Author Archives: Andrew Haldane

Fragile family finances make Brexit unaffordable

Over the last few days a frightening juxtaposition has emerged between the Brexit Impact forecasts and solid evidence of the precarious nature of family finances in the UK. Whatever the scale of the adverse Brexit impact proves to be it would seem that a substantial proportion of our fellow citizens lack the financial resilience to cope with any impact at all.

The RSA report “Seven Portraits of Modern Work” paints a vivid picture of an economy in which the tentacles of financial fragility permeate well beyond the lowest paid, penetrating the Tory-voting classes to the extent that around 70% of those in employment have reason to feel financially insecure.

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Who needs a big majority?

While pleased that our 1p on income tax to rescue Health and Social care is in the public consciousness I’m disappointed that one of the most important ideas in the manifesto; the cross-party Health and Social Care Convention, hasn’t had the high profile it deserves.

Not only is it by far the best way forward but it is also a model for a better way to do politics. I am proud that we recognise that Health and Social Care should not be a political football and that, while developing clear ideas for a long term solution, Norman Lamb has put so much effort into trying to work with other parties and relevant experts. Our 1p on tax addresses the need for urgent action and provides the time and space to continue to develop a shared vision for the future.

The abandonment of Dilnot and the Dementia Tax fiasco bring into sharp relief the need for a more measured and consensual approach.

Some of the other issues that are dominating the election demonstrate how Governments gifted parliamentary majorities totally disproportionate to their support in the country are able arrogantly to impose ideologies that impact not just over one Parliament but for decades to come.

Across Europe countries with better political systems than ours converted their inefficient nationalised industries into efficient businesses with state shareholdings, very many of which of are now making substantial profits out of less fortunate British consumers. Most of the countless thousands of young people unable to find decent housing weren’t even born, much less able to vote, when successive Conservative and Labour governments sold off council housing without taking the blindingly obvious step of replacing these with alternative affordable homes.

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Is there a defence against the dark arts?

This bizarre election campaign is based on building a personality cult around a virtual reality leader who can parrot well–rehearsed lines in controlled surroundings, but doesn’t have the guts to risk exposing her façade in a proper leadership debate. It demonstrates both the arrogance of the Tory PR machine and a press propaganda juggernaut that Putin must envy.

Behind deceptively simple messages there appears to  lie a skilful use of psychology, particularly an understanding of cognitive dissonance; the propensity to ignore, distort or misinterpret incoming information which does not align with existing beliefs or is otherwise unsettling.  The dissonance ramparts are not however impregnable; they can be breached, and an action tendency can be changed. Information that comes from trusted sources, or is otherwise credible, will sometimes get through.  During the referendum “project fear” and the denigration of experts was a clever device to offer wavering leavers licence further to indulge their dissonance and ignore powerful evidence to the contrary that might otherwise have triggered many voters’ decision tipping points.

Another tool being exploited is dissonance’s mirror image i.e. consonance. One way to achieve the desired acceptance of a new message is to tag it to an existing belief or to some information likely to be accepted as fact.  The widely expected difficulty of Brexit negotiations ought to work in our favour. it does not logically follow that the annihilation of alternative political voices or an awkward woman are the answer, but voters are looking for reassurance, for mitigation of perceived risk, and are taking these messages on board. 

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Opinion: Could PEVEL help to secure the triumph of good over EVEL?

england-flagEvery time a Tory mentions English Votes for English Laws they have a certain daemonic glint in their eyes. The power junkies think they are about to get the keys to the pharmacy. They say nature abhors a vacuum, but the Tories can hardly conceal their delight at the vacuum created by the meteoric rise up the political agenda of the West Lothian Question (which they and their friends in the media have helped to propagate). In 2010 they gained 56% of English MPs with 40% of the English vote. Implementing overdue boundary revisions and reducing MP numbers would tilt the balance further in their favour. Requiring a good deal less than 40%, they could gain a majority of English MPs for the foreseeable future if historic voting patterns persist.

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Opinion: Could there still be a bright future for Lords reform?

Unless we are admitting defeat or  consider the electorate agog with admiration of the status-quo, we perhaps need to look beyond  the seemingly  compelling case for democratic legitimacy and begin developing some more imaginative ideas about what a reformed second chamber  might do  differently and explore its potential for transforming  politics.

Limiting the level of ambition for our shiny new democratic institution to the pursuit of the same old objectives of itself does not seem like a great leap forward.

It also leaves us vulnerable to the tactics adopted by the Conservatives and their press allies, who assiduously sought to cultivate public …

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Recent Comments

  • Michael BG
    Natasha Chapman, At our spring Conference both Julia Goldsworthy and Lucy Nethsingha said that when the Fairer Society Policy Paper comes to Conference (expe...
  • Katharine Pindar
    My good friend David Raw's comments on this, yesterday and today, are apposite as ever. I was pleased that you gave the JRF quote, David, because they are indee...
  • Charley HastedCharley Hasted
    @Elizabeth We aren't tory-lite or labour-lite though. We're Liberals and it's past time we remembered that the way we're going to win seats AND keep them is ...
  • David Raw
    "Naturally eugenics takes things a little further and screens the prospective parents and permits only those with ‘desireable’ tracts to inter-breed". Wh...
  • Tristan Ward