Is this the front page of the next Lib Dem manifesto?

Ryan Coetzee, recently appointed the Lib Dems’ General Election Director of Strategy, was snapped today clutching papers which look like they might reveal the party’s top four priorities for the 2015 manifesto.

The four priorities read:

Balance the budget
Balance the budget by 2018, protecting the economic recovery and bringing down Britain’s debt.

Cut income tax
Cut income tax by £400 for low and middle earners, paid for by taxes on the rich.

Protect mental health
Guarantee equal care and waiting times for mental health as for physical health, by increasing spending on the NHS.

Improve education
Ensure every child is taught by a qualified teacher and protec spending on nurseries, schools and colleges.

The accidental leak triggered much interest from journalists, more probably than if it had been emailed to them…

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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90 Comments

  • I am by no means convinced that “Balance the budget” is the right goal. We are not a househould, we are a country, and different financial models apply.

    The important thing is to reduce interest payments in real terms – and there are two ways of doing that. If we can invest money so that our income grows faster than our debt then we should do so.

  • Bill le Breton 21st Oct '14 - 4:15pm

    Love to know what ‘balance the budget’ means.

    Also love to know how balancing the budget brings down debt.

  • Joshua Dixon 21st Oct '14 - 4:19pm

    Is it not a bit premature to suggest that the media will be all over this?

  • “We are not a househould, we are a country, and different financial models apply.”

    That old argument again. We may not be a household, but we still have to pay interest on the debt we accumulate and we still have to find willing lenders.

    Just because we are not a household doesn’t mean that borrowing doesn’t have to be brought down and eventually eliminated.

    “Also love to know how balancing the budget brings down debt.”

    If you balance your budget, your debt pile stops growing while hopefully your economy carries on growing, thus over time reducing the relative size of your debt in relation to your GDP, which is really what matters.

  • @ Joshua Dixon

    Given that it is probably the one and only time the media will be “all over” the Lib Dems’ manifesto, it might not be such a bad thing.

  • Don’t these people realise the effect the cuts in benefits and things like the bedroom tax have on peoples mental health? I know of people who’re psychiatric outpatients whose condition has worsened severely because of it. This is not to mention the increase in stigma against anyone unfortune to be claiming sickness benefits, who feel like they have to live their lives in the shadows because of the way this government has made the public think that vast numbers of faking it to get benefits.

  • In my most humble and considered opinion you might as well be promising free pink elephants for everyone given how believable the electorate regard your leader.

    As for reducing debts! Really?! A Lib Dem administration would somehow return the public accounts to surplus in GDP terms and actually reduce the debt over the term of the parliament! The pink elephant thing isn’t as unrealistic in comparison.

  • Sorry for the multiple posting but, seriously….

    Clegg claimed that the tuition fee position was unaffordable (despite claiming the opposite in the election campaign several months earlier) but now goes and allows something that is completely financially impossible, without massive and unprecedented economic growth, to headline his next manifesto.

  • Nigel Quinton 21st Oct '14 - 4:39pm

    None of it is very inspiring is it? Tempted to ask what happened to the last four and why are we no longer pushing the ones the Tories stopped – ie new Politics, greener Britain, or have we decided we are not going to sell these with a leader who has failed on the first and seemingly forgotten the second.

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Oct '14 - 4:46pm

    The education priority is so timid. It merely rebuffs Gove’s barking mad idea for a mass education system to be staffed by unqualified people and ring-fences spending.

    How about implementing Tomlinson? That would be a start.

    The timidity reminds me of Labour. Their proposal not to reverse any of Gove’s ideas seems to me to forget that the programme and re-structuring he has forced on schools is deeply unpopular with the public. It’s not just his personal unpopularity that’s at issue.

  • Bill le Breton 21st Oct '14 - 4:51pm

    RC – so, to be clear, you believe this means that by 2019/20 there will be no Public Sector Net Borrowing at all ! There will be an absolute surplus? Thus reducing the National Debt?

  • Paul in Wokingham 21st Oct '14 - 5:08pm

    Today the ONS announced that public borrowing was £11.8bn in September which is £1.6bn more than in September last year. And the full force of headwinds from the Eurozone’s descent into deflation are still to be felt. According to Osborne’ s emergency budget in 2010 we should by now have eliminated the deficit. 4 year predictions like this are meaningless except as a pitch to indicate how aggressively you propose to cut spending.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st Oct '14 - 5:08pm

    Frankly, I’m glad that this has been leaked. And, though it looks like a deliberate leak, I’m hearing it was a total accident.

    Glad, why? Because, apart from the mental health, this just ain’t good enough and there’s time to sort it. Last time, we went with 4 really quite major things. Making the tax system fairer – quite a revolutionary change and we forget now how big a change it was, saving the planet, pumping money at disadvantaged kids in school and cleaning up politics.

    All this makes Ryan’s 4 points for next time look timid and unambitious. We going to do half as much on income tax as we’ve done this time, we’re going to reverse some of Gove’s stupider ideas, and the balanced budget thing is just silly – a total hostage to fortune. We might end up in economic circumstances that require the state to do more. We have to have the aim, as it’s been passed by conference, but let’s not make it a deal breaker for goodness’ sake.

    Where’s the planet saving, establishment busting stuff? Just because the forces of conservatism and vested interests kyboshed it this time round doesn’t mean we should stop shouting about it. We should be shouting 3 times louder.

    I despair. Really I do.

  • @ Bill le Breton

    If there isn’t, we’re going to be heading deeper and deeper into a debt spiral from which it will be difficult to escape.

    That’s the fundamental problem facing UK public finance at the moment, like it or not.

  • Just to repeat my point, you don’t have to have a surplus to start reducing the relative size of the debt, if the economy is growing fast enough.

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Oct '14 - 5:18pm

    I agree with Caron Lindsay – well said.

  • The way he is holding the document makes it relatively obvious he is doing it on purpose.

  • We need big statements, bold statements, thought provoking radical changes. Stuff I can use on the door step not just American esq no substance sound bites.

    I agree with Caron mostly.

    Its good to be talked about but it’s a shame Ryan couldn’t have said/ shown something better to talk about.

  • Bill le Breton 21st Oct '14 - 5:59pm

    RC – we all understand that if the economy grows you don’t have to have a surplus to reduce the *relative* size of the debt i.e. the debt: GDP ratio.

    But the front page draft does not say that.

    It says’ “… bringing down the debt”, which implies an absolute surplus. Without an absolute surplus you cannot reduce the debt.

    Perhaps someone would now add up the total of cuts and tax increases needed to produce an absolute surplus by 2018.

    This is a) mickey mouse economics and b) another pledge about to be abandoned … I’d guess within 48 hours.

  • jedibeeftrix 21st Oct '14 - 8:09pm
  • Richard Church 21st Oct '14 - 8:26pm

    Trying to be so precise is what makes these four priorities so dull. By being more aspirational we could be more inspirational. The following covers all the issues of Ryan’s draft, but is entirely positive, not reactive to the Tories or anyone else. It includes the green agenda, taxing the wealthy (mansion tax). It includes mental health, but in the context of increased spening on the NHS and fairness, and gives a more positive outline for education.

    Plan long term
    To protect the planet and not to saddle the country with more debt.

    Cut tax for working people
    And pay for it by raising taxes on the most wealthy

    Improve mental health
    By increasing spending on the NHS and ensuring all patients are treated fairly.

    Improve education
    By protecting spending and recruiting more qualified teachers.

  • I’m with Caron and co. This is just too small, particularly the education pledge which is daft anyway – we need great teachers who transform their classrooms, rather than ones with the right piece of paper.

    Think big. Share growth across the whole country, devolving billions to city regions. Lead corporate anti-tax avoidance measures across Europe. Transform our politics. Save the planet and get renewables embedded into communities.

    Are we so ground down by Government that our vision has become this small?

  • This really does make us look a bunch of wallies. If a civil servant or a local government officer did that, his/her job would be on the line. If it was an HR file (containing confidential medical information, perhaps) then a hefty fine would be imposed by the Information Commissioner. If we want people to entrust us with a role in government, we have to be more professional.

  • As Caron rightly asks —
    ” …Where’s the planet saving, establishment busting stuff? Just because the forces of conservatism and vested interests kyboshed it this time round doesn’t mean we should stop shouting about it. We should be shouting 3 times louder. ”

    They just do not get it do they? They sit around at the comference, as Brian Paddick told us, scratching their heads puzzling out why nobody votes for us any more.
    Twenty something weeks to the beginning of the General Election and they still do not get it.

  • jedibeeftrix

    He writes for the Daily Telegraph and left the Labour Party long before the Mansion Tax was even mentioned by Ed Balls.

  • Denis Mollison 21st Oct '14 - 10:23pm

    Two purely financial aims, and two that don’t apply in Scotland.

    I’m not getting out of bed to deliver leaflets with these key priorities!

  • Denis Mollison 21st Oct '14 - 10:28pm

    PS And the two that don’t apply in Scotland would not be my priorities in health and education. But then my priorities would largely be concerned with undoing the privatising changes we’ve supported in government, so I can see there’s a difficulty there.

    But where’s our commitment to tackling climate change, and to electoral reform?

    I’d like to think this is all a spoof, designed to lower expectations, before we produce a manifesto with real vision and substance.

  • Its way off topic but I often reccomend Dan Hodges articles so I feel I ought to defend him. Reading his stuff over a long period I feel that while his head has left Labour his heart hasnt. Deep down he is still Tribal Labour & the mess that Labour are in actually hurts him. The effect is that he comes across as whiny. Its a shame because when he writes about Labour he can be quite incisive & sometimes very funny.

  • Conor McGovern 21st Oct '14 - 11:09pm

    ^Can’t wait.

  • Alisdair McGregor 22nd Oct '14 - 8:14am

    Nothing on Devolution, when (for once) the subject is a household topic?

  • >Where’s the planet saving, establishment busting stuff?

    All the stuff that Stephen’s article says we can’t have and retain voters. Anything tangible that would really make a difference to peoples lives is now outside the Overton Window and thus rejected. Very uninspiring.

    I agree with Caron’s sentiment, though I don’t think it was an unintentional leak.

  • ChrisB 22nd Oct ’14 – 9:19am
    “All the stuff that Stephen’s article says we can’t have and retain voters. ”

    ChrisB are you suggesting that the 1% pf voters who supported us in Clacton might be lost ?

    If we put a picture of a door-mat on the front on our manifesto could we lose any more voters than we have already lost?

  • Caracatus 22nd Oct ’14 – 6:37am
    “All new claimants for Jobseeker’s Allowance would undergo English tests……”
    Do we still have any target seats in those bits of Wales where the locals have the impudence to speak Welsh?

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Oct '14 - 10:39am

    paul barker

    Its way off topic but I often recommend Dan Hodges articles so I feel I ought to defend him. Reading his stuff over a long period I feel that while his head has left Labour his heart hasn’t

    Well, I don’t know anything about him apart from this article that “jedibeeftrix” referred us to, and going by this article he’s Tory, Tory, Tory. Tory in the head, Tory in the heart. Someone who has that fundamentally Tory idea that money made form owning things is so much more noble than dirty money made by work, so shouldn’t be taxed unlike the money that the plebs have to work for. Someone who doesn’t care about how inheritance of property with its values pushed sky high by lack of the sort of property tax most other countries have is the main driving force in growing inequality in this country, rapidly becoming the most unequal country in western Europe. Someone who doesn’t care about how this is forcing people out of the chance of having a roof over their head as so long as HE lives his life is luxury in his stonkingly big house and can pass it untaxed to his kids so they can effortlessly stay at the top regardless of whether they gave any real merits apart form choosing a dad who is stonkingly rich owing to owning a stonkingly big house. Tory, Tory, Tory, these are all Tory ways of thinking.

    He lives in Blackheath just a few miles away from where I live in Eltham. He thinks a house which is valued at two million pounds is nothing, doesn’t make him stonkingly rich, why anyone could own the same. Tory, Tory, Tory – in heart and mind – Tory. His house is valued at six times the value of the three bedroomed house I live in. But with his Tory mind and Tory heart and Tory way of viewing things he’s hardly even aware of the plebs all around him, no, he thinks his super-rich property is the norm because only stonkingly rich people like him really count. Tory, Tory, Tory, he is a Tory through and through.

    Have I made myself clear?

  • Paul In Wokingham 22nd Oct '14 - 10:52am

    As Bill Le Breton notes above the idea of putting a balanced budget as a headline pledge is a hostage to fortune. It’s a pledge that is too dependent on circumstances over which the UK government simply has no control. The only example that comes to my mind of “bringing down the debt” without regard to the pain inflicted was Ceausescu’s Romania in the 1980’s. That didn’t work out too well.

    And if under questioning our leader and economics spokesman are forced to concede that the fiscal pledge is simply aspirational, then don’t all the other “headline” pledges become suspect too?

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Oct '14 - 11:09am

    Talking about property tax here isn’t entirely off-topic, as one of the priorities listed in that document is to reduce income tax paid for by “taxes on the rich”. Someone who owns a home valued at six times what a perfectly decent family home a short distance from his own is valued at is rich – STONKINGLY rich. If he dies and that property is inherited by his children they can sell it off and get a dollop of cash what it would take some poor person all their life to earn. If the children need that home to live in, then they should pay the property tax so that they can inherit it. Paying it would be paying much less than people who aren’t so fortunate as they have to pay to get a house. Otherwise, they don’t need it, the property tax can be paid in equity, and it just means a smaller dollop of cash for them when their father dies. Boo-hoo, seeing all the suffering so many endure due to government cuts, how can I feel sorry for them over that?

    The idea that we should feel sorry for someone who has made more just by sitting doing nothing and owning a house than someone else who worked hard all their life because they are asked to pay tax on it is surely dotty. Or, at least, very, very Tory. It is enough to have property tax on older people who have lives in their home for many years wrapped up in a form of equity payment so they would never actually be forced from their homes.

    We used to have a property tax called the rates, and until the 1960s owner occupiers paid “Schedule A” income tax on the assumed income from their property. So historically, a stonkingly big house like the one this Dan Hodges lives in would have been liable to far more property tax than is anyone is proposing now.

    There is a basic principle that wealth comes with responsibility, those with wealth, which in the past was primarily land, should be expected to use it to raise the money needed to pay taxes on it. Someone who is wealthy enough to live in a property far more valuable than one close by that would still house him and his family perfectly adequately should have a duty to use some of that wealth productively. If we really believe in reward for hard work, surely this is something we can support – the reduction of tax on income paid for by increased property tax.

  • Paul In Wokingham 22nd Oct ’14 – 10:52am
    “………. The only example that comes to my mind of “bringing down the debt” without regard to the pain inflicted was Ceausescu’s Romania in the 1980’s. That didn’t work out too well.”

    To be fair to Ceausescu he was never so unpopular then as Clegg is now.

    I often wonder how David Steel now feels about Ceausescu. Their much publicised shooting trips together and the presents that Ceausescu sent him are not much talked about nowadays.

  • Presumably Ceredigion, John – quite a lot of Welsh speakers in that patch!

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Oct '14 - 1:27pm

    A Cleggite manifesto for centre-right liberals.

    What happens if we hold the balance of power next May based on such a manifesto?

    I do hope those who argued against a change of leadership last May have some good answers.

    Based on all this I’m not sure if the ship is still undergoing a change-of-use refit or merely being scuttled.

  • matt (Bristol) 22nd Oct '14 - 1:45pm

    “I do hope those who argued against a change of leadership last May have some good answers.”

    Well, no, I for one don’t have a good answer. Unless the Dear Leader is deliberately trying to commit electoral and career suicide in order to promote the claims of another leader.

    If – if, if, if – this is the manifesto, there is nothing here that rebuts or refutes the claims of UKIP and the Greens – in many cases and many places our real opponents now – that we are now part of the elite, the Westminster Village, of ‘politics as usual’. There is no big idea. There is just managerialism. There is not-taking-risks and hanging on for the hope of another term in power. If I wanted that, there are two parties already offering that.

    As so many have said, where is devolution? where is reform of the sick political structures of our country that we all know are sick? (And, also, where is housing and rents policy reform and devolution?) I am becoming genuinely worried that the next big movement for constitutional reform that makes an impact will come from UKIP and the right. 5 year terms, an AV referendum and a Scottish referendum is not a very big mark for the party to make on the system from 5 years in power. So what do we follow it up with? Nothing. We slink away. B*lls.

  • It is, of course, wrong to blame any one individual for this car-crash of a situation we have got ourselves into, but had we had someone a little more radical than David Laws in charge of the manifesto process, we might have had a braver, bolder (“less centrist”) document to present to our electorate. Let’s be clear, most of our supporters up to the last election had an expectation of radicalism, of The New Politics. Now, as even matt (Bristol) acknowledges here, all we have is managerialism. When you come to look at it, the whole idea of “Stronger Economy, Fairer Society” results from an attempted triangulation of Tory and Labour. Now I wonder where triangulation emerges from? Trouble is, it is a naive, pale, poorly designed copy of anything that went under that title previously. Bearing in mind the electorate is fed up to the back teeth with PR, with more image than substance masquerading as genuine politics, how on earth did a campaigning party like ours arrive HERE?

  • matt (Bristol) 22nd Oct '14 - 2:13pm

    Bit worried about the ‘even’ in that sentence, Tim13.
    I hope I haven’t come across as one who held back from criticism of the leadership or the shift to the right, just as one who was worried about when to pull the trigger.

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd Oct '14 - 2:21pm

    Matthew Huntbach 22nd Oct ’14 – 10:39am

    Who knew Matthew could write poetry?
    Poetry aside, exactly what I thought when I read the article Judders linked to , and exactly the attitude most people would have to the writer and the issue, I suspect. As if his being “the son of a Labour MP” somehow gave him progressive kudos! I suppose it’s at least in keeping with a belief in heredity…

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Oct '14 - 3:22pm

    @Bill le Breton:

    “Love to know what ‘balance the budget’ means.”

    Do you not possess a pet performing seal? 🙂

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Oct '14 - 3:23pm

    What Tim13 says … minus the ‘even’! 🙂

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Oct '14 - 3:33pm

    Two points.

    (a) these might not be anyone else’s ideas except Ryan Coetze’s. Ie they might have been completely rejected. I presume they would, at some point, go to some Party body (FPC?) with the power to bin them if it felt like it?

    (b) most intentional ‘leaks’ are approved a lot higher than by the person who actually does the leaking.

    OK, Three points.

    (c) Dan Hodges is a Blairite through and through. Which is as close to being in the nasty wing of the Tory Party as one can be without actually being there.
    OK

  • Helen Tedcastle 22nd Oct '14 - 4:19pm

    Tpfkar

    On the Education pledge in the ‘manifesto’: ‘ …we need great teachers who transform their classrooms, rather than ones with the right piece of paper.’

    The point about the piece of paper. The PGCE is evidence of having been trained to teach children ie: having been appraised by an accredited trainer and is evidence that the individual actually bothered to take the time to learn about pedagogy. In which other profession would it be acceptable for individuals with no accreditation could try their ‘skills’ on the public?

    Okay, a few high flyers are scooped up by top independent schools to teach Singing or Cricket. No doubt these exceptions are amazing but in a large profession covering a vast range of children, you need some criteria to decide whether an individual has even a basic understanding of how to teach and engage a class.

    I don’t dispute that teachers should at least possess a qualification to teach. I am more concerned that this has to be spelled out and made a manifesto pledge.

    This shows how far the right -wing of the Tory Party have been allowed set the agenda in this area in recent years.

  • Helen Tedcastle 22nd Oct '14 - 4:22pm

    Correction to previous comment: ‘ In which other profession would it be acceptable for individuals with no accreditation could try their ‘skills’ on the public?’ This should read: ‘ In which other profession would it be acceptable for individuals with no accreditation to try their ‘skills’ on the public?’

  • matt (Bristol) 22nd Oct '14 - 4:42pm

    Helen, I don’t diagree with what you wrote (whic is all true, to my way of thinking), but I have to answer your (probably meant to be rhetorical) question as follows:

    Q- ‘ In which other profession would it be acceptable for individuals with no accreditation to try their ‘skills’ on the public?’
    A – Social care. I am unqualified, I do care assessments for a local authority. The care workers who deliver the care are largely untrained.

    Right, I am now off topic, so I will stop it.

  • Caron’s right – not good enough.

    The only one of these four front page commitments worthy of the front page of a manifesto is the mental health equal esteem thing. There’s underpromising and overdelivering, and that can be a useful tactic. But if we underpromise to the point where we fail to motivate the core base support to campaign, then its a strategic blunder.

    Hopefully there’ll be time to fix it. My preference would be to kick one of the other three items off the front page (either one, as they’re all fairly weak stuff in my opinion) and reiterate our commitment to fixing the democratic deficit in this country. The front page can commit to just that, while the inside section digs into our electoral reform, devolution and abolishment of the Lords agenda. But however vague, it needs to be there. Especially now, because the Scottish referendum and the rise of UKIP indicate an establishment weaker than its been in a century or more.

  • Helen Tedcastle 22nd Oct '14 - 5:12pm

    matt (Bristol)

    I was thinking of comparisons between teachers and doctors, nurses and police officers.

    Social care is not an area I know too much about but if people delivering the social care to elderly and other vulnerable people are not trained then that would give me cause for concern.

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Oct '14 - 5:51pm

    Still no answer from anyone in the know about what they mean by a balanced budget (and no help from the seal colony, Tony).

    What I was trying to determine was whether it was the difference between what the government spends and what it raises in taxes; or a cyclically adjusted balance; whether it included or excluded investment, the cyclically-adjusted current budget balance; and whether it included and excluded debt interest payments, the cyclically-adjusted current budget primary balance.

    That is important for reasons that Paul in Wokingham mentions above.

    The statement, pledge or is it the boast that after 2018 our policy would be bringing down Britain’s debt suggests the former of the list above.

    A tweet today from Michael O’Connor with a chart from the ONS figures released today shows the scale of such an ambition: http://t.co/9LeRUe0Wxo

    I think it proves that the Pledge One, which clearly was deliberately released through this rather immature fashion, proves that the High Command is incompetent and out of its depth.

    Borrowing this financial year to date is 10% higher than last year. If the Government is hoping that self-assessment tax receipts will rescue this situation in January should bear in mind that 50% of those in self employment earn less than £10,000 – ie won’t pay a penny in income tax.

    You might have thought that our leaders would be careful not to over promise on a matter like this.

    And of course it looks like they are turning their backs on the chance to finance some really important infrastructure projects that will benefit this and future generations.

    We saw in the 2010/2015 Parliament that trying to eliminate the structural deficit in 5 years rather than in 2 and a half years made matters much much worse.

  • It certainly isn’t good enough. And neither is the stuff left out that the Cleggistas are conniving with the official Tories to smuggle though without debate, for example reattempting the privatisation of forests that was so decisively rejected earlier in this Parliament. Susan Kramer is reportedly involved.

    http://saveourwoods.co.uk/articles/infrastructure-bill/parliaments-new-chainsaw-the-infrastructure-bill/

  • Caracatus 22nd Oct ’14 – 2:38pm
    I believe Ryan Coetzee actions may be in breach of the Lib Dem code of conduct.

    Caracatus, are you sure he is a member of our party? He may just be a very, very expensive indulgence of our leader. You know how Cameron had an Australian spin Doctor, so Clegg searched the Southern Hemisphere so that he could have one as well ? Seems plausible to me.

    Mr Caught-see has at least been seen to be doing something this week Until now I was not aware that he could stand and hold a piece of paper at the same time. Bet he wasn’t chewing gum though. Still, this is all part of him achieving one of his objectives as General election Supremo, to inspire people at all levels of the party.

    Perhaps LDV should ask Liberal Democrats to writein and tell us what they have been inspired to do by Mr Caught-see?

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd Oct '14 - 6:37pm

    Regardless of what you think of Dan’s personal failings as a human being:
    1. do you give him any credit as an astute observer of labour politics?
    2. do you agree with him that this will prove toxic to labours GE15 ambitions?

  • Leekliberal 22nd Oct '14 - 7:45pm

    Caron Lindsay says about the leaked priorities ‘I despair. Really I do.’ So do I! When folk are finally becoming aware of our ‘clapped out democracy’ and may at last listen now to our proposals for constitutional reform, it is apparently no longer our priority. I support the Electoral Reform Society’s campaign for local elections in England and Wales being by proportional representation, preferably STV, as a first step. How can anyone justify Manchester having 96 councillors, 95 of whom are now Labour. As for the 96th, he’s Independent Labour. Who can effectively scrutinise their activities? Poor administration and corruption will, I predict follow, not because it’s by Labour but because the electoral system has let down the electors in that great city. This modest constitutional change MUST be a red line for the Lib Dems in any future arrangements for a coalition with either party.

  • Totally agree with what is said by Leekliberal 22nd Oct ’14 – 7:45pm

    As to what Liberal Democrats must campaign for.

    Red lines and coalition conditions are however pie the sky for a party in fifth place in the opinion polls on 7% support with the least trusted and most unpopular leader since records began.

  • stuart moran 22nd Oct '14 - 8:40pm

    Leekliberal

    I agree totally

    Jedi,

    i. No
    ii. No

    The guy is a useless writer and would not be in that position if he was not anti-Labour, Blairite and has a famous mum who doesn’t seem to have much in common on politics. Remember who he works for

    He is anti-Labour because the type of Labour he wants is the one that failed in many ways under Blair and where the Labour voters are treated like polling booth fodder to support him and his rich friends….

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd Oct '14 - 9:46pm

    RC 21st Oct ’14 – 5:12pm
    “Just to repeat my point, you don’t have to have a surplus to start reducing the relative size of the debt, if the economy is growing fast enough.”

    Quite right. If you think about it, it’s equally true that you don’t even need to have a balanced budget to start reducing the relative size of the debt, if the economy is growing fast enough. So long as the debt is growing more slowly than the economy – which with our current debt and economic growth of say 2.5% means a deficit of up to about £25bn — then it will reduce as a proportion. Which is one way that we’re not like a household.

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd Oct '14 - 10:11pm

    it is a shame though that we are paying north of £40b/year in debt interest…

  • 1. No
    2. Quite the opposite

    Anyone toying with the idea of voting Labour is going to be more convinced it’s a good idea after reading Hodges’ article. A 19% increase in the value of a house in the last year means he made 400k without lifting a finger. That kind of windfall is unthinkable to the overwhelming majority of the population. His house is worth 12 times the national average house price. Despite the fact that he is enormously wealthy and has an astronomically high unearned income he sees himself as being ordinary. Most people would fund his article to be completely out of touch with reality. Polls show the mansion tax to be hugely popular. Personally I would prefer LVT on all land. What is clear is that Hodges’ politics are more at odds with Liberalism than with Labour with his defence of rent-seeking.

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd Oct '14 - 10:54pm

    Yes, Jedi, it sure is a shame. It’s also a shame that the NHS is at creaking point, that wages (both public and private sector) are suffering an unprecedented squeeze and that disabled people and the families of the unemployed are being put on the rack to pay for welfare cuts, even before the Great Retrenchment of 2015–2020.

    Of course that £40 billion a year sounds like a huge waste of money if you look at it in isolation. So does the interest on my mortgage — why would I pay some bank thousands of pounds a year of my money? Why would we dole out £40 billion a year to whoever-the-hell-owns-our-debt? The answer in both cases is, of course, because it pays for stuff worth having — and despite RC’s doubts, the debt being thus paid for can be both growing and sustainable. Well, for now. At some point the music will stop in a more fundamental way, I expect, and we’ll find that permanent growth isn’t possible after all. Still, I don’t think you’re advocating an economic revolution, are you? Within the current economic paradigm, which I don’t see a peaceful way out of, continuous growth is a requirement, and that makes permanent budget deficits manageable. It’s a funny old world.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Oct '14 - 9:59am

    Malcolm is right in both his last two comments. And Andrew Ducker’s opening remark in this comments thread is one that deserve attention and thought.

    We are choosing to sustain a political narrative rather than promote a responsible and realistic economic policy. Much good will it do us.

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Oct '14 - 10:22am

    Actually, I was only half-right. The national debt is bigger than I remembered (to be fair, that’s partly because it’s bigger than it was last time I looked…) – at £1.45 trillion, economic growth of 2.5% puts the sort-of cap I described on the deficit at nearer £36 billion.

  • Paul in Wokingham 23rd Oct '14 - 10:32am

    From Andrew Sparrow’s live politics blog in The Guardian this morning, blogging the content of Nick Clegg’s radio phone-in programme:


    Q: Your election strategist, Ryan Coetzee, was photographed with a paper showing your election priorities. Is he not fit for purpose?
    Clegg says there is no secret what the Lib Dem priorities are. If he had announced this, the media would have taken no notice.

    So that seems to settle it. Yes, these 4 bullets are the “headline” pledges for the manifesto. And yes, Coetzee was deliberately holding the document so that exactly this publicity would be produced.

    Not exactly inspiring at any level, is it?

  • Peter Watson 23rd Oct '14 - 10:39am

    “Clegg says there is no secret what the Lib Dem priorities are. If he had announced this, the media would have taken no notice.”
    Does this suggest it was deliberate?

  • John Critchley 23rd Oct '14 - 11:00am

    “The important thing is to reduce interest payments in real terms – and there are two ways of doing that. If we can invest money so that our income grows faster than our debt then we should do so” (Andrew Ducker 21 October 4.06pm)

    Please could someone explain this further to a non-financial non-economist person. For instance where does the money come from to ‘invest’ and increase income (GDP?), and should ‘debt’ be ‘deficit’?

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Oct '14 - 11:45am

    John
    The money comes from financial institutions, who lend it to the government (that is, they buy interest-bearing bonds, which is how governments usually borrow). Where the financial institutions get the money from is an interesting and far more complex question and before you know it will lead you down a philosophical rabbit-hole and leave you wondering what on earth money is, anyway. Probably a bit much for a Thursday lunchtime. Let’s stick with “We borrow it from the banks”, which is good enough.

    And no, Andrew Ducker is quite right to say “debt”. We all expect the deficit to fall, and despite differences about how fast and simply how that should happen, I think we all agree that it has to fall; but so long as there is any deficit, be it ever so small, then the debt by definition will be growing.

    Does that (rabbit-holes aside) help at all?

  • John Critchley 23rd Oct '14 - 12:20pm

    Malcolm, yes, thank you for the explanation. However it does sounds a little like borrowing to clear a debt?

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Oct '14 - 12:38pm

    John – I suppose it is a bit like that.
    The point is that it can be perfectly sustainable for a country (or a company) to do that; whereas for an individual or a household it usually isn’t. There are several reasons for that difference, some of which are quite well explained here: http://falseeconomy.org.uk/cure/how-big-is-the-problem. But they don’t really explain the central reason for the difference, which is that people grow old and die: our income declines in later years; and our debts die with us. These things mean that lenders’ patience with us is time-limited. If they don’t get the money back from us whilst we’re alive they won’t get it back at all. The same consideration doesn’t apply to a country — not unless it is in such a parlous situation that lenders suspect it will, in effect, die (or at least default). We’re nowhere near that situation – and so long as we can start reducing debt as a proportion of GDP before we get there, then we’ll be okay.

  • Julian Critchely – That exact same question was asked of Mariner Eccles, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank during President Roosevelt’s administration when testifying before the House Banking & Currency Committee in September 1941..

    “He [Eccles] was asked by Congressman Patman, “Mr. Eccles, how did you get the money to buy those two billions of government securities?”
    Eccles replied, “We created it.”
    Patman asked, “out of what?”
    Eccles answered, “out of the right to issue credit-money.”
    Patman then asked, “And there is nothing behind it, is there, except our government’s credit?”
    Eccles responded, “That is what our money system is. If there were no debts in our money system, there wouldn’t be any money.””

    Or, to put it in double entry bookkeeping terms, cancel the debt and you cancel the money supply. Do this and you start closing down the economy which inevitably most impacts those who are most vulnerable and weakest. Hence austerity is an intensely political choice based on false logic and the completely flawed analogy to a household. Those who think there is no difference would presumably fuel a diesel car with petrol on the grounds that both are liquid hydrocarbons and that is close enough!

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Oct '14 - 1:11pm

    @Malcolm Todd23rd Oct ’14 – 11:45am

    ” The money comes from financial institutions, who lend it to the government (that is, they buy interest-bearing bonds, which is how governments usually borrow). Where the financial institutions get the money from is an interesting and far more complex question and before you know it will lead you down a philosophical rabbit-hole and leave you wondering what on earth money is, anyway. Probably a bit much for a Thursday lunchtime. Let’s stick with “We borrow it from the banks”, which is good enough.”

    Malcolm, firstly thank you for the mult-post explanation which I too found interesting.

    However, am I missing something when I think to myself – yes but didn’t the banks almost go belly up … leading to governments bailing them out and providing ongoing quantative easing … paid for, sooner or later, by us via a combination of cuts in services, our taxes and minimal (or negative) wage growth?

    Clearly I am – otherwise any Liberal Democrat leadership would be up in arms against the injustice of such a situation? And they would be making banking, financial and taxation reform key election planks wouldn’t they?

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Oct '14 - 1:14pm

    Quantitative!!! This is why we need a preview function!

  • John Critchley 23rd Oct '14 - 1:37pm

    Right, in my mind I have been guilty of the household analogy. This is all interesting because I suspect that many people, like me, don’t understand these sorts of financial questions and therefore are tempted to consider the wrong solutions to our many current problems. I will have to think again! (but not until tomorrow because I will be away for the rest of the day.)

  • Stephen Hesketh – You’re not missing anything! That the Lib Dem leadership is NOT up in arms against this monstrous injustice means that they have completely swallowed the Conservative propaganda dressed up as economic logic. It’s like the closing scene from Animal Farm where the animals look through the windows of the farm house and realise they can no longer tell the difference between pigs and humans.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Oct '14 - 9:51pm

    This four point plan reminds me of the Mike Tyson saying “everyone has a plan, until they get hit”. In reality priorities in the next parliament will probably be dealing with a new economic crisis along with an escalating war somewhere.

    Regards

  • I love the idea that Andrew Gilligan or the Daily Telegraph give a toss about French peasant farmers.

    In their efforts to find a socialist to discredit sending Mr Gilligan off to one of his second homes in France to scribble some rubbish about how wealth taxes actually hit the poor is sinking very low even for that great organ of the truth The Daily Telegraph.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Oct '14 - 12:13pm

    Enabling donations towards public services is going to have to be a priority. How can we reconcile the fact people want tax cuts and better public services? Everyone should pay a basic amount of tax and no one should be too rich, but I understand middle class frustration with 40% tax rates. Pensions are expensive things, but high levels of taxation mean people can’t afford to pay much into them.

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