Author Archives: Michael Berwick-Gooding

What more do we need to try to do to persuade the British people to vote to stay in the EU?

It seems to me that our position on Remaining in the EU is that people will see that we will be worse off outside the EU than in it. When they see the deal which is negotiated, they will have their ‘Road to Damascus’ moment and a significant proportion of the British will want to reject the deal and vote to stay in the EU.

I don’t think that will be happen. The 2016 referendum was fought on a campaign which stated we would be much poorer outside the EU than by Remaining in it. That campaign failed to get a majority of the British people to vote to stay in the EU. I can see no reason why, if there was a referendum in late 2018 or early 2019, the result would be different. We would be doing the same thing as in 2016 and expecting a different result.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 49 Comments

Can we afford a Universal Basic Income?

In the last few years there have been a number of reports which consider the introduction of a Citizens’ Income and how it can be funded. Towards the end of last year I came across the Compass report – “Universal Basic Income: An idea whose time has come?” written by Howard Reed and Stewart Lansley (and partly funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation).

Howard Reed and Stewart Lansley in the Compass report set out two schemes for a Citizens’ Income, both of which keep the existing means-tested benefits, the existing State Pension, replaces Child Benefit and increases the higher National Insurance rate to 12% and abolishes the Income Tax Personal Allowance. Their scheme 1 gives children a Citizens Income of £49 per week, adults under 25 £51, adults over 25 £61 and pensioners an extra £41. It also increases all Income Tax rates by 3%. Their scheme 2 increases the Citizens Income rates by £10 and all Income Tax rates by a further 2%.

The RSA report “Creative citizen, creative state: the principles and pragmatic case for a Universal Basic Income” written by Anthony Painter and Chris Thoungpointed out that there were big tax cuts in 2015-16 totally £19.5 billion (including £8 billion to increase the Income Tax Personal Allowance to £10,600) so we should not be too concerned about having a shortfall in funding as the Citizens Income Trust might have of over £10 billion. 

Posted in Op-eds | 46 Comments

How we could abolish relative poverty in five years

Do we want to abolish relative poverty in five years? Here’s one way we could do it.

In December the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published its report UK Poverty 2017

The report states:

14 million people live in poverty in the UK – over one in five of the population. This is made up of eight million working-age adults, four million children and 1.9 million pensioners. 8 million live in families where at least one person is in work.

The question for Liberal Democrats is how can we eliminate relative poverty over the course of a five year Parliament.

The JRF report defines relative poverty as “when a family has an income of less
than 60% of median income for their family type, after housing costs”. They set out levels of income (after Income Tax, National Insurance and housing cost have been deducted) needed for different types of family units:

Family type £ per week, equivalised,

2015/16 prices

Couple with no children 248
Single with no children 144
Couple with two children aged 5 and 14 401
Single with two children aged 5 and 14 297

Source: Households Below Average Income 2015/16, table 2.2db

It is depressing to recognise that poverty among pensioners is increasing (from 13% in 2011/12 to 16% in 2015/16). In 2015/16 the Pension guarantee was set to £151.20 for single people and £230.85 for couples while the pension rates were only £115.95 (single) and £185.45 (couples). To eliminate poverty for couples we could increase the couple rate by 1.5% above the normal increase for 5 years (totally 7.73% compared to a shortfall of 7.43%)

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 37 Comments

An economic policy for 2022 and beyond.

There are many reasons why our vote collapsed after five years of government but perhaps the most important was our ditching the economic policy of our 2010 manifesto, which included an economic stimulus in the first year of government, a promise to create jobs for those who needed them and implied that we would only reduce the deficit when the economic recovery was secured. What we actually did was reduce government spending straight away and took money out of the economy with a 2.5% increase in VAT. During the Coalition government the news reported that there was a double-dip recession (later upgraded). On our watch unemployment increased from 2.5 million in May 2010 to 2.71 million in November 2011. The highest percentage since November 1995 and the greatest number since August 1994. Even in May 2015 with 1.85 million unemployed we failed to provide a job for everyone who needed one.

The current economic consensus has given up on trying to achieve full employment and sees the NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment) as the lowest level possible. This is often seen as in the region of 5%. The last Labour government and the Conservative party accept the NAIRU but also want to make it difficult for those unemployed to claim their benefit as a means of saving money. As Liberals we value each and every person equally and don’t think less of a person because they have difficulties in finding work or meeting the bureaucratic conditions required for those wishing to receive out of work benefits. As Liberals we must have an economic policy to achieve full employment. We know from history that economic inequalities reduced the most between 1945 and 1979 when UK governments tried to achieve full employment. No Liberal Democrat should find it acceptable for there to be more than 1 million people unemployed in the UK.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 36 Comments

According to Article 50, once it has been triggered there is no way back

treatyIt is Liberal Democrat policy to hold a referendum on the terms of Brexit, but I think it is clear from reading Article 50 and the High Court judgment that once we have notified the European Council that we are leaving there is no method to stop us leaving.

Article 50 of the Treaty reads:

  1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
  2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
  3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 42 Comments

Can the Liberal Democrats provide a vision for Britain that the disaffected can support?

A few weeks ago Liberal Democrat Voice published an article by Lord William Wallace entitled Could Trumpland reach Britain in which William Wallace argued that we need to firstly “pay more attention to ‘the bottom third’ of society.” He identified that “what used to be called ‘the white working-class’ has deserted the Democrats in the USA” and spoke of the rise of Marine le Pen in France and UKIP in Britain.

Lots of liberals talk of the rise of inequality over the last 30 or so years. However few if any talk of the major causes of this – firstly the rejection of managing the economy to provide full employment where everyone will have a job. Some people talk of their experience in the 1960’s and 70’s by saying you could hand in your notice on a Friday and within a week you would have a new job and some would say by Monday or Tuesday they would have started their new job.

Secondly the increase in the mobility of labour. In Britain we have seen this most clearly from the 2004 EU enlargement, but in worked in favour of British building workers in the 1980’s who went to West Germany as in “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet

Posted in News | Tagged and | 25 Comments

Opinion: A radical, liberal vision

Liberal democratsNick Clegg has set out his Liberal vision and I think it is inadequate as I see his vision as mainly about pursuing less pure liberal economic policies and education. Education policy has been a big part of our appeal. A penny on income tax for improvements to education was a good policy. It resulted in the Labour government putting a penny on National Insurance to pay for improvements to education. The pupil premium in 2010 has been implemented by the Coalition government. However we shouldn’t reply on education policy …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments
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Recent Comments

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    The Layfield Commission on Local Government Finance (Layfield Committee, 1976) came to the view that there should be major changes in the financing of British...
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 23rd Feb - 1:18am
    A harrowing tale of real distress for these parents, Kirsten. I echo your conclusion that " We need a joined-up approach to disability provision –...
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 23rd Feb - 1:00am
    Keynes did offer us some advice on how best to manage the public finances. To find out what is was it is best to go...
  • User AvatarJoeB 23rd Feb - 12:28am
    Layla, as she so often does gets to the heart of the issue in saying " the idea that university should be free for everyone...
  • User AvatarAndrew McCaig 23rd Feb - 12:27am
    nonconformistradical I said "people who did not pay fees". That is everyone who went to university before 1998. Lots of people. I did not say...
  • User AvatarRoland 23rd Feb - 12:26am
    Germany has managed to abolish tuition fees as they weren’t working for the economy. And they are also finding that having abolished them, that also...