Author Archives: David Thorpe

Opinion: Why cutting later would increase the chances of a double-dip recession

About the only thing to emerge during Ed Miliband’s time as Labour Leader so far, which could be called a policy, is the belief that the cuts the coalition are implementing are being delivered “too fast and too deep.”

Essentially Labour are saying they would cut by less and later. The purpose of this article is to discuss the “too fast” part of this argument.

The first six months of the coalition’s time in office saw higher than expected growth and higher than expected inflation. Neither of these were really caused by anything the coalition did in those six months, rather …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 41 Comments

Opinion: The best way to get banks to lend more is to reduce the deficit

From among the blizzard of economic forecast, commentary and political point scoring which presently dominates the airwaves, there is very little consensus but the need to get the banks to lend more is something which brings all sides of the debate together.

The dividing line appears to be on how best to achieve this.

Those who subscribe broadly to the neo-classical or neo-liberal economic world view believe that banks will start wanting to lend as the economy recovers and businesses become more viable. This ‘leave it to the market’ approach is something which Lib Dems should (and do) reject, not just on …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Opinion: the state should harness the power of markets

The story of Adam being enticed to take the apple by Eve is not merely an amusing insight into the human condition, its an example of the very first market at work.

Markets work on the principal that people respond to stimuli, economics tries to ascertain what those stimuli are, and what the impact of those stimuli on the wider community are.

The idea that the government, can or should, protect certain sectors of the economy from the market is a fallacy.

While I don’t agree with the Coalition’s (or indeed Labour’s) policy on University funding, the argument occasionally made, that charging fees …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 27 Comments

Opinion: Why Lib Dems should reject the doctrine of liberal interventionism

If the regular politics of coalition is a walk in a minefield, the Libya crisis presents Lib Dems with a walk in a minefield while being haunted by a pair of malevolent ghouls.

Those twin ghouls are ghosts of conflicts past, conflicts where Britain intervened and expedited disaster, such as Iraq , and the countries where the UK sat on its hands, and watched disaster unfold, such as in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

There are a number interesting, and from a Lib Dem point of view welcome, feature of the debate concerning the possibility of the western intervention in Libya, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 42 Comments

Opinion: Latest consumer data shows new ‘growth strategy’ is not needed

The advent of 24 hour news channels has led to the media creating a fresh conventional wisdom with every new day.

They started by highlighting the dangers of a double dip recession because the government would cut too fast and too deep. Now, that’s something which Ed Milliband doesn’t even believe if you give credence to his recent appearance on the Andrew Marr Programme.

When the media were airing the cuts too fast argument, I indicated that the danger facing the economy over the medium term would come from inflation.

When the media turned its fire on the danger of inflation, and …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 50 Comments

Opinion: Coalition must resist the easy option of raising interest rates

When historians looking back on Gordon Brown’s career are searching for an epitah, they may well settle on the former Chancellor’s claim to have “abolished boom and bust”.

Questionable at the time it was uttered, the crash of 2008 rendered it a nonsense, but there are lessons to be learned for the coalition as they try to unravel the mess left by the Labour Government. The comment mentioned above is an example of a Chancellor falling victim to hubris, and the Coalition must be careful to not to be afflicted by the same condition.

Inflation and how best to prevent it wrecking …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 22 Comments

Opinion: Ireland has many economic problems…..but it isn’t an argument against the Euro

As my native Ireland teeters on the edge of bankruptcy and bailout, sections of the British press have taken the opportunity to view Ireland’s difficulty as the Europsceptic’s opportunity.

Some of the comment has centred around the idea that British taxpayers will be asked to ‘bail out’ their feckless neighbours, as, apparently they were with Greece last year.

This article aims not to explore that argument further, as it is a debate too reliant on uncertain future events, and is framed within a Britsih nationalist context which it is not appropriate for me to explore.

Instead I want to focus on another aspect …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 55 Comments

Opinion: for a market to be free you must have regulation

Whenever I utter the phrase ‘free trade’ within those Liberal Democrat circles in which I am permitted to mix, the reaction is akin to that which I might get if I suggested making it compulsory for all party members to worship statues of me.

And that’s a pity (the reaction to the free trade, not the statues) because most people when they meet an advocate of free trade, mutter darkly about the effects of ‘light touch regulation’. But free trade and light touch regulation are not the same, indeed in many ways they are inimical to each other.

The debate should not …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 17 Comments

Opinion: Quantitative Easing would be a grave mistake

The recent comments from Bank Of England Governor Mevyn King , regarding the possibility of quantitative easing make little sense in the context of the Coalition’s current economic strategy and are contrary to broad Lib Dem principals.

The pre-election debate on the economy centred on whether the recovery was strong enough at present to sustain cuts, it is the opinion of Lib Dems, and a view I agree with, that the economy is strong enough to sustain such an action.

This view can be boiled down to believing that the level of aggregate demand in the economy has reached a point …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 29 Comments

Opinion: 108 Not Out – why do we need so many Ministers?

In the heated pre election days when a Lib Dem and Tory Coalition seemed a remote possibility, there appeared to be few areas of ideological common ground between the parties.

But one area where the parties seemed to agree, and not just the leadership of the parties, but all apparent wings contained within both the future coalition parties, was that there was a need to shrink the size of government.

The recession has given this ideological standpoint a root in pragmatism, and as the Comprehensive Spending review announces cuts to everything from quangos to benefits and prisons, the question must surely be …

Posted in News and Op-eds | 17 Comments

Opinion: Child Benefit policy is within the great Liberal tradition

One of the most revered figures for British Liberal is Lord Beveridge, whose famous report laid the foundations for the welfare state as it was initially implemented by the 1945 Labour government. This report laid down the five “giant evils” which afflicted British society at that time, these were squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease.

As Lib Dems now contemplate the latest ream of announcements from George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith concerning reform of the welfare state, many of us, and particularly those who may identify with the ‘Beveridge’ Group within the party are concerned that the work of generations …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 136 Comments

Opinion: can social partnership agreements be part of the deficit solution?

My native Ireland enjoyed a period of unprecedented economic growth in the late ‘90s and early nougties, and while many of the reasons are similar to the reasons Britain enjoyed periodic growth in the same period, one factor in the growth which was unique to Ireland were the use of Social Partnership agreements.

These agreements were principally negotiated between the private sector employers, the government in a dual role as both government and large employer, the unions and social groups and organisations.

Agreements such as these typically last about four years, and the benefit to the economy is that there is a …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Opinion: radical approach needed on International Development

International Development must surely be a Ministry which any aspiring cabinet member would view positively.

A Department where there are plenty of opportunities for easy publicity and there is money to be disbursed, with fewer of the potential banana skins of the other departments.

But the announcement that the coalition are to ‘ring fence’ spending on this department should not prevent Liberals from questioning the current minister, Andrew Mitchell, and the orthodoxy concerning how the budget is spent.

One thing which unites Lib Dems of all stripes is a commitment to decentralisation, yet the framework for distributing the International Development budget is skewed …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

Opinion: Coalition’s inaction on ‘profiteering’ betrays liberal principles

The Coalition’s apparent decision not to hold an enquiry into the Energy Industry, as reported by the Independent , is something which Lib Dems of all stripes should campaign against.

Those who may regard themselves as economic liberals will object to this decision on the grounds that it is an example of a Government refusing to act to free up a market which currently is dominated six major players who control 99% of a market where inflation busting annual profit rises have become the norm, with British Gas reporting a staggering 98% rise in profits last July.

Economic Liberalism is built …

Posted in Op-eds | 10 Comments

Opinion: Economic data a vindication of Coalition strategy on the economy

Amid the gloom of cuts, the opinion polls and the encroachment of dull weather this week it’s easy to grasp at any positive straw one can find to cheer us up.

But the recent economic growth figures which were announced really are a positive on several levels and a vindication of the strategy which the coalition is pursuing.

The principal criticisms of the coalition plans have been that withdrawing support from the economy too early could lead to a double dip recession, the latest growth figures indicate that the economy is entering a period of more robust growth, and with …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 77 Comments

Opinion: Motorway tolls – a step on the road to a progressive, green and Liberal Britain

Privatisation and progressive politics are not always natural bedfellows, so Tory veteran Tim Yeo’s suggestion that motorways could be privatised and tolls erected in the interests of the fight against climate change was always likely to be greeted with a mixture of suspicion and scepticism by Lib Dems.

But like most privatisations – if done correctly – Mr Yeo’s proposals could lead to a fairer, greener and more Liberal Britain.

The existing tax on road usage is road tax, which is essentially regressive as it doesn’t take income and amount of usage of the road network into account. While road tolls …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 22 Comments

Opinion: Why a graduate tax is progressive

There has been at best, a muted response among Lib Dem members to the graduate tax proposals announced by Vince Cable on Thursday.

There appears to be a general agreement that these proposals are better than the status quo but not really ‘progressive’ and that the only really Liberal outcome is so-called free education.

It could however be argued that this phrase is a misnomer. Nothing is free. It may be free at the point of use, but it still has to be paid for. The suggestion of its advocates is that it be funded through general taxation, and specifically through a …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 34 Comments

Opinion: nationalising the railways is the only sensible option

With the current scramble by the new coalition to find savings and reduce the size of government, it is perhaps a strange time to be proposing that, in one area at least, the state should expand its remit, but the case for renationalising the railways has never been stronger.

I am certainly not a fan generally of nationalisation of anything, and still think that the coalition should flog the Tote, Channel 4, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link etc, but think that the British Railways must return to public ownership, not for reasons of ideology or sentiment, but simply because there is …

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 35 Comments

Opinion: Is Northern Ireland the elephant in the coalition’s room?

On the surface, David Cameron is the first Prime Minister in generations for whom ‘The Ireland Question” is down the list of priorities.

The Good Friday Agreement has been a glorious success, with the recent devolving of policing powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly the final piece of the power-sharing jigsaw and the birth of a more conventional policy rather than tribal politics in the province.

The 2010 general election saw the Alliance Party gain a seat, the moderate nationalist SDLP doing better than expected and the the failure of the anti-power sharing Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party to make gains seems …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 36 Comments

Opinion: Why restoring the Enterprise Allowance Scheme would be a renewal of Liberal principles

It is one of the great battles of 21st century Liberalism to balance the party’s commitment free trade while not damaging the foundations of the welfare state which were established by previous Liberal governments.

But the point at which both sides of the debate come together can be summed up in a single word: ‘Employment’, as both sides search for efficient and equitable ways to create sustainable jobs and aid Britain ’s economic recovery.

When casting his eye across the various options open to Britain , new Business secretary Vince Cable should perhaps look at renewing the Eneterprise Allowance Scheme …

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments

Opinion: Why the mansion tax runs against liberal principles – but a land value tax wouldn’t

One of the more appealing characteristics and strengths of the Liberal Democrats is the room there is within the party for genuine debate, and the freedom members have to hold views which differ from those of the leadership.

There are of course certain principles which all who hold the Liberal banner aloft share however; principles around the freedom of the individual from the unreasonable constraints of the state into their personal lives, and these principles bound us together and make the party the pleasant place to be that it is.

The Liberal tradition goes back to the enlightenment, with figures such as …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 27 Comments
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