Author Archives: Peter Ellis

A new framework: Ideology and Values

A leading Lib Dem politician was kind enough to embrace ideas l advocate to use the existing housing stock to create affordable, social, market tenancies. As for societising the economy using new corporate form, quite correctly he pointed out that social enterprise exists already. Result, disappear into a cosy bunker and write about the politics of society and develop a coherent narrative of market societism, a free-market economy which operates for the common good. As l approach my final chapter l determined to keep my own counsel, until yesterday when l read an article by Daniel Finkelstein questioning the point of our party.

In his article, using at times inflammatory language, he accuses us of being an obstacle to the creation of a coherent alternative to the Conservative Party. I disagree profoundly with this assertion but he identifies a foundational issue, that to be successful a party has to “represent either a distinct ideology or a significant demographic group”.

We are a party of values but eschew ideology, understandably so and for good reasons; as the historian Thomas Bartlett wrote, our forbear party, the Liberal party was conceived in “gentler times”. Our ’gentle’, humane and considerate view of a fair and just society chimes with modern notions of well-being and an instinctive understanding of need and the common good.

The politics of society are those of collective well-being without sacrificing the significance of the individual. This is the ideology suited to our modernity, not driven by power and control.

As individuals, we may not be shareholders, we may not believe the state has all the answers but we are all members of society. This is our demographic, what is called the Centre ground of British politics. Our demographic is identifiable, everyone who values mutual interdependence and asserts collective rights,

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Homes within homes – a vital complementary approach to the housing crisis

Our reliance on new build to solve the housing crisis fails us. Walk through most new housing estates and you will discover cheaply constructed flats that are unsuitable for families and children or houses that are largely unaffordable, whose price is inflated by a shortage of supply and not by the cost of house building – but credit availability. New build comes at a huge environmental and social cost, with implications for the well-being of our communities. The conventional response is to set targets for new build, ones that are never met; a case of setting the wrong measure to drive the wrong policy. It ends with the disgrace of algorithms determining how we build communities.

Seen through a societal lens promoting the common good, exclusive reliance on new build is wrong. We need to seek complementary solutions, ones consistent with our core Lib Dem values, policies whose outcome is not determined by privately owned companies or the State.

Our largest, physical, social asset is our existing housing stock. By encouraging homeowners to create social tenancies, providing separate areas for living for tenants at affordable, freely negotiated, social rents we can increase the supply of homes. Social rents include the provision of household services: energy, council tax and water charges which become costs shared between homeowner who pays them and tenant through the rent they pay. There are no shared living areas, with homeowners and tenants only sharing access ways. By sharing services there is no cost for converting metered services keeping internal conversion works to a minimum, works that are reversible. Energy use becomes a shared resource. Every single house in the UK has the potential to provide what I refer to as a “home within a home”.

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An economy for society based on Lib Dem values

We are part of a wide fellowship in search of an intrinsically fairer economy and social outcomes. We stand explicitly for the ‘well-being of the individual’.

We are democrats. Democracy binds our society together, but struggles to do so when our day to day experience of economic life does not accord with our values of mutual support and well-being. A plural democratic society requires a plural economy and politics but we do not have either.

I founded a not-for-profit organisation advocating the use of our existing housing stock to create affordable tenancies, and identified it as an intervention to societise the housing market, correcting its imperfections (homeswithinhomes.org). I realised we need systemic change in favour of society and our common good, a system that co-exists with capitalism and statism in all its forms but is uniquely identifiable and attributable to a philosophy elevating collective values of equality.

These values will appeal to a significant part of the general population, they are core Lib Dem values. We are uniquely placed to give a voice to such market based, societal economic reform and by doing so can help develop a unique economic platform reflecting Lib Dem ideology, of equality and liberty, with l believe, mass electoral appeal.

Our economy developed during a period when there was no universal franchise, nor meaningful women’s or minority rights and little societal perspective. This history, based on outdated notions of ownership and control, of private share ownership on the one hand and state control of production on the other has driven us towards economic and political polarities; we have an economy that is not mixed enough.

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