Author Archives: Bill le Breton

A Canterbury Tale

Jonathan Calder reports that the local Lib Dems have been told to halt the selection of their Parliamentary Candidate amid speculation that Central Command may be holding back certain selections awaiting high profile arrivals into the Party.

But he ends his piece, “You have to be an optimist to see Canterbury as a Lib Dem candidate target. But politics is in such  flux at the moment, who knows?”

I am an optimist in these matters and took up the challenge to make a case for our team in Canterbury.

It is inconceivable that Lib Dems can be strong contenders in such unlikely seats if we look at them through the lens of the 2017 results .  

But there are certain criteria that need to be appreciated.  These dark horses will have a strong LD vote in 2010 – the last time the Party fought elections at a similar rating in national opinion polls.

They will have evidence of a latent significant UKIP and Brexit Party (BP) level of support and a chunky Labour vote with plenty of remainers in it.

The voting across the constituency in the 2019 Euros will show strong support for the Party and for the BP.

And there will be a couple of knowledgeable campaigners steeped in community campaigning with a handful or more of councillors or former councillors.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 25 Comments

Here’s to the crazy 7.4%

In 1997, Steve Jobs returned to Apple having been ‘ousted’ a decade before.  In that time the famous ‘Mac’ hadn’t progressed.  Microsoft’s Windows had caught up and overtaken it.  Sales were down 30% year-on-year. It was haemorrhaging cash and talent. There were no new products in the pipeline. Speaking to staff Jobs explained, “There are a lot of great people at Apple, but they’re doing the wrong things because the plan has been wrong.”

“I think you still have to think differently to buy an Apple computer. The people who buy them do think different. They are the creative spirits in this world, and they’re out to change the world. We make tools for these kinds of people.”

Isn’t he describing the 2.35 million who voted Lib Dem in 2017 and how they feel about themselves?  So here’s his advice to us, “We too are going to think differently and serve the people who have been buying our products from the beginning. Because a lot of people think they’re crazy, but in that craziness we see genius.”

We’ve all met them haven’t we? The people who voice support for us in their communities, in their workplaces, in the pub, among their friends, on line. Their endorsement makes us smile with a quiet satisfaction because we have done and said those things too. We too have been lone voices – crazy ones.

We too make tools for these kinds of people; information and campaigns for those who want to take and use power in their communities.  Who want to change the world. Tools that help them achieve things they didn’t know they could achieve or even knew that they needed to achieve.

Posted in News | 86 Comments

The future and practice of garage politics

Oh no! Here we go again – another year, another leader.  Still we cling, the drowning man, to a way of doing politics that is so very Noughties or perhaps even very Nineties – Eighteen Nineties even.

In response to the 2010/15 disaster we  devised a Board, which is frankly very ‘grown up’ but totally unimaginative in the light of the huge alteration to our reputation, status and standing, as well as being culturally inappropriate to Liberalism.

WANTED:  a politics for the 2020s or even the 2030s, shipped today.

We need to predict the future.   “Hey, if you want to predict the future, make it”?

Good advice. Who said that?

Steve Jobs.

You see, in 2015, I began to wonder how Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX would approach the problems we had.  Watch Musk on some wicked issues here.

People like Musk and Jobs disrupt entrenched thinking. That’s what we need.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 32 Comments

Finding our way again

What was it like becoming an activist in 1978? Well, you were given a bundle of newspapers to deliver. No change since then apparently?  You might also be lent a copy of The Theory and Practice of Community Politics, which you thought about, discussed and, importantly, set about acting upon in all the communities to which you belonged.

Neither the people who had developed this new form of Liberalism and fought for the Party to accept it, nor those who followed this theory and practice in the 80s and 90s, would have thought  that forty years later they would be accused of having no values or philosophy and of just callously saying anything to get elected, which is how this kind of activism is attacked today.

The idea of Community Politics was to create a movement.  It was sufficient in many areas to campaign directly in the many communities to which people belong, at work, at home, in their neighbourhoods and in wider non-geographically based communities.  But it also adopted a second avenue (in what was called the Dual Approach) which was to seek election to councils and parliaments where policy could be changed so as to help achieve the central objective – which was to help people take and use power in their communities.

Our philosophy went back to Mill and especially to T.H. Green and from him to the New Liberals.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 76 Comments

Opinion: How power can now shift from Whitehall to Westminster


The 2015 Parliament could witness the greatest transfer of power from the Executive (and Whitehall) to the Legislature (and the people’s elected representatives in the House of Commons) in the history of our countries.

Tony Greaves has written here and here seeking to explore how this Parliament might operate.

It takes me back to an afternoon in Winchester in 1986. Hampshire County Council, run by Tories for over 100 years, is about to set its budget. The Tories, until that morning, have the slimmest of majorities, thanks to the Chair’s casting vote, but news swishes through the corridors of County Hall – a Tory has said he will not vote for the Tory Leader of the Council’s budget.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 42 Comments

Opinion: The First Rule of Campaigning

pensionsWe wake today to news that the Government is planning Dutch-style collective pension schemes which the minister of state for pensions,the Liberal Democrat Steve Webb, says are “some of the best in the world”. The proposed legislation will include the previously announced removal of tax rules that have prevented pensioners taking more than a quarter of their savings in a cash lump sum.

OK, there is no need for switch off. This piece is not going to be about pensions.  It is about campaigning and in particular about integrated campaigning. The subject has been chosen purely at random.  It is Monday. What has a Liberal Democrat minister announced today?  Ah! Pensions.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 31 Comments

Opinion: Sustaining the Recovery

A year ago to the day, here on LDV, I called the turn in the UK economy. We had experienced a double dip recession (later confirmed) and everyone was battening down the hatches for an unprecedented triple dip.

I wrote then in praise of Chancellor Osborne who the day before had authorized a briefing of two Financial Times journalists. Under the title Osborne to Hand Carney New Powers, they had written, ‘George Osborne’s Budget, will pave the way for Mark Carney, incoming Bank of England governor, to come to the rescue of the economy as …

Posted in Op-eds | 19 Comments

Opinion: Son of Plan A – why are we supporting?

Economic policy is always a mixture of fiscal, monetary and political policy.

“Nick, George has come up with another of his jolly good wheezes. You remember that Plan A malarkey ..?”

Well, dear reader, you do remember Plan A, don’t you?

Eliminate the deficit by 2015; keep fingers crossed Expansionary Fiscal Contraction (EFC) works; use a 20:80 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts; provide monetary stimulus; flush out the Labour Party, and keep Vince and the ‘SDPers’ in their box.

Well, it put a spanner in the recovery-works and, with no sign of EFC or King’s stimulus working, it was pretty soon shelved …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 29 Comments

Opinion: 2014 – What’s next?

Steve Richards suggests Nick Clegg, as a pluralist in the Blair tradition and as a sincere and patriotic person, will be open to an agreement with either the Tories or Labour if a balanced Parliament results in 2015.

Clegg is a pluralist, a pragmatic, a believer in good management as good politics and as such sincerely believes that Liberal Democrats in Government are beneficial to the county’s future.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 30 Comments

Opinion: Half an hour that changed the future

Yesterday, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced it would reduce or ‘taper’ its level of QE acquisitions from $85 billion a month to $75 billion. In the physical world it was not a touch on the break so much as a slight easing of pressure on the accelerator.

Back in September the FOMC had announced it thought the time for ‘tapering’ was at hand. Long term interest rates (a window on future expectation for growth and inflation) veered up and down as markets tried to gauge the warring claims of the liquidity, income and expectation effects. No clarity: US stock …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 23 Comments

Opinion: “Freedom is a Word I Rarely Use Without Thinking”

A letter originating from the Leader’s Office on Liberal Principles has provoked some much needed discussion on this subject. For example, this opinion piece from Paul Connolly received a warm welcome.

But it seems odd to discuss Liberalism without ever mentioning directly power.

There been a few mentions of that awful concept of ‘empowerment’ which is so deeply ‘illiberal’ and yet seen as a badge to be worn by post 1997 ‘liberals’.

To ‘empower’ is to allocate power. It is in the first instance the acceptance of the taking of power from people and to ‘reallocate it’. It is a fundamentally …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 19 Comments

Opinion: The Bank of England’s Independence – the Law

Political RavishmentAccording to the Independent, Nick Clegg wants to take on the ‘left’ in his Party.

In doing so he accuses the Social Liberal Forum’s amendments to the economics motion as “ending the Bank of England’s independence by ordering it to do more to create jobs” and “tearing up the fiscal mandate.”

Let’s deal with the first accusation. The 1998 Bank of England Act granted the Bank independence to set interest rates. That is instrument independence. However, the remit for the Bank is set by the government and so The Bank does not have goal independence, it takes its goals each Spring from the Government.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 17 Comments

Syria: A Reply to Stephen Tall

Stephen, as an internationalist you should applaud and accept the outcome of the democratic House of Commons last night. Do not be ashamed. Be proud. Do not be dismayed. Be hopeful.

The biggest destroyer of lives and life chances is anarchy. Anarchists work to bringing the whole house down. That is their objective. The rule of law is anathema to them.

I quoted earlier in the week, Gavrilo Princip, whose assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austrian precipitated the loss of 21 million lives and, if you see the Second World War, the Cold War and the dominance of Stalin as a …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Tagged | 28 Comments

Opinion: Increasing Spending on British Stuff

The Federal Conference Committee this week selected for debate this autumn a motion on Strengthening the UK Economy ghost written for the leader by his special advisers.

It calls on the Coalition to do seven things. The first six are laudable but the seventh: “(to) monitor closely the progress of the Bank of England against its refocused mandate in order to ensure that monetary policy is focussed on aiding growth” is a missed opportunity.

This is a time when Liberal Democrats could and should express an alternative to the Conservative/Treasury policy referred to above which Osborne announced in the Budget.

The …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments

What Japan did while we were sleeping

"2 x inflation in 2 years, 2 x monetary base, 2 x amount bonds purchased" “2 x inflation in 2 years, 2 x monetary base, 2 x amount bonds purchased”The overnight news yesterday from the Bank of Japan spelt out its serious intent to double the monetary base – the type of monetary easing, a l’outrance, that I have been arguing for at LDV, and elsewhere, for a number of years now.

The announcement followed the declaration back in November by the then leader of Japan’s opposition that when elected he …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 38 Comments

No braking at Gambon – a monetary policy guide for petrolheads

If you had to choose a person from the following list, and only this list, to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, would you choose James May, Jeremy Clarkson or Richard Hammond? Tough choice, but go on: indulge me!

The last time I wrote here, I predicted that the Quad had reached a turning point on monetary policy. I did this not on the evidence of Vince Cable’s New Statesman article, but on a report in the Financial Times that Osborne was set to change the regime imposed on the Bank of England.

Well, …

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

Opinion: 7th March 2013: The turning point.

You will have woken this morning to news that Vince Cable has launched a Plan C or Plan Cable featuring a ‘Keynesian’ stimulus centred around borrowing (at the current low rates that the Government can borrow) to fund infrastructure projects.  But as usual the media is doing the country a grave disservice.

It is an historic day filled with possibility, but to understand the full pregnancy of the position you will need to go beyond the crude headlines of crude Keynsianism and read Cable’s full article When the Facts Change, Should I Change My Mind.

But you will also …

Posted in News | 26 Comments

Opinion: Bullseye banzai

In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d do my own Mid-Term Review and not keep it secret.

Back on the 14th November 2012, I wrote a piece for LDV on how Shinzo Abe, the clear favourite to become Japan’s next PM, was telling the Bank of Japan to deliver 3% growth in the money measure of GDP (NGDP) on pain of having its independence withdrawn. NGDP in Japan had been virtually static for twenty years – a sort of Great Stagnoflation.

How’s Mr Abe doing just eight weeks on? Well, he’s Prime Minister, he’s told the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 39 Comments

Opinion: Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with ordinary exploited people

The McCanns, the Dowlers, and the Gurkhas threatened with deportation are ordinary people thrown into exceptional situations, their lives tossed from one side to the other not just by fate but, like ‘cargo’, to be exploited for cash and credit by the powerful and the acquisitive.

Liberal Democrats in general and Nick Clegg in particular have always been at their best when standing shoulder to shoulder with ordinary people against a conniving, power-hoarding Establishment, be that Fleet Street, corrupt local officials, or self serving bureaucracies. That was the message that connected him to a huge audience watching the first …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 14 Comments

“Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!”*

Enough is enough. In the face of soaring national debt, the Liberal Democrat leader has this week called for the Central Bank to be made less independent to pave the way for more aggressive and unlimited monetary easing, a dramatic relaxation of the inflation target accompanied by a major public works programme and a supplementary budget.

Great news! The tragedy is that the Liberal Democrat leader in question is not Nick Clegg speaking on the eve of the Autumn Spending statement, but Shinzo Abe, Leader of the Japanese Liberal Democrats, launching his general election campaign which he is tipped to win. And the reaction of those dreaded markets? Positive – rising 4-5% as other world

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Opinion: Will Special Branch be knocking on the Old Lady’s door?

Today three reports have been published into the operations of the Bank of England. None of these pose the killer question: why, when for month after month in 2008 the UK’s Gross Domestic Product in money terms (the NGDP) fell from its stable long term annual growth rate of +5% to -5% a year, did the Monetary Policy Committee stubbornly maintained the Bank’s interest rate at 5%?

This excellent blog by Britmouse details, details the quarterly falls in NGDP and the inertia of the Bank which has the power to set the level of aggregate demand in the economy.

It is …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

Opinion: Mind the gap – a sceptical view of the need for cuts

The UK’s economic position has deteriorated, government revenues are lower and welfare expenditure higher than anticipated, worsening the deficit so that austerity must continue further into this decade. Because of this deterioration a combination of increased taxes or cuts must be identified in the Autumn Spending Statement in December.

That is the orthodox view. It is based on the generally accepted proposition that the structural deficit should be eliminated. This has set off widespread debate as to whether the increased scale of the structural deficit should be eliminated by increased taxes (such as a Mansion Tax) or expenditure reductions and where these should be identified, with the Conservatives placing welfare cuts at the top of their agenda.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 25 Comments

Opinion: An open letter to Ryan Coetzee, Nick Clegg’s new head of strategy

Dear Ryan,

Congratulations on your new job. Welcome to the ‘family’ of UK Liberal Democrat activists and campaigners. You arrive at a critical moment.

But the Liberal Party and its successors have been here before. In the General Election of 1951 we fielded just 100 candidates and only 6 of these were elected.  In the Euro elections of 1989, the Liberal Democrats polled just 6.2%.

Our revivals in each case – in the Seventies and the Nineties – were built on an emerging development of Liberalism and its expression in a style of campaigning that sought to help people take and use power …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 38 Comments

Opinion: New World Economics

Bloomberg flickered on the screen as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, set out his policy before the world’s press:

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate the Committee agreed today to increase policy accommodation by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month.

That’s open-ended Quantitative Easing (QE) to you and me; monetary stimulus a l’outrance designed to expand the money base until unemployment drops below 7% or PCE (personal consumption expenditure) core inflation increases above 3%.

In …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments

Opinion: Why a referendum on second chamber reform would be good for the party

The Liberal Democrats built their electoral success on the three ‘Cs’: Concentrate, Communicate and Campaign. The campaigning zeal of the Party took us from a handful of councillors and a few MPs dotted around the Celtic fringe in the mid ‘Seventies to a truly national party, with over 3,500 councillors, 60MPs, power and influence in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, power and influence in over 150 councils, from Newcastle to Newquay, Liverpool to Islington.

Campaigning is the life blood of the movement we endeavour to create around the drive to seize and redistribute power. We do this by the simple means of helping people to take and use their power in their communities. Campaigning succeeds by involving people beyond the party in our campaigns. It energies and strengthens communities and nurtures the tolerance that comes from understanding others and identifying the common causes that link us. These common causes centre upon the injustice stemming from subjection to illegitimate power – be that banks that gamble with our money and provide shocking service, supermarkets that drive farmers to ruin and fix prices or bureaucrats who entangle citizens in red tape and restrict people’s opportunities.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 41 Comments

Opinion: It’s time for a change in monetary policy

A few years ago my son got a clock for Christmas. It functions anti-clockwise. One o’clock is on the left of twelve. Five to one is really five past one. Are you with me?

The thing is, you have to change completely the way you read and interpret the data on the clock face.

The Coalition leadership is proud of its management of the economy because it sees the interest rates on gilts historically low and continuing to fall. It reads this as a sign that ‘the markets’ have confidence in its stewardship of UK plc.

But suppose they are reading the clock …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 23 Comments

Opinion: Clutching at straws

I have spent the day clutching at a couple of straws.

Last week in the tractor factory Nick Clegg appeared to confuse the ‘deficit’ with the National Debt when he said, “We have a moral duty to the next generation to wipe the slate clean for them of debt. We have set out a plan – it lasts about six or seven years – to wipe the slate clean to rid people of the deadweight of debt that has been built up over time.”

It sounded like a fail in GCSE Economics. But suppose he wasn’t mistaking the policy to eliminate the structural deficit by 2017 for a moral crusade to wipe the slate clean by removing the deadweight of the National Debt, all £1,300 billion of it.

At the other end of my straw was the realisation that Nick Clegg might have become an extreme Market Monetarist and was revealing his plan to re-establish Nominal GDP back to its trend line, even if that meant buying in the whole of the National Debt in the mother of all quantitative easing exercises.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 34 Comments

Opinion: Austerity and defying the Laws of gravity

“It’s ideology, stupid.” – a subtext to the Queen’s Speech

On Five Live a bond trader says that austerity isn’t working and the government should be more expansionary. In Wake Up to Money a fund manger says that austerity has been overdone and it’s time for countries like Germany and Britain to borrow more.

Yet on Tuesday’s Today programme, David Laws continued to advocate austerity.

It is more and more apparent that ‘economics’ is being used to serve the ideology of a smaller State, damning the idea that the State should have different responsibilities at different times, especially when the private sector is …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 31 Comments

Opinion: Time for women, grey hairs and drastic action

In an email to members, ALDC’s Tim Pickstone wrote, “Winning elections as a Liberal Democrat is never easy … Winning those elections when you’re also in Government is even harder.”

Well Tim, what you say is true, but if we console ourselves with these thoughts we are doomed to become a party which, like the Saxons of Hereward the Wakes’s time, is holed up in a few isolated corners and crevices of the land, where our flag is carried by an MP and a council group, well resourced, skilled and of sufficient mass to evade destruction, but unable to link up …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 79 Comments

Opinion: Brand values

There have been a couple of posts recently on where campaigning ideas should come from and whether those campaigns can be directed centrally, first from Scott Hill and then from Robin McGhee And another, which I refuse to link to because it does not appear to publish comments, mocked us for our backwardness in brand management.

Campaigning and not policy is the life blood of Liberal Democrat politics. A policy however right or valuable is inanimate. A campaign establishes connections and energizes movement. That is perhaps why you cannot chose for Liberal Democrats THE campaign they should be waging in March in 2012 or in any other month for that matter. That was the lesson I learnt when an acting Chief Executive of ALDC in the late 1980s.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 19 Comments

Recent Comments

  • David LG
    @Nonconformistradical We shouldn't be completely wrighting off seats like this one. If things don't get any better for the Tories it's possible that the anti ...
  • Russell
    Just listened to Friday's the newsagents pc on Rochdale election. All parties got a mention except Liberal Democrats...
  • Nonconformistradical
    "Henfield is outside the Horsham constituency." Indeed - it's in Arundel & South Downs - a no-hoper. We're usually 2nd but a very long way behind the tory....
  • Katharine Pindar
    @ Simon R. I don't know what party you can support, Simon, but I do observe that the Conservatives have made a poor shot of growing the economy, for all their y...
  • Nonconformistradical
    @Graham Jeffs The local authority / constituency boundary problem will be around until there is wholesale reform of our fossilised political system. In some ...