Coalition? Who cares?

coalSo the Lib Dem leader election is over and predictably Labour have gone full on coalition grievance mongering in response. They’d have done this whoever won, no doubt somewhere in Labour HQ there is an unused “This is what Ed doesn’t want you to know” video.

It seems to have fallen a bit flat, which is a good sign that people are reacting less viscerally but that doesn’t mean all is fine, it just means people are prepared to think about it.

People are listening to us again. 

The coalition and austerity will come up and we need to be able to address it. To be fair, we owe it to the public and ourselves to address it.

It’s unarguable that austerity happened whilst we were in coalition. Cuts were made and these cuts made people’s lives harder. It’s legitimate to care about that, irrespective of the reasons behind our decisions.

Every time I’ve heard Lib Dems address this I feel we still haven’t found a way of talking about it that recognises this legitimacy and can start rebuilding bridges.

When someone raises austerity we react as if they are asking us why we supported the policies of austerity. We talk about the economic climate, we talk about the lack of options, we talk about the fact we were in coalition and had to compromise, or maybe about how every party intended to make cuts.

Sometimes we make these points well, sometimes not so well but the real problem is we are addressing it from the wrong perspective. 

When I hear someone raise the coalition and austerity I usually hear anger and frustration. Those who raise it sincerely are display an empathy for others which Lib Dems should recognise and value. 

I don’t hear “how could you support that policy” but “how could you support that ideology”. It’s an important distinction.

The coalition robbed us of compassion in many peoples’ eyes and we still don’t seem to understand this.

You can explain supporting policies which have caused harm, but you can’t justify supporting a harmful ideology. Worse, when we try to defend our support for policies, however legitimate a defence we might be able to make, we can sound like we are defending the ideology; like we are dismissing the effects of the cuts because we can explain why we made them. It can sound callous.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t explain the why but we need to put it in context. We have to address the ideology part first. We have to assert that austerity is not something we seek out of preference.

It’s natural to feel defensive, but we must let compassion towards those affected lead such discussions.

Most of all we have to tell people we do care about them… because what’s so obvious to us, is not to them.

We may never win people around to believing we made the right decisions, and in some cases we didn’t, but we can change how they see our values. We can try to reach a place where we agree we share a sense of humanity & decency. 

Perhaps they may even be willing to listen to us talk about the positive things we did, without thinking “yeah, but…”

* Alex Wasyliw is a Liberal Democrat activist and former local party exec member.

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96 Comments

  • Allan Brame 25th Jul '19 - 1:05pm

    I would hope very few Lib Dem members would see support for austerity as an ideological issue. It was a pragmatic (arguably mistaken) economic decision.
    It was in line with the consensus at the time in response to the international banking failure.
    On occasion, as with the Iraq war, Lib Dems have defied the political consensus. On this issue we did not, but that does not imply an ideological drive to shrink the state.
    The new government is now suggesting it is time to start putting money into some public services (It was amusing watching Rees Mogg endorsing these policies as though he had a wasp in his mouth).
    If we are in favour of a mixed economy, we have to decide where we draw the line between public and private control and I would hope we recognise the balance needs to be shifted significantly towards the former.

  • Please do not worry about this. Everyone knows the ghastly mistakes we made Tuition Fees etc and most have moved on because of changed circumstances. We’re okay, and nobody was a fiercer critic here of Clegg and his stubborness than me, the Editors kept rebuking me for going on about it. BUT we have moved on.

  • This is a well-timed article. We need to have a response to the austerity question and the answers we presently give are terrible. Ed was particularly bad at answering this question talking about Labour’s plans.

    We should say there was general agreement that the budget deficit needed addressing and that the general agreement was this should be done by a combination of tax rises and government spending cuts. However, we now accept that the general consensus was wrong and we should have resisted much more going along with this consensus. We should have fought harder to implement Keynesian policies and only have planned to address the deficit over 10 years not try to do it over 5. We should have accepted that the best way of addressing the budget deficit was to maintain growth as close to 3% as possible.

    We can point out that not only that we recognise that austerity was the wrong policy but we have policies to restore the cuts the coalition and the Conservative government made to the welfare safety net. We will abolish the benefit cap, we will abolish the bedroom tax, we will restore the link between the LHA and local rents, restore Housing Benefit to those aged 18-24, restore the cuts to Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance and for children after the second.

    I would like us to go further and promise to increase the basic benefit level to the poverty level over the next six years to raise millions out of poverty. To increase the LHA toward the 50th percentile of local rents from its current 30th level.

  • I have understood that Liberal Democrats support proportional representation. In a PR system most of the times any party doesn’t get alone a majority in the parliament. That means, that coalitions are necessary. In 2010 parliament a coalition was necessary despite the FPTP system, and the possible combinations for a coalition were limited. So the Liberal Democrats did like they preach and participated into a coalition. A coalition between Labour and Lib Dems would have lacked the majority, so the only possibility in practice was the coalition between the Conservatives and Lib Dems (unless the Conservatives and Labour would have formed a coalition together).

    Of course, without experience of being in a coalition for a while, Lib Dems did some mistakes which they later regretted. As for the measures of austerity, I’m sure somebody who knows more about economy is better placed to explain, why they were necessary in that situation.

  • @ Alex Wasyliw “So the Lib Dem leader election is over and predictably Labour have gone full on coalition grievance mongering in response.”

    I’m sorry, Alex, but this is a much more serious issue than labelling it as merely “coalition grievance mongering”. Michael BG is correct to say “we need to have a response to the austerity question and the answers we presently give are terrible.”

    The UN Report on Poverty in the UK compiled by Professor Philip Alston is a serious well researched document published in May and it makes terrible reading. Sadly the Liberal Democrats are still the only political party not to respond to it. They need to find a convincing narrative to respond to it.

    You can find details on the report in the Guardian Report of 24 May. It is worth much study and thought.

    UN poverty expert hits back over UK ministers’ ‘denial of facts’ | Society …
    https://www.theguardian.com/…/2019/may/24/un-poverty-expert-hits-back-over-uk-…
    24 May 2019 – UN poverty expert hits back over UK ministers’ ‘denial of facts’ … The United Nations expert whose warning of deepening poverty in Britain

  • You explain that compassion for people means you need to limit the effects on society as a whole. Trashing the economy means the poor and vulnerable would suffer a whole lot more. Applying fiscal discipline to ensure that we earn the taxes to pay for welfare is compassion. Financial wrecklessness, as proposed by Corbynites, is actually a recipe to hurt the most vulnerable.

  • Alex.

    you end your piece with a sentence “Perhaps they may even be willing to listen to us talk…”

    I would say the important thing is to listen to what ordinary people have to say about their circumstances and be able to say how LibDem policies can or should address their concerns. This applies equally to jobs and wages; housing and welfare; the NHS and social care; schools and childcare services; crime and policing; immigration and foreign policy; climate change and the environment as well as the myriad of local community issues that require attention.

    Public spending is constrained by the level of taxation that the British public is willing to accept. In recent decades, that spending has been in the region of 40% of national income at the full employment level with a taxation level of 37% to 38% of GDP and borrowing of 2% to 3% averaged over a decade for investment.

    Per capita gdp growth cannot be manufactured by spending on public services. It requires regional investment targeted at increasing productivity levels; a coordinated industrial strategy based on advanced technology; and an effective distribution of wealth and income.
    Economic growth of itself is no guarantee of reduced relative poverty and income inequality. Wrongly directed fiscal and monetary stimulus can exacerbate existing income inequalities as we have seen in recent years https://www.economicshelp.org/macroeconomics/inequality/poverty-inequality-economic-growth/
    There is also no guarantee of economic growth. It is widely thought that a no deal Brexit will bring about long-term structural impediments to the ability of the UK to generate economic growth and the austerity that comes with it in the form of higher costs of living and reduced living standards.
    We need smart evidence based Liberal policies that can deliver on what they promise. Let’s leave the bluster. hand waving and ideological rants to the Tory and Labour class warriors. We should concentrate on delivering competent government at local and national level that let’s people get on with living their lives secure in the knowledge that the public services they rely on will be there when they need them.

  • For goodness sake, stop letting our enemies define what we talk about! Even in having this debate we are wasting time and energy.

    In 2010, by bailing out the banks Labour had virtually ruined the country. The wisdom at the time was that cutbacks were needed to reduce the debt (most of which Labour has built up by squandering it on the unpunished banks). If you recall, Gordon Brown insulted old ladies, and somehow the LDs And Tories has to govern. Mistakes were definitely made (we should have required PR and taken the loophole Cameron gave our MPs in fees). Fees was a fiasco, but remember, Labour introduced them and it was Tory policy to ramp them up. More skilled politicians perhaps landed all of the resulting blame on the hapless LDs – doubly self damaging too since the campuses accounted for so much of our vote.

    I agree ED was especially bad at dealing with questions about austerity. He also dumped a Sino-French nuclear power plant across the water from where I live, s no surprises I backed Jo! BUT governments do far worse than reverse guarantees on fees in coalition as a minor party. Do what Labour did about Iraq and the Tories do about just about every one of their policies which go wrong (cutback police, Poll Tax) – Box it in the past and move on. No more cringing apologies, that keeps the debate where our enemies want it!

  • Sandra Hammett 25th Jul '19 - 3:32pm

    Perhaps if Sir Vince had made amends and cleaned up the ‘Coalition Question’ depriving our critics of ammunition before his departure we would have even more people willing to listen and support not just our stance against Brexit but also our other policies.
    As is the ‘Coalition Question’ remains a stick for Corbyn to beat us with, hampering meaningful and much needed cooperation.

  • @Sandra Hammett what is the “coalition question”?

    Jo Swinson dealt with this very ably on Newsnight last night. She said she was aiming to be the largest party after the next parliament.

    Corbynites are idealogical purists and there is no point in trying to engage with them. They will always find something they disagree with becasue we are not “their” tribe.

    We should be proud of our coalition record – the best and most Liberal government this century, and a model of liberalism compared to what has come before and after.

  • I normally like to bring a fresh angle or different perspective to these debates, but @Joe Bourke has just about said it all. Evidence based policies not prefabricated solutions based on ideological positions.
    I don’t see much merit in the “small state v large state argument” in dealing with poverty. I comes down to how the state spends our cash, not how much it spends, IMHO. Ireland has lower levels of inequality (comparing income of richest 10% to poorest 10%) but government spends only 26% of GDP, compared to approx 38% in the UK. And, from personal experience, it’s easier to get a same day doctors appointment over there !

  • David Evans 25th Jul '19 - 5:44pm

    TCO like so many others seems to prefer fond self illusion to hard fact. He/she may want to believe coalition was “the best and most Liberal government this century.” I suggest he tells that to the Windrush generation, whose loyalty and long service to the UK was deliberately undermined and abused by Theresa May’s “Hostile environment,” with old people forced to live in a foreign country they had never lived in since they were young children and denied benefits simply because they were easy to target.

    And our leaders let it happen. It should make every one of us ashamed.

    TCO, what did coalition achieve that makes you forgive that?

  • @ John Mc “For goodness sake, stop letting our enemies define what we talk about! Even in having this debate we are wasting time and energy.”

    Thanks, John. That’ll come in very handy next time I’m down at our Foodbank talking to any of the 5,500 people we helped last year (a third children, a third low wages, a third on Universal credit). Silly of me to think it had anything to do with a government that reduced the top rate of income tax when it was introducing the bedroom tax.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Jul '19 - 6:50pm

    This is indeed a timely article. Whatever the Labour Party are saying about us on social media, they can hardly be more destructive than journalist Frances Ryan was in her piece in The Guardian yesterday, for which I see no reply in today’s Letters pages.

    Michael BG correctly states that we need better answers to the austerity question arising from the Coalition, and suggests the kind of effective response I hope our party leaders will make. Joe Bourke argues usefully about our current party policy responses in the context of current economic realities. And David Raw is as trenchant as ever in pointing out the real need for our party to respond positively and rapidly to the problems of poverty and deprivation so ably described in the May Alston report.

    Our new leader Jo mentioned in her acceptance speech the need for a new social contract. That is a fruitful line to pursue, because as Alston shows, the social contract between government and people upheld since the Beveridge report has completely broken down. It should be up to the Liberal Democrats to explain the necessary actions for its renewal.

  • David Evans asked “TCO, what did coalition achieve that makes you forgive that?”

    Firstly, he might note that the Home Office was a Conservative ministry, not subject to the Coalition Agreement or under Liberal Democrat Control.

    Secondly, the very survival of our economy was at stake in 2010. Failure to stabilise it would have led to a run on the pound, on the banks and total economic collapse, thereby leading to immeasurable suffering y every citizen, most notably those who are most vulnerable.

    To govern is to choose; but to govern as the junior partner in a coalition, is to have those choices restricted.

    Choosing not to rescue the economy and thereby subject millions to catastrophe is not something I could do, and if he could have, then that is a matter between him and his conscience.

  • Katherine Pindar asks that we establish a new social contract. I agree – far too much wealth is being horded by the boomer generation, the sixty and seventy somethings who had everything bestowed upon them, and we need to take that wealth from them and give it to the young.

  • Michael Sammon 25th Jul '19 - 8:36pm

    That Frances Ryan article in the guardian is blaming our loss in productivity and the output gap purely on austerity which is way over simplified and lazy journalism in my opinion. Especially as we did not suffer major unemployment which is now back to even lower levels. Austerity was our policy, Labour’s and Conservative’s at the time. Our proposed cuts were the lowest and the actual coalition cuts were still below Labours proposed cuts. A structural deficit is no long term plan. We probably were right to propose less cuts and a more gradual defeat of the deficit but we are still not there. If we are to be fiscally responsible then we need to raise more tax money if we are to spend more as per our current manifesto. We can’t re write history. Most countries in Europe did not do such harsh austerity, not because they had a more progressive ideology but because they weren’t left with a massive structural deficit from Labour spending like there is no tomorrow and left us in a mess. If Labour start increasing the deficit again outside of a recession then it’s just Trump and Boris style populism. Let’s stand by that we put country before party during the coalition. I heard we got through something like 75% of our manifesto and the increase in the tax free allowance was greatly appreciated and still is to this day by many people.
    This is all only my opinion of course and I don’t speak from any position of authority on the subject.

  • John Mc and TCO,

    In the 1988 presidential election campaign there were lots of attack campaign ads against the Democratic candidate. In 1992 there was a strong rebuttal team and the Democratic candidate Bill Clinton became President. Therefore it is important we have a strong position on being attacked on our support for austerity during the Coalition. We shouldn’t just ignore these attacks. We need to make our current changed attitude to austerity very clear and that we would never inflict such damage to the UK economy and its people again. We need to make it clear austerity was the wrong policy in 2010 and it can never be the correct policy.

    Michael Sammon,

    We need to stop supporting the Conservative myth that the Labour government had too high government expenditure before 2008. Looking at the years after 2002. Economic growth was 3.3% (2003), 2.3%, 3.1%, 2.5% and 2.5% (2007). If the deficit had been smaller in any of these years economic growth would have been less. It is only in 2003 and 2005 that I would support a smaller deficit by only by 0.25% in 2003 and 0.083% in 2005.

    Looking at unemployment in about March 2001 it fell to 4.9%. The best figure is 4.7% in about May 2005, rising to 5.5% in 2006. By March 2008 it had fallen to 5.2% before rising again. None of these figures are acceptable to me. If the deficit was smaller in 2004, 2006 and 2007 then unemployment would have been higher. Why would you have wanted unemployment to be higher?

    The CRI rates for inflation were 2003 – 1.4%, 2004 – 1.3% 2005 – 2.1%, 2006 – 2.3%, 2007 – 2.3%. Therefore in 2003 it seems that the size of the government deficit was not causing a problem, while in 2005 inflation was above the 2% target. However, the inflation figures were not high enough for a responsible government to have to reduce its spending.

  • Katharine Pindar – “they can hardly be more destructive than journalist Frances Ryan was in her piece in The Guardian yesterday, for which I see no reply in today’s Letters page”
    Respectfully Katharine (because I always enjoy reading your contributions on here and tend to agree with most of them) but did you send a letter?

  • @Michael BG the Labour government ran a structural deficit all through its period in office. The basic tenet of Keynesianism is that during a boom you reduce your debt. Running a deficit was massively irresponsible and a betrayal of the poor and vulnerable, as it would inevitably lead to the need to cut spending.

  • Michael Sammon 25th Jul '19 - 10:43pm

    Michael BG Labour were running a deficit of 3% of GDP during a period of strong economic growth. I am not blaming them for not seeing the crash coming but these strong growth periods are times for paying down the debt as per Keynes. I blame then partly for the need for austerity. We need to sort our productivity if we are to prosper. Inflation was above target by the time we got into government as well.

  • Andrew Carey 25th Jul '19 - 10:49pm

    “It’s unarguable that austerity happened whilst we were in coalition. Cuts were made and these cuts made people’s lives harder”
    It is very much arguable. To understand why, you have to ask the Thomas Sowell question: “compared to what?”. There is a large body of people who for whatever reason think that the exceptional year of 09-10 when the government spent just over £1.30 for every £1 in tax receipts represents some sort of baseline of civilised government overspending. For sure, the Coalition cut spending compared to that year, but take that year out, and what do you have? Compare Coalition spending to say ’06-’07, which no-one would claim was an austerity year, and you’ll find that spending was up, even in terms of the support to Councils.
    You can argue about the allocation of the overspending ( and I do! ) but anyone claiming that government spending overall was insufficient compared to not austerity is deluded.

  • TCO

    There is no such thing as a structural deficit. It is a myth created after 2008 and has now generally be accepted as a myth. The reason it is that it is based on theory and assumptions rather than actual facts. “Chris Dillow has questioned the distinction between cyclical and structural deficits, and this has received support from other leading economists. He contends that there are too many variables involved to allow a clear distinction to be made, especially when dealing with current circumstances rather than retrospectively, and suggests that the concept of structural deficits may be used more for political purposes than analytical purposes.”

    And Michael Sammon

    I don’t consider economic growth of 2.3%, 2.5% and 2.5% as a “boom” or strong economic growth, as these are below what the UK economy should be able to grow by each and every year. With inflation under target and unemployment between 5.5% and 5.2% there was no boom.

    A deficit of 3% of GDP is not massive, it is the EU neo-liberal limit.

    In September 2009 (CPI) was 1.1% well within the target. In September 2010 it jumped to 3.1% this was because of VAT being returned to 17.5%, In September 2011 it was 5.2%. This had nothing to do with the Labour government.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Jul '19 - 1:43am

    TCO, I assume that your yesterday’s comment at 7.40 pm was a dig at older people who have leisure enough to write frequently on LDV, but your suggestion of taking away their supposed wealth and giving it to the young is presumably tongue in cheek, since that would hardly qualify as a social contract! You will be aware, I guess, of the Liberal William Beveridge’s 1942 Report which identified the five ills of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness, and became the basis for the post-War establishment of the Welfare State, including national insurance and the NHS. It is the failure to maintain sufficient benefits and services for so many people in our country today that Professor Alston has highlighted, declaring that the conditions they live in is not compatible with ‘any sort of social contract’. We should be asking Jo to lead us in establishing a new social contract worthy of Beveridge.

    Incidentally, our party has passed a motion suggesting that some pensioner benefits should indeed be removed from richer pensioners to help fund benefits for the young, which I entirely agree with. But the ‘Triple Lock’ which has helped keep many pensioners comfortable was brought in at a time when there was much more pensioner poverty. Nowadays I think our party policies should be especially directed towards helping young people, especially with their educational and housing needs, and Professor Alston has rightly warned that the neglect of their needs (for instance with the lack now of local services and facilities) could produce ‘an alienated society’.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Jul '19 - 1:52am

    @ TonyH. That is a fair question, Tony, and thank you for the pleasant words, but I only read the Guardian of Wednesday on Thursday afternoon, so was too late to reply myself. I would have expected the Press Office to pick it up, and perhaps ask some senior member of the party to write a letter more authoritative than any I could have written myself. I shall write to the journalist separately, as a Lib Dem activist and fellow journalist.

  • Michael BG – Michael, when you talk about Clinton (a Southern New Democrat) in 1992, you should also remember the Liberal Democratic senator Paul Tsongas. I believe we can look at “A Call to Economic Arms” by Senator Paul Tsongas for new policy ideas. He got nearly everything right about what eventually happen in America. I am sure that his economic platform is far more comprehensive than every single Libdem manifesto over the past two decades, and his ideas will be very useful for preparing Britain for Industrial Revolution 4.0.

    Joe Bourke – Paul Tsongas’ A Call to Economic Arm pretty much summarizes your point.

  • Katherine Pindar writes: “TCO, I assume that your yesterday’s comment at 7.40 pm was a dig at older people who have leisure enough to write frequently on LDV, but your suggestion of taking away their supposed wealth and giving it to the young is presumably tongue in cheek, since that would hardly qualify as a social contract.”

    It most certainly was not tongue in cheek, and inter-generational fairness absolutely qualifies as a social contract.

    The are always exceptions, but in general the baby boomer generation has benefited from final salary index linked pensions received at 60, grammar schools, and most importantly, massive unearned wealth via house price inflation.

    That generation, which has received so much, now relies on those of us in work to earn the money to pay for their retirement and, increasingly, social care costs, whilst their wealth is retained by them.

    To illustrate this with a personal example, I bought my house from a person who retired from the same public sector job my wife does. During his thirty years in the house, its value increased tenfold. He was also able to buy a house in France, and pay off his mortgage, all on one salary. Whereas we struggle to afford our mortgage on two salaries, have no hope of paying it off (meaning we will be forced to downsize), no hope of getting a house in France, and all the while paying tax to support his generation and having to pay for our own children.

    The boomer generation, many of whom as you point out have the leisure time to post here (I hadn’t thought of it but now you mention it, they are disproportionately represented) were primarily the deliverers of Brexit, safe in the knowledge that in their comfortable retirement they wouldn’t be affected by economic strife.

    Those on the left of the spectrum advocate increased spending on welfare through increased income tax, knowing that they will be both massive beneficiaries of that spending through health and social care, and won’t be paying for it as they have low income and high wealth.

    This is why I seriously advocate transferring wealth from the old and retired asset-rich, to the young and cash-strapped asset-poor.

  • My anecdotal view of all this is that the Lib Dems current surge in support is entirely due to their unequivocal call to stop Brexit, as compared to the ambiguity of Labour, plus a dislike for some aspects of the Labour leadership, notably slackness in response to Anti-Semitism. Hence, attacks from the Guardian and Labour-supporting bloggers.

    I see no shame in the Lib Dems stepping up to the plate in the dire circumstances, and parliamentary arithmetic of 2010. By all means, apologise for making mistakes in an unprecedented scenario but highlight the successes e.g. raising the Tax threshold, a Lib Dem policy highjacked by George Osborne.

  • And to follow up, as a final word, did you know that Beveridge was in favour only of a minimum safety net supported through the contributory principle, as he wrote : “The State in organising security should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility, in establishing a national minimum it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than the minimum for himself and his family.”?

  • Peter Wrigley writes: “As Michael BG,above, points out, there was no government deficit “crisis” in 2010 and we were Conned (pun intended) into accepting the Tory- generated myths that there was on, that it was all Labour’s fault, and that the cure was to cut government expenditure.”

    This is incorrect in the following ways:
    – government expenditure was c25% above receipts in 2010. Cuts were inevitable in those circumstances, as you cannot borrow your way out of such a crisis; at some point the market stops you and all the indications were that we would soon reach that point
    – Labour had been in power for the previous 13 years, many of those in boom, and had failed the basic Keynesian tenet of reducing debt during a time of surplus, choosing instead to run a structural deficit
    – Brown believed his own hubris about having illiminated Boom and Bust. It was patently obvious to everyone else (and Vince Cable warned of it in 2007) that a recession would come inevitably, and they failed to prepare for it

    So – cuts were inevitable, and Labour was the cause due to its failure over the past 13 years.

    To continue to deny this shows a distinct lack of economic credibility.

    Worse, it is a betrayal of the poor and vulnerable, who are the first to suffer in any economic crisis.

    Any compassionate government has to get its economics right – not to do so, as the left and Corbyn want, is to choose deliberately to damage the poor and vulnerable. Liberals should not and must not countenance this.

  • It is sad to see that TCO has, like our leaders in 2010, and a few but still too many in our party now, adopted the strategy of ignoring inconvenient facts and questions and trotting out the same old easy self justifying excuses of “saving the country” “We did our bit” and “It was those nasty conservatives.”

    He says “the Home Office was a Conservative ministry, not subject to the Coalition Agreement.” This is simply incorrect. The coalition agreement covered all aspects of government and we had a minister in the Home office throughout the five year period.

    Next he says “the very survival of our economy was at stake in 2010. Failure to stabilise it would have led to a run on the pound, on the banks and total economic collapse. No it wouldn’t. It might have been tough for a few months, but the economy had survived a month long election campaign with no collapse. Putting it simply, the collapse of the economy is the sort of threat put around by those who want a rushed decision. Saying “I had to do it.” Is no excuse.

    Next “To govern is to choose.” And would it have been TCO’s choice to sacrifice the Windrush generation? As a Liberal I could never accept that.

    “…but to govern as the junior partner in a coalition, is to have those choices restricted.” Actually TCO, both sides in a coalition have their choices restricted, but it doesn’t mean you accept the unacceptable.

    And finally, “Choosing not to rescue the economy and thereby subject millions to catastrophe is not something I could do,” but am I correct in presuming that condemning members of the Windrush generation to illegal banishment, denying them treatment on the NHS for cancer and hounding them at every opportunity is something your conscience could accept TCO?

  • Agree with last paragraph above, there was great pressure in 2010 from the papers and BBC/ITV (not sure there was so much social media then) to do the deal as quickly as possible. This pressure, with the benefit of hindsight, should have been resisted, but we were in unknown territory. As Peter Wrigley says, other countries where coalition is the “norm”, take their time to get it right.

  • @Michael BG asserts that there is no such thing as a structural deficit, then goes on to quote from Wikipedia in support “Chris Dillow has questioned the distinction between cyclical and structural deficits”.

    He omits however, the crucial next paragraph:

    “The piece largely centred on the UK Labour government 1997-2010 of which Chris Dillow was a strong supporter and criticism that they ran a large structural deficit. Economic representatives of that government acknowledge that, unbeknownst to them at the time, they were running a structural deficit.[14]”. (The reference is a piece by Ed Balls stating that he ran a structural deficit in 2007).

    So his assertion does not stack up – yes there was a structural deficit, and yes Labour were responsible for it.

  • Thomas,
    Paul Tsongas’ A Call to Economic Arm pretty much summarizes your point.

    A call to Economic Arms is 72 pages long and therefore summarizes nothing. If you wish to refer to it again it would be useful to actually summarize some of his policies.

    Peter Wrigley,

    It should be remembered that David Laws during the coalition negotiations was an enthusiastic supporter of austerity and the Conservative cuts because of Greece; this led him to ask the Labour Party in the negotiations with them to accept similar cuts.

  • David Evans writes “And finally, “Choosing not to rescue the economy and thereby subject millions to catastrophe is not something I could do,” but am I correct in presuming that condemning members of the Windrush generation to illegal banishment, denying them treatment on the NHS for cancer and hounding them at every opportunity is something your conscience could accept TCO?”

    Typically, he has chosen a false dichotomy.

    The simple fact is that he supports taking a position that would have meant immeasurable misery to millions of his fellow citizens. I repeat – he actively wants to inflict misery on people.

    There is nothing remotely Liberal about wishing the catastrophic effects of an economic slump on the country, and his attempt at deflecting attention from this by talking about the Windrush Generation is mendacious.

  • TCO,

    Instead of deflating the economy and it being reported in 2011-12 that we had a double dip recession the government could have reduced the deficit by managing the economy to maximise economic growth. If economic growth was 3% of GDP and government expenditure was increased by 2% the deficit would have been eliminated in ten years.

    I note you have ignored my case for why there was no boom in the years 2003 to 2007.

    Often the poor suffer in an economic crisis because governments decide to balance the deficit on the backs of the poor rather than by managing economic growth to eliminate the deficit.

    “Martin Wolf, in his book “The Shifts and the Shocks”, argues that nobody knows what the ‘structural’ or cyclically adjusted balance is and that it is least knowable precisely when such knowledge is most essential, namely, when the economy is experiencing a boom.”

    In 2012 the myth of structural deficits was still widely accepted, hence Ed Balls mistake. Now they are not considered something to consider seriously. How can you consider structural deficits seriously when in 2008 the IMF stated Spain had a structural surplus of 0.5% of GDP between 2000 and 2007 and then in 2012 stated that it had a structural deficit of 1.2% of GDP over the same period? It is clear talking about structural deficits is not helpful for economic planning.

  • Denis Loretto 26th Jul '19 - 8:25pm

    A laborious speed-read through this thread surely leads to the conclusion that we must now deal with the current and future situation. This entails learning from the past but not going on about it. My reading of the immensely encouraging canvassing in the May local elections and even more in the European elections is that we are as near being forgiven for those aspects of the coalition which are negative as we will ever be. Just ignore the Corbynite trolls. Talk about what we are doing now and what we are going to do under a new leader who is already making her mark.

  • Peter Wrigley,

    I hope you can answer a personal question – are you a part-time lecturer in economics at a university in Yorkshire?

    As a Keynesian economist I look forward to seeing more comments on LDV from you.

  • @ Peter Wrigley If you are who I think you are Peter, good to read your comments. Dad worked for old Theodore Taylor before the war at Smithies Mill if that rings a bell – and I started life in Birkenshaw. Does Old Lane Chapel ring another bell ?

  • Allan Brame: Me too.

    theakes: I don’t worry about this in terms of our party’s views, but I think there is cause to worry about how we are addressing it to those voters who it is still an issue for outside our party.

    Michael: thank you. I agree we need a plan of action as part of our response, but my article was really based around the need to recognise the emotional side of the debate and to, at its most simple, actually remember to just tell people we care about them and the effects austerity has had, irrespective of any reason/arguments we can present on our behalf. Recognition and validation of how people feel.

    Patrick/Michael/TCOMichael Sammon : I would reiterate that this post is not about the rationale behind our decisions or the reality we faced. It is about the reality that people on the receiving end of the cuts faced and the need to recognise the human cost of them, and to empathise.

    David Raw: Maybe I didn’t make it clear. My opening line is the cynicism with which I hold Labour’s use of these attacks. I hope I make clear in the rest of the article that there are legitimate reasons people are angry with us and the need to address those as human beings, with compassion.

    Jo Bourke: Granted and thanks for the addition – I only had 550 words! I totally agree we need to listen – in fact I would say that is important for the point I was trying to make, that we need to recognise legitimate causes of grievance and be able to honestly say how they make us feel – to show some empathy to people. I ended with that because there is always talk about needing to talk about what we did achieve. My view is you simply cannot separate the coalition like that, you have to address the concerns and anger for anyone to listen, and for what it’s worth I think it would be beneficial to be able to speak about what we did achieve too.

  • Johnmc: My article is actually all about us defining ourselves as a party. At the moment we let others define us as the ‘party of austerity’. What I want to see is that addressed directly in a way that allows us to talk about our compassion and how we do care about people. Quite apart from the fact you cannot always just talk about what you want, and deliberately ignoring things you find uncomfortable just makes it look like you don’t care, I think being a compassionate party is something we should want to be talking about.

    Sandra: To clean up the coalition question you need to have a means to meaningfully address it. That’s really the point of my article – I’ve not heard one yet that doesn’t leave me feeling we just sounded like we actually don’t care about the impact on peoples lives.

    Kathering Pindar: Thank you. Policy responses will be useful to show we are more than just words, but I do still believe we need to lead with the compassionate response of stating we care about the impact on people, that our goal is to make lives better. I know it’s really obvious to us, but I feel people need to hear it, and hear it often.

  • TCO: As I have tried to point out, we can create all the rationale in the world, but it really doesn’t take away from the need to recognise the human cost. Even if you can do nothing to avoid hardship, you should ate least be able to empathise with those who suffer from it, and when you are at the helm you have a responsibility to, at the least, say “we see it, we understand it was hard”.

    Andrew Carey: It is unarguable that austerity happened – what you are talking about is the likelihood that no cuts could be made at all. I agree actually that in the political and economic climate it was certain. My point is that irrespective of that cuts did happen, and it just seems callous when we dismiss them as inevitable and refuse to acknowledge the effects they had on those on the receiving end of them.

    Richard C: I actually think the empathy comes first. Then apologies can be based on those policies where we genuinely screwed up – like the cuts to legal aid, which I still find deeply shameful for a liberal party. I think once you set out the point that we care, that we understand the effect austerity and that they have a right to be angry about that, we have more scope to explain & defend our decisions rather than just apologising for things. Sometimes saying you understand and your feelings are legitimate is more powerful than just apologising.

  • I’ll be honest, I think the fact that responses have devolved in to looking at the policy and reasons is kind of indicative of the issue I have with our natural inclinations when responding to this issue.

    I just want to see a bit more recognition for the impact on people, and empathy for them… and then for us to show people both of these.

  • David Evans 27th Jul '19 - 1:18am

    Again TCO dodges the question and instead promotes his own false dichotomy. As his/her excuses are destroyed one by one, instead of answering the question, a new series of excuses are generated to avoid the issue.

    He/she hasn’t answered the point on his incorrect assertion/terminological inexactitude that what went on at the Home Office was nothing to do with the Lib Dems during coalition. Then he/she again pretends that a quick coalition deal was essential to save the nation, while ignoring the fact that we were involved in both the economic recovery (through Vince in BIS) and the Home Office (through Lynne, then Jeremy Browne and Norman Baker.

    Sadly this whole attitude is what undermined the party while in coalition and still makes it so easy for our enemies to undermine us now. He/she wants to claim all the kudos for the good bits, but the bad bits had nothing to do with him or the party.

    TCO we were in coalition. We were responsible for voting in favour of the good stuff and the bad. We claim credit for stopping bad stuff, but we have to own it all and accept we didn’t stop other bad things.

    Unlike a certain American Vice President who was renowned as being unable to chew gum and walk at the same time, we were capable of doing more than one thing at once. So TCO I suggest you don’t just keep going on and on about how we saved the nation, but instead (in a non-sexist way) man up and answer the question – Am I correct in presuming that condemning members of the Windrush generation to illegal banishment, denying them treatment on the NHS for cancer and hounding them at every opportunity is something your conscience could accept TCO?

  • Adrian Wykes 27th Jul '19 - 10:13am

    The party made a mistake (“We could have been Greece…”) and got a good, deserved kicking for it in 2015 having extracted only minor gains from the tories in return.
    I joined the day after the referendum and have found the ‘austerity’ obsession replaced by the good old public investment concerns of Keynes and Beveridge – this is what the party must emphasise. Greater opportunity and equality depends on investment.

  • A certain amount of austerity was necessary at the time and The Conservatives converted it into an ideological issue that we went along with. We need to re-assert our principles of equality of opportunity and a credible safety net. Life long education and skills training are part of the package of being the Party for everyone.

  • Again David Evans shows his true colours. The simple facts are that the party entered coalition and stopped a while lot of misery for a while lot of people, either from Labours continuing profligacy leading to a slump, or from an unfettered conservative government.

    Either option would have made things as bad as, if not worse, for the windrush generation. But David Evans would have preferred impotent purity in the sidelines, thereby condemning poor and vulnerable people to misery, to actually doing anything positive.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jul '19 - 5:00pm

    TCO, referring to your reply to me (where you spell my name wrongly), I suggest that the politics of envy gets us nowhere. ” Transferring wealth from the old and asset-rich to the young cash-strapped and asset-poor” sounds like the kind of suggestion a Stalinist Communist might advocate, and it isn’t worth even asking “How?” Liberal Democrats want a fairer society, in which people are more economically equal than is the case at present in our society (not just equality of opportunity, Peter Hirst, actually), and we want it for everyone, not just bettering the powerful and wealthy as the Tories do, or the working classes as Labour at least used to do.
    (
    What makes you think that well-off Baby Boomers may not themselves be concerned to share their privileges, for instance by working for the Liberal Democrats or/and many useful charities and voluntary organisations? What causes you to fail to think that misfortunes fall on wealthy retired folk as well as everyone else, and particularly in matters of health? (A fairly well-off 80-year-old friend of mine spent the majority of their working lives faithfully nursing his wife at home as she declined with Multiple Schlerosis, and still supports the MS Society years after her death.)

    I certainly think we must do much more for ordinary working people with insecure and ill-paid jobs who can’t afford enough food for their families, let alone holidays, and that we have got to have more social housing and restore the link between the Local Housing Allowance and local rents, since young people’s poverty is as much concerned with housing costs as inadequate pay. And we need also to restore local government services and facilities which helped young and old alike. There is much to be done and we intend to see that it is done.

  • Katherine Pindar writes “Transferring wealth from the old and asset-rich to the young cash-strapped and asset-poor” sounds like the kind of suggestion a Stalinist Communist might advocate, and it isn’t worth even asking “How?”

    LVT is one way; another is the house wealth tax proposed by Vince Cable. I’m surprised that a liberal democrat is unaware of these cornerstone party principles. I’m also struck how many retired people advocate income tax rises (to which they are largely immune) but baulk at wealth taxes on the unearned appreciation in the houses they own. It seems that redistribution is fine as long as it doesn’t affect them.

  • @ TCO If you were on receive as well as on transmit you might just get to spell Katharine’s name correctly.

    You might also gain a bit more credibility if you didn’t post behind an anonymous acronym which some wag recently translated as Tory Central Office.

  • David Raw writes “You might also gain a bit more credibility if you didn’t post behind an anonymous acronym which some wag recently translated as Tory Central Office.”

    I’m interested in your views on wealth vs. income taxes, as I believe you are a retired person, rather than your observations on my pseudonym. I find debate works better if we stick to policies.*

    For the record, it’s stands for Terry’s Chocolate Orange-booker.

    *- also for the record, some party members are unable to use our real names as we are in politically restricted occupations.

  • Peter Hirst,

    A certain amount of austerity was necessary at the time

    There was no need for austerity in 2010 and it is now generally accepted it was the wrong policy. It deflated the economy and almost led to a double dip recession (which was reported to have happened in early 2012). The correct policy was the one we set out in our 2010 manifesto which was an economic stimulus on entering government and reducing the deficit only when the economy was strong enough. For me this would mean economic growth of 3% a year and unemployment falling below 3.5%

    If you mean free education and training for everyone then I agree with you. If you mean a credible safety net is one where no one lives in poverty then I agree with you.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jul '19 - 10:11pm

    TCO, none so blind as those who won’t see. Of course I know of the policy we passed on a wealth tax, since I attended our September Conference and helped to pass it, along with the other progressive policies there, and of course I am in favour of LVT. You are simply picking at imaginary grievances, while continuing to mispell my name. I am discontinuing this pointless exchange with you: thank you and goodbye.

    Michael, useful comments from you as ever. I also remember you writing once before that ‘equality of opportunity’ isn’t enough, and I agree with you.

    David, I at least enjoyed those items of West Yorkshire’s history! No part of England has counted for so many memories for me since I first left home as a teenager, so I am glad to be from a West Yorkshire family and to have good friends from there still.

  • I am interested in whether Katherine Pindar favours wealth taxes over income taxes, as a more Liberal approach to taxation. I note she does not address this point.

  • TCO continues in a fantasy world, pretending that bad things that Theresa May instigated in her term as Home Secretary had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the Lib Dems were propping up her leader the PM, call me Dave, sadly allowing her to build the Home Office into a fully paid up cheerleader for the knee jerk jingoists and fellow travellers who attach themselves to the Conservative party from time to time.

    She was helped by the fact that for much of the time most people including many senior Lib Dems didn’t realise what was going on. Indeed the only time we made a fuss was when she went public with her “Go Home Vans.”

    TCO, you may want to pretend to yourself that what the Home office with Theresa May’s Hostile environment did to so many of the Windrush generation had nothing to do with you or the Lib Dems, because you want to pretend you saved the country and nothing but good came from the Lib Dems in that time, but bad things happened and all true Lib Dems know it.

    Now you make absurd claims and manifest untruths such as “David Evans would have preferred impotent purity in the sidelines,” in an attempt to play the man – because being blunt, you haven’t got a clue where the ball is.

    Well let me give you a clue – the ball is in your court, as it has been throughout our discussion. It is there with the names of Winston Robinson, Richard Stewart, Gretel Gorcan and others as yet unnamed. Those who were refused benefits after paying a lifetime of taxes, those denied treatment for cancer, those who lost their jobs and those deported or refused the right to return, being left to die in a foreign country they left when they were children.

    Perhaps you will continue to refuse to even consider these people in this debate but instead dismiss their suffering with an oh so easy “Either option would have made things as bad as, if not worse, for the windrush generation.” No it wouldn’t, and it doesn’t reflect well on you that you say such things.

  • David Evans. Simple question. Did you support our party leader Nick Clegg? Did you support us entering government? Did you support making sure millions of out vulnerable fellow citizens being saved from abject suffering?

  • David Evans. Do you support wealth taxes over income taxes?

  • Alex Wasyliw,

    Only trying to seem to care about the effects of austerity is not enough. That is why I am advocating a two-pronged response, firstly that we made a mistake by supporting austerity and going along with the consensus and not only do we care about the effects of austerity but we have policies to reverse the most damaging aspects which effect the poorest in society. My third point is that this caring makes us go further (if we get to have the policies I advocate) and we will raise millions of people in the UK out of poverty. Our response to austerity and our rejection of our past actions all must be stated to show we care.

    I don’t think it is useful to say we inflicted great hardship on you, but even though we had a choice, we really care about you and understand how hard it is for you. The reaction would be if you really cared you would not have inflicted the hardship on me. That is why we have to recognise it was the wrong choice and we could never make the same choice again. I do not get the impression you are there yet.

    Katharine Pindar,

    Indeed I did write recently in a comment on LDV that ‘equality of opportunity’ isn’t enough, but you had covered it here so I didn’t need to write it again.

    TCO,

    As a liberal I really like Income Tax. I also like our new policy passed last September that we would tax private wealth at death or when given as a gift at 40% when a person receives more than £500,000 and at 45% on assets above £1 million. I like this much more than LVT on homes where people have to pay the tax if they don’t have sufficient income when alive after they die.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jul '19 - 7:15am

    @ Michael BG,

    “…..we inflicted great hardship on you, but even though we had a choice, we really care about you and understand how hard it is for you. ”

    This is a pretty astute comment. It defines the difference between the supposedly progressive neolibs on the left from the supposedly reactionary neolibs of the right.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jul '19 - 7:28am

    ” equality of opportunity isn’t enough”

    Maybe not. But it would be a good step in the right direction.

    Let’s rewind back to the 60s and take a look at all the children who were born at that time. Which ones do we find in positions of power and authority now? Largely, it isn’t the ones whose parents were the miners, carworkers, steelworkers etc of that era.

    So maybe someone should suggest that it’s better to walk before you can run. Lets achieve equality of opportunity first and then we can discuss where we go from there.

  • Michael BG writes “As a liberal I really like Income Tax. I also like our new policy passed last September that we would tax private wealth at death or when given as a gift at 40% when a person receives more than £500,000 and at 45% on assets above £1 million. I like this much more than LVT on homes where people have to pay the tax if they don’t have sufficient income when alive after they die.”

    As a Liberal (I note you don’t use the capital), I see that taxes on earnings are a disincentive to productive economic activity. They are also grossly unfair as they do not recognise outgoings. For example – two people earning £40k will both pay the same tax. However if one of those is the sole earner in a family of four, and the other is single and childless, the former will be paying far more to bring up children who’s contribution to society in future will have to sustain both their parents and the childless person.

    There are far too many retired people sat in houses far too big for their needs, with a value that is not earned through their own economic effort, but us a windfall through having been a baby boomer. A tax that meant houses had to be sold to pay it in life would have the double benefit of fairness – redistributing unearned wealth – and of increasing the supply of family homes (and reducing the prices of them) to the families who actually need larger homes.

  • Martin writes “Of coalition government the danger we fall into by acquiescing to our opponents’ narrative is that we own the errors but relinquish successes to our coalition partners. This only benefits our opponents.”

    The synthesis of this argument is “we should always maintain our purity and never do anything useful”.

    In which case, that’s not politics, that’s a debating society.

  • Reading this thread, it’s striking how self-defeatism was clearly not just an accidental place some people found themselves in 2015, it sits at the core of their political DNA.

    We’re in a world where Labour is fragmenting and all but the Marxist core are open to move to a new party, but some Lib Dem party activists are STILL focused on hard left attack lines against our own party in the hope that the Corbynists will like them. Utterly bizarre.

    If someone in Labour unhappy with Corbyn looks at the coalition govt, then Theresa May’s Tories and Boris and concludes that the Lib Dems aren’t a force for good, then there’s no point discussing politics with them.

  • Peter Martin writes “Let’s rewind back to the 60s and take a look at all the children who were born at that time. Which ones do we find in positions of power and authority now? Largely, it isn’t the ones whose parents were the miners, carworkers, steelworkers etc of that era.”

    Let’s rewind to the children of the 40s and 50s – who had grammar schools – who attained positions of power and influence, and they did have parents who were manual workers.

    Children of the 60s and 70s had to go to comprehensives, as I know all too well. It’s not surprising few are now in positions of power and influence.

    Which points to an obvious conclusion.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jul '19 - 10:37am

    “Children of the 60s and 70s had to go to comprehensives…”

    Well they didn’t all have to. Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Nick Clegg to name but three. Is there an 11+ type entrance exam for posh schools or is it just a matter of being able to pay the fees?

    If the latter, why then should there be an entrance exam for less privileged children at their schools?

  • I assume Peter Martin is asking a genuine question when he writes: ”
    Is there an 11+ type entrance exam for posh schools or is it just a matter of being able to pay the fees?

    If the latter, why then should there be an entrance exam for less privileged children at their schools?”

    State grammar schools have an 11+ entrance exam and no fees.

    Independent schools have a variety of entry methods.

    Some have no exam.

    Independent grammar schools charge fees and have an 11+ entrance exam. There are often bursaries for those unable to afford fees.

    Other schools such as Eton and Westminster start at 13 and have Common Entrance (13+), and fees.

    In the 40s and 50s state grammar schools educated about a third of the population. Now selective education is only found in independent schools, outside of the c5% of state schools that are grammars.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jul ’19 – 10:37am
    Is there an 11+ type entrance exam for posh schools or is it just a matter of being able to pay the fees?

    Most public schools award free scholarships on merit by entrance examination. Johnson won a King’s Scholarship to study at Eton for four years (and then a literary scholarship to study at Oxford).

  • David Evans 28th Jul '19 - 4:23pm

    TCO – Have you ever answered a difficult question or just perpetually avoid the point? I am coming to the sad conclusion you are no Liberal.

  • TCO,

    I don’t think it is liberal to force someone to sell their home because they were ill in old age and need care. However, currently those who have to go into a care home do have to sell their home to pay for their care. I do think is liberal to take wealth equally as we would with our new wealth tax. It is based on what a person receives and not on whether the person is ill or not.

    The reason I like Income Tax is because a person has to have an income before they pay it. Therefore they can always pay it out of their income and not their savings. I think it is fair that everyone pays Income Tax at the same rates depending on their income. The single person pays towards the services provided to those who have children. Children Benefit is a help towards the extra cost of having a child. I think we have a policy to increase the rate for very young children in recognition that very young children cost more than those who go to school. In the UK free childcare of 30 hours a week is provided for 3 and 4 year-olds if the parents work and the parents have an income of less than £100,000 a year.

    I hope your comment of 9.18am today is not addressed towards me. My criticisms of the coalition are so we learn the lessons of our failures and never make the same mistakes again. I think it is important we do not see the coalition government though rose-tinted glasses, but we can engage with people who are thinking about voting for us but have huge reservations because of what we supported during the coalition. I am addressing their reservations.

  • Martin,

    The problem was not going into coalition with the Conservatives, it was with the way the coalition agreement was made. Instead of both sides compromising or direct deals done, our team accepted Conservative policies and got nothing in return. Accepting Conservative economic policy was the biggest mistake and we need to learn never to accept another party’s economic policy but instead reach a compromise on the economic policy.

    TCO,

    Let’s rewind to the children of the 40s and 50s – who had grammar schools – who attained positions of power and influence, and they did have parents who were manual workers”.

    A Conservative could look at this and say most children started off with the same opportunities but during their life the ones who succeeded were the “fittest”. For Conservatives this is how they want society to work. It seems that you, TCO agree with them.

  • Michael BG writes”A Conservative could look at this and say most children started off with the same opportunities but during their life the ones who succeeded were the “fittest”. For Conservatives this is how they want society to work. It seems that you, TCO agree with them.”

    A Liberal like myself would look at the evidence that since comprehensive schools were introduced the proportion of people from modest backgrounds getting to the top has fallen, and that those who support comprehensives are comfortable with that, to me, disturbing fact.

  • I take it Michael BG has never been a parent, or he would know that the incremental cost of having a child is I think £180k, which is far more than the small proportion of tax a childless person pays towards child-spevufuc state services.

    Besides, there are the other points that the childless person has far more time and disposable income to enjoy at a young age, not to mention increased work opportunities, yet after retirement is literally relying on the adults who were raised as children by others to provide their pensions and care.

  • Peter Hirst: “A certain amount of austerity was necessary at the time…”

    I think this is rather beside the point. It is, as my post tries to seperate out, part of the explanation. If we rely on that alone we jettison empathy for those who experienced the effects of that austerity. It is rather immaterial whether it was necessary or not, basic humanity should direct that we can understand this was bad for people and to understand that they, and people who care about them, feel negatively about that. We should, as a responsible and compassionate party at least recognise their position before trying to explain our own. We shouldn’t always make this about us, its about the kind of politicians we want to be and what kind of society we would, ideally, want to create.

  • David Evans avoids the questions I asked him, so let me answer them on his behalf. He can then assent or defer as appropriate.

    1) he didn’t like Nick Clegg, 2) he opposed coalition, so therefore 3) de facto he supported economic chaos and the associated misery, and 4) he doesn’t believe in wealth taxes.

    Plenty of people have those views, of course, but not so many Liberal Democrats.

  • Michael BG writes “A Conservative could look at this and say most children started off with the same opportunities but during their life the ones who succeeded were the “fittest”. For Conservatives this is how they want society to work.”

    As a Liberal I believe in meritocracy. I find it concerning that the proportion of people from modest backgrounds getting to the top of society has gone down since we abolished grammar schools. Doesn’t he?

  • TCO,

    The original point was “that ‘equality of opportunity’ isn’t enough”. People should have opportunities not just at the start of their life by throughout their life. This means giving people the opportunity to retrain when they need to for free. This means providing the correct support throughout a person’s life so they can achieve their full potential. I do think people should be promoted on merit and not on who they know.

    Grammar schools did not work for the majority of children. It provided some assistance for a selected few.

  • Peter Martin 29th Jul '19 - 7:16pm

    @ TCO,

    Why not look at the evidence? If we want increased social mobility then we need to be more like Norway, Finland and Denmark:

    “Countries with more equality of wealth also have more social mobility. This indicates that equality of wealth and equality of opportunity go hand-in-hand.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_mobility#/media/File:The_Great_Gatsby_Curve.png

  • Peter Martin 29th Jul '19 - 7:22pm

    @ Paul Walter,

    “The Common Entrance Exam” ??

    Maybe not so common because I’ve never heard of it before!

  • @Peter Martin – what makes you think that sparsely populated societally homogeneous Scandinavian countries are a better model for education than, say Germany, which has a selective education system?

  • @peter Martin ““The Common Entrance Exam” ??

    Maybe not so common because I’ve never heard of it before”

    It’s called common because it’s common to all schools that have entrance at 13.

  • Michael BG – The summary of A Call to Economic Arms (also compared to current Libdem platform):
    – Investing in strategic and emerging technologies: Libdem manifesto only clearly mention green techs, and Coalition Industrial Strategy failed to include AI, 5G and automation, the three most important Industry 4.0 techs.
    – A focus on manufacturing: not clear. There is zero mention of mamufacturing in Libdem manifesto 2017.
    – Government funding of applied research and engineering, not just basic science: not clear.
    – Support/subsidies of bringing technology into manufacturing/commercialization: not clear.
    – Infrastructure investments: Already had.
    – Increase (private + public) investments (% of GDP) over consumption: Vaguely mentioned, without clear target, which should be above 22% of GDP.
    – R&D and Investment tax credits instead of Tory-style all-the-board corporate tax cut: not clear.
    – Incentives for long-term capital gain on stocks and bonds but not real estates as opposed to Tory-style all-the-board CGT tax cut: no information.
    – Increase national savings rate: not clear.
    – Reducing trade deficits: no information.
    – Industrial relations: already had.
    – Investments in renewables: already had.

    Conclusion: There are loads of ideas from A Call to Economic Arms that could be adopted by the Party, especially with the upcoming Industrial Revolution 4.0. The book as a whole, at least the economic platform, can be used as the basis for a Second Yellow Book.

    Here are my additional ideas:
    – Turning British Business Bank into a full-fledged National Investment Bank, like the German KfW. There would be no other institutions like Green Investment Bank or Housing Investment Bank. More bodies like those only create extra bureaucracy, one single entity is enough.
    – VAT levied on non-essential consumer goods (especially FMCGs and food) that are predominantly imported abroad.

  • Michael BG – Michael BG – about wealth taxation and LVT, it will also depend on whether pensioner votes constitute a significant part of our voting base or not. I support current party policies on gift tax, mansion tax and LVT, but more wealth taxation depends on the importance of elder vote for our electoral prospects. If their votes are too small, then we can go full-blown American Democrats.

  • Peter Martin 30th Jul '19 - 8:29am

    @TCO,

    There’s lot to be said for the German education system and I wouldn’t be opposed to copying some aspects of it. Particularly when it comes to offering everyone a good technical based education.

    But you aren’t going to get that by simply advocating a return to the 50s and 60s. Then the choice, for most parents and children, wasn’t between Grammar schools and the private sector. It was between one Secondary Modern down the road and perhaps another SM further away. Middle class parents were naturally very unhappy that their child had been deemed a failure on the basis of one test. This often happened and MPs and councillors would be indundated with appeals when 11+ results were issued. Many children were scared for life by that process.

    I doubt if even many hard line Tories want to go back to all that. But if that’s what LibDems want then by all means make your case. You’ll have to be pretty good at it though. There are probably more votes to be lost than gained.

  • @Peter Martin if you support the German education system, you will also know that it deals with the minor failings of the tripartite system by making entry to Gymnasium voluntary, but dependent on being able to keep up. It also allows movement in the other direction to cater for late developers.

    My personal view is that we should reintroduce Middle Schools and have divergence at age 14.

  • TCO,

    Last night on BBC2 there was a programme called “How to break into the elite”. It concludes that you have to be an extrovert and have lots of confidence (and perhaps be brought up in an environment which valued you and gave you confidence and to be very well educated a First would help but not unless you have the first two attributes).

    Thomas,

    Thank you for the summary of “A Call to Economic Arms”.

    I think 22% of GDP for investment might be too high I don’t agree with cuts in Capital Gain Tax for owners of shares. Wouldn’t it encourage owners of new businesses to sell them? I don’t see the need to encourage savings (as a Keynesian I see savings as leakages from the economy just like imports). I don’t think it is possible to have a policy to reduce the trade deficit unless you want to devalue the pound. However, more support could be provided for companies to export.

    There is no way we as a party would support protectionism. I would not support extra taxes on over the count medicines or toiletries and especially not food.

    The rest seem reasonable but I don’t know how practicable some of them are.

  • Michael BG – “I think 22% of GDP for investment might be too high I don’t agree with cuts in Capital Gain Tax for owners of shares. Wouldn’t it encourage owners of new businesses to sell them?” – 22% is just a little above OECD average you know. About CGT cut, it would only apply to long-term investors, while short-term investors and speculators would actually see tax increases.

    “I don’t see the need to encourage savings (as a Keynesian I see savings as leakages from the economy just like imports)” – Increasing savings rate will increase the availability of domestic capital (thus reducing reliance on foreign capital inflows and eventually reducing imports and national debts), lower the cost of capital, and can also directly reduce imports if the savings result from people spending less on foreign consumer goods.

    “I don’t think it is possible to have a policy to reduce the trade deficit unless you want to devalue the pound. However, more support could be provided for companies to export” – devaluing the pound will not necessarily improve trade balance since our industries rely a lot on imported inputs and components. Yes, export subsidies, and some forms of *import substitution* as well, to reduce our manufacturing sector’s reliance on foreign components and imputs.

    “There is no way we as a party would support protectionism. I would not support extra taxes on over the count medicines or toiletries and especially not food.” – I am not talking about medicine or essential products or basic food. I am talking about “exotic” food and luxury goods. And let me tell you about an uncomfortable truth: The Whigs, our predecessors and represented industrial interests, were ardent protectionists during our developing phase in 18th century. Since the 19th century, Whigs and then Liberals support free trade because they were the parties of industrial capitalism and free trade was what the British industrialists wanted when they dominated the world markets for most of the 19th century.

    It also depends on how you define protectionism: laissez faire ideologues like Gladstone or Thatcher would consider industrial policy and export subsidies as protectionism.

  • Thomas,

    Someone mentioned in the recent past that foreign companies often buy up new successful British companies. Therefore if Capital Gains Tax was reduced there would be more of an incentive for the owners of these new smallish successful British companies to sell up.

    If people save more, they spend less and so can cause a reduction in demand. I think this is a bad thing. Companies do not use the increased savings to invest because the demand for their products has fallen. Economic growth falls and could even turn into a recession.

    Interest rates in the UK are very low at the moment.

    As a liberal party I can’t see us supporting your interventions in foreign trade. I had to look FMCGs up and they include over the counter medicines, toiletries and food. It still sounds like you are advocating protectionism against certain foreign produced over the counter medicines, toiletries and what you consider luxury food items. Liberals are unlikely to support protectionism. We look back to the 1930’s and see the increase of protectionism in this period as a bad thing. We support the reduction of trade barriers and tariffs. This is why I don’t think we as a liberal party would support these aspects of the policies you are advocating.

    I would argue that the Whigs and Liberals supported free trade because they felt that protectionism protected agriculture. They didn’t like the power of the landed-interest and free trade reduced it, also food prices were reduced and so there was an increase in demand for other goods in the UK. Liberals also supported free trade because they believed that the more a country traded with another one the less likely it was that they would go to war with them.

  • Michael BG – “Someone mentioned in the recent past that foreign companies often buy up new successful British companies. Therefore if Capital Gains Tax was reduced there would be more of an incentive for the owners of these new smallish successful British companies to sell up” – CGT cuts would be only for long-term investors, while short-term CGT would increase, but you do have a point. Also, tougher foreign takeover laws at least in line with the US under Obama, which is overdue, would be introduced at the same time to discourage/block foreign acquisitions.

    “If people save more, they spend less and so can cause a reduction in demand. I think this is a bad thing. Companies do not use the increased savings to invest because the demand for their products has fallen. Economic growth falls and could even turn into a recession” – not really if it is because they spend less on imports. On the other hand, we would try to boost exports. Also, a little sacrifice in consumer spending could help lower personal/consumer debts, which are always risky and add nothing to our national competitiveness. Meanwhile, improved trade balance should help reduce foreign capital inflows needed to cover it, thus also reduce national debt as well. The long-term solution to lower national debt (especially foreign debt) is to reduce Consumption as % of GDP and simultaneously increase Investment and Net Exports.

    “I would argue that the Whigs and Liberals supported free trade because they felt that protectionism protected agriculture. They didn’t like the power of the landed-interest and free trade reduced it, also food prices were reduced and so there was an increase in demand for other goods in the UK” – that was in line with the interests of industrial capitalism by the 1840s, reducing food bill also allowed them to keep wages down, while free trade enabled newly industrialized Britain to dominate less industrialized foreign markets with cheap mass-produced goods. If you look at the 18th century/early 19th century, when we were developing/industrializing, Britain was the most protectionist country and the Whigs were strong supporters of protectionism.

  • “I had to look FMCGs up and they include over the counter medicines, toiletries and food. It still sounds like you are advocating protectionism against certain foreign produced over the counter medicines, toiletries and what you consider luxury food items. Liberals are unlikely to support protectionism” – I don’t mean to tax essential FMCGs like those you mention, but less essential ones, probably I use the wrong term. I initially mean, for example, I am sure that the majority of stuffs sold in Chinese food markets are imported (e.g. the ingredients to make tofu are certainly not made in the UK) and probably the majority of them are not indispensable in British daily life (a.k.a substitutes are available). Well, I admit I am not really correct here as these things, while not essential for say, White Britons/Europeans, are vital for Chinese community.

    For luxury goods I mean something similar to the McKenna duties during ww1, with the focus on foreign goods. Extra VAT on goods that are mostly made domestically or those are vital imports would backfire badly, but on non-vital imports, not much. I maintain my stance for extra VAT on luxury goods. Reduction of imports of non-vital stuffs is not a bad thing.

    Anyway, those things above are trivial. The key is to improve manufacturing productivity, and strengthen domestic manufacturing supply chains to reduce reliance on foreign inputs/components, since industrial inputs/components form the lion share of our imports.

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