Author Archives: Steven Duckworth

Why Fiscal Credibility Is Still Important

Piles of money. Photo credit: czbalazs - the many phrases that pepper the UK’s political discourse, the oft used ‘Magic Money Tree’ has to be the most grating. Its employment is a rhetorical device used to shut down any talk of government  spending by hawks who believe any movement away from a narrow focus on  cuts as a weapon for reducing the deficit  is not only ill-advised, but belongs to the realm of fairy tales. More sophisticated commentators know that macroeconomics is more complex than that and government spending can …

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What now for the centre?

‘When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame/One hasn’t got time for the waiting game’. So sang Frank Sinatra on September Song and it is hard not to mirror his impatience. In many ways the June general election was a disappointment for Liberal Democrats, but the way that politics has fragmented in the fallout from the vote does offer some points of reflection- not all of which are negative.

One theme of the summer was a revived interest in a new ‘centrist’ party that could lead the fight against Brexit. I’m sceptical about the need for another party, but it was interesting that few responded with the line ‘What about the Lib Dems’? As hard as it may be, Liberal Democrats have to face up to why- as a pro Remain and centrist party- they are not seen as a natural answer to this question.

A major problem for the Liberal Democrats is an inability to get a foot hold into the news cycle and its associated commentary and review platforms. The Liberal Democrats will need to start punching above their weight in order to get noticed and Vince Cable’s ‘I can be the next prime minister’ rhetoric was clever in this regard. The party also needs to stop feeling bashful about its role in the coalition government; much good was done and some mistakes were made, but owning it and being proud of that time and the good things achieved will be crucial.

One big opportunity for the Liberal Democrats is also a potential problem; namely Brexit. The party has managed to forge itself as the predominate political party opposing the UK’s exit from the European Union. While this did not result in an increase in votes at the last general election, there is good reason to believe this may change as the government’s handling of Brexit and the Labour Party’s mixed messaging starts to become apparent to the public. However there are two major negatives in the Liberal Democrat’s pro EU line. The first is the danger of being seen as a single issue party, there will need to be an offer to the public that goes well beyond the narrow arguments about the Brexit process. The second issue is that- after the financial crisis of 2008 and the following ‘austerity’- many voters see the EU as part of the ‘status quo’ that has seen people’s pay and opportunities diminish. Insisting the Liberal Democrats are the sensible and moderate party who oppose Brexit may well reinforce the view that we are the ‘business as usual’ party. 

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