Author Archives: John Knox

A sensible strategy for the Scottish election

The Liberal Democrats should be able to prosper mightily in the Scottish parliamentary election on 6th May. But only if we stop attacking the SNP.

The SNP are unassailable. They are riding at over 55 per cent in the opinion polls, boosted by Nicola Sturgeon’s impressive performance in the Covid-19 emergency. And by next spring, they will be able to surf the wave of anger over Brexit and the expected surge in unemployment.

The Nationalists will blame the Johnson government for all the problems and the lack of resources to tackle them. In that they are quite right and it would be counter-productive for the Lib Dems to take a different tack. It’s misleading and dishonest to suggest the Scottish government can fix our schools and hospitals, and the potholes in the roads, with the austerity budgets they’ve been given by Westminster. Yes, the SNP could put up taxes to raise more funds but not by a significant amount.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 31 Comments

Five big ideas for the new post-COVID world

Although we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, radical political parties like ours should be beginning to think about the brave new world that, hopefully, will emerge from this catastrophe.  I offer five policy suggestions, some of them familiar, some of them new, all of them more revolutionary than you think: –
– a citizen’s wage at £2,500 a month;
– a charge for using natural capital;
– ending the triple lock on pensions;
– bridging the divide between the NHS and the care sector; and
– re-empowering local government.

Support for the citizen’s wage is growing now that even the Conservatives have discovered it’s affordable. The idea is very Keynesian, to keep demand in the economy high so that jobs are sustained, and firms encouraged to invest. Moreover, please, can we remember that services form by far the largest part of our economy and consumer demand is key to creating jobs. A straight payment of, say £2,500 a month to everyone whose income is below that amount is a fair and simple replacement for Universal Credit.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 25 Comments

The road to redemption – a Lib Dem manifesto

With a new leader comes a new beginning.  Here are some thoughts.  Liberal Democrats need to make a more positive case for staying in the European Union and address the fears of those who backed Brexit.  We should argue for a real end to “austerity” which involves being honest about the government borrowing more and taxing more.  We need to make the polluters pay for the damage they are causing to the environment. And we should re-invigorate local government, and local services, by returning to a realistic level of council tax.

Yes, some of these suggestions will be unpopular but it is better to be unpopular and right than to be popular and wrong.  Let’s just be brave. We were brave over a second EU referendum and now it’s a widely held position and may even come to pass.

On Brexit, we should be trying to bring the country together again after the shambles of the last three years.  Immigration is clearly a worry for many English cities.  European regulation is resented by many businesses.  Some European court rulings are hard to take.  People fear a Federation of Europe dominated by a corrupt elite.  We need to address these concerns by saying: of course Europe is not perfect but we can reform it from within. There are other countries in Europe who feel the same way.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 22 Comments

New thinking on job creation

 

One of the big challenges of our time is to provide work for all those who need it, work which is useful, fulfilling and which pays enough to live on. And although the British economy is creating around half a million jobs (net) a year, many of them do not satisfy those simple criterion.

The need for good quality jobs will increase as the population increases and working careers get longer, yet hardly anyone is thinking about where these jobs are to come from.  Government departments, unions and think-tanks tend to concentrate on where jobs have been created in the past or predicting where they may come in the future, or on skills training or how to improve conditions for those already in work. The private sector seems to regard jobs as a by-product, a necessary evil in the process of making a profit, and in the public sector the government wants to cut as many jobs as possible to save tax-payers’ money.  No one is actively looking at areas where new and worthwhile jobs can be created and how to do it.

Let me be bold and suggest six sectors where this might be done, in what I call the “infinite industries” ie where there is no limit to the amount of production that can be done: education, health, energy, environment, sport and the arts.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 27 Comments

What the Scottish Liberal Democrats should be saying in 2016

The Liberal Democrat manifesto for the Scottish elections this spring needs to be a cracker or we will not be noticed, even by the 5 per cent of voters who are thinking of supporting us.  So let me suggest a list of radical ideas.

First, we should be arguing for a 3p rise in income tax to raise around £1bn for public services.  Just about every day there is an example of our schools, colleges, health and care services, social work departments, police and fire brigades, libraries, sports fields etc. being short of money.  And George Osborne is only half way through his austerity programme.  This constant cutting has to end and we should be honest with people and say we all need to pay more in tax to halt this drastic decline in our public services. And while on the subject of income tax, we should say that from next year onwards (when Scotland gets its new powers) those earning over £60,000 a year should pay income tax at 50 per cent, so raising another £100m for public services.

Of course, extra funding should not be pumped into these public services without constant reform. The funding should be targeted….on struggling schools, poor communities, on preventive medicine not expensive treatments for the very old.     

Posted in News | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Opinion: Going it alone

BRITAIN POLITICS UK ELECTION CAMERON BECOMES PMAs the new year dawns there’s much press speculation about when the Liberal Democrats are going to cut and run from the Coalition and start campaigning for the next election.  At some point, of course, we are going to have to do this but having given an undertaking that we would work with the Tories for five years, that point I think should be quite late. But what we can do now is much more exciting.

We should declare that at the end of this coalition we shall not be entering into any further coalitions, either with the Tories or with Labour.  And we should do this as soon as possible.   We need to end this single-question politics of which way will the Liberal Democrats jump after the next election.  This would allow us to get on with explaining our policies and winning back our support.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 59 Comments
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