Author Archives: David Thorpe

Opinion: A radical idea for the post office network

Isle of Iona Post Office, Scotland - Some rights reserved by Freddie H.A typical Saturday morning in the Thorpe household typically involves me meandering, in my usual untidy fashion, to one of the menagerie of corner shops which cosset Hammersmith high street from the unkempt collection of bookmakers, pawnbrokers and fast food joints which seem to be the fate of most urban centres.

From the shop, I will descend to the most desolate corner of a quiet bar and languidly let the tensions of the week be traduced by …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments

Opinion: the UK has many economic lessons to learn from Ireland

When various commentators and critics of the coalition’s economic policy cast around for alternative solutions, not many look to Ireland for a model to follow, but perhaps they should.

My native country’s economy is in the sort of doldrums which make the current UK growth and employment rate look utopian, but the economy formerly known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ is healing itself and there are many lessons for UK policy makers to learn. This year growth is forecast to be 1.8%, double what the UK can expect to achieve, while the country was recently able to return to the bond markets …

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Opinion: Government must act to stop Basel reforms

Lichtkunst "Brillant par Tradition" in BaselMost of my working day is spent scuttling between sombre conferences on Central Banking best practice and meeting city economists to get their instant reaction to economic developments.

So when an opportunity came recently to travel to Basel in Switzerland to cover the latest announcement from the committee which aims to create a new framework for banking regulation, I leapt at the chance. But my delight at getting a free

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Opinion: Liberals must learn the lessons of Thatcher

It is a truth often acknowledged that Tony Blair and David Cameron, in moving their respective parties to the centre ground, left a gruelling obstacle on the road to a truly Liberal Britain.
But it’s not from those leaders that the next generation of Liberal Democrat’s must learn, rather it is from a leader who would regard liberalism as a dirty word, and many Liberal outcomes as inimical to her view of society, Margaret Thatcher.

The lesson for Lib Dems is that Thatcher understood that the less well off are just as aspirational as those born to wealth. The Tory method …

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Opinion: Radical action need to remedy the economy’s woes

While the Chancellor’s direction of travel in relation to tackling Britain’s economic challenges is improving, his current approach will leave Britain feeling like Sisyphus, labouring hard to push a rock up a hill but never quite feeling secure that it won’t come crashing back down, destroying the hard work already undertaken.

But just as Sisyphus continued to focus on the mechanics of getting the rock up the hill, rather than indulge in any broader experiment to escape his predicament, Osborne toils at the seams of Britain’s economic malaise.

The Chancellor happily wallows in the Bank of England’s myth that giant infusions of credit from Quantitative Easing and the ‘Funding for Lending’ schemes, are any sort of remedy to Britain’s economic woes.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 16 Comments

Opinion: We must dismantle BBC to reform it

If the BBC has been feeling a little cursed of late it can at least feel blessed in having Rupert Murdoch as an enemy. For the truth is that the BBC and Murdoch need to each other to justify their own world view and block any threat to seriously reform either of their vast empires.

In much the same way as the Labour and Tory parties use each other’s existence to drown the genuinely radical voices out of British public life whilst they tinker at their edge of whichever of

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Opinion: Now is the time to re-nationalise the railways

Virgin trainAs the 2015 General Election approaches, the principle challenge for Liberal Democrat policy makers will be to come up with distinctive policies which don’t trade in our party’s radicalism while allowing us to trade on our experience as a serious party of government.

One policy which we can be confident won’t be pursued by either of the other two parties is that of re-nationalising the railways.

Readers familiar with my previous posts on this site would be surprised to see me advocating nationalisation as a policy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 34 Comments

Opinion: Growth has returned, but what does it reveal?

One of the few tactically savvy moves made by the coalition recently has been its muted response to UK economy’s return to growth. This article examines what the return to growth means for the wider economy.

The first point to make is that, just as the double-dip phase of the recession was caused by international events, the return to growth has similarly been caused by external factors. The coalition deserves neither blame for the double-dip, nor credit for its ending.

Many of those who oppose the coalition’s economic policies on political rather than economic grounds question the validity of the …

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Opinion: The Mansion Tax is unfair and illiberal

Since 2010 the word ‘fairness’ has been deployed on an industrial scale across the political spectrum.

To want ‘fairness’ is to want a distribution of the spoils which reflects the value of the contribution of each to the economic and social resources of society. A fair tax system should seek to tax according to capacity to pay. It must also act to discourage those, such as polluters, whose economic choices negatively impact on society.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 61 Comments

Opinion: Clegg was right to refuse to sign Page 3 protest

In common with most of you, when I saw that Nick Clegg was The Sun newspaper’s hero of the week – I grew worried that the path to populism which Clegg has embraced in recent months had led to a particularly illiberal precipice.

Clegg has, since the unveiling of the differentiation strategy come to resemble politically the drunken man wandering from bar to bar trying to get served one final time, as the Deputy Prime Minister lurches from one initiative to another, hoping to turn the alchemy of populism into the solid gold of popularity. I discuss this further here and here

But in declining to back the banning on Page 3 girls, Nick has taken a position which is

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Opinion: Pensions for property scheme is profoundly flawed and illiberal

One can just imagine the proposed pension for property scheme (which Nick Clegg has announced) being the product of committee thinking, for, typical of the produce of many committees, it tries to cram all of the trendier topics of the day into one proposal, resulting in something which is less than the sum of its parts.

The current scheme, the product presumably of the Liberal Democrats’ desire to create popular policies which differentiate us from the Tories among the voters of middle

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments

Opinion: Why Nick Clegg was wrong to apologise for tuition fees

When he apologised for the tuition fees debacle this week, Nick Clegg went dramatically down in my estimation.

From the start of his leadership, Clegg has taken the longer term view, and cast his gaze upon the country as a whole, rather than simply focusing, as previous leaders have, on playing to the gallery of the party membership.

His is the Liberalism of the historical sweep, as aware of the intellectual traditions that can be traced back to Edmund Burke as to the ‘pavement politics’ of David Penhaligan, and while seeing a place for both, respecting that embracing the former may leave …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 101 Comments

Opinion: Inflation the biggest threat to economic growth

Economic commentators and politicians searching for that most elusive of phenomena – economic growth appear to be operating a back to basics approach. The Bank of England takes the traditional neo-classical approach to its role as arbiter of monetary policy – Quantitative Easing and liquidity schemes to expand the money supply and make borrowing cheaper to incentivise businesses to expand. The government are taking a much more Keynesian route to growth, announcing house building schemes and other infrastructure initiatives in order that the state injects the demand into the economy …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 25 Comments

Opinion: Danish economy shows now is not the time for Plan B

Critics of the coalition’s economic policy come from many and diverse perspectives, from those such as John Redwood who advocate the traditional Tory neo-classical approach of cutting taxes and spending until growth is achieved to those who advocate forgetting the deficit and spending until growth occurs.

The traditional Tory arguments were largely demolished by the great Liberal economist JM Keynes in the 1930s, and their reheated version disproved by JK Galbraith in the 1980s.

The arguments of those who wish to see stimulus spending are more cogent but the latest data concerning the Danish economy should provide them with food for thought.

In …

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QE “benefits the better off” say Bank of England – so why are we still doing it?

In the first comprehensive report it has conducted into the impact of its Quantitative Easing (QE) policies on the UK economy, the Bank of England says that QE has “prevented a deeper recession” but that the policy “benefits the top 5% of households”.

It is the contention of this article that the central bank is broadly correct on both of those points-which begs the question, why is the Bank of England intent on pursuing the policy in the future?

I have previously written that QE has had the effect of preventing a deeper recession by effectively ending the credit crunch, but that it is limited in its capacity to deliver growth.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 16 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Democrats must stay true to our traditions post 2015

The period between now and the next general election in 2015 will be crucial in deciding the immediate future of the Liberal Democrats-but the post general election period will have a much longer term significance. I have long been one of those Liberal Democrats who believe that the word ’Liberal’ has been a little to silent in the party name – as policies around goldfish at fairs and ever increasing public spending without corresponding accountability have cast the party a long way from the roots developed by Beveridge, Keynes and Gladstone.

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats should abandon support for the single currency

Despite the media perception of the Liberal Democrats as a party of Euro fanatics, there is arguably a wider divergence of opinion

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats must not apologise for cuts

Occasionally Nick Clegg, or his speechwriters create a phrase which deserves to live on in the political lexicon long after the rest of the speech has been confined to the political dustbin. The pre-2010 General Election debates were transformed by Nick referring to the “two old parties” and asking voters to “do something different this time”.

While the phrases were memorable, they were hardly that effective. Voters did what they did the last time they faced a Labour government mired in staggering incompetence and a Tory party leadership tacking to the centre while the grassroots howled. That was in the 1970’s when voters gave Labour a kicking and the Tories the mandate of largest party in parliament but no overall majority. In 2010 the outcome was the same with Labour weakened and the Tories becoming the largest party, except that on this occasion, the Liberal Democrats, from MPs to ordinary members, voted by a huge majority for a coalition. But while the phrases used in the debates were clever and eye catching, it was another of Nick’s phrases which should help set the tone for the party in the future. Nick said there would be “savage cuts”, while Vince Cable joined his Tory and Labour colleagues in saying that post-election there would, under a Liberal Democrat government, be “cuts faster and deeper than Thatcher”.

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Opinion: More QE is not the solution to Britain’s economic challenges

With the predictability of a partner changing ‘our’ plans at the last minute, the announcement that UK inflation has fallen to its lowest level for two and a half years has been greeted with calls for more Quantitative Easing (QE) to stimulate growth.

Much of the media presentation of the facts of this latest inflation data has focused on the fall being a ‘surprise’. In reality most of the drop was predictable enough, as the article I link to above states, the VAT increase in 2011 fell off the index for the first time in May, while the situation in Iran has stabilised, causing oil prices to fall.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments

Opinion: Latest Bank of England liquidity policies not an effective substitute for government action

With every turn of the wheel which drives the Eurozone deeper into crisis, the uncertainty which clouds the UK’s economic prospects grows more pronounced. As events in Spain and Greece, in particular, consign the Eurozone to a state of paralysis, UK consumers, banks and businesses can but bide their time and await the final fallout.

In those circumstances, measures which help to create certainty and boost economic confidence should be welcomed.
But the measures announced by the Bank of England on Thursday, will not achieve their purpose to any significant extent, and should not be treated as a substitute for real policy …

Posted in Op-eds | 4 Comments

Opinion: Lib Dems must avoid “all growth is good” fallacy

Every politician who remains in the public mind, after their term in office has ended, becomes associated, in time, with a particular sound bite or phrase.

John Major will forever be associated with “back to basics”. Tony Blair with “pretty straight kind of guy” and Gordon Brown with “abolishing boom and bust”.

At this stage, David Cameron is probably hoping that “hug a hoodie” is the phrase with which he becomes …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 34 Comments

Opinion: You can’t have ‘growth’ without ‘austerity’

Amid the current maelstrom of gossip, speculation and forecasting concerning the British economy, a number of myths have developed.

Principal among them is that the coalition’s economic plans for this parliament contained ‘only’ cuts, with no concern for achieving growth.

The issue of whether fiscal consolidation itself can be a driver of growth is one I aim to address further below, but first I want to debunk that myth.

The economic plans, outlined by the coalition in 2010, made clear that the first half of the parliament would contain the bulk of the …

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Opinion: Labour’s embracing of economic liberalism is to be welcomed

The first sign that man is moving from the reckless abandon of late youth to the windswept comfort of early maturity can be found in his reaction to the sight of falling snow. Where once it would have been an excuse to declare the days schedule defunct, this year it signalled only the onset of boredom.

Consequently I dusted down my new year’s resolution to ‘laugh a lot more’ and began thinking about Labour’s attitude to economics. I propose to look at the Labour leadership’s deeper economic instincts to provide a guide as to how they might actually run the economy.

Ed Balls

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Opinion: The Coalition are winning the economic argument

It’s a dark winter night in Westminster but the building from which a group of men emerge is still wreathed in light. The men clamber into a sleek car, which streaks away through the emptying streets. Their journey is short in physical distance, but it’s long on significance for all of them. They are serious of face and purpose as the vehicle stops by one of the quieter spots on the riverbank.

The heaviest of the men is the first to get out, he flashes a look along the river bank, and seeing it deserted, nods quickly to his companions, all of whom

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Opinion: Lib Dems Must oppose Labour’s ideological cuts in 2012

If I were a cleverer person than I am, I would try to create a joke with a punch line to fit the following set-up: What’s the difference between a cut in government spending and an ideological cut in government spending?

That I’m not clever enough to create a pithy punch line is of no consequence, as it is no laughing matter.

Labour have sometimes tried to trail the line that the coalition’s cuts are avoidable, that there are the product of ideology rather than necessity.

This line lacked some credence because even as they

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Opinion: How the latest economic data vindicates the Coalition’s strategy

Two pieces of economic data have emerged on the British economy over the past week, and while they paint a somewhat contrasting picture of the economic climate, the main picture which emerges is that the Coalition’s strategy is broadly correct.

The latest inflation statistics show that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is now about 5%, significantly higher than the Bank of England’s target of 2%. It seems to me that the Coalition’s single greatest error on the economy since coming to power has been to underestimate the rate of inflation.

But in this they have not been alone. The received wisdom …

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Opinion: We need a proper inquiry into Patrick Finucane’s murder

In the midst of an economic crisis, a climate crisis and a Secretary of State for Defence who seems determined to turn his life from an uplifting drama into a crisis, it’s easy to forget the sins of governments past.

But some issues shouldn’t be left to lie as footnotes in the pages of history. One of those is the case of the solicitor Patrick Finucane, and Liberal Democrats should return to their campaigning roots, within and outside Parliament, to press for a full inquiry into the case.

Finucane was a Catholic solicitor in Northern Ireland, where among his most famous clients was the …

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Opinion: Why free university tuition for all is deeply regressive in today’s Britain

Political speeches are usually replete with statistics, numbers culled without context and thrown in the path of critics like metaphorical stingers strewn across a motorway.

But one statistic from Nick Clegg’s conference speech which deserves to live and breathe in its own right is that in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (where I currently live) more than half of children progress from school to university. In the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (where I lived before moving to Hammersmith) the figure is that just 4% of children go to University. These Boroughs are thirty minutes away from ach other …

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Opinion: abolishing the 50p tax rate makes no economic sense

Slower than anticipated growth has seen a rush of commentary proposing changes the government need to make to ‘deliver growth’.

If there is one macroeconomic lesson which should be learnt from the 2008 crisis it is that not all growth is good. It is relative easy to manufacture a bubble, call it growth, and claim to have “abolished boom and bust”.

Sustainable growth is much harder to achieve, but one idea unlikely to achieve it is the proposal by some Tory commentators to abolish the 50% tax rate.

There are probably strong moral and political arguments for and against …

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

Opinion: A Liberal idea for welfare reform

Its not often an article which seeks to promote the Liberal agenda gets to use Alan Sugar and Peter Stringfellow as case studies.
But the millionaire duo, are, through no fault of their own, examples of all that is wrong with the approach successive governments have taken to welfare provision.

As Lord Sugar explains, he receives, despite never having applied for it, the winter fuel allowance available to all people over the age of 60.

The businessman even explains that he subsequently spent more than an hour on the phone trying to give the money back, only to be told that he …

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Recent Comments

  • Chris Moore
    Peter, good stuff, but as you're aware, many Tories see the EU as a socialist affront to free enterprise. The reality does not match up to your or their ster...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Martin @ Chris @ Leekliberal, I've always been puzzled why so many who claim to be on the left seem to have fallen in love with the most neoliberal of capi...
  • David Raw
    @ Alex Macfie "We were never even in contention in most of the Blue Wall seats we are now targeting". ...... and what makes you so sure they won't return t...
  • Cassie
    Tories lied to farmers ('you'll be better off out of the EU/CAP'). And the likes of Coffey showed an ignorance of rural life only matched by Labour's prejudice ...
  • Martin Bennett
    Chris Moore (and Leekliberal): P Martin is left wing on his say so, however in a choice between maintaining living standards for the worse off and Brexit, he go...