Author Archives: Kevin Langford

Kevin has been a party member since June 2017, from Kingston

GDP share; a more timely and effective alternative to Universal Basic Income

That’s your bloody GDP. It is not ours’. Thus a Brexit supporter expressed their detachment from the national economy in 2016.

This proposal addresses both the perception and reality behind this comment. It provides poorer households with a bigger share of GDP, achieving a more deliverable redistribution of income than a Universal Basic Income. It makes more people feel that this is ‘our GDP’. It also steers the national conversation about growth towards ‘net zero’.

UBI and its problems

A conference motion calls for the party to campaign for UBI.

But the practicalities mean we are doomed to deliver a very small and disappointing version of a very big and (somewhat) controversial idea. The UBI promise of a reasonable income for everyone is not achievable. Recent work by sympathetic academics has shown how far we can (and can’t) get. Even if we raise higher rate taxes a lot and get rid of personal allowances (so that for most people there is no net benefit) to fund a UBI, we cannot sustainably pay a UBI of much more than £3000. At this level, many poor people would lose out unless all or most current means-tested benefits stay in place – thus forgoing one of the significant supposed advantages of UBI. And even to get to £3000, we would likely have deployed the money from all of our tax-raising ideas on this one concept cutting out anything else we might want to do.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Defining and measuring strategic objectives for the party

I wrote a piece here two weeks ago discussing the need for long term strategic objectives that would be consistent for 10-20 years and would, alongside our values, guide our decision making and enable us to develop a more focussed disciplined organisation. Knowing what our objectives were, and sticking to them over time would also enable us to rebuild a clear positive public identity for the party – in itself something key to long term electoral success and survival. And as others have commented, more important in the leadership election than the choice of specific policies.

The response to the piece might be summarised as “Yes this would be fantastic, but no it’s not really achievable”.  In particular there was scepticism about whether it was possible to move from rather general objectives (5 of which I suggested in my piece) to objectives with enough clarity and measurability to deliver the promise of focus, effectiveness and a long term electoral identity for the party.

This is one step towards showing that this challenge may be answerable. I have taken the five general objectives I set out (relating to climate change, fairness, education, the quality of political discourse, and the UK’s relationship to the world), given them a little more definition where necessary, and proposed how we might measure progress against them (say when we are looking back on the previous 15 years in 2035).  

Let’s start with the objective in relation to climate change – because this is the easiest to define (if not to deliver!)

“Promote /stick to the path to net zero for the UK (by 2045) and the world”

This is as clear as one could reasonably expect. It is not perfect (eg there are important debates about what exactly net zero means for the UK) but it is good enough for long term orientation. It is a long term objective which is not going to go away and needs sustained focus. It is not something we expect the current government to deliver without continual challenge and pressure from us and others. It is measurable.

Can we provide a similar level of clarity for my other proposed candidates for strategic objectives?

Consider fairness.

“Make the UK fairer” is a good general objective – in that it conveys crisply an important priority for our party, which many people will buy into. But it needs small print. Of the many things this might mean I suggest that in 2035 we should be asking ourselves as a party what we have done to;

  1. Reduce the number of people in poverty by 25% – this needs an agreed measure of poverty – of which there are many (a further blog by someone with more specialist knowledge!) and;
  2. Increase the number of those born into low income families who, later in life, are in the top half of the income distribution.

My third proposed objective was “to create one of the best and most inclusive education systems in the world”.

How would we know in our hypothetical 2035 review if we had done this or were moving towards it?

  1. Our schools would be performing well in an international context –eg as measured by the OECD;
  2. The proportion of working aged people who have achieved good further education, apprenticeship or university qualifications would have risen;
  3. We would have at least retained our current high proportion of globally top ranked universities.

Fourthly I proposed we should aim “to keep the political debate in the UK open, honest and fact based”.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 31 Comments

Leadership candidates could and should set out what they mean by UBI

Embed from Getty Images

Universal Basic Income (UBI) has many attractions as a policy. It is radical, an easy concept to explain and – depending how it is implemented – may be progressive.

Both our leadership candidates are backing it. Neither has been as specific as they could and should be about what they are proposing. There is enough economic analysis available for it to be perfectly feasible for them both to be more specific.

The fundamental question is whether we can afford a level of UBI which is worth having and does not create lots of losers, particularly at the bottom end of the income distribution if means tested benefits are withdrawn or modified.

On the economics, our candidates refer mainly to analysis completed by Compass, a think tank promoting UBI.  This is the most detailed recent economic work that is publicly available on a UBI for the UK.  The work has some gaps (which it acknowledges) but it does us a big service by showing the relationships between costs and benefits, and by considering properly how different income groups are affected.

It is not honest to say blandly that the Compass analysis shows that ‘UBI works’.  But it does show what the constraints are, and means our candidates could say more precisely what they are proposing.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 58 Comments

Strategic objectives June 2020

Our election review concluded – we lacked vision, relevance and strategy in 2019. In this context, I want to return to Michael Kitching’s piece (“However beautiful the strategy you should occasionally look at the results” – Op-Eds April 25th). He makes several important points arguing that we need a greater focus on delivery and more effectiveness in execution. But most importantly, he argues for clear long term strategic objectives. As he points out, a framework for allocating resources to constituencies is not a strategic objective; it is tactics. Stopping Brexit was not a long term strategic objective for the party; it was a policy (albeit a good and extremely important one) with a limited shelf life.

Our key strategic objectives need to be consistent for 10- 20 years. They, alongside our values, structure and guide all decision making. They cannot be given up because someone else moves onto the territory. They should not be the kind of objective which becomes outdated either because no-one any longer wants it, or because it relates to something that has already happened.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 21 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • theakes
    Reported Ed Davey has given up his s econd job, pay £78K. Can't be true!...
  • Jim Dapre
    Hopefully Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens have learnt what happens when they attack each other instead of attacking the Tories - the Tories win....
  • David Raw
    @ Chris Moore & Barry Lofty. Unfortunately chaps, a large section of the electorate still seem to accept that old fashioned common sense nostrum that t...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Joe, "Germany has an inflation rate of 6% and its 4.9% across the Euro area putting pressure on the ECB to act. " Many are attributing our re...
  • Barry Lofty
    [email protected] Sorry, but how long must the Lib Dems keep taking stick for the "Coalition" what is being done to our country since 2019 is beyond comparison and extrem...