Back to radical

A Radio 4 pre-election programme featured a ‘focus group’ which described the Lib Dems as “irrelevant” and “wishy-washy”. They were neither ‘left’, nor ‘right’, but somewhere lost in the middle. The Benny Hill tune was suggested as an appropriate Party theme.

This and the election result may be a distortion of the true representation of what the majority of people think, but for too many the Lib Dems are seen as stuck ‘hey-diddle-diddle-in-the-middle’ of nowhere, taking a little from both of the two major parties without constituting anything of great substance or profundity itself.

So, whatever the debate within the party might be about ‘centrist positioning’, for much of the electorate, Lib Dem positioning has little ‘relevance’; at best it insinuates a willingness to join a party coalition, and we know what a disaster that can be.

We have to overcome this and get redefined or ‘repositioned’ in the electorate’s minds; Liberal Democrats should not be seen as ‘in the middle’ at all, but a genuine third way. A radical third way.

Lib Dems alone are the party that genuinely puts ’people’, as individuals, at the centre of political thinking and within the dynamic of the broader needs of society (while recognising the role of both the free market and of government).

Lib Dems are the party of ideas. Unrestrained by the dogma of left and right, free to explore the relationship between individuals and society and develop policies that benefit both.

Lib Dems have a proud history of political thinking that has had real impact in society.

Through Beveridge, the Welfare State and the NHS; the first widespread implementation of Council Houses; Workers’ rights.

With the dogma on offer from the Conservatives and Labour, there is an even greater need to offer a third way; to define a ‘new social liberal capitalism’. To bring a new generation of ideas to the fore. Ideas such as ‘universal basic income’ which are being discussed but which are not yet established as part of the dialogue between the Lib Dems and the electorate.

Radical thinking needs to be the tone of the discussion in UK politics and it needs to be directly associated with Liberal Democrats. We should not be shy to be a party of intelligence with a willingness to discuss, debate and propose ideas. Lib Dems are the only genuinely radical thinking party (with an historical pedigree to match!).

Furthermore, given the reality of the political system, Lib Dems should be bold as the party of government opposition; the country desperately needs an intelligent, constructive Opposition. It is as much a route to gaining support as is being a party that assumes an inevitable role in government.

The Liberal Democrats are the party of people, ideas, and progress. To be seen as such it should abandon the confines of ‘left’ and ‘right’ labels and adopt instead a ‘Radical’ stance to offer the country, and especially the new young voters, the opportunity to engage with new political ideas and aspirations.

* Chris Longstaff is a member of the Liberal Democrats

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52 Comments

  • Tobias Sedlmeier 19th Dec '19 - 4:46pm

    Until the early 2000s the LibDems were seen as having local roots and seeking to empower local communities and regions. The LibDems were seen as running local candidates and also being keen to devolve power away from Westminster towards more marginal communities. The LibDems were ahead of Labour in support for devolution to Scotland and Wales, and pushed for regional assemblies for English regions. The very large majority of LibDem MPs had to work hard to win their seat and stress local roots. Tim Farron (still) and Norman Lamb are more recent examples of that approach.

    For reasons that I don’t understand the LibDem leadership, especially under Swinson, became hugely centralist – overriding Northern Ireland’s devolution settlement and rejecting the right of the majority of Scotlands MPs/MSPs to call a referendum on independence. It was very jarring compared with the LibDem’s previous positioning.

  • Chris, I agree with the vast majority, and the tone of your article, but it’s gilding the lily to make much of “the first widespread implementation of Council Houses”.

    Yes, it’s true that after the First World War the Lloyd George’s Tory/Lib Coalition’s Housing Act of 1919 promised a lot. It did introduce subsidies for council house building and aimed to provide 500,000 “homes fit for heroes” within a three-year period – although less than half of this target was met. The Liberal Minister, Christopher Addison became so disillusioned that within two years he joined the Labour Party.

    The real progress was made under the first short lived Labour Government with John Wheatley’s 1924 Housing (Financial Provisions) Act…… over half a million houses were built.

    As in so many cases, Lloyd George talked a good game (when he wasn’t busy selling peerages) but as for the actualite ????

  • Can we have a definition of “radical”? Unfortunately I’ve seen this word (along with “progressive’) throw about a lot, and on scratching the surface, always find that this (and “progressive”) are code for socialist.

    For example it would be hugely radical to privatise the NHS. It would be hugely radical to cap JobSeekers allowance to just 3 months per year. It would hugely radical to charge payments for attending a state school. I’m sure none of these ‘radical’ proposals would be in the slightest bit appealing to Lib Dem advocates of being ‘radical’ (and rightly so), hence why a bit of substance to these popular political buzzwords would be helpful

  • Yeovil Yokel 19th Dec '19 - 5:14pm

    Perhaps we should re-name ourselves ‘The Third Way’.

  • Clive Rosendale 19th Dec '19 - 5:47pm

    Good article. Labour in England are going the way of Labour in Scotland leaving a massive opportunity for you. You need to clearly & positively define yourselves in relation to the Big-Business Tories. Perhaps an “intelligent and constructive” opposition might be a place to start from. You can’t have too many ‘clever’ or radical ideas because you will leave a huge group of people behind. It has to be comprehensible. One step at a time. I am a lapsed Tory voter looking for some constructive alternative.

  • How is this to be done. The press ignore the LibDems, see them as irrelevant. With only 11 MPs, they won’t get much time to be heard in Parliament. None of their MPs have much recognition with the general public. After the latest fiasco of leadership, can we really say the LibDems really put ‘people’as individuals. Seems to me that the last leader was caught up too much in party dogma to think much about the consequences of her actions for those who will bear the brunt of the Tory onslaught to come.

  • David Warren 19th Dec '19 - 6:25pm

    The future success of the party lies in positioning itself as what Grimond called ‘A progressive non socialist alternative to the Conservatives.’

    In constituencies like mine in West Sussex the Lib Dems are the principle opposition to the Tories a situation that is repeated in many more. Labour is pretty much an irrelevance in these areas.

    Radical policies, community politics and hard work can take us back to the position in the 2000s where we had 50 plus seats in parliament.

  • I agree with this article. I’m sad that people read radical and think “socialist”, maybe Corbyn was right when he claimed to have won the argument.

    -(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.

    When party members talk about “radical” they do of course mean radical and liberal. Socialism may be radical but it isn’t liberal.

    To privatise the NHS would be radical, it could also be liberal if it provided a high level of universal coverage and raised standards. Capping jobseekers allowance to 3 months wouldn’t be radical in my opinion nor would it be liberal. Charging payments for attending state school would be radical but it’s hard to see how it would be liberal. We’ve had talk of “voucher” systems for both education and healthcare that aimed to provide more “choice” but none really managed to gain widespread support.

  • Russ Kent. The problem is not being relatively unheard and unseen in the House of Commons. It is because in this country politics is seen 90%+ about Westminster, even though the overwhelming majority of elected politicians are elsewhere, in local authorities and other parliaments and assemblies. Ultimately “radicalism” has to be about replacing top-down with bottom-up. While George Monbiot writing in the Guardian can be somewhat irritating (he would take that as a compliment) in his piece yesterday he articulated a challenge along these lines which could be picked up by people in all the non-Conservative parties. We know that Liberalism is the antithesis of the populist, nativist, demagoguery represented by the likes of Trump, Johnson, Modi etc. but Monbiot offers a basis for fighting back.

  • nigel hunter 19th Dec '19 - 11:18pm

    Yes, the papers/media ignore us. We have to find a way of wining them over. Maybe by publicly using our leaflets NO BAR CHARTS (except where it is relevant) advertising our philosophy and policies and photos of our MPs nationally we could gradually become recognised.Again we have policies that ,in the past, due to us not ‘banging our drum’ in our lea. Labour talking on Land value Tax AND therefore getting the publicity. Tories talking about life long learning both getting the publicity. Our publicity is through our leaflets. Influencing voters should start from the bottom up.

  • I agree we should be a party which has policies which fundamentally change the nature of society, such as ending poverty in the UK, ensuring everyone in the UK who wants a job has one, ensuring that everyone who wants a home of their own has one (i.e. radical outcomes). (We would have to make clear why these three things are liberal.)

    New Labour and European Social Democracy in the 1990s and early 2000s was the Third Way.

    A universal basic income is a radical liberal policy, implementing it will cost lots of money, while increasing the benefit rates to the poverty line would cost less and actually raise out of poverty more people.

    Radical policies can only be adopted if both our Federal Policy Committee and Federal Conference Committee stop restricting or rejecting potential policies because how much they cost.

  • Radical does not mean sharp change of any kind. It means going back to our roots in order to then grow again and flourish in a way that fits in the current context. It means examining the purposes for which we exist. It then means working out from our roots, those stems of policies and methods of governance which are true to our basic values and purposes. Hence many policy approaches held by Tories or Socialists would not fit because they do not grow from our roots.
    One key purpose is to serve and enable all people to flourish in all their variety and diversity. Another is to establish within society sustainable attitudes and systems of care for people in all their variety and diversity and that people not be unnecessarily forced to conform. Another is to care especially for those who cannot flourish because they are disadvantaged by society and circumstances. Lots more to be said on this, of course.
    We must not be complacent and say we have got this right at the moment, hence the need to look again at our roots and see what stems of growth are needed in these new circumstances that we, the nation and the world faces. I would suggest that we need to do this now, before entering a period of finding a new leader.

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec '19 - 6:48am

    ” get redefined or ‘repositioned’ in the electorate’s minds; Liberal Democrats should not be seen as ‘in the middle’ at all, but a genuine third way.”

    How do you do that when you position yourself repeatedly against the majority public opinion on policy after policy. Where does this third way lead, clearly not to anywhere the electorate want to go.

    It is not rocket science, if you want majority public support then support the majority public view, to be honest that that doesn’t work with our politically engaged population by chucking a few quid at them to try and bribe then with what you think are their main concerns.

    The reality is you do not:

    Support(or even come close)to their position on our EU membership.
    Support (or even come close)to their position on controlled immigration.
    Support (or even come close) to their position on crime and punishment
    Support (or even come close) to their position on levelling the playing field by creating a devolved parliament for England.

    Etc, etc

    Radical means go to the root, or from the root, which in my world means listening to Jo public, I’m afraid your radical policies, if they materialise will have nothing to do with the view from the grass roots public , but will be simply policies that your ‘liberal values’ tell you to follow even if they are not popular.

    Their is nothing dishonourable in trying to sell your version of what the world should be like to the electorate, just as there is nothing right wing or left wing in the electorate telling you to shove it.

  • Peter Davies 20th Dec '19 - 8:02am

    Our policy making should be radical, going back to first principles to find the best solution. If that solution turns out to look a lot like what we have already, we should accept that and not try to find a different one just to differentiate ourselves.

  • Although I found posting by Chris interesting, and I cannot say I disagree with it I do think that something is missing. That something is resources especially money.
    I have followed the reports in the media for example of the money which the present prime minister managed to attract while he was campaigning to be party leader. They were substantial and would certainly pay for the expert advice he would need. Since then this flow of money has continued.
    We know about the resources that the Labour Party has. The attack on trade unions over the years has ensured that. We hear much less of the the other funding for those who want to imitate the Russian Federation.
    Parties are just collections of people. I do not believe that most people are interested in how parties position themselves. They are interested in what parties actually do. Of course we only know what we are told in the media as far as the national picture is concerned. Locally we know what parties do if they bother to tell us. Where our party has done this it has produced results. But there is a limit to the number of people who will be willing to make the sacrifices needed to organise for years to ensure their neighbours are in fact kept informed and involved.
    Nationally no party has yet, as far as I know, dealt with the problem of how to inform and involve people across the country.

  • I hope by “radical” we don’t mean “wacky”. We’ve in the past made some silly policies that might generate a few column inches at the time but make us look less than credible come election time.

    Sometimes you can do near everything right and not get the reward. At this election we were hugely hampered by fear of Corbyn and our disastrous Revoke policy. Plus the success of the “getting Brexit done” slogan – all of these conspired to squeeze our vote. Many people I feel were attracted to us, might have voted for us but did not. I hope we don’t retreat into becoming a silly small party with a few wacky ideas. I think we have a clear USP that can be built upon – the only party that has a strong social conscience but also a hard-nosed approach to the economy. I could add we’re the most open, liberal (of course), welcoming, internationalist party out there.

  • Phil Wainewright 20th Dec '19 - 10:53am

    I agree with the sentiment, but we must define radical. In my view our core philosophy is clear – we are the only party that believes in dispersing power back to individuals and communities. This is why we are neither right (wants to perpetuate the power of entrenched wealth) or left (wants to seize wealth and entrench collectivist power).

    All our policies and messaging, as far as possible, should be framed through this lens. We are not centrist, we want radical change – but in a way that respects the rights and aspirations of all.

  • I wonder if a good start might be deciding whether we are:
    (a) a party that exists to promote liberal values and polices, and makes a difference through influencing political debate and policies of the government of the day; or
    (b) a party that exists to get into government so that it can directly get some (diluted versions if in coalition) of its policies enacted.

    The electorate wants moderate and middle ground. It doesnt particularly want ‘radical’. We need to decide why we exist, what our best chance if electoral success is, and let that dictate how ‘radical’ we can be.

  • opwith Morley 20th Dec ’19 – 6:48am……….The reality is you do not:

    Support(or even come close)to their position on our EU membership.
    Support (or even come close)to their position on controlled immigration.
    Support (or even come close) to their position on crime and punishment
    Support (or even come close) to their position on levelling the playing field by creating a devolved parliament for England.
    Etc, etc

    I don’t agree with the current, media driven “Their” (whoever they are) position on any of the above..e.g. ‘crime and punishment’ would mean a return to capital punishment and a”lock ’em up and throw way the key” mentality…

    Hardly my idea of liberal especially as most of your list is occupied by a Tory party.

  • Venetia Caine 20th Dec '19 - 12:01pm

    Yes, I heard that programme and thought it most unfair, serving to promote our undeserved image. But the fact is that it IS our image in many/most people’s eyes, especially where there is no liberal voting tradition. Perhaps we should be widening our efforts demographically.

  • Chris Longstaff 20th Dec '19 - 12:16pm

    Many thanks for the interesting and constructive comments. Yes, ‘radical’ may need better definition, and it has been bandied about of late by both Labour and Conservative. But ‘ownership’ is there for the taking and it might suit Liberal Democrats very well as a ‘banner’ or rallying cry to attract interest and communicate ideas and policy. It is about perceptions and attraction; ‘centrist’ or ‘middle-ground’ lacks a certain charisma.
    On a not unconnected point; at the hustings I attended there were loud grunts from the Tory faithful, much noise from a very vocal group of Labour youth (Momentum?), but no evidence at all of Young Liberals.

  • Innocent Bystander 20th Dec '19 - 12:28pm

    I think a devolution policy is a non starter. The English will reject any attempt to break up their home nation, essentially just to appease the Scots, who will become independent, sooner or later, anyway.
    If you want lots of votes, frame a defence of English rights in the face of a rampant SNP.
    e.g. hard border, visas, work permits, zero funding, the sort of response extreme nationalism deserves.

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec '19 - 12:39pm

    @ Phil Wainewright ” we are the only party that believes in dispersing power back to individuals and communities.”

    How on earth do you square that with the parties obsession with the centralising of power and handing over our effective governance to the EU. From my perspective the LIbDems are the party leading and campaigning for the the emasculation of British self governance at all levels, this is a view I would suggest is commonly held outside of LIbDem circles. Neo-Liberalism in all its glory.

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec '19 - 12:57pm

    @ expats
    “I don’t agree with the current, media driven “Their” (whoever they are) position on any of the above..e.g. ‘crime and punishment’ would mean a return to capital punishment and a”lock ’em up and throw way the key” mentality…

    Hardly my idea of liberal especially as most of your list is occupied by a Tory party.”

    Of course it isn’t, which is probably the view of most LibDems, but it is the direction the public wish to go, although I note you take it to the extreme by raising capital punishment. Your answer more or less makes my point, you will spend weeks and months discussing the election and where to go, and then you will arrive at the conclusion that you were right all along, and it just requires more of the same. Surely you could save a monumental amount of time and money, by dumping any review or post mortem of the GE, acknowledge amongst yourselves that you were right all along and everybody else is wrong, and then carry on in your usual wishy washy way of ignoring what the public want.

  • Innocent Bystander 20th Dec ’19 – 12:28pm……………..I think a devolution policy is a non starter. The English will reject any attempt to break up their home nation, essentially just to appease the Scots, who will become independent, sooner or later, anyway.
    If you want lots of votes, frame a defence of English rights in the face of a rampant SNP.
    e.g. hard border, visas, work permits, zero funding, the sort of response extreme nationalism deserves……………..

    WOW! That’ll teach them..Why not insist that only the last verse (the bit about “Rebellious Scots to crush) of the National Anthem be sung and erect a 50ft statue of the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden to remind them of what happens to ‘rebellious Scots’….

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec ’19 – 12:57pm…

    I consider ‘radical’ to be about leading not, (as in your words, “it is the direction the public wish to go”) following…
    In politics, as in art, music, culture, etc. those ‘following’ are just pale imitations of the original (look at 2010-15) and usually amount to nothing.

    At this election the public favoured a mythical ‘Get Brexit Done’ but, unless most business and informed opinion was radically wrong, ‘chickens’ will come home to roost’.

    You took issue with my ‘take’ on crime/punishment but let’s try ‘immigration’…Social care, inadequate as it currently is, only exists because of the low paid immigrant staff who make up much of its ‘front line’….If/When that workforce changes it will affect vaste swathes of the populationwho have elderly relatives…

    Unless Boris Johnson intervenes there are 5 years for the ‘public wishes’ to change (and remember they always do change). This party should be their future voice not, yet again, a ‘Johnny Come Lately’.

  • Innocent Bystander 20th Dec '19 - 2:13pm

    expats,
    Nationalism is infectious.

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec '19 - 2:24pm

    “.If/When that workforce changes it will affect vaste swathes of the populationwho have elderly relatives…”

    @ expats.
    Again you are going to the extremes, how on earth did our care homes manage before 2004, they managed because the settled populations worked in them, people from all points East and West came her to work under work permit schemes and worked in them, just as they came to work in agriculture.
    And as a matter of interest we have my 90 year old mother in law with age related dementia living with us because we love her, and want to care for her to ensure she has the best quality of life she can for the time she has left. Perhaps if more people took the responsibility for their elderly relatives, they wouldn’t end up dumped in care home because they are just too much trouble.

    As a matter of interest you are doing an excellent job in highlighting why a deep and meaningful discussion on policy is a waste of time, you would appear to have learn nothing from your parties recent experience at the ballot box.

  • Sue Sutherland 20th Dec '19 - 2:46pm

    For me going back to our root is like zero base budgeting. You start off with nothing and work out what’s essential and what’s desirable and take it from there. My limited experience of policy making has led me to think that we don’t do that exercise but add on bits to the status quo and take away other bits but the status quo always defines our policies.
    Then we have the comments of Sopwith Morley which merit attention. In his view of politics the will of the people is supreme and politicians should do what the public wants. He accuses us of wanting to centralise power particularly in the EU. He also accuses us of always thinking we are right, of ignoring criticism.
    He has an authoritarian view of politics which we don’t share. We don’t see the EU as an Empire with its leaders telling us what to do. We see it as a collaborative exercise with each country having input into decision making with the right to veto proposals that they really don’t agree with. The authoritarian view of the world has polarised for the UK into a choice between extreme right wing Tories and extreme left wing Labour. I don’t think the argument is about an open or closed society but about power and how it is wielded.
    What the Brexit referendum has shone a light on is the difficulty of managing the expectations of both the majority and minority view of a certain situation. The passion of Leave voters is so strong that it has led them to break generations of loyalty to Labour and turn to the traditional enemies of the working class in order to achieve Brexit. We must try to understand this passion.
    We have a lot of ground to make up with many of those who voted Leave and I think local elections will be important in doing this. If we can have a discussion with voters about power and democracy it will be totally beneficial to our party because it will be radical and may also lead to greater understanding in our divided society.

  • Sopwith Morley – your comment about dumping people in care homes is really offensive. Please think before you take a stance that is highly derogatory of people who have relatives they also love in a care home.
    My mother developed Alzheimer’s and she spent her last 3 years in an excellent dementia care home (run at the time by our Lib Dem Council), not far from my home. She, like many others, got to the stage when she needed someone awake and on duty nearby for 24 hours a day – impossible to achieve at home. The care was exceptional, and was a far better option than staying with us. I went in every day during her last year to give her lunch – a process that took over an hour, but meant that staff were able to give more time to others.
    Just think before you make such comments again.

  • Tobias Sedlmeier 20th Dec '19 - 3:54pm

    @Mary Reid: Sopwith Morley wrote: “Perhaps if more people took the responsibility for their elderly relatives, they wouldn’t end up dumped in care home because they are just too much trouble.”

    It’s extremely unhelpful to label statements like this offensive. Your experience is not necessarily universal. Lots of people care for elderly relatives to a very large extent from purely altruistic motives. Many others would do so but cannot because they are discharging other responsibilities. The high level of family breakdown in England & Wales (highest of any country in the EU) together with the very late age at which people in England & Wales have children means people are already challenged to care for the children they have (and the high percentage of men who try to shirk their family responsibilities doesn’t help) never mind care for elderly relatives.

    However, one of the things that I used to believe differentiated the LibDems from Labour is that Labour just believe in throwing gov spending and gov control at problems whereas the LibDems believe in empowering and freeing people to assume responsibilities themselves (obviously in practice it’s a matter of degree rather than a dipole).

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec ’19 – 2:24pm @ expats…………..Again you are going to the extremes, how on earth did our care homes manage before 2004, they managed because the settled populations worked in them, people from all points East and West came her to work under work permit schemes and worked in them, just as they came to work in agriculture…….And as a matter of interest we have my 90 year old mother in law with age related dementia living with us because we love her, and want to care for her to ensure she has the best quality of life she can for the time she has left. Perhaps if more people took the responsibility for their elderly relatives, they wouldn’t end up dumped in care home because they are just too much trouble…………….As a matter of interest you are doing an excellent job in highlighting why a deep and meaningful discussion on policy is a waste of time, you would appear to have learn nothing from your parties recent experience at the ballot box……………

    Where does 2004 come into the equation? In the late 1960s the care home of an elderly relative, in Bournemouth, was almost entirely staffed by Prtugese nurses..
    Low paid work especially agriculture was possible for UK nationals when affordable accomodation (council housing, etc.) was available and manpower was not just seasonal work; those days are gone. The demand for cheap food means that such work needs a young, fit, flexible workforce who do not buy or rent longterm properties i,e. gang labour.

    As for your aged relative; how would you manage if both you and your wife were working full time? That is the dilemma faced by many or, with an aging population, the children of a 90 yo may themselves be infirm.

    Most of LibDem policies are fine; the problem was just going for the ‘Remain’ vote when ‘Get Brexit Done’ was the prevailing call. 2019 and 2017 were fought on a ‘Brexit’ call and 2015 was lost by the self-inflicted wound called ‘coalition. Thankfully, those players have now left the scene and, providing this party returns to its values, the rebuilding can start.
    Brexit IS Done’ (at least the leaving bit) and, as its affects are felt, that call will be remembered as toxic…There is a future for this party and it won’t be found by aping the Conservatives.

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec '19 - 4:58pm

    “Where does 2004 come into the equation? In the late 1960s the care home of an elderly relative, in Bournemouth, was almost entirely staffed by Prtugese nurses..”

    It comes into the equation because those advocating free movement without controls, claim that without those from Eastern Europe who come here after 2004 our care system would collapse. Yet once again you make my point by rightly pointing out that workers came her long before free movement, and long before we joined the EEC, and that of course will continue only in future they will be able to apply to come from across the world, and have a fair chance of success.

    “As for your aged relative; how would you manage if both you and your wife were working full time? That is the dilemma faced by many or, with an aging population, the children of a 90 yo may themselves be infirm.”

    Most people with elderly relatives of 90 years of age are likely to be retired, and the vast majority as we are always being told have never been as healthy into their 60’s,70’s and 80’s. Who do you think looked after them before it became fashionable to dump them in retirement homes? The family of course, either in their own homes or with their relatives living close by semi independently.
    The whole debate over care is based on greed, in effect greedy children want the state to pay for the care of their relatives to protect their inheritance We should have a system where those who look after their relatives should have their inheritance free of any tax no matter how high it is, and those who don’t should have the total cost of the care deducted from the estate, and the rest of the estate should be taxed at 40%. The monies raised could be used to go towards the care of those without relatives or capital of their own. Let’s see how the loss of a large chunk of their inheritance focuses the minds of these greedy and selfish people.

    “There is a future for this party and it won’t be found by aping the Conservatives”

    And it won’t be found by repeating ad infinitum the same mistakes and expecting a different outcome.

    Enjoyed the chat, but clearly the world as you see it is not the world as I and millions like me live it, and that is the real problem in your party. You can talk the talk, and talk the talk, and talk the talk and ta……………

    Merry Christmas all.

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec '19 - 6:39pm

    @ Mary Reid

    Sorry Mary I missed your post

    “your comment about dumping people in care homes is really offensive.”

    Why? For making a statement of the obvious.

    My next door neighbour who recently passed away at 96 was living independently fully compus mentis, although he had macular degeneration and a bladder issue requiring occasional hospitilisation. His two sons both recently retired senior police officers live in large detached homes nearby, and both have golfing homes in Spain. After his last hospitalisation they convinced him to go into a care home for a short spell to see how he liked it, they then immediately went off Spain.

    It took my wife two weeks to find out where he was, some 10 miles from where he lived, and on visiting him he was upset and wanted to go home, and couldn’t understand why they had put him so far away. Everybody was calling him John, and when my wife pointed out that he has always been known as Jack all his life, they said they weren’t aware of that. On their eventual return from Spain his sons threw away most of his possessions and sold the house without even asking him, as they had the power of attorney.

    Jack lasted 3 months and faded away, when he might have had a couple of years with a caring family around him. He arrived at the crematorium in a hearse alone with his sons and their families standing outside the chapel with the crowd. After a brief service everybody left, no wake, no interest in chatting about Jack, just a return to Spain three days later. They perhaps weren’t that bothered about the money, he was just an inconvenience to their lifestyle.

    I make no apologies what I said, Jack’s experience although perhaps at the extreme end is more the norm than perhaps we care to believe and you only have to go to any care home to find that out, where many residents have not had a visitor in months.

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec '19 - 6:57pm

    @ Ruth Bright

    “This can’t be that unusual when so many women are having families in their late thirties, even forties.”

    I don’t suppose it is , but we adapt.

    We have our three year old grandson 2 or 3 days a week as well, with a sleep over usually one night. My wife is t He gets involved with getting his great gran ready in the morning, he helps washhe main carer for her mother, with her sister coming in the morning and evening to help with the grunt work. I am available but respect my mother in laws dignity. I look after the lad doing all the things you do to keep a three year old happy. He helps wash and get her ready in the morning, and then sits with her eating his Weetabix, and chivvying her on to eat her’s in what seems like a symbiotic relationship between the gobbledegook of a three year old, and the disjointed conversation a a dementia sufferer. She relates to him more than she does to anybody else.

    We would have liked to spend the early years of our retirement travelling and enjoying ourselves, as it is that will have to be put on hold for immeasurably more important things, a position that seems perfectly normal behaviour to us.

  • I like to think I would never have allowed my mother to go into residential care, because frankly it would have terrified her. Her family was everything to her, she would have done anything for us and we for her. We were fortunate that she, my sister and I all have houses in the same small hamlet. We live about 100 yards apart so although care is always hard work, it’s easier when there’s no travelling involved. We were also lucky that there was no dementia involved, just long-term illness. However, my mother-in-law who had a stroke and dementia, lived the last 5 years of her life in various residential care homes in Manchester. We live 100 miles away and although we tried to keep her in her own home it just wasn’t possible. We had carers coming 4 times a day, district nurses coming in daily to check her catheter and we visited twice a week, but it just didn’t work. We could have brought her to live with us, but her condition was so bad I don’t think we could have managed. There was also one other big problem – my wife was her mothers only family, but they just didn’t like each other. Now I can assure Sopwith that caring for a much loved 90 year old mother-in law is one thing, caring for a mother-in-law that your wife doesn’t like and hasn’t spoken to for 15 yrs is another. I’m sure some old people do get dumped in care homes, but most are there because their families just can’t cope. Believe me it’s not normally for financial reasons, the cost of my mother-in-laws care was over £600 a week and over 5-years that certainly made a mess of any inheritance money!

  • Sopwith Morley and Tobias Sedlmeier – why dont you both go off and join the Tories ? OR are you both Tory plants on here to wind us up ? The more I read posts by both of you the more I come to that conclusion. Sopwith Morley – our policies are Liberal policies and we re not going to dump them for “popular” policies just to get elected.

  • Sopwith Morley – my previous post doesnt actually apply to your last two comments in this thread but it does to a lot of the ones previous to them.

  • May I bring the wrangling back from the problems of the elderly, please? I am increasingly interested , being old and losing teeth and marbles; but Back to Radical was our brief, and a very important one. Michael BG was the first, and I believe the only correspondent to have raised the idea of UBI ( A Universal Basic Income), and I thank him for it. I am disappointed though, for while I share his intense interest in this indubitably Radical idea, I disagree with his conception of it; and in particular with his opinion, fairly widely held I believe, that whatever its merits, it would be too expensive. But he does know more about it than I do, so I’ll try to explain. Readers know editors limit length.

    The GDP is known to us all, as the value of the goods and services made and sold by the nation’s producers in a year. Less familiar, but in fact much the same thing, viewed and counted from a different perspective, is the National Income: what is my income is my employer’s cost.

    Now most discussion on welfare and personal incomes agrees that the difference between the very low incomes of many, and the high incomes of the very ‘well’ paid has become too wide to be morally acceptable to the nation. The Welfare State is the nation’s attempt to redress matters, by taxing the incomes of the top earners, and paying the money raised as Benefits to those who need them — and can prove they meet the government criteria of need and desert, frequently an arduous and demeaning business for the supplicant. It works, in a fashion; and it causes much anguish; and half the nation doesn’t care, and half of it does.

    [continues below, about the same length]

  • [Continues from above]

    I now switch to the alternative I prefer, greatly simplifying. This is not what Liberals often propose, a well-meaning tweak to what we have today, but a radically different approach to an outcome which is similar, in monetary terms, but transformative in human or social outcome. It would, I believe, change the character of the UK’s society for the better. Please don’t switch off yet!

    Cancel the benefits, divide all the money saved, and give it in equal payouts to every adult. And quickly adjust Income Tax Rates. (Ignore your objections a little longer, please!). Those on the topmost incomes will find they have lost more in IT than they have gained in the handout, so their Disposable Income will have fallen. Those on the lowest will find they are no worse off than before, in financial terms . They will, however, feel much better off: no more trips to the Benefits office: and the knowledge that the money will come in week after week. And because it will for everybody be subject to Income Tax, as part of their total income, they will stand in one important regard on an equal footing with the richest in the land, as Taxpayers.

    This would be given a better name than Universal Basic Income, more informatively descriptive, and less malodorous. And HMG would announce the year’s rate in the Budget.

    “Ha Ha. Pie in the sky!!” Please tell us why. Or pose queries.

    Of course, I haven’t the space here to point out niggling tweakabilities. There would still be some ‘Benefits’, for the sick and the disabled, for example. But could this mechanism work, or have I missed some fundamental Fact of Life?

  • Roger Lake,

    I recognise that a Universal Basic Income is a liberal policy and should increase liberty. However, you fail to do the mathematics for your suggestion. If you divide the amount paid out in benefits between all those of working age each person would end up with less. Even if you excluded those in work in your calculation people would still receive less. There are about 3 million people receiving benefits who do not work but over 7.7 million people of working age not working. The reason a UBI is expensive with no reduction in poverty is because of the 4.7 million who now receive nothing but would receive the UBI.

    I pointed out (https://www.libdemvoice.org/can-the-greens-universal-basic-income-tackle-poverty-62840.html) that the Greens were proposing in their manifesto to spend in the region of £70 billion to provide every working age adult £89 a week. I suggested it would be better to use this money to raise those living in poverty out of poverty.

    It is only once we are committed to doing this that we can turn to implementing a UBI.

    I have suggested how to fund a UBI of £73.08 a week (https://www.libdemvoice.org/can-we-afford-a-universal-basic-income-56572.html) which includes increasing all Income Tax rates by 5% as well as other tax rises including increasing the higher National Insurance rates (this would mean taken together the rates would be 37% [up 5], 57% [up 15] and 62% [up 15]).

  • Michael BG,

    Thanks for your comments, Michael, which do need a reply. It is not that I have failed to do the maths, but that it is difficult to demonstrate the figures in these columns, owing to the technical limitations of the . . . would format be the word? To be explicit, I have not found a way of getting displayed a set of figures which needs to appear as regular lines, and columns.

    I must drop this till after Christmas, or lose my wife. So I’ll just mention that the calculations I have done are based principally on two related pages downloaded from the ONS figures for 2016. Both relate to the effects of Benefits and Taxes on Household disposable Incomes, by quintiles (batches of 20% ranged by income). I will try to give addresses below. The one gives copiously comprehensive figures, the other a simple and illuminating set of bar charts; and I consider 2016 near enough for demonstration purposes.

    What I claim to be demonstrating is that if we delete Benefits and substitute the right UBI we can get much the same outcome as BnT together gives for each quintile; the richest are left somewhat worse off. Increasing the level of UBI and applying the same principle, the richest are somewhat more worse off, and the poorest very considerably better off. In other words, a narrowing of the extreme imbalance has been achieved. There is, surely, no way of reducing the imbalance that does not leave the richest worse off. But this way (and doubtless others) does leave every Jones the same top dog in his or her community — and that, surely, is the point of being one of the Joneses?

    I do realise that you and I are working with rather different aims: I want to narrow the gap between the poorest and the most affluent, while you wish to take people out of poverty. We both want both, of course. My concentration on the UBI springs from the belief that it will change the character of British society, with every adult a taxpayer and able to look the swanky in the eye. And public servants will be spared the demoralising work of finding ways to say “No!” to applicants for Benefits.

    And that, I think, is what is Radical about UBI and why it is just the thing for Liberals!

  • Richard Underhill 21st Dec '19 - 12:51pm

    Roger Lake 21st Dec ’19 – 12:41pm
    Four letter words, such as Tory, are allowed.
    Newline symbols work OK.
    Spaces are compressed (for economy) but try using multiple full-stops instead.

  • Roger,

    You have used the ONS’ quintiles of net income before and I have pointed out that it is meaningless in real terms. I have found this about coding tables – https://www.w3schools.com/html/html_tables.asp which should assist you. I think you should write an article and hopefully someone on the LDV editorial team can check if your table works and make any chances to ensure that it does. I don’t like the idea that people have to pay tax on their UBI. The state says it is giving someone say £80 and they take from it 37% using my figures, leaving them with £50.40, which seams senseless to me.

    In the meantime why don’t you comment on my example of a UBI of £73.08 a week for working aged adults and increasing the Income Tax and National Insurance joint rates to 37% (up 5), 57% (up 15) and 62% (up 15)? Taking a person earning £26,000 currently they end up with £21,632.67. In my example they end up with £19,132.67 in net earnings plus £3800.16 in UBS making £22,932.83. My example has faced criticisms over the very high ‘marginal tax rates’ of 57% and 62%. (As I have kept the benefit system unchanged an unemployed single person aged 25 or over would receive their UBI of £73.08 and their Jobseekers Allowance of £73.10 making £146.18 a week still under the poverty line of £157.62.)

  • Michael,

    I do appreciate the trouble you are taking in the UBI discussion, and I will respond as you suggest. I cannot do so until early in the new year, though; I was only half joking about losing my wife, and she has been looking forward to the end of the Election and a bit of help! People coming, and then we have to set off for railway-striking Surrey and back to Yorkshire before next year.

    (I seem to remember promising to get back to you in similar circumstances almost exactly one year ago. I failed to do as I said, then, and I apologise: early in 2020 I WILL pick up this thread with an attempt at a decent response.)

    But I will reply to your direct question “Why don’t you . . .?”. Getting straight to the point, the answer is not as rude as it sounds, truly. My reason is that your figures are so alien to my approach to our problem. I cannot by any means feel confident that I am not making a monumental blunder in my approach, but this is what it is:

    I believe and consider that UBI has now been flushed from cover by the Green Party, and will very soon be emerging from the cloud of prejudice that has characterised popular or ignorant unthought about it. And I believe that it has the Radical potential to transform and heal the current atmosphere in a jaded and resentful social atmosphere.

    It follows from that belief of mine, I think, that it is best to start from scratch — considering the way money is shared out now, unevenly with grudging and demeaning concessions called Benefits — and concluding that the best way to help the poor is , so to speak, to cancel today’s world, and to create a new world in which UBI is assured, not as an expedient, but as a core characteristic of that new world. Then with UBI installed, work out how to reshape the financial and communal world around it. The transition will be tricky, sure, but with the electorate behind it, it could be done. I believe it cannot be done by starting with small adjustments in the ‘right’ direction. Getting the voters behind it it absolutely essential, obviously. That is why we must get cracking a.s.a.p..

    I must now close, wishing you a very Happy Christmas, and promising to get back to you.
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Richard Underhill

    And thanks to you, for your helpful suggestions. Happy Christmas!

  • Richard Underhill 28th Dec '19 - 2:37pm

    Paul Fisher 24th Dec ’19 – 8:01am
    But today’s news is that Putin has a hypersonic plane capable of carrying nuclear weapons and, if true, probably too fast for any defensive interception.

  • John Littler 30th Jan '20 - 6:00pm

    The Tories are chasing a dream of returning to the past of a warmed up Empire Preference, somewhere between 1830 and 1955, which we know will be a disaster.
    Labour have been offering a return to the 60’s & 70’s in an entirely unrealistic, unaffordable and dogmatic programme. Even Labour’s reforming leadership candidates who in one breath say they wish to bring essential radical change to the party, they then in the next breath say they wish to retain various baggages of legacy, policy and personnel.

    The LibDems should take their time and build a narrative of the future from expertise and advertise that we use this.

    Training and modernised welfare that works for people as the economy now. Education for the modern world taken from the best that’s out there, allowing professionals to get on with it, free from paperwork and excessive targets.

    An active Industrial Policy to build and support industries of the future as well as the present with reformed finance, support for R&D & export promotions.

    Greening the economy and society, workers rights and reformed trade unions to help people in the new industries.

    Fairer taxes, scrutiny of tax evasion and hot money and a huge expansion in social housing. Power needs to be brought down from Westminster to the regions to democratic bodies with clout.

    Only if the LibDems can prove that they have policies for the present and future can they start to win

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