Five General Election lessons from a newbie

 

I joined the Lib Dems in 2015, stood for Chester Police and Crime Commissioner in 2016 and for Bromsgrove in the 2017 General Election. Both were tough but fabulous experiences and I was hugely grateful for the opportunity to stand for our shared Liberal Democrat values and for the great local support I received.

So what lessons did a newbie learn in this General Election?

  1. All is not lost!

Yes, our vote share was disappointing – but from my conversations on the street, and also as the latest evidence, we were squeezed – dreadfully! So, we know the votes are there… for next time.

I campaigned in a strong Conservative seat and met people who shared our values but felt a Lib Dem vote would make no difference. Here’s what seemed to persuade them;

“… every Lib Dem vote counts because the BBC and media allocate TV and Radio time based on the number of votes we get – so, if you want to hear less of Nigel Farage and more of Tim Farron, you must vote Lib Dem…”

  1. #JustTheSame

Labour and Conservatives are #JustTheSame – they are like two squabbling partners in a bad marriage – each blames the other, but without the other, they have no purpose!

Neither Labour nor the Conservatives can speak for the whole country because both seek to exploit our bent electoral system by appealing to a small core group of voters.

They are #JustTheSame and it is time to replace both of them, and our rotten way of electing MPs too.

  1. Let’s do coalition

The coalition was the most stable and successful government we’ve had in 30 years.

Could it have been better with Labour? Maybe.

And, when accused of the ‘terrible’ things Lib Dems did in Government I said

“…if you wish to blame the Lib Dems for what they did in Government, then please do the decent thing and vote them into Government in the first place.

“Next time, don’t give us 57 MPs, give us a majority and then I’ll take your complaint seriously.”

A Lib Dem coalition builds in anti-extremist stabilisers into government. Who wouldn’t want that?

If asked who we would form a coalition with? I’d say, if we fail to win a majority, then either Labour or Conservatives will be forming a coalition with us – so why not ask them first?

  1. Government

C’mon – what the heck – let’s be the next government!

The last two governments have been so bad and the future prospects look appalling – more Maybot or Corbyn – that this really must be the time for a Liberal Democrat government.

Look, I know that for saying this we’ll be laughed at, abused, made fun of, but hey, that’s better than being ignored – which is what is currently happening too often.

  1. How would you like to pay for your ‘free’ tuition?

I did not pay for my university tuition fees up front. However, my parents paid for my tuition through their taxes (according to their ability to pay) and I subsequently paid for others through my taxes too.

The point is, there has never been ‘free’ tuition – someone always has to pay.

The question for Labour to answer is why someone who never went to university should pay for someone who does? Because that is the principle that underlies their plan. And I believe it is unfair.

* Neil Lewis, who worked at The Economist Group before becoming an entrepreneur, joined the Lib Dems in 2015, standing as Cheshire PCC in 2016 and Bromsgrove in 2017.

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41 Comments

  • Jonathan Pile 3rd Jul '17 - 11:05am

    @Neil “I did not pay for my university tuition fees up front. However, my parents paid for my tuition through their taxes (according to their ability to pay) and I subsequently paid for others through my taxes too.The point is, there has never been ‘free’ tuition – someone always has to pay.The question for Labour to answer is why someone who never went to university should pay for someone who does? Because that is the principle that underlies their plan. And I believe it is unfair. ”

    I cannot agree with your statements : firstly every parent aspires for their child to excel in the field they choose & have the opportunity of free access to that – be it Higher Education, Further Education or Technical Apprenticeship. It seems to be somewhat illiberal to restrict access to opportunity to those who could afford to pay, or carry some form of debt. We wouldn’t use such arguments for secondary or primary education access, why is it acceptable for higher education to be chargeable? For a generation who enjoyed the fruits of fee free university and polytechnics with a modest student grant from local authority we should fight for free access to higher education. Those who didnt go or do want to go to university still need doctors and scientists. A Higher rate tax on high earners who probably did go to university seems appropriate way to fund this

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Jul '17 - 11:26am

    I see Labour took a majority of 93 to in excess of 9000. LibDems went down from 5% in 2015 to less than 3% in 2017.

    Yes there are other constituencies in Cheshire but all the same nothing to be cheerful about here in my view.

    As for why should others pay for someone else’s education- a line echoed by Vince Cable – just check the mocking response on twitter to this.

    I have no children. I don’t begrudge one penny if taxes paid towards the future generation’s education. What an appalling, selfish and shortsighted approach to public finances.

    If this view prevails within the LibDems then on top of slamming public sector workers with austerity, the LibDems should just move into the small hole occupied by a few liberal Tories and sign up as Tory through and through.

    There is an alternative- but not one that seems to be offered by LibDems hence their electoral collapse.

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Jul '17 - 11:35am

    Stats above relate to Chester constituency of course

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Jul '17 - 11:35am

    5. Paying for “free tuition”

    Essentially, we need to raise an extra £10 billion each year for new students (existing unpaid debts could be written off over 30 years). We could raise higher rates of income tax; the IFS Green budget has some figures:

    https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/gb/gb2015/ch10_gb2015.pdf

    “A 1 percentage point rise in all rates of income tax would, after allowing for some behavioural response, raise an estimated £5.5 billion per year: £4.2 billion from the basic tax rate, £1.2 billion from the higher rate and £0.1 billion from the additional rate.” (pp232-33)

    So 5p on higher and additional rates would raise £6.5 billion, while only restoring the additional rate to its 2010 level. We need to remember that Margaret Thatcher had a 60p top rate of income tax for most of her premiership. There are also options for increasing National Insurance above the UEL (£1 billion per 1p), so it is not infeasible to raise £10 billion through progressive taxation.

  • Paul Pettinger 3rd Jul '17 - 11:53am

    “The coalition was the most stable and successful government we’ve had in 30 years.”

    Ignoring its desirability for a moment, you are brushing over that the coalition (always a very risky project) was unsustainable, and especially so due to the way in which it was pursued, such as re-branding as centrist (so setting us to be even more aggressively squeezed), embracing coalitionism (flipping our desire to make Parliament more balanced through electoral reform, to making the executive more balanced, with us joining it as our main goal), embracing fiscal conservatism (expecting an electoral dividend for embracing another party’s economic philosophy, which was terrible for the economy) and dumping on core voters (most notoriously through tripling fees). Perhaps you forget that we scrapped fees in Scotland.

    You want the Lib Dems to make big strides, but are fetishising many of the things that are and would continue to hold it back. The Lib Dems are not an anti-extremist Party – it is a pro-liberal Party.

  • Dave Orbison: is there anything that a Lib Dem or Lib Dems say as a party that you agree with?

  • @Dave

    Since you are in the party of hard Brexit, all the promises of free tuition are futile. Not only will the hard Brexit (that you presumably support) do enormous damage to the economy (limiting tax receipts to pay for free tuition), but the corresponding hike on corporation tax Labour promised will drive even more business (and tax receipts) from the UK. The country would face even more austerity had your hard Brexit supporting party gained power.

    Already Labour’s purge of the rational frontbench members last week has led to disquiet amongst people who voted Labour last month who feel dreadfully betrayed.

  • David Evershed 3rd Jul '17 - 12:12pm

    The income tax rate for earnings between £100,000 and £121,200 is already 60% because the personal allowance is gradually withdrawn.

    Plus 2% National Insurance equals 62% for this salary band.

    See https://www.ft.com/content/622ff86c-d16e-11e5-92a1-c5e23ef99c77?mhq5j=e3

    PEAK INCOME TAX RATES AND THATCHER
    The highest rate of income tax peaked in the Second World War at 99.25%. It was then slightly reduced and was around 90% through the 1950s and 60s.

    In 1971 the top rate of income tax on earned income was cut to 75%. A surcharge of 15% kept the top rate on investment income at 90%. In 1974 the cut was partly reversed and the top rate on earned income was raised to 83%. With the investment income surcharge this raised the top rate on investment income to 98%, the highest permanent rate since the war.

    Margaret Thatcher, who favoured indirect taxation, reduced personal income tax rates during the 1980s. In the first budget after her election victory in 1979, the top rate was reduced from 83% to 60% and the basic rate from 33% to 30%. The basic rate was also cut for three successive budgets – to 29% in the 1986 budget, 27% in 1987 and to 25% in 1988. The top rate of income tax was cut to 40% in the 1988 budget. The investment income surcharge was abolished in 1985.

  • David Evershed 3rd Jul '17 - 12:28pm

    Economic theory is that there is a point at which tax rates are so high that the disincentive to earn and tax avoidance mean tax revenue is lower than it would be with lower tax rates. The theory has been called the Laffer Curve.

    The optimum tax rate is for maximising revenue is debated. Some economists argue the optimum is 70% whilst others propose 33%. No doubt it varies with the particular circumstances.

    What is clear is that no tax revenue is likely to be raised with either a 0% tax rate or a 100% or higher tax rate. So, helpfully, the answer lies somewhere between. 🙂

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Jul '17 - 1:41pm

    The ales – is there anything that the LibDems says I agree with?

    Yes, plenty though increasingly much I disagree with. Are you suggesting a debate should be held between those who only share the same opinion?

    I agreed with much of the 2010 LibDem manifesto since I voted for them at the time. But I disagree with the Orange booker approach to economics that has cost the LibDems so much.

    I disagree with secret courts and with student fees. I am not a fan of the negative campaign led by Tim Farron and I’m not a great fan of religion being involved in politics.

    I believe in civil liberties, a foreign policy that underpins the UN, a progressive tax system, support for public services and the NHS including public ownership of strategic industries. Any party that comes closest to this and has a chance of putting into practice gets my support.

    At the moment I have no idea where the LibDems under Vince Cable will be heading.

  • David Evans 3rd Jul '17 - 1:48pm

    I’m sorry Neil, but the one thing as a newbie you will eventually learn is that naive enthusiasm and self belief, is no substitute for hard work and experience. If you had been a member in 1981, you would have learned it by June 1983. If you had been a member in 2010, you would have probably learned that by January 2011. Sadly it took Nick five years to do so, and we are where we are as a result of that.

    Somehow I strongly doubt if you did persuade people with your “… every Lib Dem vote counts because the BBC and media allocate TV and Radio time based on the number of votes we get – so, if you want to hear less of Nigel Farage and more of Tim Farron, you must vote Lib Dem…” You may want to believe it, you may even need to believe it, but it takes actions over many years to get people to trust you with their vote not words over a few minutes, and we have lost so much trust between 2010 and 2015 it won’t be changed quickly.

    If I had to point you in a particular direction to gain insight into this, I would suggest you look at the experience of Ronnie Fearn, Patsy Carlton or Ray Michie, who each knew just how long it takes to get elected. It isn’t a quick fix.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Jul '17 - 1:55pm

    “there has never been ‘free’ tuition – someone always has to pay”
    A couple of years ago it was suggested that the anticipated default rate on repayment of tuition fees loans (perhaps exacerbated by the fact that they are much higher than anticipated) means that the current scheme might cost tax payers more than the one it replaced.

  • @David Evershed
    Google Kansas and the Laffer curve and you might be less likely to push that discredited theory. It failed there it would fail here. It failed so badly the tea party republicans ended up getting the bums rush, as would any party who tried it here.

  • Graham Evans 3rd Jul '17 - 2:59pm

    @ frankie If you do google Kansas and Laffer and read the various articles which pop up then you realise that it’s far from simple. However, it’s surely obvious if tax rates are 100% there’s no incentive to work, and if they are 0% you raise no revenue to spend on public services. So there clearly is an optimum. The problem is that you cannot deduce it from some simple economic theory. On the other hand slow incremental change doesn’t change behaviour, if that is what you want to do. Britain’s success in cycling has come about because of sustained incremental improvements, but the dramatic improvement in high jumping resulting from the Fosbury flop was a total step change. Unfortunately it’s easier in sport to test the impact of changes than it is in economics and politics.

  • Riccardo Sallustio 3rd Jul '17 - 3:00pm

    As a newbie (I joined last January) I generally agree with your statements. I would like to comment on coalitions and will reply separately on tuition fees.
    Coalitions
    As I have written in the past in the private forum of LDV I am not against coalitions, as long as somebody is able to handle them well, by not playing the nice guy or alternatively by showing that you are the real bulldog in the government. Something went clearly wrong in this respect last time as in 2015 voters clearly penalised us for this.

    Being a smaller party which is unable to get an outright majority, we can attract voters only by telling them that they should vote for us because with 50 MPs we can block extreme policies and that we area ready to enter into a coalition. By saying that we were the real opposition, we ruled us out of government and missed a big opportunity with voters. We should have rather said during the last campaign that we were ready to govern (most likely in a coalition) and that a vote for us would have counted. Sure Labour would have played the argument that a vote for us was a vote for the Tory party, and the Tory would have said the opposite but we would have had a strong counter-argument in them having the wrong uncosted manifestos and extreme leaders, often disconnected from reality. After all, we did not benefit from progressive votes (Labour eventually did not help us and Richmond is a clear case) and liberal Tories’ failed to support Nick in Sheffield Hallam. Unlike 2015, in this general election, we had the opportunity to play this role, but rather than supporting Tim when he said in the HoC that he was ready to go into coalition we immediately decided to say the opposite. At first, we In my view, this was the real own-goal in this election and not Tim’s answer on homosexuality. The quick U-turn on this showed that we were afraid of coalitions and this helped both Tory and Labour’s argument that a vote for us was a wasted vote.

  • Riccardo Sallustio 3rd Jul '17 - 3:01pm

    Tuition fees
    As to the 5th point, as a practising lawyer, I do not see a problem in subsidising tuition fees, with a special graduate tax borne by graduates and by high earners. It would be a fair way of sharing the cost without imposing the cost on those who do not regard higher education as a priority in the country and considering that the are other cost centres like NHS, which need to be funded first, that benefit all citizens. However, I must say that when yesterday morning I retweeted the news about the proposal for a graduate tax made by Sir Vince on Sky News earlier, I did not get a single “like”. So as much as I personally like the idea, I believe that we should carefully evaluate any message on tuition fees to avoid any further own-goals.

  • @Dave Orbison

    Do you support your party’s drive for a hard Brexit?

  • Thanks for the comments everyone

    – Evidence published on the BBC shows that half of the people who voted Lib Dem in 2015 voted differently in 2017. Based on what I saw, this was because people voted tactically – that’s why the potential Lib Dem vote is much bigger next time. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40331136

    @Dave Orbison – please check the article, I stood in Bromsgrove not City of Chester

    – Tuition Fees – why stop free at education at 21? Why not 24? Or 27? I’ve not yet seen a rational argument on why one age should trump another. What is true though, is that ‘universal’ education is now to 18 years old (even if 17 and 18 year olds choose an apprenticeship rather than traditional education). However, should everyone be educated to 21 whether they wish it or not? Or should young people be allowed to choose different routes after 18 (high quality apprenticeships for instance)? This matters because it leaves you with the question of why someone who chose an apprenticeship route should pay (through either their taxes or the higher costs of living) for someone who goes to university (for 3, 4, 5, 7 or more years?). Also, remember, some courses – architects, lawyers and doctors, last 5+ years. Should 3 year arts students pay for these longer courses? The only fair way to solve this puzzle is to let people take responsibility for the courses they take, whilst not burdening to the extent that you exclude less well of students.

  • @Peter Watson

    – re: default rates on tuition fees / unpaid tuition fees (as they are written off after 30 years) – yes, there is a debate to be had about the level of charges that Universities are allowed to levy.

    – which is why it’s really about the economy! What I fear most – and I have young adult children – is they when they finish their university degrees, that they will find an economy in freefall which fails to offer them high pay, high quality work with which to build a life and, yes, pay off their student fees. The ability of a student to pay off the costs (and so avoid defaults falling back onto the taxpayer) will be proportional to the broad based growth in wages which result from a successful and innovative economy which is able to invest in public sector roles and wages too.

    As we can see clearly now, hard Brexit will destroy that future growth – and that is why both Tory and Labour plans for our economy outside of the Single Market are so alarming. I think it also explains why more and more moderate MPs on all sides are campaigning to maintain membership of the Single Market.

  • @Jonathan Pile

    – access to education re: ” It seems to be somewhat illiberal to restrict access to opportunity to those who could afford to pay, or carry some form of debt.” I agree, which is why Scotland’s ‘free’ tuition and the falling participation rates of less wealthy students is an instructive warning. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/can-scottish-higher-education-carry-on-with-its-free-tuition-policy.

    I’ll always be open to ways to improve access to opportunities – whether that be unequal pay between men and women or access to education and work opportunities. And, it is one the key reason why the Lib Dems introduced the early years pupil premium – it has a disproportionate effect on improving life chances for the less privileged, compared to all other forms of education spending and especially the idea of funding middle class young adults in tertiary education. We also proposed to re-introduce maintenance grants for the poorest students – to ensure they have equal access.

  • @Riccardo Salustio

    re: “I do not see a problem in subsidising tuition fees, with a special graduate tax borne by graduates and by high earners.”

    I think we already have this – so, fees are payable via a tax code once the student begins to earn a minimum amount (which should rise with wages).

    And, as was pointed out earlier, any failure to payback the full loan after 30 years is written off, so expect some defaults, which will be paid the 50% of people paying taxes and mostly by those paying higher rate tax.

    I’m not against renaming ‘tuition fees’ a ‘graduate tax’ – but I think an open and honest debate and what the options really are (as opposed to ‘free lunch’ options) is the best way forward.

  • @ Riccardo Sallustio

    re: Coalition – I agree with you – and I also believe we should campaign to be the majority government -or- the largest party.

    If we are the largest party, then the relevant question becomes either ‘Tories, will you join a Lib Dem led coalition’ or ‘Labour, will you join a Lib Dem led coalition’.

    That is why you are right to say that we must position ourselves as the next government. And, if we end up as the opposition, then so be it – but we must set ourselves and our manifesto as a manifesto of government.

    Now, a Liberal, moderate, pro-Britain, pro-Europe, pro-people, pro-what-works government. Who wouldn’t want that? (Bar a few extremists….)

  • Andrew McCaig 3rd Jul '17 - 5:17pm

    Neil Lewis,
    The whole point of a graduate tax is that rich graduates pay back more than the cost of their education and poorer graduates less. That is why the current system is not a “graduate tax”.

    The big advantage of a graduate tax is that there are no home student fees and no tuition fee debts. Universities will be funded in the same way they were before 2010, but in the fullness of time graduate tax will pay some or all of it, just as the current system requires the fullness of time for (some) of the loans to be repaid.
    The fullness of time could be reduced with some political will by making the graduate tax retrospective, something that cannot be done in the present scheme..

  • There seems to be an argument of why should we subsidies people going onto further education when those that don’t would receive nothing. The solution put forward is we don’t but there is another way of approaching it, we could subsidies both groups. What do i mean by that simple, treat those in the age group 18 to 21 as still in education and attach a education grant to them. the grant could be used to obtain further education or be used by companies to provide training. hopefully on the back of that we would have an educated workforce.

  • The whole point of a graduate tax is that rich graduates pay back more than the cost of their education and poorer graduates less

    Is it fair that — as would happen in that situation — a high-earning GP or consultant would effectively be subsidising the degree of a media studies graduate, possibly many media studies graduates?

    The whole problem stems from this madcap idea of Tony Blair’s that 50% of the population should go to university. Get rid of that nonsense, perhaps by cutting every course with an entry requirement of, say, less than three B’s at A level, and the funding problem suddenly becomes a lot more manageable, and could quite possibly be done form general taxation without tuition fees.

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Jul '17 - 6:33pm

    @Neil Lewis – “I stood in Bromsgrove not City of Chester”.
    Indeed, my oversight. In Chester LibDem support from 2015 to 2017 fell from 5% to <3%, in Bromsgrove from 5% down to 4.6%, your point?

    @James Pugh – “Do I support my party’s drive for a hard Brexit?”. This illustrates the problem with the LibDems – the Leadership have presented this as an all-or-nothing option and as if support for any party can only be define and determined based on his single issue.
    As supported Remain but fully supported Corbyn’s 7/10. The EU is not a perfect institution. Claims on both sides of the Brexit issue badly served the debate as they competed with each other in terms of scaremongering.

    A referendum was held. If it had been the other way round and the Brexit lot cried foul and demanded a second referendum let’s be honest how many nanoseconds would it be before we ‘Remainers’ deployed ‘the people have decided, that’s democracy’ argument.

    I thought about this long and hard and was conflicted. But if I allowed myself to accept that the vote should be case aside then what basis is there to defending democracy. So what’s to be done?

    I think there is a case to be made to waiting and see what develops. I would prefer there to be a Labour Government in post to conclude the negotiation and then to consider when we see what is on the table and to gauge the public mood at that time and when much more factual information is available. I remain of the view that we are better in the EU. But that is my view and I was in the minority. But I think it is premature to tell voters that we already have decided to override their views (which is the implication of holding a second referendum) before first seeking to get the ‘best’ deal, which I believe will be an abysmal deal. I think the implications need to fully sink in and believe this will happen with time.

    By the way there is surely something ironic that Nick Clegg announced with pride the benefits of being locked into a 5-year Parliamentary cycle whilst the LibDems want to discard referendums when the result does not fit with what they want.

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Jul '17 - 6:48pm

    @Neil Lewis – Tuition Fees – why stop free at education at 21? Why not 24? Or 27? I’ve not yet seen a rational argument on why one age should trump another.

    Because yes have to draw the line somewhere although the Open University went someway to making degree courses available for mature students – I think free or at least very low cost to begin with. Neil since you are a fan of logic let me ask you if free university education was once available why can’t it be possible now?

    When I went to uni – in the 1970’s income tax was around 33%. I had friends who went straight from school to work. I never heard any of them bleat about paying for my education. Some of the comments on LDV as to why should x pay for y is shocking. What next demanding refunds if we don’t use the emergency services? I expect that sort of money driven single minded selfishness in the Tories but am surprised to see how it has taken hold of the LibDems.

    As someone else commented the the LibDem party of today is a long way away from that of the 1970’s to 2000’s. No wonder the party is foundering.

  • Graham Evans 3rd Jul '17 - 8:41pm

    @ Dave Orbison When you went to university in the 1970s relatively few of your age cohort did, so the cost to the Exchequer was much lower than it would be today. Moreover, because so few people went, few of those who did not go would have realised that their taxes were paying for your university education.
    @ frankie Your misuse of the term further education sums up the attitude which those demanding free university education have towards those who do not have the academic ability or inclination to go to university. What you are talking about in higher education. Further education, which predominantly serves the 55% of the age cohort who do not go to university, has long been the Cinderella of the British education system. If instead of concentrating our energies on the university sector we as a nation had devoted more financial resources to the further education sector we might not have had the skills shortage which sucked in so many skilled workers from East Europe, regrettably contributing to the Brexit vote.

  • @Dave Orbison

    But your party HAS CHOSEN on the position to leave the Single Market and Customs Union, which is a hard Brexit. The referendum result does not dictate this position, since Norway is not in the EU, but is in the Single Market. Your party’s leader HAS CHOSEN to purge members of the frontbench which dissent on this view. It seems you are happy to support a party which wants to do enormous damage to the economy and country

    All the rest of the Labour manifesto is pretty irrelevant. It’s undeliverable in a climate of hard Brexit (which your party and leader HAS CHOSEN to go down), and will exacerbate the damage Brexit will reap by piling on tax on Brexit damaged businesses, necessitating more austerity.

    And yet you remain hung up on the past mistakes of the Liberal Democrats. Ironically you seem happy to blindly go along with a terrible policy of your own party (hard Brexit). Even more ironically, THE mistake of the Liberal Democrats was to seek the vote of students (and their parents) and then abandon them. It seems you remain blind to a very similar mistake the Labour Party is making by having obtained the vote of eurocentrists (with a deceitful manifesto and campaign), it is now abandoning them. Seems you can’t learn from others’ mistakes, even when you are obsessed with them.

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Jul '17 - 11:19pm

    James Pugh – you seem to take issue with my position on Brexit and the LibDems re student fees. How stupid of me and the 40% that voted Labour. You must be right all 7.5% Just how low does the LibDem vote have to go before you might just possibly concede the LibDems position may be wrong?

    Graham Evans – “few of my friends in the 70’s would have realised they were paying for my education’. How utterly patronising and 100% incorrect. Living close to Liverpool I see so many students that have helped revitalise the city. I have no problem paying for their education as people paid for mine.

  • @Dave

    Thanks for checking the facts. My point is that when I spoke to people they saw the value of voting Lib Dem. You’re right, I need to speak to more…

    Thanks also for agreeing that there is no ‘right age’ to cut off free at source education. My point is that as universal education ends at 18, then that is the point to end ‘free’ education and that each student (or apprentice) should be responsible for their educational and career choices – always supported in such a way that maximises access for the least privileged, but also allows selection of widely different paths (which inevitably carry widely different costs).

  • Humphrey Hawksley 4th Jul '17 - 7:52am

    Congratulations, Neil Lewis. Your points are spot on and reflects mine in weekend op-ed. Today’s evidence is Lib Dem coalition initiative for report on Saudi Arabia funding of radical mosques, which government is now sitting on. Coalition with any of main parties will halt their extremism and produce better governance.

  • >How stupid of me and the 40% that voted Labour.

    Lot of my friends and family are dyed-in-the-wool Labour voters AND strong Remainers.
    In the GE, their vote for Labour was in no way an endorsement of Brexit. Any more than all Tory voters were pro-fox hunting.

    There was a LOT of resentment in the past about ‘idle students lying in bed half the day, funded by the poor, hardworking taxpayers’. Probably why Labour was able to introduce tuition fees without a murmur in the first place.

    What, in my experience, Labour supporters can’t get is why we aren’t more like them, why we don’t see the world exactly as they do… in short, why we don’t all just vote Labour as well.
    Whether we get 7.5% or 75% doesn’t prove we are ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ by the way. Popular ≠ right/wrong.

  • John Probert 4th Jul '17 - 9:20am

    How many Christian churches are there in Saudi Arabia and how are they funded?

  • @Dave Orbison

    No Dave, I take issue with someone who is fixated on a politically foolish mistake the Liberal Democrats made (re: tuition fees) of the past, but seems blinkered when their own party is making a foolish mistake (CHOOSING to take a position of Hard Brexit) now. Not only is this position that you support hugely (and potentially irreversibly) damaging to the country, it is also a betrayal to those eurocentrists who voted Labour because Labour was making the right noises to the right voters in the right constituencies. The Liberal Democrats have played that silly game (positioning themselves with different policy positions to different people), and got burned by it when the time came for government. The fact you cannot see, let alone acknowledge, the parallels here is very telling of your sincerity and objectivity.

  • Angry Steve 4th Jul '17 - 10:23am

    @CassieB

    “There was a LOT of resentment in the past about ‘idle students lying in bed half the day, funded by the poor, hardworking taxpayers’. ”

    Only amongst hard-core, ignorant bigots. Was that the demographic that the Lib Dems were aiming for in 2010? I can’t imagine that anything other than a tiny fraction of Lib Dem voters from 2010 held those ‘views’, which explains the complete collapse of the Lib Dem vote share.

    “Probably why Labour was able to introduce tuition fees without a murmur in the first place.”

    Labour were able to introduce fees (a) because they said they would look at graduate contributions prior to 1997 and (b) because their fee system represented a reasonable compromise between funding from progressive taxation and graduate contributions. It didn’t burden middle-income graduates with hugely unreasonable debts at hugely unreasonable rates of interest. it is not reasonable to equate Labour’s system with what the Lib Dems did in 2010.

  • Peter Watson 4th Jul '17 - 10:49am

    @James Pugh “their own party is making a foolish mistake (CHOOSING to take a position of Hard Brexit) now”
    I often wonder why people who claim that stopping Brexit is their priority have joined the Lib Dems. As entryists into either the Conservative Party or the Labour Party, they could influence those parties and achieve much more than by standing back and simply moaning about it.

  • Joe boiurke 4th Jul '17 - 11:33am

    Angry Steve,

    “it is not reasonable to equate Labour’s system with what the Lib Dems did in 2010.” The Browne review on higher education funding was commissioned by Peter Mandelson while Labour were in office for the very reason of developing recommendations to put University funding on a sustainable basis. The review was commissioned to tackle the problem of chronic under-funding of University provision making it impossible to meet the aspiration of increasing numbers of school-leavers to study at degree level.

    One of the key components of the Browne review (limitations on places) was not implemented. This has resulted in far greater costs than planed for. Additionally, the design of the system did not incorporate a mandatory cap of £6k on fees, so almost all universities adopted the maximum fee of £9,000 from the start. These were flaws in the design of the system by the coalition that can and should be corrected, along with a reversal of amendments made by the Conservatives since i.e. a return to maintenance grants (not loans), index-linking of the repayment threshold and a reduction in interest rates to the level payable on overdue tax (3.5%).

    There are far too many students enrolling on University courses who would do much better taking a vocational route that would not involve taking on large debts and os more likely to pay-off in terms of career development. it will be interesting to see how successful the higher apprenticeships model is with employers and trainees, as this could bean attractive route for many.

  • Joe Winstanley 4th Jul '17 - 2:48pm

    @Graham Evans

    ‘However, it’s surely obvious if tax rates are 100% there’s no incentive to work, and if they are 0% you raise no revenue to spend on public services.’

    No not necessarily. It is hard to judge evidence of the Laffer effect because of the distortion created by tax-avoidance measures. Many proponents of the theory tend to attribute reduced tax revenue to reduced effort and industry by high earners, when the reality suggests that tax avoidance is actually the principle reason for the Laffer effect
    – which of course could be addressed by better anti-avoidance rules.

    As an aside, fundamentally I’m always struck by the thought that Laffer is based on a view of human nature that is flawed. Whilst I’m not arguing that a 100% marginal tax rate (or anything close) is a serious proposal, I’ve never bought the idea that it would yield zero revenue. Many people enjoy their jobs would continue working even if they were levied with a 100% marginal tax rate. In essence Laffer’s theory ignores the fact that for a proportion of the population work provides a positive utility. There are many examples of people continuing to work even though, from a financial perspective they don’t need to.

  • ” Many people enjoy their jobs would continue working even if they were levied with a 100% marginal tax rate.”

    Presumably, as we don’t have a 100%, tax rate (for the moment at least), what are these people doing now? Are they handing over all their salary voluntarily until the happy day when the taxman takes it all compulsorily?

    Only on a LibDem site could anyone claim that people love paying tax so much that would be pleased to see a 100% rate. I know a lot of people and no one fits this description.

    I know many that give their time as volunteers in charitable work but that is not the same, at all, as receiving a salary taxed at 100%.

    Frankly, this is the ultimate Socialist claim that people like punitive tax rates and the economically active are ambitious only so they can hand over all their earnings in tax and such rates have no effect on enterprise and entrepreneurship.
    Beyond belief, no wonder etc etc

  • Joe Winstanley 4th Jul '17 - 5:41pm

    @Palehorse

    Really?

    Seriously did you actually read my comment? I would be obliged if you would point out where I stated: ‘…people love paying tax so much that would be pleased to see a 100% rate’ or ‘that people like punitive tax rates’ ?

    To reiterate, I’m *not* arguing that a 100% marginal tax rate (or anything close) is a serious proposal, simply I’ve never bought the idea that it would yield zero revenue which is exactly what the Laffer theory suggests. *That* was the point I was making.

    And Judging from the rest of your comment it appears that you don’t understand the difference between *marginal* and *effective* rates of tax.

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