Why I am a Social Democrat

Poor boy afraid
Social democrats know that to fight poverty you need a vibrant economy. It is the goose that lays the golden egg, and it flourishes with freedom, but it stagnates in a factory farm.

Social democrats don’t just do poverty reduction as a minor act of charity, it is central to what drives them. But a true social democrat won’t just throw money at the problem, they will look for what works.

For a short period, I worked in the field of international development. When listening to those who had worked in the field, I was struck at how hard it is to be effective. How easy to introduce schemes that make you feel good, but when the funding runs out, you have left poverty just as it was, and a legacy of disillusionment, with rusting white elephants as testimony to good intentions but bad planning.

I’m acutely aware that the same is true in British politics, that helping people out of poverty requires more than just good intentions. It can’t be done on the cheap, and so, to fund it, you need a strong economy.

This means that among the allies of the poor are those who pay the taxes to fund the programmes that can help them.

I never joined the Labour party, I joined the SDP in 1981, but I always knew that kindred spirits in the Labour party were fighting for these same ideals. I wished them well, but I couldn’t join them.

I saw in Labour a party divided, between those driven by thoughtful compassion, and those driven by anger. I remembered too well at university a Labour member grabbing me by the throat, and I always feared that Labour was vulnerable to a takeover by dangerous people, perhaps with good intentions, but too much anger, and not enough rigorous thought.

I’m afraid my fear has been vindicated. Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonnell may mean well. But I do not trust the movement they lead. There is too much anger. There is too little careful thought. There is too much ready condemnation of those with different views.

I stayed with my party as it merged with the Liberals. I’m still uneasy about calling myself a Liberal. However, I am proud to call myself a Liberal Democrat, and when I talk to those around me who call themselves Liberals, they care just as much about poverty as I do.

We’ve had an awful time in Coalition. Shackled to our traditional enemies when the money had run out. But there’s no doubt in my mind that what drives my party is a desire to help the weakest succeed in life.

I suspect there are some Labour social democrats who are now looking for a new home. If you’re one of them, have a look at the preamble to our constitution, have a listen to Tim Farron, and I think you’ll realise that, even if you’ve lost one home, there’s another waiting to welcome you.

The Liberal Democrats have a daunting responsibility. Before, there were two parties which could be said to be led by social democrats, and there used to be a strong tradition of one nation conservatism that cared about the poor.

But since the cynical regressive budget in June, and the election of the new Labour leader, we are alone.

We are still badly bruised from an awful election result. As the sole standard bearer of social democracy, we need your help. Please join us.

Photo credit: Free photos

* George Kendall is chair of the Social Democrat Group, which is being formed to celebrate and develop our social democrat heritage, and to reach out to social democrats beyond the party. He writes in a personal capacity.

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62 Comments

  • As someone who also joined the SDP in 1981, can I say I agree with much that you say. I do believe the liberal tradition is also key to our party. It brings an openness and willingness to reach out across society.

  • John Tilley 17th Sep '15 - 9:18am

    One of the repeated criticisms in the media of the new leader of the Labour Party is that he is replaying the politics of the early 1980s. I think that criticism is misconceived.

    You, George, seem to be “owning up” to rediscovering the early 1980s yourself. Much as I like the TV Programme ‘Time Team’ I do not think now is a good time to start digging up the bones of 1981 style “Social Democracy”.

    You may take pride in calling yourself a “Social Democrat” of the 1981 UK variety but what relevance does that have to anyone under the age of 45 ?
    A large chunk of the people supporting the new Labour Leader and joining his party in droves are much younger than 45 indeed many of them are younger than 25 and were not born when Thatcher stalked Downing Street.

    BTW – by the end of this week, if the Labour Party continue to sign up new members at the present rate, it will be a fact that more people have joined that party in one week than the entire membership of our party. There is a important lesson in that for those of us who want to see Liberal Democrats as a growing movement in UK politics.

    All those who repeat that “history will be kind to us” need to stop thinking about coalition history and back Tim Farron to tackle the future.

  • Looks like a new SDP is about to be born. Champaign Socialist Assem Allam has promised to fund the new party.

  • Samuel Griffiths 17th Sep '15 - 11:34am

    “But I do not trust the movement they lead. There is too much anger. There is too little careful thought. There is too much ready condemnation of those with different views.”

    George, if I may, why is it not ok for people to be angry? The Tory’s coalition government has done significant damage, as has their failed market system. I’ve worked with people in the poorest parts of our country who have had to decide if they or their children will eat that night. It seems to be incredibly belittling and out of touch to talk about that anger as unjustified, or somehow bad. People have a right to be angry. I also would be interested in hearing your views on why anger and careful thought seem to be incompatible for you.

    One thing I can get behind though is the need for more social democrats within this party. It would be great if both Labour and the LibDems could return to their roots, allowing both to flourish as progressive world views once again.

  • It’s clear that there are a lot of moderate, pragmatic, small-l liberal people in the country who let their fears about “the Tories / Labour” over-rule their desire to ensure there’s a strong but moderate, pragmatic, small-l liberal party to represent them. Consequently the extremists of left and right continue to be over-represented in government.

    If we are to ever attract those people to our party in sufficient numbers to influence government, and achieve practical things for the country, we have address those fears as well as offering a moderate, pragmatic, small-l liberal programme of government.

    What we must manifestly do is cease shouting the “anti-X” off-putting rhetoric, and reach out the hand of welcome to the moderates of all parties.

  • Stephen Howse 17th Sep '15 - 11:46am

    John Tilley: “BTW – by the end of this week, if the Labour Party continue to sign up new members at the present rate, it will be a fact that more people have joined that party in one week than the entire membership of our party. There is a important lesson in that for those of us who want to see Liberal Democrats as a growing movement in UK politics.”

    I’ll indulge you – what is that lesson, then?

  • Richard Underhill 17th Sep '15 - 12:06pm

    i was elected to the first south east regional executive after the merger took effect. There was a contest for the chairmanship. Unusually the members took my advice. She was in one of many marriages of Liberals and Social Democrats. He was also elected to the regional executive.

    At that time the Federal Executive were trying to control the regions through paid agents, but when the money ran out, the elected members blossomed, including on fundraising, including winning a parliamentary by-elelction in Eastbourne.

  • Neil Sandison 17th Sep '15 - 12:21pm

    A thoughtful piece George .Most members of the SDP were not former members of the Labour party but were hungry for a change from the increasingly class based politics of the 1980S . Many were inspired by Shirley Williams ,Roy Jenkins ,Bill Rodgers .later by Charles Kennedy .The fusion of liberalism and social democracy fitted well together and we as Liberal Democrats have a constitution second to none. We still support a mixed and diverse economy and Vince Cable tried hard in coalition to deliver those policies based on what works and not ideology .Tim Farron has social justice running through him like a stick of rock.and a real commitment to individual liberty and the freedom from an overly intrusive state. We should welcome converts or fresh faces but not forget where we have deep roots and continue to develop Liberal Democracy.

  • Stephen Hesketh 17th Sep '15 - 1:21pm

    TCO17th Sep ’15 – 11:45am
    “If we are to ever attract those people to our party in sufficient numbers to influence government, and achieve practical things for the country, we have address those fears as well as offering a moderate, pragmatic, small-l liberal programme of government.”

    TCO, I congratulate you and thank you for this statement. This crystalises perfectly why members like you and I disagree so fundamentally.

    I want to see the Liberal society as envisaged in the Preamble and you want to see a “moderate, pragmatic, small-l liberal” government.

    I wish to challenge the pre and post-1979 consensus; you essentially don’t see much wrong with it and seek only to manage it.

    There is nothing fundamentally wrong with either approach. Its just that this party exists to promote the former. And therein lies the fundimental issue.

    In truth we should be in two different liberal parties working closely together for the common good whilst recognising that our ultimate destinations are very different.

    We could even be in the same party, as social and economic liberals and social democrats always have been. A direct result of the Laws/Marshall/Cleggite economic and party takeover agenda however has been to make a smooth coexistance virtually impossible.

    This stands in marked contrast with the melding together of the Social Liberal and liberal-minded Social Democrat elements.

  • Stephen Howse 17th Sep '15 - 1:56pm

    Mr Hesketh:-

    “I want to see the Liberal society as envisaged in the Preamble and you want to see a “moderate, pragmatic, small-l liberal” government.”

    The two are not mutually incompatible and the great mistake so many on the supposed ‘left’ of this party make is to suppose that they are.

    “We could even be in the same party, as social and economic liberals and social democrats always have been. A direct result of the Laws/Marshall/Cleggite economic and party takeover agenda however has been to make a smooth coexistance virtually impossible.”

    So what you’re saying is when the so-called ‘economic liberals’ put up and shut up it was all fine and dandy, but now they’re getting uppity and that should not be tolerated. Do you not realise just how hypocritical this is?

  • George Kendall 17th Sep '15 - 2:19pm

    @Samuel Griffiths
    “George, if I may, why is it not ok for people to be angry?”

    Thank you so much for that question. It’s always a frustration when you’re limited to around 500 words, and so it’s great to get a prompt to expand on such an important point.

    If there’s a sabre-tooth tiger just over the hill, your fight and flight reflex kicks in, and anger may save your life.

    Anger, like fear and other negative emotions, is a good thing, as long as it’s under control and as long as it’s temporary. But if it dominates your life, that’s profoundly unhealthy.

    But it’s not just about your health. Anger is a black and white emotion, it drives out nuance, it drives out empathy for your opponents, and, in my opinion, it drives out careful thought.

    This is what so troubles me about hard left-wing politics. When I have met militant socialists, I rarely get a sense of compassion, of humility, of reflection. I sense a burning rage at anyone who stands in the way of what they believe to be right.

    Jeremy Corbyn is an interesting man. He has been able to present himself as compassionate and thoughtful. But when I see the company he keeps, I’m reminded of that Labour supporter who grabbed me by the throat.

    And, I think we should reserve judgement on how mild and gentle Jeremy is. Have a look at this clip:

    http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/watch-jeremy-corbyn-loses-his-temper-channel-4-news

    Okay. He was probably short on sleep and stressed out by the pressure he’s been under, but that’s part of the job of being in the top flight of politics.

    And, for goodness sake, this wasn’t Fox News interviewing him, it was Channel Four.

    I wouldn’t want Jeremy as Prime Minister if he was faced with a life or death decision, and he lost it like that.

  • George Kendall 17th Sep '15 - 2:27pm

    @madmacs
    Me too. I still get uncomfortable when people assume that I am one when they say “fellow Liberals”. But Liberalism is a wonderful thing, and I wouldn’t want to be in a party where that was not a major theme.

    @John Tilley

    John, I’m not owning up to anything. This has always been there, but, sadly, when I’ve been writing articles about why I think deficit reduction is necessary, people have just got angry, assumed I was a rightwinger, and missed anything I say about social justice.

    I am not “a “Social Democrat” of the 1981 UK variety”. My politics is always changing, always refining. I would be horrified if the day came when I stopped reflecting and adjusting my opinion.

    “Labour Party continue to sign up new members at the present rate”. I find that worrying, and a little sad. Because I think that Jeremy Corbyn is offering a politics that (see above) is driven too much by anger, and not enough by reflection.

    “… and back Tim Farron to tackle the future”

    Amen to that!

  • Stephen Hesketh 17th Sep '15 - 2:57pm

    Stephen Howse17th Sep ’15 – 1:56pm

    Stephen, many of the things Liberal Democrats aim for are entirely moderate and pragmatic (less sure about small-l liberal though) but the Liberal and Deomcratic society we envisage is so much more status quo-busting than that.

    I am totally realistic; I will never see the society I would like for my family and fellow citizens but if we are not equally clear as to our ultimate aims, we will NEVER achieve them.

    Could I, respectfully, ask that you reread what I actually wrote in my earlier post?

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Sep '15 - 3:37pm

    George Kendall

    I don’t think the Corbyn victory is anything like a re-run of the 1980s. The 1980s Labour Party was riddled with factional in-fighting and the infiltration of the Militant Tendency. Having stumbled on a hundred or more of them singing the Internationale at an NUS conference in 1987, there was a real sense that this was a party within party.

    Yes, at that time there was a lot of anger around but there was a lot to be angry about under the Thatcher Government. The militants were driven out and we ended up with Blair, who put a lid on Labour for a decade and succeeded in accelerating economic inequality.

    So there still is a great deal to be angry about in 2015. There is such a thing as constructive anger in a political sense – let’s call it passion.

    There has been so little of this in politics for so long, it does seem a novelty that someone like Jeremy Corbyn – a left-wing humanitarian, fighting first and foremost against economic inequality – can galvanise a movement and inspire hope for change thousands of young people. These young people do not seem to be militants to me.

    We should not be afraid of this. Corbyn has put fighting economic inequality back at the top of the political agenda.

  • Steve Comer 17th Sep '15 - 4:38pm

    “Assem Allam has promised to fund the new party” – I supppose he’ll insist on it being called The Tigers then! (If you don’t get the reference speak to a Hull City fan…..)

  • Shaun Cunningham 17th Sep '15 - 4:53pm

    Why are members of this party spending so much time and energy debating a dead horse. If Mr Jeremy Corbyn and Mr John MacDonnell wish to amble off to the political desert then so be it.

    The Labour Party is dead, dysfunctional, believing past battles is the answer to their woes instead of actually acknowledging the country has moved on a very long way since the days of Keir Hardie.

    The centre ground is where elections are won not some periphery where one can find union leaders banging on about social justice while pulling in over £100,000 to £150,000 a year, social justice wrapped up in tissue paper

    Let us focus on our message and deposit our standard firmly in the centre and formulate and compose policies which take this party back where it belongs, in the hearts and minds of the people of this country. We have one heck of a job on our hands, but with leadership and vision the journey may not be so long as others believe it to be. We now have a great opportunity, let us take it.

  • @ Stephen Hesketh

    “I want to see the Liberal society as envisaged in the Preamble and you want to see a “moderate, pragmatic, small-l liberal” government.”

    I agree I want to build a Liberal society. I want everyone to have as much freedom as possible and this for me means that society has to change so that the poor and the left behind have the economic resources to enable them to make the same choices as those in the top third of society.

    @ George Kendall

    Thank you for posting that part of a Channel 4 interview. I think Krisham interrupted too early and he could have gotten the same answer that “friends” was used in a collective sense of inclusiveness and does not mean support for the methods of these people without that early interruption. I think Jeremy Corbyn has the right to say that the wider issue should be considered and not just his inclusive used of the word “friends”. Also isn’t it refreshing to see a politician really care about the wider complicated issue?

  • I am one of the moderate Labour supporters you speak to at the end of the article. I enjoyed reading the article a lot, and agree with quite a large amount of it.

    You are right about the dubious nature of the hard left’s compassion. As a pimply youth, I was seduced (in more ways than one to be honest) by a young lady selling Militant in Manchester city centre. The messages looked superficially persuasive so I accepted an invitation to a meeting. Not long after it started, they passed round a birthday card they were planning to send to Winston Silcott. Having been deeply upset by the Blakelock killing a couple of years before, I said I wasn’t happy about it and wondered why they were doing it. I was expecting them to maybe tell me why they believed Silcott to be innocent (as, it turned out years later, he was), but it was clear they weren’t remotely interested in that – they genuinely saw the killing of a copper as some kind of heroic act. I left in disgust and that was the end of my brief dalliance with the hard left.

    Since Saturday I’ve been pondering the wreckage of the entire British political scene outside the Tories and SNP, and wondering when I’ll ever again get the chance to vote for the kind of sensible social democratic party you seek to offer. Perhaps the end of the SDP itself – as you seem to lament yourself – was the real disaster. When I look at the Lib Dems, with its own right-wing who seem to me almost indistinguishable from Tories, and who have dominated the upper echelons of the party since 2005, I don’t see your party as being that alternative I seek. Not yet, and not by a long way. If the gang of four had just wanted to be Liberals all along, why didn’t they save time and join the Liberal party? The SDP had a real chance, and it blew it.

    Just one bit I don’t like so much :-

    “This means that among the allies of the poor are those who pay the taxes to fund the programmes that can help them.”

    I hope you didn’t intend it this way, but this does come across a little like one of Joe Otten’s misguided “the private sector pay for everything” spiels, and if so, I profoundly disagree.

  • Channel 4 has gone down a lot.

  • I honestly find it hard to believe that Jeremy Corbyn belongs to ” the hard left” . Sure, he possibly was in his youth, I’m not even sure of that. But hard left now? He seems to be advocating similar things to the Lib Dems to my mind. Am genuinely perplexed, unless the we have moved so far to the right that what used to be ” the centre ground” is now considered ” the hard left”.

  • Christopher Haigh 17th Sep '15 - 7:37pm

    Hi George, as a self confessed social democrat were you a supporter of Tony Blair? Dp you think the Liberal Democrats can best be summed up as a Blairite party?

  • Stephen Hesketh 17th Sep '15 - 8:09pm

    Christopher Haigh 17th Sep ’15 – 7:37pm
    Hi George, as a self confessed social democrat were you a supporter of Tony Blair? Do you think the Liberal Democrats can best be summed up as a Blairite party?

    Wow, on both counts this must be the harshest thing written on LDV for quite some time 🙂

  • George Kendall 17th Sep '15 - 8:14pm

    @Stephen Hesketh
    “TCO, I congratulate you and thank you for this statement. This crystalises perfectly why members like you and I disagree so fundamentally.”

    But I’m not sure you do disagree so fundamentally. I don’t think of myself as either a social liberal or an economic liberal. And from where I stand, your actual positions are very close, you just use different language.

    This is in part, I think, a legacy of the coalition with the Conservatives, and the decision to adopt joint cabinet responsibility. I don’t think Nick Clegg is anything like as rightwing as he is portrayed. I hope, now he is no longer DPM, he can gradually show that to people.

    In the past month, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the private members forum. And I’ve noticed that, if they can put away the petty point-scoring, for social liberals and economic liberals discover they have a great deal in common.

    For my last four articles, I’ve been posting them in the members forum. Some social liberals regarded the above article as, in a way, a description social liberalism. You’d think, therefore, that the so-called rightwing Orange Bookers would have hated it. Far from it, they liked it too.

    Stephen, why not come into the members forum, and use it to listen to economic liberals and try to really understand what they believe? I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

    @Neil Sandison
    “Tim Farron has social justice running through him like a stick of rock.and a real commitment to individual liberty and the freedom from an overly intrusive state.”

    Indeed. In fact, though he thinks of himself as a Liberal, from my understanding of him, I think Tim Farron is also a social democrat.

  • George Kendall 17th Sep '15 - 8:31pm

    @TCO “and reach out the hand of welcome to the moderates of all parties”

    Absolutely. But I think we all also need to do more extending a hand of friendship to fellow Liberal Democrats.

    I think that an important first step is for all social liberals and economic liberals within the Liberal Democrats to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and start really *listening* to each other.

    Most social liberals and economic liberals already do this, unfortunately, the ones who don’t dominate the discussion forums of the internet, and they do a lot of damage to the reputation of the party.

    @Richard Underhill

    My experience post-merger was that, once Liberals and Social Democrats really started to get to know each other, they found there was little difference between them. So often, this is the case with supposed division, it is just based of misunderstanding and a slight difference of emphasis.

  • George Kendall 17th Sep '15 - 8:32pm

    @John Marriott (and @PHIL THOMAS)

    Yes, I remember the two Davids well, and I remember voters on the doorstep saying, when you get your act together, and have a single leader, I might consider joining you. That’s one of the reasons why I think, if the social democrats in the current Labour party try to form a new version of the SDP, it will be doomed to fail.

  • Christopher Haigh 17th Sep '15 - 8:47pm

    Sorry Stephen – no offence meant! Just being inquisitive.

  • @stuart “I hope you didn’t intend it this way, but this does come across a little like one of Joe Otten’s misguided “the private sector pay for everything” spiels, and if so, I profoundly disagree.”

    I’d be interested to know how you think the state pays for the things it does – can you enlighten us?

  • @Stephen Howse “I’ll indulge you – what is that lesson, then?”

    I’d also be interested to know what the lesson is.

  • Stephen Hesketh 17th Sep '15 - 9:09pm

    Christopher Haigh 17th Sep ’15 – 8:47pm
    Sorry Stephen – no offence meant! Just being inquisitive.

    Sorry Christopher, it is I who owe you the apology – I just have a strange sense of humour – i.e. that suggesting that someone was a Blairite was a term of abuse 🙂

  • @ George Kendall
    I don’t suppose a poverty stricken kid in the third world – or a Syrian refugee – gives tuppence whether you’re a social democrat or a liberal democrat so long as you try to help in a respectful manner. Struck by one phrase in your piece though :

    “If there’s a sabre-tooth tiger just over the hill, your fight and flight reflex kicks in, and anger may save your life”.

    Well, yes, there was a coalition Tory Tiger and the Cleggie Lib Dems chose to ride it. They shouldn’t be too surprised that Tory the Tiger turned round at an opportune time and bit them. Fortunately, some of us of a more radical and sceptical disposition…… having known the Tory tigers for more years than we care to remember…. have more well developed flight reflexes. As returning members now we’re watching to see if lessons have been learned….. and yes we’re more than a tad angry about what happened to something we cared about going as far back as the sixties……

    Talking of tigers, if Assem Allam is funding a breakaway Labour Party my advice would be “sup with a lang spoon” with that lot.

  • @George Kendall

    A very good post and comments. Whilst I was sat here I remembered something that I’d read back in July by someone called Hopi Sen (you may well have read some of his stuff as well – unfortunately his blogs are few and far between nowadays though). It occurred to me that something similar seems to be happening within your Party at the moment (at least in the public forum as you mention).

    I’d be interested on your take:
    http://hopisen.com/2015/one-step-beyond/

  • Speaking as a Hull City fan I think Allam is more interested in getting his name in the papers then he is in re-launching the SDP.

  • George Kendall 18th Sep '15 - 6:13am

    *** Really sorry that I haven’t got back to people sooner. I’m told the LDV team have installed a new update, and with it has come a feature, limiting numerous posts.

    This has already been one of the most interesting discussion threads I’ve seen since I started posting on LDV. If we can continue, I think it can get even better. So if there’s issues here that you’d like to develop, please keep posting your thoughts, and I’ll keep posting mine as wrll.

    @Helen Tedcastle

    I agree it’s very different from the 1980’s. But, for the Labour party, I think it is far worse.

    Over the last thirty years, loyalties to parties have progressively declined. We saw, in Scotland, how dramatically support for Labour in their heartlands fell away. The same could happen in the rest of the UK.

    In my opinion, Jeremy Corbyn as leader might not have been fatal.

    But his appointment of John MacDonnell as Chancellor may do so much damage that it threatens the very survival of the Labour party. Jeremy has said controversial things, but he can make a somewhat plausible case that his meetings with Hamas and others were an attempt to encourage dialogue in the middle east.

    But have a look at John MacDonnell’s past quote talks about honouring the IRA. See http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2015/09/what-did-jeremy-corbyn-s-new-shadow-chancellor-really-say-about-ira
    In my opinion, this will be utterly anathema to most Labour voters. At present, most Labour voters don’t know about that quote. But when they discover it really happened, their anger against Labour will be far worse than happened in the 1980’s. I’ve just read that he has now apologised, but I’m not sure that an apology will protect Labour from what the tabloids and the Tories will do with that quote.

    @Stephen Howse

    Stephen, while I agree with the first part of your post, it’d be great if we could avoid words like “hypocritical”.

    I suspect that you and Stephen Hesketh have a lot more in common with each other than either of you realise. Your differences may be based different uses of language and a misunderstanding. But bridging that gap will be difficult if either uses language that might upset the other.

  • George Kendall 18th Sep '15 - 7:06am

    @Stuart “come across a little like one of Joe Otten’s misguided…”

    This is an issue that I’ve reflected a lot on while reading LDV comments recently. I think it’s very important, so I want to spend some time responding.

    I may be misunderstanding you, and if so please tell me, but I’m going to have a go at explaining why I think you and Joe, and you and I, may be misunderstanding each other.

    Imagine I have an acquaintance called Bill. Bill has just visited his mother in hospital, and his overwhelming feeling is that the NHS nurses looking after her are the most wonderful people in the world. But he worries about whether the NHS will be able to survive in the long-run if we continue to run a huge trade deficit with the rest of the world. He doesn’t say any of that to me. instead he says: “You know that enterpreneur we talked about, who is exporting huge amounts to the rest of the world. I think it’s fantastic he does that and pays so much tax.”

    I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with rightwing Tories, who keep rubbishing anyone who works in public services, and then go on about how they could do nothing without private sector taxpayers.

    Bill’s remarks hit a raw nerve. How dare he rubbish the work of public sector workers? I explode in rage, and we have a bitter argument.

    If, however, I’d said, “I don’t understand. Are you saying public sector workers are inferior to private sector taxpayers?”

    Bill would have clarified, and explained how wonderful the nurses were being, and how he loved the NHS.

    I think conversations like the first version have been happening all over LDV, and all over the internet. And far too few like the second. I suspect yours with Joe is another of the first.

    Do you think that’s possible?

  • George Kendall 18th Sep '15 - 7:19am

    @Helen Tedcastle “There is such a thing as constructive anger in a political sense – let’s call it passion”

    I think you’re right to separate passion from anger. There was, for example, a lot of passion when I was writing the above article. I still feel it when I re-read it.

    But passion too needs to be kept under control. When it’s not, it often becomes anger. And, even worse, too often when I’ve been angry, I’ve only realised it after the event.

    @Steve Comer, @John Marriott
    🙂

    @Shaun Cunningham “We have one heck of a job on our hands”

    Agreed. But if we’re to do it, we’ll need as much help as we can get. @Stuart has indicated that, conceivably he could switch to us, though he has a lot of reservations. There might be someone else reading this who is actually thinking of joining. This article was primarily aimed at these good people. And if enough of them join, we’ll have a much better chance of success.

    @Michael BG

    Hi Michael. You are using Liberal language, but I interpret it to me something very similar to what I say in the article. Which is a good thing!

    @Michael BG, @Phyllis

    Perhaps Krisham interrupted to early, perhaps not, but Krisham has a duty to impartiality, and to ask seraching questions, if he let Corbyn give a five minute uninterrupted expression of his views, he’d have to do the same with any Tory minister who came on air.
    Besides in comparison to the rottweilers on other channels, Krisham is a pussy-cat. If Jeremy lost it with him, I think that’s pretty worrying.

    @Stuart

    Thank you so much for your post. Obviously, you are exactly the kind of person who I wanted to read it. And I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Thank you also for your anecdote about Militant. I admit I don’t have recent personal experience of the hard left, but my impression from what I read and hear, is that they aren’t very different from when I was a student.

    “Wreckage” is the right word.

    I think you misunderstand why things happened in the way they did, but that’s hardly surprising, we did a terrible job of explaining to the country what was happening in the coalition.

    My hope is that Nick Clegg and others like him will use the next few years to exclusively attack the Tories for what they are doing. I hope, over time, those on the centre left will begin to understand that how he was portrayed while in coalition is not the full picture.

  • @TCO
    Not much time to respond at the mo, but the economist and FT columnist Tim Harford wrote a wryly entertaining piece covering some of the misconceptions :-

    http://timharford.com/2011/12/youre-wrong-we-are-all-wealth-creators/

    It’s all to do with where wealth comes from, and what money actually is.

  • @Stephen Hesketh “TCO17th Sep ’15 – 11:45am
    “If we are to ever attract those people to our party in sufficient numbers to influence government, and achieve practical things for the country, we have address those fears as well as offering a moderate, pragmatic, small-l liberal programme of government.”

    TCO, I congratulate you and thank you for this statement. This crystalises perfectly why members like you and I disagree so fundamentally.”

    In which case, you must be very disappointed to find yourself disagreeing so fundamentally with Tim Farron who wrote this in today’s Guardian:

    “Together, the result is the opening up of a massive space in the centre ground of British politics, for sensible, moderate progressives who are opposed to what the Conservatives are doing, but cannot bring themselves to support a party of the hard left.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/17/jeremy-corbyn-lib-dems-politics-centre-ground?CMP=share_btn_tw

  • @Stuart “When I look at the Lib Dems, with its own right-wing who seem to me almost indistinguishable from Tories”

    Can I ask you one thing, Stuart? The Lib Dems’ “right wing” is much misrepresented. We are constantly having words and beliefs attributed to us that we don’t believe. The equivalent, in terms you may understand, would be for Social Democrats constantly to be told that they’re closet communists.

    If you are able, please get hold of a copy of the Orange Book and read it. There will be things in there you don’t agree with (as I don’t also), and some of it will now be out of date. But you will see that some of the ideas challenge preconceptions and its good to re-examine preconceptions to see if they’re still valid.

  • @George Kendall I too have been caught by the comments limiter.

    ” I admit I don’t have recent personal experience of the hard left, but my impression from what I read and hear, is that they aren’t very different from when I was a student.”

    The hard left is akin to a religious cult – you are either a believer or an unbeliever, and if you’re the latter you are treated to all sorts of opprobrium. Makes the spats on here look like kindergarten 🙂

  • James Murray 18th Sep '15 - 10:04am

    I find it confusing that there is no direct way that readers of this and other political websites do not have a definition of the various terms.
    The Corbyn campaign showed us that so many youngsters are looking for a simple explanation of a political ideology that they can understand, believe in and follow.
    Criticise Corbyn as much as you wish but he inspired a huge youth movement when putting across his political ideals.
    It is our job to do the same.
    A first stage is to sort out our ideology in a few simple sentences.
    Forget policies – they are as transient as the problems they are dreamt up to solve, no matter how long term those problems may seem – we need to state the underlying ideology from which arose those policies.
    We need to figure out what are our ideal society looks like, and put it over in a few simple sentences that we can put over on the door step when we are asked “What do you stand for?”.
    And do not throw our Preamble at me as it is too long and comprehensive.

    In addition I feel our website should summarise our preamble in a table down one column and show in other columns how we differ from the standpoints of the other parties.

    We will not get anywhere unless we differentiate ourselves.

  • George Kendall 18th Sep '15 - 3:27pm

    @chris_sh

    Thank you for the link. Hopi Sen is a fantastic blogger. I’d love it if he were a Lib Dem. If you’re reading, Hopi, do join us!

    What Hopi talks about is Labour people taking one-step-to-the-left of someone they actually agree with, so they can attack that person, and win support in internal elections. Doubtless there is a one-step-to-the-right in the Tory party.

    My first reaction was no, it’s not like that with the Lib Dems. But as I’ve reflected, I think every organisation with internal politics (that is any organisation) has a little of this one-stepping – doing what is expedient to succeed, rather than what they really think.

    We sometimes have it, but to a limited degree. The main party membership is pretty middle-of-the-road on the left-right axis, and very loyal to whoever is the current party leader. Conference, I think, is slightly left of that. Lib Dems who post on-line (as opposed to read but don’t post), are probably a little further left.

    Perhaps we have a little one-step to the centre in party elections. Perhaps a little one-step to the left at conference and online. I think more significant is not the left-right axis, but the freedom-security axis. The electorate as a whole are much more concerned about security than we are, and less concerned about freedom. It’s possible that there is a one-step to freedom for internal elections.

    But this is all wild guesswork, and others may disagree.

    @Mark Green, @PHIL THOMAS, @David Raw

    You could well be right. I know nothing of the man. But if he gives us money with no strings attached, I think I’d take it.

    @Joe Otten, @Stuart

    Great you agree. I wish the other 100 misunderstandings in this forum could be resolved so easily.

    @Mark Green, @PHIL THOMAS, @David Raw

    You could be right. I don’t know the man. But if he gives us money with no strings attached, I think I’d take it.

    @David Raw
    Thanks for your reply. I’ve discussed the coalition many times in the past 5 years. I think I’ll focus on other issues in my replies in this thread.

  • @ TCO

    I hope you will answer my questions in the “I agree with Jeremy” thread as I have answered yours.
    http://www.libdemvoice.org/i-agree-with-jeremy-47436.html

  • George Kendall 18th Sep '15 - 10:31pm

    @Christopher Haigh
    (Stephen Hesketh, don’t worry, it’s a fair question)

    I can’t see the inside of Tony Blair’s soul, but there are three things in particular I strongly disagree with.

    (1) Going to war in Iraq wasn’t his most terrible crime, it was failing to use his influence to ensure that the Americans, who had a very poor record in winning against counter-insurgencies, had a good plan to win after the invasion. His failure to ensure we were prepared to win the peace, could have cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.

    (2) In the Blair/Brown administration of 1997 to 2007 (and it was effectively a joint leadership), Labour had a policy of outflanking the Tories on the right on civil liberties. I suspect they didn’t do this out of principle, but out of political expediency. Moderating your policies to take account of democratic opinion is to be expected, outflanking the Tories on the right is reprehensible.

    (3) Between 1997 and 2001, Labour ran a very tight policy on public spending, then, they let the money flow like water. Public services suffered a famine, then a feast. This is horrendously inefficient. Between 2002 and 2008, Labour was running a deficit of between 30 and 40 billion. That would be fine in much of the economic cycle, but this was in a boom after the longest uninterrupted period of growth in our history. If they had followed Keynes, they would have run a surplus, or at least cut the deficit significantly. By failing to do so, they configured public services to spend 30-40 billion more than they should have. If instead we had been running in balance, the cyclically adjusted deficit in 2010 would have been around 70-80 billion rather than 100 to 110 billion. There would still have been a major problem, but the pain would have been greatly reduced.

    Blair/Brown did some things well, and some things less well. They were right to raise spending on public services, but the should have done it gradually. The were right to introduce in-work benefits, but they ignored expert advice, and made it overly complex. The new system being introduced is superior, but grossly under-funded.

    So no, I don’t regard myself as a Blairite. Politically, I’m probably closest to Vince Cable.

  • George Kendall 18th Sep '15 - 10:43pm

    @James Murray

    I’m afraid it’s worse than there being no definition of terms. People use the same term to mean completely different things. See the misunderstanding between Stuart and Joe Otten above, thankfully resolved. I’ll bet that came from different language.

    “[Corbyn] inspired a huge youth movement when putting across his political ideals. It is our job to do the same.”

    Personally, I love the nuance of the preamble to the constitution, but I know it’s too full of jargon and too complex for most people.

    You’re absolutely right that we need to communicate our values in much simpler ways.

    You’re also totally right that policies are transient. I think one mistake people make with Corbyn is to look at his policies, and think that some of them aren’t too bad, so he must be reasonable. For example, I can’t understand all the fuss about women-only coaches. I disagree, but I might be wrong to. The worry with Corbyn is the end destination he seeks and the people travelling with him.

    I know I’m not the best person to put over our values in a few simple sentences. And yes, we do need a simple answer for the door step when asked “What do you stand for?”.

    Thankfully, we have a leader who agrees with you 100%. I fear I’m not the best person to offer suggestions. Tim’s your man.

  • @ George Kendall

    “Between 2002 and 2008, Labour was running a deficit of between 30 and 40 billion. That would be fine in much of the economic cycle, but this was in a boom after the longest uninterrupted period of growth in our history

    “You’re absolutely right that we need to communicate our values in much simpler ways.”

    I do like to challenge this Tory economic narrative. In 2002 and 2003 there were over 1.5 million unemployed, it then dropped to above 1.25 million and started to rise again in 2005 and by 2007 it was nearly 1.75 million. This of course does not include those who were claiming other benefits because they were long term ill or disabled, who if we had full employment might have been able to re-enter the job market. I do not consider having more than 1 million unemployed the time to stop expanding the economy in the hope we can reach full employment again. At no time did economic growth reach 4% as it did in the 1990’s and by 2002 it had fallen to below 2%.

    I wish we could all agree that we want to increase freedom and liberty for everyone and make society a more equal place especially economically by reducing wealth inequalities.

  • George Kendall 19th Sep '15 - 12:21pm

    Hi Michael,

    I don’t think I am following a Tory narrative. I think the facts about deficits in the period speak for themselves, in black and white, in the OBR reports.

    Regarding aiming for constant full employment, without inflation, I think there is a problem. What if there is full employment in London and the Southeast, and not elsewhere? Or if the unemployment is not due to a lack of work, but a lack of work that the unemployed have the skills to take up?

    This is part of a wider debate about stimulus.

    Personally, I am sceptical about any policy that claims there is gain without pain, whether from the left or the right. For example, those that say that lower taxes will lead to so much stronger an economy that everyone gains. Or those who claim that more stimulus will lead to ever greater growth, and more customers, so everyone gains. There are exceptions, but generally, I think there are benefits and disadvantages with every approach, and we should be careful of going too far down either road.

    Paul Krugman is perhaps the most prominent advocate of more stimulus. But even he, in a discussion on Newsnight 30 May 2012, said: “Now, give me a recovery, in the UK or the US, and I will become a fiscal hawk. I will be very happy to talk about finding ways to economise on public spending, finding ways to raise more revenue.” (About 11m 54s into the clip)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqA4EJe4j5w

    Stimulus to soften the impact of a recession, seems to me a humane response to the situation. But further stimulus when we have been growing at over 2% for seven quarters, seems to be to contradict what Paul Krugman said in that programme in 2012.

    I also think there is a morale dimension to failing to bring our deficit down now that growth has been re-established. Debt is borrowing from the future. If take no measures to reduce the amount we are borrowing from the future, now that growth has been well-established for nearly two years, I think that is unacceptable. And will lead to inferior public services for the next generation.

  • @Joe Otten
    “Stuart, I entirely agree with Tim Harford’s article.”

    When this has been discussed before you have tended to say things like, quote, “I would argue that the private sector pays for the public sector through taxation”. The whole point of Harford’s article is to demonstrate why that statement is wrong.

    Where you tend to go astray is to misunderstand the nature of money and where it comes from. Hence (on the same thread I just quoted from) you say things like: “This is not a comment on efficiency or value for money or wealth creation, or anything like that in either sector, it is just an observation of where public money comes from and goes”.

    But it’s meaningless to “observe” how money flows around and ignore the wealth that gives the money existence and value. If money existed in isolation from wealth creation, then the banks (who create the money, so by your logic are paying for everybody else) could simply put £10m in everybody’s bank accounts and we would all be rich. In reality we would not be rich, because the money would immediately become worthless. The money has value only because people are creating wealth – and that’s true of people working in the public sector as well as the private.

    Some of the commenters below the Harford article try to argue that he must be wrong because command economies tend not to work very well. But it’s obvious to most of us that a purely private economy would not work terribly well either – in fact it’s such an obviously bad idea that I don’t think anybody has even tried it. A lot of the public/private arguments tend to be a bit phoney – we should spend more time celebrating the only system that (kind of) works, which is a mixed economy.

  • @George Kendall
    “My hope is that Nick Clegg and others like him will use the next few years to exclusively attack the Tories for what they are doing. I hope, over time, those on the centre left will begin to understand that how he was portrayed while in coalition is not the full picture.”

    I hope you’re right, and my vote will certainly be there for the taking in 2020 if the Lib Dems can convince me they are a sensible anti-Tory force. Whether they are pro- or anti-Labour or completely neutral is neither here nor there to me.

    As far as Clegg is concerned, you must admit that he himself helped create the portrayal you describe. The only reason I ever starting reading LDV in the first place was because I wanted to see if ordinary Lib Dems shared the undeniably pro-Tory and anti-Labour message of Clegg’s rose garden chumming up session with Cameron.

  • Christopher Haigh 19th Sep '15 - 1:25pm

    Hi George, thanks for your fantastic detailed reply. I always thought of Brown as a true social democrat but Blair as something different, less authoritarian than Brown. Blair seemed to dislike the concept of the labour party itself. Blair was very pro-USA which gave rise to his Middle East disaster. Otherwise I am sure he was a more natural liberal Democrat than some others that could be mentioned. I agree with you about Vince Cable who for me is the heartbeat of the Liberal Democrat party.

  • @ George Kendall

    I hope you noticed that I didn’t reject your figures for the size of deficits for the period between 2002 and 2008. However I reject the idea that the UK economy was at full production during this period. I know you must be old enough to remember when unemployment was less than 1 million (before January 1976). (I don’t think the number of unemployed has ever been reduced to the number of 771,800 of January 1975.) Also the longest period of economic growth was when we had full employment at least from 1948 (when the figures I found started) to 1974. The rate of economic growth was above 2% continuously from about 1962 to 1974 (and had recovered in 1975 until the Conservatives won the election when they put the country into recession.) (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Annual_U.K._GDP_Growth,_1948_to_2012.png)

    With regard to regional unemployment. Firstly we should be grateful we are not in the Euro zone where regional differences are vastly greater. Second the investment to reduce unemployment can be targeted to those regions with the worse unemployment rates. This is the huge advantage of public spending to stimulate the economy over tax cuts which go to those in work and therefore benefit those regions with the least unemployment and can cause over heating in those regions.

    When there is full employment and employers know this is likely to be the case for the long term they are more likely to employ people who need training or re-training. This might be because they expect to need these people long term, rather than just see them as temporary until aggregate demand goes back into decline.

    I note you are back on the Tory narrative about the immorality of a large national debt. Historically our National Debt has not been something to worry about for future generations. As I pointed out to you in another thread from 1947 to 1979 the National Debt was reduced from 237% of GDP to 42% and the National Debt was above 100% of GDP from 1756 to 1860 (a period which I don’t think you would say we were held back as I think we were the workshop of the world). It should also be remember that between 1945 and 1975 there were only 5 years when there was a budget surplus, so this reduction in ratio was caused by economic growth. We really need to reject this Tory narrative and learn the correct lessons from history.

  • George Kendall 20th Sep '15 - 10:47am

    Hi Michael,

    If you look at this table, going by quarterly growth, there were quarters of negative growth in the 60’s and early 70’s, and none from 92 to 2007.

    http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2009/nov/25/gdp-uk-1948-growth-economy

    Regardless, the period from 92 to 07 was a remarkable period of growth. And running a deficit at the end of this period was heavily criticised by some economists at the time.

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/on-demand/40506-001

    I think we have an honest difference of opinion here. You think that we should keep borrowing until we hit full employment, I think, if we do that, we’ll be running significant deficits almost all the way through the economic cycle, and run into very serious problems in the long run.

    Ultimately, if we don’t use a period of growth to reduce the deficit, each economic cycle, the debt to GDP ratio will just keep getting bigger. Our population will be getting more elderly, putting more strain on our welfare system. At some point, the increased interest payments on debt will mean something has to give.

    I too am grateful we never joined the Eurozone. Regarding regional growth funds, while a good thing, they are no panacea. That money must be well directed, and not on bridges to no-where. eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravina_Island_Bridge

    I think it’s best to avoid using phrases like “Tory narrative”. To be honest, I find that a little insulting. Just because the Tories have used an argument, doesn’t mean it belongs to the Tories.

    It’s true that we have carried huge deficits in the past. But those have generally been after a war of national survival, or so far back in history that the situation has completely changed. We are no longer at the centre of an enormous empire, and we are now running an enormous balance of payments deficit.

    As for concern about deficits being a rightwing obsession, remember, it was Clinton who ran a surplus, and GW Bush who squandered that, and took the US heavily into deficit during an economic boom. You can be leftwing and prudent.

  • George Kendall 20th Sep '15 - 11:07am

    @Stuart “my vote will certainly be there for the taking in 2020 if the Lib Dems can convince me they are a sensible anti-Tory force”

    Glad to hear it. But might you consider taking it a step further, and joining the party? Ultimately, we will only be a sensible anti-Tory force if we make ourselves one, and that is down to the membership, in what they do, and who they elect to lead the party. You don’t have to be active, many of our members just pay an annual subscription. Think about it.

    I agree the rose garden was a mistake, it’s possible that Nick Clegg now realises it was. At the time, he was worried about the stability of the coalition at a time when the Eurozone was in crisis. He also wanted to show that coalitions didn’t have to be like cats fighting in a sack. But, as I say, I think it was a mistake.

    @Christopher Haigh

    Very nice of you to say that.

    I don’t know about either Brown or Blair. I was very sympathetic to them in 1997, even though I was a Lib Dem. But looking back now, for reasons I’ve given, while they did good, in other ways, I’m appalled.

    @Stuart

    I realise I never answered one of your questions. When I said “among the allies of the poor are those who pay the taxes”, I was particularly thinking of entrepeneurs who create jobs, reduce our balance of payments deficit, and pay taxes. Some on the left talk about the rich as the scum of the earth. That’s the politics of anger. I prefer to celebrate when someone’s hard work and ingenuity enriches us all, and brings in extra tax revenue.

    Regarding what Joe Otten has said, I see what you mean. But I think we need to avoid overreacting when people say things like that. Comments on a blog are often written in a hurry. We all make mistakes – for example, I have been known to confuse deficits and debts in my prose, despite knowing perfectly well how different they are.

    I think it’s good if we all try to avoid saying things that confuse or upset each other. But I think we also need to give each other a break.

    I suspect, if you really got to know each other, you’d find you had an astonishing amount in common with Joe Otten.

  • George, I have no problem in having budget surpluses when we have full employment and our economy is at full production. However it is possible to run a deficit and still reduce the ratio of National Debt to GDP as we did for the period 1947 to 1979. I wish those who are concerned about the deficit and size of the National Debt recognised how successful this period in our history was.

    If I recall correctly Keynes would disagree with you. I think he said public spending could be used to employ people to dig a hole and then fill it in. However I was not talking about a regional fund. I was talking about the government investing money to build infrastructure to assist the attractiveness of a region for companies to be based there.

    It does not matter how the government spent the money, be it paying members of the military or armament manufacturers or builders, architects and construction firms, the size of the debt is the size of the debt.

    The balance of payments is an interesting thing. I know in the past we worried about it, but we do not seem to worry about it now. Of course the easiest way to improve it would be to go into depression. However I thought economic theory stated that the exchange rate should control it. So long as foreigners are happy to have pounds there is no pressure to devalue the pound and increase the cost of imports and decrease the cost of exports. If the pound was devalued this should increase the production of those things we export and make manufacturing for the home market more attractive. Win, win?

    I didn’t say that concern about deficits is a right-wing concern. What I was saying is that in the UK Thatcher made popular the idea that the government should manage its finances like a family and so balance the budget. This is therefore a Tory theory created by them and accepted by economists, but it is not true. The government should manage the economy to benefit the people including those who are unemployed. It is not acceptable that we have accepted that the government should not manage the economy to get the number of unemployed under even 500,000. I don’t think this is liberal and I wish you accepted it wasn’t social justice.

  • George Kendall 21st Sep '15 - 9:50am

    Hi Michael,

    The 50s and 60s followed the economic policy you describe, but they came to a shuddering halt in the 70s.

    In your post you don’t mention inflation, but that was the problem facing the UK government in the 1970’s. One of the problems with inflation is that its negative effects are felt long after. For example, inflation is a major reason why we had to pay high interest rates on government borrowing for many years – because lenders didn’t trust the UK not to inflate away the value of their loans.

    This wasn’t just Labour’s fault, but a hangover from the previous Tory government. As Labour grappled with the crisis, they blamed the Barber boom of the previous government. For a taste of how bad things were in the 1970’s, have a look at the following:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4553464.stm

    The Labour Prime Minister at the time, James Callaghan, said:
    “inflation is our great enemy. The threat to our objectives and ideals. It is inflation which has stopped us re-expanding the economy and getting rid of unemployment. In this sense inflation is the father and mother of unemployment.”
    http://www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=173
    (NOTE: Callaghan wasn’t Tory, and was Prime Minister before Thatcher)

  • George Kendall 21st Sep '15 - 9:51am

    Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England said, regarding the risks of inflation that would likely follow if the Bank of England lost its independence:
    ‘The people who tend to get hurt the most by inflation are the poor and the elderly. That has been the experience throughout history and I’m sure would be the experience in the future.’
    http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/news/1364483/mark-carney-isnt-impressed-jeremy-corbyns-plans-bank-england/

    In the Guardian Cable is quoted as saying the Lib Dems working with Corbyn would be inconceivable unless he did a “complete volte-face” on his economic policies of the past 30 years.

    I feel I’m in pretty good company in rejecting People’s Quantitative Easing.

    What people think Keynes would make of the current situation depends, inevitably, on who you ask. Have a look at the following, which says that Keynes was a lot more hawkish on deficits than is commonly supposed:
    http://independentreport.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/john-maynard-keynes-was-right-and-not.html

    Our negative trade balance with the rest of the world should, as you say, be corrected by a devaluation in our exchange rate. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened. I think there are a variety of reasons, here are a few: China doesn’t have a floating exchange rate, so their huge trade surplus doesn’t result in their currency appreciating. Another is cultural. Far eastern culture saves, ours doesn’t. Another is that deficit countries like the UK and USA, when faced with a world downturn, tend to stimulate their economies. But a proportion of that stimulus is exported, as it sucks in a lot of imports.

    I don’t know what the UK government can do about this problem. But it seems to me that these trade imbalances cannot continue forever. At some point there will be a correction, and it could be a sudden and painful one.

    I have the impression that people a lot cleverer than me don’t know what to do, either.

    I’d love to get unemployment down below 500k. I fear that the policy you propose might reduce unemployment in the short-term, but as Callaghan indicated, it would increase it in the long run. That wouldn’t be social justice.

  • George, thank you for your comprehensive replies. Do you know that inflation was under 5% for most of the 1950’s and 60’s? (This is a much better record than the first half of the nineteenth century.) When considering the problem of inflation in the 1970’s two factors need to be considered. Firstly domestically the Conservative banking reforms (I think of 1972) that vastly increased the money supply by hugely decreasing the amount of assets a bank needed for financing its lending. This was a huge money stimulus that the economy didn’t need and the politicians didn’t understand they were doing. Secondly, the Yom Kippur War (October 1973) and the huge increase in the oil price. This led to the Sunday car driving ban of 1973. Denis Healy regrets that he went to the IMF for funding because he later believed he didn’t need it and his civil servants got the situation wrong. It should be remembered that the Labour government had the economy under control by the time of the general election with inflation at less than 10% down from its peak of 26% in 1975 and unemployment down to about 1.4 million. It took the Conservatives until 1982 to get control of the economy after they wrecked it, but unemployment peaked at 3.1 million in 1983. I do not deny that inflation can be a problem and it needed controlling in the 1970’s and the Labour government did this, but the Conservative when they took office didn’t.

    There is this Tory myth that inflation is a bad thing. Germany has it really badly. No one will deny that hyper-inflation is a bad thing, but I don’t see an economic case for having inflation at below 2% rather than below 5%. Have you heard of the three benefits of inflation? – as an incentive to spend, as a way to reduce the real value of debt, and to reduce unemployment if it is caused by high wage rates. I accept that those on fixed incomes are affected badly by inflation and these can be pensioners and those on benefits if the rates of these do not keep pace with inflation. However the people most adversely affected by inflation are those with large amounts of savings and these are the wealthy. I read recently that when there are large amounts of private debt (like now) the government should increase public debt to ensure demand doesn’t collapse.

  • Interest rate are often below the rate of inflation (as they were in 2008 onwards, and when inflation was at its highest – the early 1920’s, 1945-53, 1972-77, 1979-80). However even when higher their real rate doesn’t often rise above 2%.

    “Keynes favored deficit spending only to combat depressions, not to fight low levels of unemployment. He also advocated creating surplus budgets to eliminate government debt in times of prosperity” from the Independent article. It was Beveridge who stated that the government should keep unemployment below 3%.

    I think that “savings” are a “leakage” in Keynesian theory as is “the buying of imports”. Therefore if Far Eastern economies do save more this doesn’t help their domestic aggregate demand. You are correct to point out that having huge trade surplus is also a problem. However you see it as a problem and I see it as something that over time will sort itself out.

    You need to realise that controlling the National Debt will never reduce unemployment below 500,000 and producing surpluses will ensure unemployment never falls below 1 million as the history of the last 35 years makes clear.

    For me the government’s first concern should be to reduce unemployment and keep the economy at near full protection, then to control inflation and then to produce a budget surplus. It should be possible to manage the economy using both fiscal and monetary measures to keep the economy near full production, inflation under 5% and unemployment under 500,000. But worrying about the size of the national debt will ensure this will not be possible.

  • This was useful. Thankyou, George. Both when Liberals were in alliance with the SDP and more recently when a moderate Labour supporter approved of my Social Liberalism with the words, “Yes, some of you are Social Demcrats”, I’ve sought an explanation of what a Social Democrat is and haven’t found one.

    One difference, it appears to me, between Social Democracy and Liberalism in practice is the Liberal emphasis on individual self-realisation, diversity and devolution: these things may be backed by Social Democrats, but they generally appear to be not quite at the centre of their values.

    One question. I’ve understood for some time that Social Democracy seemed to be based on going for economic growth and trying to deal out the proceeds in ways which reduced inequality and poverty, so that ideally, no-one really lost. But does it mean that if, for example because of catastrophic climate change, there is no growth, no effort should be made to reduce inequalities?

  • George Kendall 24th Sep '15 - 2:16pm

    @SIMON BANKS

    I think definitions of all political philosophies are enormously subjective. The above article is how I see myself, and I think the social democrat label works pretty well for me. But I use other labels, such a Liberal Democrat.

    The Social Democrat tradition, like the Liberal tradition, covers many people with different views.

    I agree with you about the differences between Social Democracy and Liberalism. Some social democrats are not liberal-minded at all, but quite a few are.

    I think, in practice, Social Democrats who joined the Liberal Democrats were often just as liberal as most of the Liberals who joined, but they were probably the more liberal-minded ones. I’ve certainly been told I am a Liberal, even a stereotypical liberal, but I’m reluctant to call myself that. I’m uneasy about the way some Liberals always elevate the individual’s direct interests over the indirect interests of the community. I think there is a balance to be struck. Which is why I like the Lib Dem constitution.

    I understand that Roy Jenkins had a joke, that he was an Asquithian Liberal, and David Steel was a Social Democrat 🙂

    I’ve never seen social democracy as being as precisely defined as you describe. If there’s to be no growth, what level of inequality one should be content with is enormously subjective. But then, I’ve never seen social democracy as a philosophy that thinks in terms of the ideal end-state, but rather a very pragmatic philosophy, that responds to a very imperfect world.

    Others, of course, may totally disagree with me.

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