BBC News website – merits a read from time to time.

In a recent piece she suggests that there is a certain amount of solace for the Conservatives in what Ben Bernanke, head of the US Fed, has been saying about financial regulation in the UK. However, Stephanie gives what I think they call ‘a bum steer’ on the other side of ‘the pond’.

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Opinion: Cast-iron Conservatism – brittle promises obtained from a flexible friend

On 26th September 2007 David Cameron gave what he called a cast-iron guarantee. The guarantee appeared in a piece published under his name in Mr Murdoch’s Sun. Liberal Democrats, who set some store by their own political education and haven’t read the piece, really should take the opportunity to read it in its entirety.

The aspiring party leader explains that it is an article of faith for him that: “No treaty should be ratified without consulting the British people in a referendum.” And, because of that, he promises, any Conservative government led by him will “hold a referendum on any EU treaty.”

Mr Cameron explains, in the same piece, that his determination to hold a referendum isn’t simply a reflection of his deepest political beliefs but a practical matter too. It is integral to Conservative economic policy making. Why should that be? The explanation seems straightforward. It is vital because: “One of the great challenges rolling back the tide of bureaucracy.” And, Mr Cameron continues, “you can’t do that without targeting one of the main sources of this bureaucracy – Brussels.”

Without the referendum he’d promised Mr Cameron makes it clear it will not be possible to free UK businesses from red tape; the kind of European regulation which makes it impossible for the UK economy to succeed. Of course what most of us call regulation – and Mr Cameron calls red tape – isn’t quite the easy target that it once was. And Mr Cameron’s cast-iron guarantee has almost completely rusted away.

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Opinion: Take care with the economic medicine you prescribe

If cuts in public spending are savage and premature, then the consequences for our economic health could be even worse than the harm done to public services.

I’m sure you have all heard talk of: green shoots, economic recovery, lights at the end of various tunnels, and a return to growth. It is claptrap designed to support a return to business as usual – what might also be labelled the old order – and we’ve all been hearing it for months now.

Liberal Democrats should not be taken in. While we may be in the first phase of an epic electoral battle, and it may be politic to join the cutters and slashers in order to demonstrate just how serious we are about getting the country’s finances in order, Liberal Democrats know that it is simply mad to stand by while private and public finance are confused. While private austerity isn’t any more likely to be a guarantee of general prosperity than public parsimony is to be a warranty of private affluence, governments can pursue common goals in ways that are not open to us as individuals.

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Opinion: Pay close attention to an independent voice on UK economic policy

Departing Monetary Policy Committee David Blanchflower has given an interview in which he warns of false dawns and expresses serious reservations about the economic predictions emanating from the Treasury.

Blanchflower was born in the UK but now holds a Chair in Economics at Dartmouth College in the US. His scepticism about the Monetary Policy Committee’s narrow focus on the Consumer Price Index has been a consistent theme in what the most independent and thoughtful member of the MPC has said about its work. That independence and scepticism chimes in with his research interests and broader vision of his academic …

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Opinion: Nonsense on stilts from Darling

Alistair Darling gave an interview to the Times on Wednesday which has attracted remarkably little comment. While the great distraction – the parliamentary allowance scandal – continues, attention isn’t focused on the Great Recession, or the Government’s part in it.

In the interview the Chancellor predicted that the recession, in the UK, would be over by Christmas. Mr Darling wants electors, not just the Labour faithful, to know that the UK economy is set to be growing strongly by the time of the General Election in 2010. Does this kind of whistling in the dark have a political purpose? I think …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarToby Fenwick 23rd Dec - 1:11am
    Hireton: I don't get your riff on the NHS. Not only is the English NHS not being privatised (whatever that means - the NHS has...
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 23rd Dec - 12:45am
    Stephen W I think you are confusing promises with predictions -- understandable, since both are usually expressed with the same tense. But the difference can...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 23rd Dec - 12:28am
    Tim Hill, I'm glad you agree with my comment. The pictures could have come from a bygone age. Well pre-suffragette. It's almost Whitechapel (the series)....
  • User AvatarLittle Jackie Paper 23rd Dec - 12:14am
    Hugh - As you say, given the present fee arrangements an extended course is pretty unattractive now (even with a paid year), that applies across...
  • User Avatarmalc 22nd Dec - 11:57pm
    Tim Hill Your on! I think it's one of the hardest seats to call, but I fancy the Tories to take it. The RSPCA is...
  • User AvatarShaun Whitfield 22nd Dec - 11:55pm
    Nothing 'normal' about Sutton's schools - it appears to retain a selective grammar school system.
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