Plan C: The Social Liberal Forum’s economic prognosis

There has been a very welcome recent revival of policy thinking in the Liberal Democrats, despite the large cuts to the party’s official policy research staff. This has included a new think tank (Liberal Insight) and good work by Richard Kemp and the local government sector in encouraging imaginative plans for making use of the new legal powers going to local government.

Added to this is the Social Liberal Forum’s further foray into economic policy-making, following up on some of their successful events with their first policy pamphlet. Prateek Buch’s “Plan C – social liberal approaches to a fair, sustainable economy” tries to do just what it says in the title, and impressively includes a foreword by Will Hutton.

That foreword sets out a liberal challenge to improve capitalism – making it better by making it more liberal and, in particular, attacking concentrations of power. As with Jonathan Porritt from a green perspective, Hutton wants a better capitalism, not socialism or communism.

None of the individual policies listed are particularly new for Liberal Democrats – having not just a Green Investment Bank but a National Investment Bank, expanding the Youth Contract, increased workplace democracy and so on all have been the meat and drink (or lentils and fruit juice) of party conferences for years.

The pamphlet’s strength is not in producing reams of new policy, but in pulling together many different ideas into a few clear strands: job creation, a fair and efficient financial system and making workplaces more liberal through greater workplace democracy and fair conditions of work.

It has little time for George Osborne’s Plan A, branded a predictable failure, or Compass’s Plan B – “neither politically nor economically credible”.

Plan C’s emphasis on creating jobs through investment and infrastructure fits well with Keynes’s own policy advice of the 1930s. Keynes then emphasised the need not for simply higher spending in times of recession but for extra spending specifically on investment (as he saw that as the great unstable, non-self-correcting factor in a recession). Investing in infrastructure is far more Keynesian than cutting VAT.

Although technical at times, the pamphlet is very readable and keeps jargon to a minimum. It also includes a round-up of further reading, particularly useful as the pamphlet is a little short at times of specific evidence as to why individual policies would be effective. The upside of that is that it is quicker and easier to read as a result, and so likely to reach a wider audience.

It is more an academic policy document than an attempt to form a coherent and effective political message. There is much merit in both approaches, so that is no criticism but Liberal Democrats should beware slipping into the “Plan C” terminology of its title. Plan A, B, C, D, E… has a logical abstract progression about it, but for political messaging it is flawed – C sounds instinctively worse than A or B. Prateek’s previous flirtation with A pluses and A stars would have been better to stick with.

That is however only worth worrying about if the ideas in the plan make an impact rather than disappearing quickly into the thick foliage of forgotten political writings. It is certainly good enough to deserve the former rather than the latter fate.

You can get Plan C for the Kindle from Amazon here.

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

Read more by or more about , , , , , , or .
This entry was posted in Books.
Advert

7 Comments

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User Avatarexpats 7th Dec - 2:19pm
    ethicsgradient 7th Dec '16 - 1:58pm.....the key thing that has been missing for a while is some form of aspirational vision........Thatcher (love or hate her)...
  • User Avatarethicsgradient 7th Dec - 1:58pm
    the key thing that has been missing for a while is some form of aspirational vision. Thatcher (love or hate her) gave aspiration in feeling...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 7th Dec - 1:48pm
    Matt I am at the ukip wing edge of our party , I say , as a self parody , on the EU , as...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 7th Dec - 1:37pm
    A lot of sense on this thread. We must see some of the Greens as allies sometimes, but only then put aside differences. Caroline Lucas...
  • User AvatarPhil Wainewright 7th Dec - 1:35pm
    I'm a firm believer we should have something that stands out as an economic policy, and which speaks to the "left behind". It would reinforce...
  • User Avatartheakes 7th Dec - 1:21pm
    Greens should have a golden opportunity of a Gain tomorrow at Lancaster University Ward, 2015 only 50/100 behind Labour, with us nowhere. On present trends...