Author Archives: Mike Tuffrey

Green Book is back!

LDV readers with long memories will know that ten years ago a group of us published The Green Book – New Directions for Liberals in Government.  We were urging the LibDems to adopt an approach to social and economic policy that put centre stage the need to preserve the natural world on which society and economy depends for its health, wellbeing and prosperity.

We’re back – and this time with a podcast series where external experts and party insiders explore the major challenges now facing the UK.  Future sessions on Green Book Pod will tackle climate change and then Europe, with more hot topics next year. Our first, launching our series later this month, focuses on the economic challenge.

Here’s a short trailer about the series and announcing our guests for the economics podcast:


Of course, since we published the original book a decade ago, the political context has changed radically … Britain’s exit from the European Union, the rise of populist and polarising forces here and elsewhere, the accelerating climate crisis, growing inequality, and much else.

Our belief remains, however, that there is a massive opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to set out an agenda for making a real difference – but only by identifying innovative, radical and robust solutions with realistic strategies to deliver them.  Our hope is this podcast series will help inform the party’s manifesto process too.

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Brighton debate: Good Jobs, Better Businesses, Stronger Communities

Roll up, roll up – take your seats.  Monday afternoon of conference week in Brighton brings a debate on proposals for creating a new economy, one that really works for everyone in Britain.  As the party “demands better”, this forward-looking plan shows how we can tackle the root causes of our current dysfunctional economy and to provide real content to our campaigning on that central political issue of “the economy, stupid” (as Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist inelegantly put it).

The debate on Motion F28 – Good Jobs, Better Businesses, Stronger Communities – is your chance to accept, reject, amend or better still improve upon the ideas contained in the FPC’s paper of the same name, available to download here.  Do have a good read in advance, there’s a lot of great content to digest.  

On this site, Katharine Pindar has already helpfully examined it  through the lens of how Labour voters might see us, as an alternative to Corbynomics.

Developed over two years through our deliberative policy-making process, the package of proposals had a longer gestation period even than an African bush elephant: the working group (which I co-chaired with Julia Goldsworthy until she was appointed to a politically restricted job) took evidence and consulted widely, and then had to pause for Theresa May’s ill-fated snap general election. 

Our original consultation paper back in 2017 set out the challenges we had identified in creating a more prosperous and sustainable economic future for Britain in the 21st century – low productivity, new technologies, changing demographics, the folly of Brexit, resource depletion, rising inequalities, a trends towards ever bigger companies and reduced competition, and much more.  Despite this depressing back-drop, we said Liberal Democrats are inherently optimistic and should embrace the potential of change and of the big economic shifts that we saw coming.  We should not retreat, we argued, either to the little Britain ‘drawbridge economy’ envisaged by post-Brexit Conservatives or to Labour’s ‘big government knows best’ 1970s style siege economy.

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Now is the time…. to come to the aid of the party


Most of us are still coming to terms with the general election, but democracy waits for no disappointed politician. Straight away in London we must get candidates in place for the May 2016 elections to the Greater London Authority.

Adverts have just been published for selection to London Mayor and London Assembly list (11 members) and constituencies (14 members). The timetable is tight to get a mayoral candidate and list members in the field by early September, as the other parties are doing, with the constituencies running in parallel.

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Conference: Nuclear power – the raw politics

SizewellWill the Lib Dems ditch their historic opposition to nuclear power? That debate is set to be one of the main flashpoints at the Glasgow conference. New polling evidence – published here for the first time – shows the outcome will affect support among key voter groups – ‘our market’, as the jargon goes – with all that means for key seats and the overall result of the next election.

Of course the debate itself will be about technical details: how nuclear technology can be called safe when no solution has yet been found for waste that remains lethally radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years; whether the promise of no public subsidy can be true if Brussels has to approve funding guarantees as “state aid”; and how renewables will ever gain critical mass if the high costs of nuclear crowds out resources and public funding for newer technologies?

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

The Green Book – new directions for Liberals in government

green-bookYesterday saw the launch of a book project that I’ve been working on with colleagues over the last year. Between us, we persuaded 27 authors to put pen to paper and say what should be in a programme for government, one that’s fit for the world we live in today. Some 70 people from business, NGOs, academia, think-tanks and political parties joined us in Westminster for the launch.

Our choice of the title “Green Book” is a very conscious nod towards the Orange Book of a decade ago and indeed Lloyd George’s Yellow Book – really authored by John Maynard Keynes – 85 years ago. Last week I wrote how times have changed since then.

Each author has a specific point of view but all were united in saying we can’t go on as we are, both as a country and as a party. As editors, we were clear that the LibDems are now a party of national government; we need a programme to put before the voters that’s frank about the challenges Britain faces: the first industrialised nation that has largely exhausted its natural resources and now has to compete for energy, food and raw materials with the burgeoning economies of India, Brazil and China.

Posted in Books, News and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

Yellow, orange, green… time for new book, and a different approach

Back in 1928, publication of The Yellow Book – the report of a party inquiry “Britain’s Industrial Future” – provided the basis for Lloyd George’s 1929 general election programme “We can conquer unemployment!”. It put the party firmly in the camp of an interventionist economic strategy, with John Maynard Keynes as its intellectual lodestar. With the Great Depression ranging, the party firmly rejected laisser-faire liberalism.

Come 2004 and the Orange Book -subtitled Reclaiming Liberalism and edited by David Laws and Paul Marshall – challenged what some were calling nanny-state liberalism. It promoted choice and competition and argued that the Liberal Democrats …

Posted in Books, News and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 8 Comments

Opinion: The making of a manifesto – why this time it’s about gut instinct, not policies

The days of being the ‘nice party’ – the all-things-to-all-people party – are well and truly over. Sharing in government has seen to that. Thankfully, contributors at the Lib Dem Voice fringe meeting in Brighton, about the next manifesto, were commendably realistic. Discussion focused on suggestions for new signature policies, like a penny on tax for education of yesteryear or (say it softly) tuition fees last time.

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 32 Comments

Opinion: Good news on affordable housing, but spare me the house builders’ crocodile tears – their share prices have doubled

Winning an extra £300m from the Treasury for affordable housing and tackling empty homes is good news by any standard (well done, Andrew Stunell, and thanks for all you did at DCLG). Moving forward on the £10 billion government guarantees for infrastructure spending is positive too. And if the Montague Review to encourage private renting is implemented, that’s proof patience can be rewarded…. I spent ten years on the London Assembly calling for both Labour and Conservative mayors to act. Back in June I had put housing at the heart of a four-point plan for a sustainable recovery. So it is great to see this issue come to the fore.

But forgive me for not believing the crocodile tears from developers about how they can’t afford to start work on ‘commercially unviable’ sites. The Times just revealed they’ve been quietly squirreling away land banks big enough for a quarter of a million homes. Not unviable, so much as slightly less massively profitable. Just look at their share prices. They’ve doubled over the last year even before the boost this announcement gave them (Taylor Wimpey up from 30p to 54p; Barratt up from 76p to 150p; Persimmon up from 425p to 700p). Yes, doubled. Not bumping along the bottom, like the rest of the economy.

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Opinion: Nothing to fear but fear itself

Mike Tuffrey seeks inspiration from Roosevelt in advocating a four point plan for a sustainable economic recovery.

With all the depressing news about the economy, I can recommend a re-reading of the inaugural address of newly-elected President Franklin D Roosevelt, given in the depths of the Depression on March 4, 1933. Aside from his well-known call to arms against fear itself, he did a nice (and topical) line in banker-bashing too: “Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men”.

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged | 7 Comments

Opinion: Learning lessons from London – two and half quick reflections

Let’s start with the facts….

  • Overall turnout was down to 38%, from 45% last time.
  • Two Liberal Democrat Assembly members elected, compared to three in 2008 and five in 2004.
  • Mayoral vote was 92,000 (4.2% – and deposit lost), compared to 236,752 (9.8%) in 2008.
  • Our Assembly list vote was 150,447 (6.8% – just over the threshold), against 275,272 (11.4%) in 2008.
  • The Greens “pushed the Lib Dems into fourth place”: actually their Assembly vote flat-lined at 8.5%, although their Mayoral vote was up a bit, from 3.2% to 4.5%.

First off, a big thank you to Brian Paddick, his brilliant deputy Caroline Pidgeon, and the …

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

Mike Tuffrey AM writes… The question I asked top London Tory: “Is there anything you would not privatise?”

“Is there anything you would not privatise?” That was the question I asked Brian Coleman, the controversial chair of London’s Fire Authority — a public body which sadly is in the grip of an ideologically-driven Conservative administration thanks to shameless gerrymandering by London’s Tory mayor Boris Johnson and unelected political appointees.

My question to him was prompted by the Tories’ current plans to privatise the London fire 999 emergency control room.

Mr Coleman’s answer? It was a bald and brazen “No”: there’s nothing he wouldn’t try to privatise if he could.

It’s true that in the London fire service …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Mike Tuffrey writes… Policing: not just a numbers game

On the streets of Tottenham, Croydon, Clapham, Hackney and Ealing, we saw what happens when adequate numbers of trained police are not deployed at the right time and in the right way.

And we heard how numbers on the streets were subsequently boosted from 3,000 to 16,000 only by drafting in back-up from neighbouring forces. In fairness, it must be said that riot control is very hazardous and officers must have the right training before they are deployed.

Yet Londoners can still be forgiven for wondering where all the police are, that they’ve been persuaded to pay for in higher council taxes.

Go …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Mike Tuffrey writes… London isn’t working – and the Mayor is asleep on the job

Today 397,000 Londoners are unemployed and looking for a job. As a region, we have the lowest level of skills in the workforce, based on NVQ Level 1 and above. And the problems are getting worse, as we fail to recover fast enough from the cardiac arrest that Labour’s last years in office dealt to the national economy.

Not a pretty picture for our great capital city, powerhouse (so we keep saying) of the whole UK economy.

In fact, weren’t the Olympics meant to help drive forward our economy? A couple of news stories from July sum up for me what’s wrong …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Mike Tuffrey writes… The Big Switch: turning London’s buses and taxis electric

Rudolf Diesel has a lot to answer for. The compression engine he invented has become the great workhorse of heavy duty vehicles like the buses, taxis and vans which fill our streets. But the nasty side effect of diesel fuel is fine particulate exhaust emissions that are creating a major health crisis. Tiny particles get deep into the lungs, causing thousands of premature deaths and a big increase in ill health.

The biggest culprit in central London, where the health problems are most acute? Yes, buses, taxis …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 12 Comments

Mike Tuffrey writes… My kinda campaign … working towards success in 2014

Ol’ blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, used to sing about “My kinda town…” Rest assured, I won’t be singing. But let me tell you about London – my town – and the kind of campaign I intend to run as our candidate to be Mayor of London.

The test of success in the 2012 campaign isn’t just the number of votes we win in the Mayor contest – it is how many Assembly members we get elected and how many councillors, councils and MEPs we get elected in 2014.

Our very best London-wide campaigning in the past – such as that led …

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

Mike Tuffrey writes… Housing: time to think big on the supply-side

Even a cursory look at the state of housing in London instantly shows that something is profoundly wrong. Rents outside the social sector are racing ahead, up 17% last year. House prices defy the laws of gravity, up 5% despite national economic trends.

And the really scandalous thing is that it has been this way under both Mayors of London, with no sign of any fundamental change. That’s why I’ve been arguing we must focus above all else on getting the supply increased. Without that, solving the affordability question gets harder and harder: ever-rising housing and land costs means ever …

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

Opinion: The postcode lottery – why freedom to be different is a good thing

Few things are more likely to generate a round of applause at a public meeting than condemning the so-called postcode lottery. And of course random unfairness in the quality of a service – the ‘lottery’ aspect – is a bad thing, especially if people are paying the same but getting worse outcomes.

But what about difference – where one part of the country or one neighbourhood does things differently compared to another? What if it’s not a lottery but a choice?

And if people have freedom to do things differently and better, can we accept the risk they’ll not succeed and things …

Posted in Local government, London and Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Mike Tuffrey writes… Why I’m serious about London

Yesterday I launched my bid to be our party’s candidate for Mayor of London and I started as I mean to go on: working with a large team of experienced colleagues from across London (see photographs here) and talking about the urgent change our city needs.

As a campaigning party, we must focus – pun intended – on the really big concerns Londoners have about living in this city. And as our candidate, I want to work with our campaigners to get out and listen to those concerns and what must be done.

I believe that it is time for serious solutions to the big challenges we face if London is to remain a great city to live, work and raise a family in over the next decade. With new powers coming from central government, we need a GLA – Mayor and Assembly – that is ambitious for London.

At the launch I issued my five point action plan, based on my experience of eight years serving on the London Assembly. These are priorities than can – and must – be delivered:

  • More, better and cheaper housing
  • Investment in transport to keep London moving
  • Action for jobs and a challenge to big business to pay fair wages
  • Protecting neighbourhood policing and promoting youth opportunities
  • Clean air and a healthy London

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged and | 16 Comments

Boris Johnson’s funny money

With a year to go to the London Mayor and London Assembly elections a strange debate is underway about the huge part of London loosely described as “outer London”.

Remember the last election? One of the strongest attacks on Ken Livingstone was that he was just a “Zone One Mayor”. He was accused of having visited Havana more times than the London Borough of Havering. Three years on and the London Labour Party have decided that no speech, press release, letter or comment can go out without the words “outer London” repeated ad nauseam.

Posted in London | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Why David Cameron is right, Boris Johnson muddled and James Cleverly just plain wrong

Avid bloggers and observers of London politics might have noticed that James Cleverly, the Conservative Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley and Boris Johnson’s Ambassador for Youth, is intent on defending a muddled decision by Boris Johnson over vehicle emissions and in the process sought to criticise me and the Liberal Democrats.

Of course James is entitled to his own views but he’s wrong when he says there’s no evidence the Low Emission Zone is working. No lesser source than the Mayor has said (press release 2nd February): “…the Low Emission Zone has been successful in tackling the worst …

Posted in London | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Six months on, what shape is Boris Johnson’s mayoralty in?

Asked by Lib Dem Voice back in June what I was making of it all, I guessed that “careful news planning should carry him safely through the honeymoon period”. I warned that “he will need to articulate a coherent vision and develop an enthusiasm for the process of government if he is to be a successful and admired mayor of the greatest city in the world”. And I concluded that we didn’t yet know “what Boris Johnson really stands for nor how London will be different and better at the end of his four year mayoralty”.

Today that fundamentally remains …

Posted in London | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Boris Johnson – two months on

Just days after his May 1st victory, looking out from his 8th floor office across the skyline of our great capital city, Boris Johnson repeated to me his early days mantra – yes, I was elected as a Conservative, but I am now mayor of the whole of London and will govern for the whole of London. Don’t believe what my opponents said, was his message, I’m no rabid right-winger.

Assessing his progress two months on, that clearly remains his desired positioning. It’s significant that his first gaffe – the sacking of deputy chief of staff, James McGrath, over ill-judged (but …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

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