It’s time for us to prove our progressive credentials

We want to hang on to the Remain voters who flocked to us in the Euro elections. We believe that our party could radically change our conflicted country for the better, while we see that the two main parties at present are, in the expressive vernacular, of as much use as a fart in a bottle.

This husk of a government continues to do harm. As if it were not enough that Chancellor Philip Hammond ignored the poorest in his March Spring Statement despite bumper tax receipts, the continuing impact of the roll-out of Universal Credit, the two-child limit on some welfare payments and the continuing benefits freeze will, according to research by experts, cause a big increase in families unable to make ends meet this year. Cover-up attempts by Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd to alleviate the effects have done little. For example, repaying the advance payments for UC will plunge one in ten low-pay households into deficit. Although UC has made 56% of households better-off by £172 a month, 40% are worse off and will lose an average of £181.

Amber Rudd’s latest wheeze to stem the flow of criticism is denial. She is to complain to the UN about the final UK report of its Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, which was published last month, apparently on the grounds that his personal fact-finding tour was only eleven days long and his conclusions on the Government’s approach to tackling poverty are ‘completely inaccurate’. The 20-page report, which upholds the statement made in November discussed here in LDV is in fact extensively referenced by many authoritative public bodies. 

The report’s summary points out that one-fifth of Britain’s population, 14m.people, live in poverty, and that the policies of austerity introduced since 2010 continue largely unabated. Its final conclusion is that Brexit presents an opportunity to reimagine what the UK stands for, and that recognition of social rights and social inclusion rather than marginalization of the working poor and the unemployed should be the guiding principle of social policy. The report combines recommendations of practical steps to tackle poverty with humane proposals for restoring our social contract.

So, its fourth recommendation demands reversal of the “regressive measures” pointed out by experts and ignored by the Government  (see above) –  continuation of the benefits freeze, the two-child limit, the benefit cap, and the reduction of housing benefit including for under-occupied rental housing. This is already Liberal Democrat policy, and we would also support the recommendation to eliminate the five-week delay in receiving UC benefits.

Very much in line with our thinking is the sixth recommendation, to “Restore local government funding needed to provide critical social protection and tackle poverty at community level …”, and the tenth: “Review and remedy the systematic disadvantage inflicted by current policies on women, as well as on children, persons with disabilities, older persons and ethnic minorities.” Other humane demands are that staff dealing with benefit requests should be trained to use more constructive and less punitive approaches to encouraging compliance, that applicants should be able to make alternative payment arrangements, and that transport, particularly in rural areas, should be considered an essential service. An over-arching recommendation is that the National Audit Office should assess the cumulative social impact of tax and spending decisions since 2010 especially on vulnerable groups, with a view to restoring an effective social safety net.

Action on our part should surely be to accept this report and back its recommendations. This is I believe relevant to choosing what path we intend to follow with our new leader. Will we finally throw off the association with austerity that our involvement in the Coalition Government gave us, and declare plainly that we are a party committed to social justice, equality and a fair sharing of national wealth? Do we utterly reject unbridled capitalism as well as excessive state control? To uphold Alston will be one signal to progressive thinkers who have previously voted for other parties that we are now the option that our country, and particularly its poorest citizens, most needs.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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44 Comments

  • A well argued and well researched article by Katharine, She tells it as it is.

    The fact that Ms Rudd has objected to the Alston Report is most revealing. Her action has already been condemned by the Green Party and the Labour Party. I do hope that our Works & Pensions spokesperson Christine Jardine MP will do the same. Not only will it be right to do so, but it will signal to the world that the Liberal Democrat Party’s conscience is alive and kicking again.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun '19 - 12:03pm

    Yes, I am appalled that there is now a party called “Brexit” which seems to be gaining most of the votes from people who are poor and unhappy with the unequal nature of our country’s economy. And our party has done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to counter that.

    What do I mean by that? We seem to be very happy to have picked up votes from people who are strong supporters of Remain, but we don’t seem to be doing anything to convince people who voted Leave to support us. Instead, we seem happy to abuse them by saying “Bollocks to Brexit”. Sorry, but while that may win us some votes, it will also push those who voted Leave away from us, and make them just stronger supporters of Leave.

    Our country has moved from one of the most economically equal countries in Europe in the 1970s to one of the most unequal now. Starting in 1979. So who is to blame for that? Well, the leading figures pushing Leave are blaming the EU for it. And we are letting them get away with it by doing nothing to challenge them.

    The leading figures of Leave are supporters of extreme right-wing economics, started by their party in 1979. And they want to leave the EU to be able to push it even more their way. Back in the early 1980s, there were people who said that the UK was a more socialist country than the rest of Europe and that is why we should leave the EU. Now the leading figures of Leave are saying the exact opposite – when they are communicating with themselves, but they don’t want to make that too clear to all the Leave voters. No, they want to trick those people to support them and to hide the real reason for our country becoming so unequal.

    So why can’t we come out and say that loud and clearly?

    When the Leave types keep saying “The people voted Leave so we must have it” that is rather like a trickster who has tricked someone into paying for something that won’t do what they wanted it for but will benefit the trickster, and who keeps saying “They paid for it, so they must have it”. Decent suppliers will always accept that if someone has paid for a major thing they should have the right to drop it if they find it won’t do what they wanted for, or it proves not possible to get a version of it that works as was originally proposed, and if they knew it wouldn’t would have been honest at the start and said “Are you sure you want it, let me explain why I think it won’t work”.

  • It says plenty about the state of our politics that a serious contender for the Conservative leadership can get away with saying that he would suspend parliament to get his version of Brexit over the line. Any decent constitutional court would have him in the dock with the possibility of a four figure fine at least. We need a shake up of the whole accountability system of our elected representatives.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jun '19 - 12:51pm

    Peter Hirst 11th Jun ’19 – 12:20pm
    Boris Johnson had an agreement with the Telegraph when he was campaigning for Mayor of London, but refusing to even be interviewed by a Telegraph journalist.
    Put another zero on the end of your number, or check out what they are paying him.

  • Joseph Bourke 11th Jun '19 - 2:15pm

    Well said, Katherine,

    Philip Alston’s recommendations are specific in certain areas (restoration of welfare benefits) and more general in others. For example “Restore local government funding needed to provide critical social protection and tackle poverty at community level …”,
    Accepting the report and backing its recommendations will need to be followed through with the secific policy actions to be implemented – particularly with respect to areas like Adult social care.

  • Sue Sutherland 11th Jun '19 - 2:34pm

    Thank you Katharine. There have been a few times when I think I must be living in an Alice in Wonderland world because the evidence I see is totally denied by the party in power and this is the latest of them. How can the use of food banks and homelessness have increased, as I know, while the government declares wages are increasing, unemployment is at a low level and the economy is working well?
    Fake news is the bane of our lives but it has only taken this kind of argument to a new level where there is no basis in even skewed figures. We have to set out rules about political argument so that everyone agrees the basis of the figures they quote before having a discussion about the effects of policies. No wonder people put their trust in those who are the best at pulling the wool over their eyes.

  • @ Joe Bourke It’s much more complicated than just rents, Joe. Could you manage on the UK living wage of £8.75 per hour outside London or £ 10.20 per hour in London ?

    It’s about the increasing exploitation of the work force with low wages, zero hour contracts and punitive conditions – often by global multinationals such as Amazon and UK ones such as Sports Direct. Sports Direct and Primark top a list of companies named and shamed for paying below national minimum wage. Over 260 employers have failed to pay 16,000 workers a combined total of £1.7m in back-pay The Tory mantra – trotted out by such as Theresa May- that work automatically ends poverty is just not true.

    ‘We are not robots’: Amazon warehouse employees push to unionize …
    https://www.theguardian.com/…/amazon-fulfillment-center-warehouse-employees-union… 1 Jan 2019 – Amazon’s global workforce reached more than 613,000 employees …. unfair and potentially illegal compensation practices,”

    A third of the adults helped by my local food bank are in employment :-

    Research and advocacy – The Trussell Trust – “To end poverty and hunger in the UK, we need a robust welfare safety net and secure incomes so people can afford at least basic essentials like food” .

    I hope Katharine’s article will encourage grass roots Lib Dems like you to challenge the two leadership candidates – and DWP spokesperson Ms Jardine – for their response to poverty in the UK and to condemn the government’s attack on the Alston Report. Politics is about more than just about Brexit.

  • Why ?

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Jun '19 - 5:32pm

    Thank you all for your comments. It seems to me that Alston shows up the situation that must have influenced many to vote Leave in 2016 and now to vote for the Brexit party: the total neglect of attention by government to the needs of so many ordinary people who now find their income isn’t up to their needs, their standard of living has deteriorated, and, worst of all, they can see no hope of securing a decent future. It is that attitude that I think we first have to denounce and state we will have no more of. The practices and policies follow on from that, and Alston has the right ideas here and now to align with our own policy developments towards a balanced economy and Fairer Shares for All.

    But i think sheer anger at the effrontery of these Brexiteers, whether in the present government or flying another skull-and-crossbones flag draped in gold cloth – these false leaders who deceive for their own ends – the anger at what they are doing is justified and should motivate our own leaders in the great struggle ahead.

  • Dilettante Eye 11th Jun '19 - 7:22pm

    “But i think sheer anger at the effrontery of these Brexiteers,.. ”

    I frankly find that statement quite absurd.

    You clearly have not the slightest clue at the bitter level of anger which leavers have for a democracy denied by intransigent bloody minded remainers.

    This remainer foolery, has gone way beyond Brexit.

    Democracy hinges on the losers accepting their lost result, and you smash that established contract of democracy at your peril.

    I think some of you remainers need to take a trip beyond the sanitized walls of LDV, and get a taste of the real world?
    We are leaving the EU, and any attempts to stop that Brexit process will be met with a political force the like of which you could never imagine.

  • Sue Sutherland 11th Jun '19 - 7:56pm

    @Diletantte Eye. If we were ruled by the kind of democracy you advocate we wouldn’t have had the referendum in June 2016 because the country voted by referendum to join the EEC in the seventies.
    What makes it possible to accept losing elections is the fact that there will be other elections in a few years so it’s possible to persuade people to change their minds if things change. What you are advocating is elective dictatorship.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun '19 - 8:07pm

    @ Dilettante Eye

    Please read what I wrote at 12.03pm today. That is my response to those who write what you wrote at 7.22pm.

  • Dilettante Eye 11th Jun '19 - 8:17pm

    Sue Sutherland

    I’ve heard all those absurd arguments before many times. They were absurd the first time I heard them, and time and their repetitiveness, hasn’t improved their logic one iota.

    What I do know is that one day soon I will not ever again; have to kow-tow to that unwanted blue flag with yellow spots and all the unelected ridiculousness it represents.
    Whilst I wouldn’t dream of speaking for 17.4 million, I’m confident that several thousand as angry as I, will ‘point blank’, refuse to obey and further nonsensical legislation derived from ‘EU directives’.

    Have you factored in the cost of enough prison places or internment camps to keep us all in check and with a a daily forced singing of ode to joy?
    No, I’m not joking, I’m deadly serious. If it has to be so, I will go to prison before I let my democracy once again be held hostage by anti-democratic naïve liberal fools which I never elected, and never asked for.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Jun '19 - 9:32pm

    Thank you, Sue and Matthew, for replying to Dilettante Eye. It is his argument that is absurd, and therefore I am not excited by it. Since when did ordinary people of our fair country formerly get roused by the idea of democracy? Most people care about their own and their families’ safety and security, health and well=being, and, generally, probably have some pride in Britain’s achievements, history and status. But ‘democracy’? Please. We all accept it instinctively as part of our governing system, and fortunately it is not endangered in Britain while we have an elected Parliament and judges to enforce the laws Parliament makes. But we know that the word itself was a concept mainly discussed only by politicos and academics – until that is the rabble-rousers of the Right took to telling ordinary people that their democracy was endangered, their sovereignty threatened (say that to her Majesty), the enemy is at the gates!! The worst of dog-whistle politics, following on from that false concept, the Will of the People, set in dazzling lights for the deluded.

    There will be no revolution, no rioting in the streets, just the mass of the sensible, tolerant British people accepting, if we have another referendum, that since the prospectus of the last one was false and the results pretty dire even before we have left, it’s a reasonable enough thing (and a democratic one) for people to have the chance to vote again.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Jun '19 - 10:54pm

    As Alston said (and the point of this thread is to evaluate and promote his thinking), Brexit presents an opportunity for the UK to reimagine what we stand for. For him as surely for our party this should be to aim for social inclusion of the working poor, instead of the present government=directed marginalisation of them and its expectation of their finding work sufficient to drag themselves out of poverty, Many cannot do this; all the boasting of the country’s full employment ignores the facts of the gig economy, and insecure, part-time or temporary jobs that only pay the minimum wage and leave income gaps when work disappears. The under-25s and women with more than two children don’t get enough top-up benefits, people with disabilities have often to go through tribunals to get a just pay-out, people with debts as a result of UC delays can lose their homes, falling ill or having an accident can be a financial disaster, and on top of all these hazards people have to pay more council tax or higher rents. Well might Alston talk of the possibility of us becoming a society which is alienated within itself. While the Tory leadership candidates talk of higher taxes, it is up to us to stand up for the poor and disadvantaged who need help now, whether Brexit happens or not.

  • @ Katharine Two great great posts. Well said.

    Though it is odd sometimes what gets through and what doesn’t get through.

  • And some great posts and much wisdom at 12.03 from Matthew Huntbach.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Jun '19 - 12:24am

    Katharine, yes, David, Mathew and as ever, Sue.

    Anyone who refers to Sue as absurd knows little of the word.

    I know of nobody more sensible herein. Dilitantte Eye, we are all patriots, and Democrats, even us with a foreign name and who voted Remain. When you express your detestation for a flag due to its association with lack of democracy, ask yourself whether this country was being democratic when it sent conscripted soldiers to wars, yet this country united against tyranny and with harmony. Do not traduce the greatness of our nation with the invective of your condemnation, of what is not worth it, we are free, democratic, even those of us who have known poverty of income and circumstances have no poverty of ambition , yet we can and do see the EU, many warts and all, as no enemy or threat, even if no unicorn either. We are not a country for negativity to the extent of your posting, we are fellow men women and children of a shared space.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jun '19 - 10:32am

    Defeating poverty in the UK practically will have to be about more than upping benefits and ensuring there is a decent living wage for workers – we shall have to confront the problem of inadequate jobs. How can we encourage job creation, beyond offering employers workers with better skills?

    In a country with only 20 per cent of its employment being in manufacturing, with increasing development of high-tech industry requiring only highly skilled employees or robots, is it time for us to commit to foster small-scale, cottage industries and co-operative enterprises through our local government resources? It may seem backward in this world of multi-nationals, but to provide local jobs, backing up the self-help of those with the enterprise to be self-employed, may be realistic now, and preferable to the opt-out of paying everyone a Universal Basic Income.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '19 - 12:48pm

    Dilettante Eye

    Have you factored in the cost of enough prison places or internment camps to keep us all in check and with a a daily forced singing of ode to joy?

    Well, ok, can you tell us what it is that the EU has forced on us, or is proposing to force on us that would cause people to react so strongly that they would get imprisoned?

    As we have seen, the EU is largely about trade agreements. We know this because when it was suggested we should leave the EU but maintain the trade agreements set by the EU, most Brexiteers said that was pointless and it would be like remaining in the EU but no longer having a say in it. So what exactly are the trade agreements that will cause ordinary people to get so angry they will end up in prison?

    You think having no agreement with other countries is true freedom? Well, would having no agreements with your neighbours at home be true freedom? You could then do whatever you want … er, and so could they e.g. park their car in front of yours so you couldn’t get out, pollute their garden so it spreads into yours and pollutes yours as well, play loud music all night so you can’t get to sleep. etc.

    People feel they have lost control over the way things are run, so they voted Leave when the Leave campaigners said it was all about returning control. But is the loss of control really due to EU membership? Or is it due to the privatisation pushed by the politicians who are now the lead Brexiteers, and the way the economy has shifted with control going away from government and towards those running big international companies?

    International co-operation is needed to deal with the way control has shifted to big business, otherwise big business takes control and plays one country against another. But you oppose this and describe those of us who think it is necessary to restore real control as “anti-democratic naïve liberal fools “. Can I be sure that what you are saying isn’t really because you are one of those paid by shady billionaires to keep a world in which they are the true masters? Like Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Farage etc.

  • Sue Sutherland 12th Jun '19 - 1:03pm

    Thank you Joseph and Katharine for looking at the problem in more depth than I was able to. The cost of housing is a major contributor to poverty, of course. This is a problem created by governments in the past who refused to invest in public housing and who thought the private rental sector would solve all their problems. Given the lack of investment housing professionals were advocating this as well and now tenants are paying the price. At about the same time Will Hutton was talking about the changes in the jobs market which were undermining the security of the workforce.
    A major motivation for leading Brexiters in leaving the EU is to prevent that organisation from protecting the workforce and stopping their tax avoidance. So Brexit is not just a single issue, it is bound up with social issues too.
    Dilettante Eye, who hides behind a nom de plume, may be one of those people who wants to keep their wealth intact and treat their workforce as little better than slaves. Who knows?
    I particularly like your post at 10.54 Katharine.

  • Dilettante Eye 12th Jun '19 - 2:11pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    “Well, ok, can you tell us what it is that the EU has forced on us..”

    I could give you dozens of examples, but here’s just one.

    I spoke to a lady who told me without prompting why she was a leaver and hated the EU and its unelected interference in our politics so much. She’s in the category of women known as WASPI, who have lost nigh on £50,000 of state pension entitlement due to the shift of women’s pension age from 60 to 66.

    Who caused this? UK legislation in 1995 initiated this change, and Gorge Osborne and your very own Steve Webb <<< ! accelerated this shift in 2011.

    So for sure, Lib Dem Steve Webb is no WASPI hero?

    But why did this legislation ever need be enacted in the first place?
    Well the initial directive came from the EEC, in fact it was Council Directive 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978.

    That EEC directive, specifically required Member States to ensure that there was no direct or indirect discrimination on state pensions on grounds of sex by the end of 1984.
    So WASPI’s can ‘thank’, their loss of £50,000 state pension on the interference of our unelected EU overlords.

    Let me know if you need any more examples of unwanted EU legislative interference Matthew.

  • Dilettante Eye

    You say, “You clearly have not the slightest clue at the bitter level of anger which leavers have for a democracy denied by intransigent bloody minded remainers.”

    But it’s not actually Remainers who have been holding up Brexit. I don’t deny that they would like to do just that but in practice they’ve been as effective as a chocolate teapot. The delay to Brexit is down to the Brexit ‘Ultras’ like Jacob Rees-Mogg and his ERG group who have consistently voted against the Withdrawal Agreement. Had they voted for it we would be out by now.

    You may argue, along with JRM and the ERG, that the Withdrawal Agreement was so bad it was unsupportable. Richard North, an economist and one-time adviser to Nigel Farage (he blogs at EUReferendum.com), is also in that camp and points out it would make us a ‘vassal’ or colony of the EU, denied any say in making decisions we would, in practice, have to comply with or walk away from over 50% of our trade.

    The Leave campaign promised many things including that a good deal with the EU would be easy and that there would be 40 free trade deals negotiated and ready to sign in the first few seconds after we left.

    So, how are we in this mess if it was all going to be so easy? I see just two possibilities: (1) that the expectations of the Leave campaign were wildly wrong, or (2) that the Conservative cabinet, with such Brexiteer stars as Chris Grayling, Ian Duncan-Smith, David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson in all the key positions, is utterly incompetent. (Of course, both possibilities could simultaneously be true.)

  • Katharine, “fortunately [democracy] is not endangered in Britain while we have an elected Parliament and judges to enforce the laws Parliament makes.”

    I wish it were so; unfortunately it’s not.

    At the close of the US Constitutional convention in 1787 Ben Franklin was asked, “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic … if you can keep it.”

    His observation proved prescient. In the early 20th century advertisers learned to manipulate opinion and that, combined with no meaningful campaign spending limits, meant that US elections evolved to become more ‘one $ one vote’ than ‘one man, one vote’.

    There’s good academic evidence for this. It shows there is almost no correlation between what Americans want and what the government delivers yet an almost perfect correlation between what the super-rich want and what government does. So, is the US still a democracy or is it really an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy?

    Here in Britain our democracy is protected, IMO, only by the slender thread of campaign spending rules, especially with regard to TV broadcasts, and the requirement for imprints on all election material.

    Yet new technology is making those rules increasingly redundant. Anyone can now ‘broadcast’ over the Internet and they can send tailored messages to each person. None of this is transparent or easy to monitor as we saw with the referendum campaign where work by Open Democracy suggests large amounts of ‘dark money’ were spent, sourced from we know not where. What were these donors really buying?

    For some financiers who donated to Leave it looks like it may have been the opportunity to make a fortune by betting against Sterling in the markets but, while that certainly happened, my instinct is that there’s far more to it than that.

    This is something the Lib Dems need to keep an eye on or democracy will quietly slip away while no-one is paying attention.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jun '19 - 3:01pm

    Wonderful how the ideas of the AYE-sayers above link and suggest other possibilities for creating and protecting jobs! Matthew comments on how international co-operation is needed to deal with the way control has shifted to big business. Sue references Will Hutton talking about how changes in the jobs market have undermined the security of the work-force. Joseph, responding to my suggestion of more local enterprises being fostered by our local-government councils, offers the useful rules from history, of the foundation of co-operatives.

    All these set me thinking about work opportunities for our young people if we stay in the EU. I remembered how Italians came over to Britain, I suppose decades or longer ago, and founded ice-cream businesses which flourish to this day. Is it not possible that young people committed to free movement may go out and find gaps in the market for new enterprises in other EU countries? How could the less developed countries in Eastern Europe for instance benefit from some British skills? Maybe our party could foster, for example, in conjunction with the National Farmers Union, exploration of assistance with the development of more modern farming methods than some of those countries may have. We welcome builders from Europe to help our much-needed house-building programme, but Britons have practical skills to export too.

  • Mick Taylor 12th Jun '19 - 3:21pm

    Dilettante eye. WASPI women cannot blame the EU for the way pension equality has been implemented. That is entirely down to our government. There were other ways to do it and also we could have compensated WASPI women for their loss of pension. Are you actually arguing that we should have kept discrimination in the provision of pensions? Like many provisions of the Social Chapter the EU gave us a kick in the right direction on pension equality. The problem is how the UK government chose to implement it.
    Also please stop talking nonsense about unelected overlords. The decision making bodies of the EU are the council of ministers and the parliament, both consisting of ELECTED politicians and both having UK representation. Do stop perpetuating the myth that policy decisions are made by the EU Commission, because it’s simply not true. The commission is a civil service doing a broadly similar job to our own civil service. They produce bills for legislation at the behest of the council and the parliament and then implement the legislation once it has been agreed by the democratic institutions, exactly as our civil service do for the UK government.
    In case you hadn’t noticed, we just had ELECTIONS for the EU Parliament, so no unelected overlords there. The Council of ministers is just that, ministers from every EU government, every one of them elected, so no unelected overlords there either.
    Attack the EU because you don’t like it or agree with it, fair enough, but please don’t make stuff up to justify it, stick to the facts.

  • If there is any danger to democracy it comes from the arch Brexiteer Tory Leadership candidate Dominic Raab – who is talking about suspending parliament to force through Brexit.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '19 - 3:46pm

    Mick Taylor

    Dilettante eye. WASPI women cannot blame the EU for the way pension equality has been implemented. That is entirely down to our government. There were other ways to do it

    Indeed, and here is a classic case of the economic right-wingers trying to push the blame onto the EU for things that were actually caused by themselves.

    Do you, Dilettante eye, REALLY think the Conservative governments would have been happy to have pushed taxes up in order to keep women’s retirement age at 60 and only did not do so because of the EU? Oh, come on, the main Tory policy is to keep taxes down, and one of the things they’ve had to do in order to be able to do that is to raise retirement age.

    But very convenient, don’t you think, to be able to blame the EU for it?

    So that’s what the Tories want to do – blame the EU for unhappiness caused by Tory right-wing economic policies, get support from people who are unhappy about those policies, and then leave the EU so they can push those policies even further.

    You and your sort, Dilettante, blame us opponents of Brexit for not listening to the people. I can assure you, however, that it is the opposite of that in my case. The reason why I have become so strongly opposed to Brexit is BECAUSE I have listened to people who voted Leave saying why they voted Leave. I can see very clearly that they voted Leave because they are unhappy with what the Conservative government policies since 1979 have done to this country, but the Conservatives have managed to trick then into thinking the EU is to blame.

    What appalls me is that the Conservatives want to leave the EU so they can push those far-right economic policies even further. Before 1979 we were one of the most equal countries in Europe, now we are one of the most unequal – and the Conservatives want to leave the EU so we can become even more unequal.

    That is why it is clear to me that most of those who voted Leave will get the opposite of what they really wanted if Leave, organised by the likes of Boris Johnson, does happen.

  • “Defeating poverty in the UK practically will have to be about more than upping benefits … we shall have to confront the problem of inadequate jobs. How can we encourage job creation, beyond offering employers workers with better skills?

    Absolutely! Far too many are in inadequate jobs that give insufficient income and little or no security and a big part of the problem is that skills training in the UK simply isn’t up to the job which is why we have huge numbers of un- and under-employed while having to import nurses, doctors and the rest.

    The British political classes (and I include the Lib Dems) have a curious blind spot when it comes to post-school training for so the ~50% of school leavers who don’t go to university (and probably many of those who do go to university would be better off if they didn’t). This is the biggest and lowest-hanging political fruit I ever saw since public support for proper apprenticeships is off-scale.

    Some training does exist of course but too much is ‘producer-push’, something to be ‘done to’ trainees with hitting government targets arguably as big a priority as actually imparting skills. The aim should be to create a ‘consumer-pull’ system where individual trainees decide in consultation with their employer what qualifications suit them and then funding follows that decision.

    The aim should be that British qualifications make their holders the aristocracy of workers able to walk into any suitable job anywhere in the world. (One caveat; qualifications must be ‘portable’ to other companies; if an employer wants skills limited to his firm, then he should bear the full cost.)

    Structure it that way and, from an economic POV, you’re investing in ‘human infrastructure’ which is the most important sort of all.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jun '19 - 7:12pm

    It is with sadness I record that at this time there is concluding in the House of Commons a long debate on Inequality and Social Mobility in Britain, with no representation from our party. Why is Christine Jardine our welfare spokesperson not there? During the debate I emailed her to ask her to attend herself or ask another of our MPs to take her place if she could not.

    The debate was tabled by Labour, and I heard the tail-end of the presentation by the Labour spokeswoman Margaret Greenwood. It was answered by Amber Rudd, with a speech of amazing but not unexpected complacency, recounting all the supposed successes of this government in tackling poverty and inequality, including by rolling out Universal Credit. This travesty of the truth was then tackled in speeches by numerous individual Labour members, from all over Britain including London and Glasgow, and the Labour case has just been summed up by a spokeswoman who cited the 14 million people in poverty, the continuing rise in child poverty, and the numerous reports by expert bodies such as the Joseph Rowntree Trust upholding the grim truth.

    The most impressive speech describing and supporting the Alston recommendations was given by Neil Gray, the SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson, who was there with other SNP members including their Commons leader. It looked as if the Liberal Democrats had left the field in Scotland to the SNP and in England to Labour. It is surely time that our party builds on the trust given to us by voters in the Euro elections, but it has failed to do so today. Over to you, Jo and Ed, to take up the baton that is even more urgently needed after this debate.

  • I watched this afternoons vote on Brexit on the Parliament Channel and discovered it was followed by a debate on inequality, poverty and welfare – with special emphasis – as Katharine noted in the main article- about the importance of the findings of the Alston Report which Amber Rudd wants to bin.

    Some great speeches from the Opposition benches – both Labour and SNP – led by Margaret Greenwood the Opposition front bench DWP spokesperson. Amber Rudd the DWP Minister responded for the Tories.

    I hoped that the Lib Dems would be out in force, especially as it followed the Brexit debate. But no, a completely empty Lib Dem bench. I’m very disappointed that the Lib Dem DWP spokesperson Ms. Jardine didn’t make a contribution and wasn’t even there.

    The party really must do better than this if it is to retain any credibility as a radical alternative.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jun '19 - 9:42pm

    Meanwhile, ordinary members are continuing to uphold our party values and policies in commenting here: thank you, Matthew and Gordon, for those good contributions. I agree with your assessment on the need for better skills training, Gordon, and it has been said lately in LDV (probably on the excellent concurrent Michael BG thread) that what employers want most is better skilled workers, along with more R & D.

    I do wonder, however, if there will be enough good jobs for newly skilled workers, even though no doubt to tie the training to particular employment is a sensible idea, and I would like to hear if anyone would care to take up my suggestion of party encouragement for SME job development, whether in the regions where we have control, or even in the less developed EU countries. I remember Tim Farron’s passion for our children and grandchildren to have the chances that EU membership gives them to work and settle there, and after they have lived through the ongoing national slough of despond, I should think many young people will be wanting to seek their fortunes and escape to better-run countries on the Continent.

  • It is extremely disappointing that none of our MPs could be bothered to stay for a debate on inequality and social mobility, which according to the motion’s wording was about the findings of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Christine Jardine our Work and Pensions should have been there. It would have been an ideal opportunity for her to come out in support of Alston’s report.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jun '19 - 12:12am

    Thank you, Michael, and David also. The conclusion has to be, unfortunately, that our party’s ‘progressive credentials’ are not very high. We are not so radical in political approaches as you and I would like. Therefore there is work to be done within our party to try to promote more progressive thinking. Meantime however there is evidently scope for inter-party co-operation on advancing the policies and recommendations of Philip Alston, and this is another non-exclusive area (like the need for radical action to limit the effects of climate change) where our negotiating skills may be needed and can be honed. We can only advance radically it seems by co-operation with progressives in other parties, and perhaps we may become more progressive by such co-operation. Would you regard that as a way forward, rather than planning at present for a Liberal Democrat Government?

  • Neil Sandison 13th Jun '19 - 3:34pm

    We can all cry crocodile tears for the left behind who are being seduced by the far right what we need are robust policies promoted by our new leadership which enables those who have become disconnected from the main stream to have those second chances to reconnect by accessable re-training and personal development ,.Many have become frustrated with a punative benefit and sanction system that they have decided to go off the radar and live in the black economy where big tory brother isnt constantly looking over your shoulder .We have much to do to persuade them the state is not against them and to keep them out of the clutches of the far right.

  • Peter Hirst 13th Jun '19 - 4:20pm

    Poverty is a complicated subject. No-one wants it and nearly nobody knows what it is until they see it. It is as much a state of mind as a certain level of income or debt. Having sufficient money for a decent quality of life is key and this differs from person to person. If we measured happiness rather than GDP we might start thinking in the right direction.

  • Peter Hirst 13th Jun ’19 – 4:20pm……………..Poverty is a complicated subject. No-one wants it and nearly nobody knows what it is until they see it. It is as much a state of mind as a certain level of income or debt…………..

    It’s not complicated at all. Look in any household in poverty and and it stares you in the face.
    Still I suppose, if one is in the right ‘state of mind’ imagining e a sunday roast with all the trimmings is almost as good as the real thing.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jun '19 - 6:16pm

    Nice touch of sarcasm, expats. I am feeling unusually cynical myself. But I rather object, Neil, to your suggestion of ‘crocodile tears’, I’m not aware of any of us shedding them. And I don’t myself think in terms of needing ‘robust policies to be promoted by our new leaders’: we already have robust policies developed at Conference, will be developing more in September, and will be happy for our new leader to advance them, hopefully in talks with other parties. (I hope they will include PR, as well as measures of social justice.)

    Peter, we already do measure happiness nationally, officially, annually, as well as GDP. I believe it was brought in to follow the thinking of Professor Layard, he who has got Cognitive Behavioural Therapists springing up all over the country to soothe the distressed by getting them to think more constructively and take practical steps.

  • Poverty is a complicated subject, Peter ?

    If you’re a classical liberal you could say that. It can be said that Scrooge and Gradgrind are classical caricatures of the early Victorian utilitarian. The influence of utilitarians such as Mill in the mid-19th century was well known to Dickens. Jeremy Bentham, a prominent utilitarian, died just a decade before the writing of A Christmas Carol. The utilitarians built workhouses (see Oliver Twist) and prisons and most important, they differentiated between the deserving and undeserving poor.

    I’m afraid I prefer Kant who advocates a different principle. The Kantian claims that the fundamental value in ethics is found in the inherent dignity and worth of humans as beings with rationality and free will. How such beings are to be treated is expressed through a basic principle that Kant called the categorical imperative, i.e. that we ought always treat humanity, ourselves or others, as an end in itself and never merely as a means to an end. It captures the familiar idea that it is wrong to use people in ways that demean their inherent worth.

    Not complicated at all really if you subscribe to Kantian principles – i.e. the old Liberal slogan that, “People Count”.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jun '19 - 10:09pm

    That’s a great principle, David, thank you for explaining it. It is very applicable to the core attitudes of the Alston Report, because Alston has shown that the policy adhered to by the Tory government in effect discounts certain members of our society, the working poor, single mothers with more than two children, people with disabilities and the most disadvantaged, and with a collective shrug of the shoulders tells them to look out for themselves. That attitude showed in the discounting of refugees and other apparently unwelcome immigrants such as the Windrush generation when Mrs May was home secretary, and is evident still in the ex-foreign secretary who was indifferent to an innocent British citizen still immured in jail in Iran and is now indifferent to the likely effect on the poorest people of any No Deal Brexit. The UN rapporteur got it absolutely right, and it is no wonder really that Amber Rudd cannot face the truth of it.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Jun '19 - 10:14am

    It is to be hoped that Chuka Ummuna, in joining us because we are ‘the spearhead of a broader progressive movement’ will reinforce our progressiveness by himself backing the Alston report and its recommendations. I have just tried to email Ed Davey to request his own public backing for Alston, but the email address provided this week to me by HQ does not work. I am sure our progressive intentions are not being deliberately obstructed, but they are in need of reinforcement, and public backing by our leadership candidates for Alston as well as by Christine Jardine MP our welfare spokesperson to whom I had already written and by our new recruit would be timely.

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