It’s worse than you think

The other main British parties don’t care enough. Do we?

About the plight of ordinary working families with insufficient income to keep bread on the table. The distress of troubled teenagers unable to find a quick response to mental health problems. The struggle to make ends meet for single mothers with more than two children. The worry of people with disabilities facing proving again their need for Personal Independence Payments. The hopelessness of people losing their homes because of delays in Universal Credit payments. The alienation of young people who can’t see a future beyond gang culture and drugs. And the despair of people in dead-end ill-paid jobs or ill and alone at home who can’t see any prospect of their life ever getting better.

There are all these people struggling in Britain today, yet we have a Conservative government indifferent to them. Indifferent to what people have gone through with the austerity of the last few years, to the rising poverty levels, and to the expectation that the standard of living for ordinary people will worsen if Brexit happens, with or without a deal.

Professor Alston, the UN Rapporteur of extreme poverty, put his finger on it in his Statement, after his 11-day fact-finding tour of Britain last November.

In the Introduction, after describing in devastating detail the situation he had found here, he wrote, “It is the underlying values and the ethos shaping the design and implementation of specific measures that have generated the greatest problems. The government has made no secret of its determination to change the value system to focus more on individual responsibility, to place major limits on government support, and to pursue a single-minded focus on getting people into employment at all costs. Many aspects of this program are legitimate matters for political contestation, but it is the mentality that has informed many of the reforms that has brought the most misery and wrought the most harm to the fabric of British society. British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited and often callous approach.”

These values of the Conservative government are not Liberal Democrat values, and never have been. But what of the values of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, which denounces us for not caring about austerity?

Here we come I believe to one of the ironies of the state of British politics today, The Labour Party, the traditional defender of the working classes, has failed to defend their real interests in not opposing Brexit. It cannot be for the good of working people to find themselves getting poorer as the pound sinks and prices rise after Brexit. It cannot be in their interests that the uncertainty of the times are now contracting the manufacturing and construction industries and causing job losses again. It cannot be in the interests of ordinary people that huge amounts of human and monetary resources are being devoted to preparing for Brexit, while the real problems of society are ignored. 

The supposed champions of the people are not standing up for the people’s real interests. Insidiously, this Labour Party has shifted its focus to the middle classes, as its 2017 Manifesto and attitudes to Tory Budget decisions have shown. It is letting everyone down above all by the two-facedness and division that means there is no certainty that it can win an early General Election and oust the Conservatives.

The Tories won’t help the poorest and most disadvantaged people of our society. It seems that the Labour Party is looking elsewhere now. Let the Liberal Democrats BE the party that really cares and will act for them as soon as it regains a share of power.

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

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  • David Becket 10th Aug '19 - 1:38pm

    Not for the first time on this site Jo has been asked to support the Alston report. Not a peep. Does she care?
    Not only is attacking poverty the right thing to do for society it is the smart thing to do politically. B……s to Brexit. End Poverty. Fix Housing

  • Gillian Sathanandan 10th Aug '19 - 3:05pm

    Well said Katharine. We have to give all those who have suffered so badly under austerity and welfare reform a reason to vote Lib Dem again.

  • Paul Barker 10th Aug '19 - 3:47pm

    The 1st point is to ignore the Trolls, you dont see them & then they dont exist.
    The lives of the Poor could be improved very quickly simply by raising Non-Pension Benefits & scrapping the whole apparatus designed to harass anyone who’s fallen on hard times. In Power, we could scrap the Weekly ritual of “Signing On”, the lengthy interviews where one has to prove ones Identity, the whole mass of Fake Job Creation, Volounteering & training & the mass of “Help” for the Ill. All those except the 1st would save Public Money while making Millions of peoples lives a lot easier. None of it would require Legislation, just a Ministers Signature.

  • Sean Hyland 10th Aug '19 - 4:38pm

    Katharine Pinder, rightful call for the Lib Dems to lead on action to address poverty and it’s causes. I have read with interest your, and other people, previous comments on the Alston report and the on going lack of response from the party hierarchy and spokespersons. I fear as time carries on the lack of response indicates that perhaps it is not an issue to them as it reinforces the stop brexit argument. I hope they care more than that.

  • Sean Hyland 10th Aug '19 - 4:39pm

    Sorry Katharine should have put Pindar.

  • Steve Trevethan 10th Aug '19 - 5:19pm

    Thank you for an interesting and important article!
    Might history indicate that, so far, all three major British parties will behave in much the same way when in government?
    That is, among other commonalities, all of them follow an austerity agenda which is to reduces the quality of life for the many for the benefit of the few when they they have the power to do so.
    See “Privatized Planet” by T.J. Coles
    Was this policy was followed during the “Coalition” or not?
    What structural changes have been made within “our” party to preven it’s happening again?

  • Andrew Daer 10th Aug '19 - 5:22pm

    The fundamental question this article raises for me is : have government policies designed to get people to ‘take more responsibility’ for their own lives made us more self-centred as individuals and a less caring society – or has our society become less caring, and simply chosen a government which reflects itself ?
    Those of us who’ve talked to Leavers at street stalls have been met with some pretty callous responses when we raise the matter of job losses; they don’t always say it explicitly but what they seem to be thinking is “Welsh farmer (or aerospace/car worker)? Am I one of those – what do I care ? I want my ‘sovereignty’ back !” (By that, they mean they want the world to revolve more around their own desires, not other people’s.)
    I’m not suggesting human nature has taken a turn for the worse. Hobbes was pretty scathing about our absolute self-interest when he described the human condition in the 17th Century.
    The social engineering aspect of politics must rightly take into account the danger of infantilising people by government being too much of a ‘parent’. Striking a balance may always be a matter of swinging too far one way and then too far the other.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Aug '19 - 5:24pm

    Nick Clegg wanted to build several new towns.
    David Cameron said “they will all vote Labour”.
    How did he know that? Milton Keynes is a success.
    Does anyone know what Labour housing policy actually is? Briefly please.

  • How do you propose to fund these initiatives?

  • @Gillian Sathanandan “We have to give all those who have suffered so badly under austerity and welfare reform a reason to vote Lib Dem again.”

    The evidence suggests that the least well off either don’t vote or are tribal Labour. Even if they did, there’s not enough of them to make a difference.

    So if you want to spend more money on welfare you need to convince the better off to votee for us. Which means you need a costed programme and an indication of which taxes you propose raising and which other areas of government expenditure you propose to cut.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Aug '19 - 6:16pm

    Very good piece from Katharine, with the correct emphasis.

    Poverty is also caused by wasted resources, private and public.

    We spend millions on job centres. Put the money and responsibility in individual hands. We need few to process that which is a right and a duty. We can see how enterprising those currently dishing out pressure become when surviving on universal basic income, no fears, no sanctions, very basic money, and expected to contribute to the economy thus.

    We spend a great deal on tv licence compulsion, BBC programming that is commercial but does not have to survive the competitive markets, for cash, all going to top salaried celebrities and presenters too much. The Arts Council too, an elitist picker of favoured agenda. It could go to individuals who have imagination , new creative businesses started up by those who cannot get banks to touch them.

    I lost my house. No help. I try to start a business. No help. I seek investment. No help.

    This country is in the toilet not merely since this Brexit nonsense, but because nobody cares about what is in front of their own nose unless it is their nose.

  • Well done Katharine for keeping poverty highlighted. It should be one of our main priorities to sort out.

    Gillian Sathanandan,

    We need to sort out poverty in the UK because we are liberals not just to get those living in poverty to vote for us. In 2017 we had the most radical policies on restoring the benefit cuts. I hope this will be the case in the next general election but the new policy paper “A Fairer Share for All” does not inspire me with confidence this will be the case. Hopefully it can be amended to make this more likely.

    Paul Barker,

    On the “A Fairer Share for All” consultation paper, I submitted ideas by which benefit levels could be raised to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation poverty level over 8 years. We already have the policy of scrapping the sanctions regime, but I don’t see any support within the party for abolishing the looking for work regime, hopefully by amending the policy motion in September we can keep our existing policy of giving responsibility for this to local authorities and take it away from Jobcentres.

    Steve Trevethan,

    What structural changes do you suggest to stop our MPs ignoring how members feel and policies made by Conference?


    It would cost about £77.7 billion to reform the benefit system as I would like. I suggest keeping our 2017 fully costed manifesto commitment to increase benefit spending by £11.7 billion, and thereafter increase spending by £6 billion a year funded from the benefits of economic growth. (If economic grow was only 1.4% increased government income would be £11 billion, if we increased economic growth to 3% then the increase in revenue would be £23.6 billion.)

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Aug '19 - 7:40pm

    Thank you, everyone who has commented. I don’t have quite such a pessimistic view as you, Steve Trevethan – no, I don’t believe all three major parties will follow an agenda when in power to favour the few at the expense of the many. I think we have to allow in the first place for the distorting effect of this endless Brexit debate, which diverts thinking from the needs of the most disadvantaged people. But having said that, I do think the Conservative government can be accused, as Professor Alston has, of allowing values that ignore or depreciate the needs of these people to take hold of their party. And, Steve, I believe our own government ministers and our leaders since have always rejected those values, and all they may be accused of today is of some neglect of our own values, which need some taking out and polishing up now.

    Andrew Daer. you raise an interesting question. Professor Alston certainly thought that our inherited social contract is broken now, and he quoted Hobbes’s bleak vision. My own belief is that our society is not less caring, as we may see perhaps in all the immense amount of voluntary work put in by very many people, and the ready response of appeals for special cases, but there has been some diversion through these three years of contention and division to more selfish aims. The populist leaders are too apt to encourage people to believe their rights, which they had never thought much about before, have been reduced, and the reduction in standard of living and other ills is due to the uncaring EU and its defenders in Britain. I suppose it’s a sad irony that those of us actually trying to defend the rights of ordinary people are accused of trying to take them away.

    (Lorenzo, one proof of the caring society seems to be crowd-funding, which it could be worth trying for, perhaps.)

  • Worth pointing out a popular fallacy “Most social spending goes to the poor”, it doesn’t it goes on OAP’s.

    Welfare covers a number of benefits, and many people don’t realise that the largest amount is actually spent on pensions at £111 billion.

    Total pension spending has increased by 9% since the financial year ending 2013. …..
    Over £46 billion goes on family benefits, income support and tax credits. This includes benefits such as Child Benefit and support for people on low income. Around £2.2 billion goes to the unemployed.

    As for unemployed people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit, there were 804,100 people claiming these benefits in September 2017.

    I’d point out Andrew that the leavers who give not a toss about peoples jobs, better change their minds or their pensions won’t get paid, because it is likely their pension needs workers to pay it.

  • On Thursday at 10am I went to visit a disabled constituent in a multi-storey block of flats who was having problems with the Housing Association. Meanwhile on the ground floor the people described in Katharine’s first paragraph were well represented in the queue for the “food hub”. Because my ward colleagues and I see on a day to day basis the stark realities she describes,, sometimes I feel we are in danger of seeing life on our streets, particularly on the former council estates, as “normal”. Whether or not the Liberal Democrat party frames its focus on poverty and inequality in response to Alston or not, it needs to be upfront and very clear.

  • Andrew Daer 11th Aug '19 - 6:30am

    I’m not suggesting ‘we’ have become less caring. [Incidentally, the Brexit fiasco has focused attention on what the word ‘we’ actually means. The Brexiters keep telling us ‘we’ have voted to leave the EU, as though the “British people” were a singular, compound noun, and all 66 million of us are represented by the 17.4m so-called “leavers”. In fact, ‘we’ are a mass of individuals.]
    The social contract described by Hobbes is one in which our self-interest (which is a given, whether we admit it or not) has to be aligned with the interests of society as a whole. At its most basic level this means we must be taught that our reputation and good name relies on showing kindness to others; the left/right spectrum reflects the degree to which people think you need to be cruel to be kind – are the poor unlucky, or ‘feckless’. In normal times, the right wing also want to be seen as decent, caring people, but simply take a more ‘stern parent’ view about getting those they think aren’t trying hard enough to try harder. Arguably ‘austerity’ was a manifestation of this. It didn’t make sense in Keynesian terms to strangle the economy, but maybe it was a dose of reality to a labour force which had gone soft. I don’t think it is possible for Lib Dems to entirely dismiss this idea; one of the attractions of Polish workers, when they started flooding in under Blair’s government, was that they worked harder than us, having just emerged from 40 years of austerity during rule by Russia.
    However, the social contract is being broken by Brexit. The underlying message is nothing to do with (leaving) the EU. Farage and his gang are simply promoting an “I’m alright Jack” mentality. Ask the Leavers what they really know about the EU. The answer is usually nothing.
    If Brexit actually happens (unlikely, in my view) re-building that social contract will be the first task, and as Katherine says, the Liberal Democrats are the right people to do it.

  • @Michael BG our 2017 manifesto was voted for by fewer people than even in 2015. This suggests it needs revisiting. How was the £11.7bn you cite to he funded? What tax rises and other cuts in government spending were proposed?

    There is no point in producing a wish list of spending increases if you can’t get people to vote for it. Blair understood this well, which is why he built a coalition of support across the centre from the centre left to the centre right, and won three terms.

  • Neil Sandison 11th Aug '19 - 9:13am

    Geoff Reid describes what many of us see daily in inner urban wards and districts . My town is like many shire towns is run by a rural elete of well to do rural commuters working in finacial services who only drive through these areas and see them as inconvient congestion points . The disconnect is tangible . The outcome of Grenfell is having an enormous impact on available social housing fit for use one for one replacement is not enough .Social Liberals need to come up with more than just fine words

  • Peter Martin 11th Aug '19 - 12:23pm

    @ Katharine,

    Put yourself in the position of an ordinary voter who probably does know the score re the difficulties many working people face and as described in your 2nd paragraph. They’ll be listening to what you have to say and they’ll be thinking that the Lib Dems are the party of Remain. They’ll be wondering “what’s your angle?”

    They’ll come to it five paragraphs later when you write: “The Labour Party, the traditional defender of the working classes, has failed to defend their real interests in not opposing Brexit.” Ah ah!

    They might well think that the Labour Party has not defended their interests. But probably not for the reason you give. How about by not standing up to the EU sufficiently? In 2017 the Labour Party received 40% of the vote by promising to respect the result of the referendum. They are the only socialist party in the EU to be anywhere that level of support. The French socialist party has just about ceased to exist. The German Social Democrats are reduced to being the junior party in a coalition to prop up the German right wing. Nowhere are the traditional EU left parties doing well.

    As this article in the New Statesman says:
    ” While inequality returns as an urgent concern in Western democracies, social democratic parties are in crisis. From France to Austria and the Netherlands to Italy, the mainstream left is losing.”

    Yes it is but the reason isn’t because of a lack of support for the EU. It’s just the opposite. The EU left is caught in a bind. EU socialist parties are so pro the EU that they won’t dare criticise its actions, primarily on the issue of imposed economic austerity, for fear of stoking up support for the far right. The thinking is that if the choice is to side with the far right or the EU establishment then it has to be the latter every time. It’s obviously not working. The EU centre left has lost much of its formerly working class support as a consequence.

  • Peter Martin 11th Aug '19 - 12:38pm

    @ frankie

    “Most social spending……. goes on OAP’s…… the largest amount is actually spent on pensions”

    If people pay into a pension scheme through years of NI contributions then they are entitled to receive their pension. It isn’t really “social spending”.

    If you’ve understood some of the economic arguments I’ve put forward you’ll know that Govts can’t “put money aside” for future pension liabilities. That would be just like you saving up your own IOUs. The government can’t run out of money. The economy has, though, to be sufficiently buoyant and productive that all recipients of Govt money do find that there is something available in the market to spend that money on.

  • Dilettante Eye 11th Aug '19 - 12:58pm

    “Social Liberals need to come up with more than just fine words”


    And getting policy through LD Conference does not mean it’s good well thought through policy either. By the same token, Policy Consultation Plans are no good just sitting gathering ‘digital dust’ on your web server without deep scrutiny. They [policy ideas], really need to be ‘thrown to the wolves’, metaphorically!

    How so?

    People who write software, wouldn’t dream of releasing their new product onto the general public without beta testing the software first. Beta testing new software, is a bit like handing it to a group of ‘ex-hackers’, and saying ‘do your worst to misuse, and break the software’, so that we can patch up the ‘holes’ you find and then present it as a final product for sale to the public.

    I think just getting a policy idea through Conference is way too benign, and political parties frankly need a similar method of externally in the real world beta testing political policy plans, to discover ‘the holes’ well before it gets anywhere near legislation.
    And I don’t mean pilot studies after legislation is in place. I mean a stage well before that, by handing the initial policy plan to some form of random citizens panel, to see how they might bend it, break it, use (and abuse) it in ways you never imagined possible, and generally attempt to screw up your ‘best laid plans’… etc.

    Is it not better to have robust and tested policy ideas, before it hits the streets as legislation, rather than ill-considered policy which you find yourself, having to defend post legislation, in a Supreme Court?

  • Andrew McCaig 11th Aug '19 - 12:58pm

    There are many uncertainties in Life but one thing i am certain of is that voters did not reject us in 2017 because our manifesto was inadequate. We were seen as irrelevant and hence so was our manifesto.

    We are not as irrelevant now and there is a small probability that we might be seen as a potential Party of government with a manifesto that would be enacted. Mostly though we will be imagined to be less extreme than Labour or the Tories on most things with few people bothering to find out our actual policiies. This was the case for decades prior to 2010, even in periods when we were to the left of Labour on many things..
    We seem only to be able to be associated with one policy at once in people’s minds. Iraq war, Brexit are examples. And many people still do not know where we stand on Brexit!

  • Sue Sutherland 11th Aug '19 - 1:28pm

    Thank you for this post Katharine and it’s good to see people responding who aren’t the usual suspects. I think Andrew Daer puts his finger on part of the problem when he talks about strict parenting. Moral philosopher George Lakoff suggests that political parties follow different family models when creating their policies. The Right follow the strict father model and the Left follow the nurturing family model. I think we can see this in British politics today, although I believe the Labour Party is rebelling against the strict father rather then coming up with an alternative way of doing things. I think our party is very much in nurturing mode because we want to enable each individual to be the best they can be.
    In our view of society poverty is one of the great disablers. No one can function at their best if they are hungry or without a home so we have to change the dreadful conditions in which so many people live for our society to flourish.
    I do hope that Jo takes the opportunity that the conference paper ‘A Fairer Share for All’ gives her to say very clearly that we will not put up with this cruelty any longer. I hope those who are able to get to Conference will amend it so it has a stronger message and wish them good luck in the fight for social justice.
    As for our wish to stay in the EU, I acknowledge that austerity has been its economic model for a while. However, it has also been responsible for legislation to improve workers’ conditions and to protect the environment and it’s our own domestic policies that have prevented the wealth membership has brought from being shared out fairly. I think we should be campaigning for the EU to drop its backing of austerity.
    80 years ago our country stood up to a European tyrant, surely we shouldn’t run away now that austerity is the tyrant we oppose. Let’s stay and fight as we did all those years ago for a better life for all the people of Europe.

  • David Becket 11th Aug '19 - 2:17pm

    As far as money is concerned we revoke the recent Tory policies that gave tax cuts to the better off, and we spend the Magic Money Tree discovered by Johnson on our priorities.

  • Nigel Jones 11th Aug '19 - 2:30pm

    The link between poverty and the Brexit debate is not that simple in political terms, but I am so pleased that Katherine is pushing for our party to include poverty and inequality among its top messages. Around my area, a majority of voters do not see that remaining in the EU is best; they drifted into supporting Ukip because they perceived that the blame for poverty lies with the EU and immigration. Few have changed their minds about that; a few now accept that a hard Brexit will cause economic hardship but feel it will only be temporary and look to a wonderful future as an ‘independent’ nation.
    We must accept that the case for remain has not been clearly put in ways that ordinary people can believe and understand. They no longer accept statements from ‘experts’, especially since they hear occasional expert voices putting the opposite case, thereby confirming their very long-held belief that in the EU we have lost our independence and gained inequality.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Aug '19 - 3:17pm

    It’s very good that our councillors, such as Geoff Reid who gives a vivid picture above (thank you, Geoff), are out there helping disadvantaged people and trying to alleviate the effects of austerity, along with the Food Bank and other volunteers. I suppose their dedication in their areas will have rightly contributed to so many LD councillors getting elected last May. But I do think we have to challenge attitudes which have developed and allowed the neglect – such as, Andrew, any notion that British workers were not working hard enough and deserved such a lesson, which is an appalling idea. To say as this government has done, “Work your way out of poverty”, is as impractical as it is cruel, given how many fully able people are having to get by in the gig economy, are in insecure or ill-paid jobs, or just can’t find anything in their area if a regular employer has closed down.

    I don’t find the church services I go to always inspiring, but there was one hymn this morning where the words were rather relevant. It is from John Bell of the Iona Community, and begins, ” Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by endless pain, aware of God’s own bias, we ask him once again: ‘How long must some folk suffer? How long can few folk mind? How long dare vain self-int’rest turn prayer and piety blind?'” The following verses deplore ‘heartless human greed’ and have many similar messages. One line is of obvious relevance here – ‘How long can few folk mind?’ I hope we as Liberal Democrats do mind and will ask others to mind more and act on it, and we won’t be waiting for God’s intervention!

  • Steve Trevethan 11th Aug '19 - 3:25pm

    Structural Changes?
    The disconnect between leadership and members is demonstrated by this article and contributions.
    It might help to have a frequent, regular response by a “senior” person to matters raised by LDV contributors.
    Ditto the appointment of an oversight committee with which the “Leadership” has to keep in real contact and conversation and explain any differences. (Oversight committee chosen like a jury?)
    Ditto the duty of HQ to present a “Report Card” of any policy change from Conference’s direction, giving the good, the bad and the in between news.
    Any other suggestions?

  • Steve Trevethan 11th Aug '19 - 3:39pm

    Party performance in and out of power?
    In opposition we opposed attacking Iraq. In power we were part of the attacks on Libya.
    What have been the benefits for either nation?
    All parties promise to improve the economy but when they have the power they do nothing significant about shadow banking, derivatives, short selling and the like which do the economy so much harm as in 2008.
    In depth banking and auditing reform?
    Currently, “shorting”/betting against the £ in the event of a harsh Brexit is at 6 Billion Dollars according to Reuters. (See current edition of Private Eye)

  • Peter,
    Put yourself in the shoes of someone who had voted to, crash the pound, hamstring investment, devide the country, trash his countries reputation all on a whim. O sorry you don’t have too, tis you. Stick to The “Euro will fail”, you lack the credibility for anything else, tis sad but O so true.

  • Peter,
    You voted to make us poorer, one of the risks of that is there is no money to pay pensions. That is what makes me smile most about the old Brexiteers, they voted thinking they where alright Jack, without considering that poorer countries don’t pay pensions. Tis sad but true; hoisted by your own petard, is likely to be your epitaph.

  • Christopher Haigh 11th Aug '19 - 5:25pm

    If officials of the party are not communicating on matters relating to their brief how can members campaign at a local level in the knowledge that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet ?

  • Peter Hirst 11th Aug '19 - 5:46pm

    For a cohesive society, all sectors must enjoy a good quality of life. This means sufficient income to pay for the basic necessities and some left over for those little luxuries. Excellent public services help as does a good choice of food and a clean, green environment. A basic citizen’s income would go some way to providing this though some means testing is inevitable.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Aug '19 - 6:34pm

    This is a most interesting debate, thank you, posters all, though the moderation being employed means one cannot respond quickly to points raised.

    Neil Sandison,
    I would myself like to see Social Liberal Forum members engaging more in debate here, as well as in producing books. If you are anywhere near Grenfell, though, the pressing need for more social housing must be impinging on you constantly.

    Peter Martin,
    ‘Standing up to the EU’ is one of the myths of means of progress in the Brexit crisis, hardening to ‘They won’t make any changes so we will leave without a deal’ now. I hope Socialists won’t fall for that crazy thinking. As for Social Democrats, they achieve more for ordinary working people in Europe than ever the populists, Right or Left, can do.

    Dilettante Eye,
    I rather like your idea that working groups might test out a prospective policy with a citizens’ panel before finalising it. Perhaps we might float the idea to Federal Policy Committee! (On housing, by the way, I think our spokespeople must be on holiday just now.)

    Andrew McCaig.
    You are realistic, Andrew, as I always expect people from Huddersfield to be! The voters indeed won’t absorb many big ideas from us. Practically speaking, there are certain topics which have become of pretty universal concern, notably climate change and the NHS, where though people may easily suppose we produce good policies, we won’t be particularly associated with them. We could be associated with wanting measures to alleviate poverty and help the disadvantaged, because the Tories have been seen to make empty promises on that, and we can make it plain that we have seen all the harm they have been enacting since we came out of Coalition and denounce the change of values.

  • @Katharine Pindar I would recommend Liberal Reform over the SLF, as it is closer to mainstream Liberalism. The SLF sits on the extreme edge of the party.

  • Andrew Daer,

    You are correct that the austerity economics of the Coalition made no “sense in Keynesian terms to strangle the economy”, but I hope our MPs didn’t support them because they thought British workers were soft and needed a “dose of reality”. I think they supported austerity out of ignorance of Keynesian economics and a desire to conform to the economic consensus!


    In 2017 we received 2,371,910 votes down 44,006 votes. You may think this was due to our having the best policies of the three main parties on reserving the benefit cuts, but I don’t. I think the main factor was that our vote was squeezed in the majority of seats and we failed to get our policies over.

    In 2017 we suggested borrowing an extra £14.1 billion – However, I am suggesting that some of this can be covered by increased economic growth and that all future year increased spending on benefits could be covered from economic growth.

    Sue Sutherland,

    I like the idea of calling things tyrants. Poverty is the tyrant we will conquer in the UK.

    Steve Trevethan,

    I don’t think you should change the constitution to include the need for our spokespeople to post on LDV. However, we could change it so they post on the members area of the Party’s website. While at it, we could get the minutes of our Federal Committees and Board published there as well, minus any confidential items except the title like councils do. Your “report card” could be done online and there be opportunities to question our spokesperson in private at our Federal Conferences. Have you thought about writing a constitutional amendment?

    An Oversight Committee might not produce any better communication. The Federal Board should act in this role but it only ‘reports back to the members’ at conference. The issue is the lack of two-way communication with the members.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Aug '19 - 7:22pm

    Continuing with responding to people’s postings, there is much of interest to reply to.

    Sue Sutherland.
    Thank you for your support, Sue, and I will certainly hope to contribute to the A Fairer Share for All debate at Conference. I have been trying to help Michael BG with major and important amendments he would like to propose on that, if accepted by FCC.. I was interested to hear about the family thesis proposed by George Lakoff, and indeed it would seem we fit the nurturing mode but it is difficult to see that Labour could fit the model. You are right to point out our view, that ‘poverty is one of the great disablers, but I am not sure how we can usefully point that out to the EU – certainly, not if we leave! I think social as opposed to economic reforms are left to the nation states, though as you say there have been major contributions from the EU on workers’ conditions.

    Nigel Jones.
    It is an uphill struggle indeed, Nigel, to try to convince Leavers that they are mistaken in believing that their wrongs are the fault of the EU or of immigrants, and I suppose we can expect little change there. As you suggest, the refusal to accept the likely state of the economic decline after Brexit is also widespread, or only taken as a temporary difficulty till we reach the sunlit uplands. If people won’t accept the opinion of the governor of the Bank of England, or that of our science leaders who say top people are unlikely to want to come here after Brexit and Europe-wide scientific development will be impeded, then they are unlikely to listen to us either. However, if we are seen to be wanting actual alleviation of poverty and deprivation, and prepared with direct policies on these matters rather than glib statements of concern, we should surely be gradually welcomed.

    Steve Trevethan.
    I am instinctively against the idea of a ‘senior person’, still less an ‘oversight committee’, Steve (finding anarchic instincts in myself!), but do please keep up the Blue Sky thinking. (It’s odd to me that the sub-group now called Hatch used to do that, but has now become rather mainstream with predictable policy choices.) However, I think you are right to see a disconnect between leaders and members, and perhaps we should all be demanding that our leaders do at least read and note the discussions on this site, and preferably contribute.

  • Peter Martin 11th Aug '19 - 7:48pm

    @ Katharine,

    “As for Social Democrats, they achieve more for ordinary working people in Europe than ever the populists, Right or Left, can do.”

    A couple of questions:

    1) If this is true why are they doing so badly in elections?

    2) And if they are doing this badly how can they ‘achieve’ anything at all?

  • Andrew McCaig 11th Aug '19 - 10:46pm


    I was not for a minute suggesting that we should not have a strong policy on poverty. After all our constitution clearly states that NO-ONE should be enslaved by poverty and I am a believer in our constitution – all policy should be measured against it. Clearly there are far too many people enslaved by poverty in our country, and doing something about it would actually save a lot of money for the NHS, police, social services etc.

    I was just reacting to the idea that our manifesto from 2017 was inadequate and should be ditched. I do think our policies on School and NHS spending were outflanked by Labour because we were a bit too sensible. That could easily happen again, with Johnson starting an arms race on promises already. Perhaps we should be bold, have some really aspirational policies and just keep saying like Labour that they are fully covered by some modest tax increases.. (and staying in the Single Market)

  • @Michael BG you will note that borrowing was based on us being £23bn in surplus in 2019/20 (so reducing surplus to £9bn). A stated aim was reducing deficit and debt.

    Given that hasn’t happened, I repeat my question: what tax rises / cuts in other public services do you propose to fund that £14bn?

  • TCO you are asking yesterdays question. Austerity is dead, the magic money tree has been found and the Tories can find billions to pay for anything they want. They always could, but they convinced everyone austerity was necessary and Clegg and Co tagedalong, now their careers are in jepordy, well austerity is so last year, spend and spend they will and your questions will be ignored. So the question isn’t where will you find the money, rather how do you spend it wisely and cuts, well there will be none and a greater deficit will be explained away.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Aug '19 - 11:53pm

    There are counter-moves to populism, I think, Peter, which are looking for new solutions. This is surely typified by President Macron and his new party, and equally by the current moves here in Britain for alliance of progressive-thinking politicians. It seems there has been discontent with the traditional Socialist Left – as a supporter of which, you may be best placed to understand! – but the social democrats are still there, regrouping to assert themselves in new ways.

    Or at least, that is my guess. I also guess that the ‘nationalists’ that Gordon Brown says he fears are really ‘populists’. That is, at any rate here in Britain, elites who mislead a large portion of the electorate that they are on their side, with talk of national pride and sovereignty and (ugh!) that false term, the will of the people, but who are actually out for themselves and their own kind, actually preying on the people. In true opposition to all that selfishness and falsity come the Liberal Democrats, praise be!

  • Peter Hirst,

    What level would a citizen’s income have to be for people to have sufficient “to pay for the basic necessities”?

    And if a citizen’s income is not set at such a level why have one?


    I think Liberal Reform are on the right of our party, while I hope social liberalism will be at the centre of our future policies as it was pre-2006.

    I am not sure you understand what the manifesto costings document states. Here is the relevant section, “Our plans mean borrowing £5bn more than government plans in 2018-19 and £14bn more in 2019-20 for day-to-day spending. This leads to the cyclically adjusted current budget being in surplus by £9bn in 2019-20 compared to government plans of a surplus of £23bn”.

    According to the 2018 budget book there was £50.2 billion worth of capital expenditure in 2018-19 and there will be £61.6 billion in 2019-20. The deficit for 2018-19 was £25.5 billion, and forecast to be £31.8 billion for 2019-20. Therefore the current budget (not including capital expenditure) surplus for 2018-19 was £24.7 billion and is forecast to be £29.8 billion. £29.8 billion is more than £23 billion!

    Looking at 2020-21 the current budget (not including capital expenditure) surplus is predicted to be £38.8 billion, so reducing this by £11.7 billion will still keep it is surplus.

    The policy was set out clearly as, “Our plans mean that we will invest in the NHS, our schools and public services, and reverse the most brutal of the Conservatives’ welfare cuts, while balancing the current budget. That means covering day-to-day spending with tax receipts, while allowing borrowing for capital spending”.

  • TCO – “I would recommend Liberal Reform over the SLF, as it is closer to mainstream Liberalism. The SLF sits on the extreme edge of the party” – No sir, the SLF platform had been the party’s official platform for over 70 years until the disastrous Orange Book replaced Keynes’ Yellow Book during 2005-2010. It is the “Liberal Reform” is the fringe until very recently.

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '19 - 7:18am

    @ TCO,

    “A stated aim was reducing deficit and debt.”

    Whose deficit and debt? Everything has to sum to zero. A reduction in a deficit or debt for one sector has to be mirrored in a reduction in a surplus or an asset for another.

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '19 - 7:43am

    @ frankie,

    “Austerity is dead, the magic money tree has been found and the Tories can find billions to pay for anything they want. They {ie Boris and friends -PM} always could, but they convinced everyone austerity ……”

    The term “magic money tree” is best avoided. Money is the creation of the Govt. Where else does it come from? It’s essentially a tax voucher. Something we can pay our taxes with.

    They can’t “find”, or more correctly, create, enough to “pay for anything they want”. If they tried prices would rise to prevent them. They’d have an inflation problem. BUT they can do more than they’ve been prepared to admit. Hence the austerity.

    So yes “they always could”. They aren’t stupid. They know that. They know just as well as anyone how the economy works in a macroeconomic sense. They just don’t want everyone else to know too!

  • @ Katharine Pindar Katharine…… you asked….

    “The other main British parties don’t care enough. Do we? ….. About the plight of ordinary working families with insufficient income to keep bread on the table………………..”

    Given this excellent question has deteriorated into the usual introspective stuff from such as TCO and Frankie etc., obsessing about LD splinter groups etc….., and given the party leaders’ silence on the Alston Report and failure to turn up to a Commons debate on it……and I think you’ve got an answer.

    When Lloyd George (with all his faults) introduced the ‘People’s Budget’ back in 1909, he was determined to “lift the shadow of the workhouse from the homes of the poor”. In 2019 we need to hear how his modern successors intend to “lift the shadow of the foodbank from the homes of the poor”, …

    LDV readers should look at the links below and decide how the party ought to respond to the reality of growing poverty and inequality in 2019 Britain.
    The Trussell Trust’s food bank network provided 658,048 emergency supplies to people in crisis between April and September 2018, a 13% increase on the …
    End of Year Stats – The Trussell Trust
    … the Trussell Trust’s food bank network distributed 1.6 million three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 19% increase on the previous year…… Benefit levels must keep pace with rising cost of … – The Trussell Trust

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 12th Aug '19 - 8:21am

    It is disappointing that Jo Swinson, and other Lib Dem spokespeople, have still said nothing at all about the Alston report. Katharine, I know you have mentioned previously that you have emailed, Jo Swinson and Christine Jardine about this. Have you received any response?
    I suspect that they may be avoiding the subject because they are afraid that any discussion on poverty may draw attention to the ways in which the plight of the poor and disadvantaged was made worse by various coalition policies.
    AS a party, we must never forget our aim to create a world in which no-one is enslaved by poverty – thank you, Katharine, for reminding us of this.
    I do take issue, however, with your argument that concern for the poor and disadvantaged must mean trying to stop Brexit. As a party, we are supposed to believe in empowering people, and allowing them to make their own choices. You do not empower people by disenfranchising them, and overturning the referendum result amounts to disenfranchising people who voted Leave.

  • @Martin BG @thomas sadly for you the corporatist approach of those who joined in the sixties and seventies, and didn’t join Labour as they saw them as the establishment, is long gone. Two thirds of our members are new. Surveys show that Gen Xers and Millennials are far more economically and socially liberal than preceding generations.

    This is good. We need to encourage innovative approaches to business.

  • @peter Martin.

    The deficit is the gap between expenditure and revenue. It is plugged by borrowing, which increases the stock of debt, and the expenditure on debt interest, the longer you run a deficit. I hope that helps.

  • Thomas,
    And given that most of the Orange bookers have fled to greener pastures, here’s hoping “Liberal Reform” is back amongst the fringes; after all their Tory companions have been defnested and replaced by “Spend, spend populists”, unfortunately some among us have yet to wake up to “The times they are a changing” and austerity is so 2010, not 2019. Tried it failed and led to Brexit, trying it again will make things even worse.

  • Noconformistradical 12th Aug '19 - 9:55am

    @Peter Martin
    “Whose deficit and debt? Everything has to sum to zero. A reduction in a deficit or debt for one sector has to be mirrored in a reduction in a surplus or an asset for another.”

    If the economy was growing (yes I know it doesn’t appear to be doing so at present) does everything have to sum to zero?

    This is a genuine question from a non-economist. Please answer in mo more than 200 words each of no more than 2 syllables.

  • Michael BG – I’d like our party to have more government investments in areas that are more directly related to industry and national productivity like R&D, subsidizing commercialization of new technology or innovation, improving business access to finance…. These measures should be combined with incentives for private sector businesses to invest more in operation modernization, automation and energy efficiency, such as R&D and capital investment tax credits, which should be introduced in conjunction with reversal of previous Tory corporate tax rate cuts (this approach is similar to Trudeau government’s tax policy). Our target should be to increase both public investment and private investment, in terms of percentage shares in GDP, by 3%. This is especially crucial when the Fourth Industrial Revolution is looming.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Aug '19 - 11:17am

    @ Katharine Pindar,
    You are a good woman Katharine. It would be impossible from reading your posts, not to admire you given the values that you so amply display.

  • Currency has what ever value people think it has. In our new reality, non government currencies have value because people believe they have, hence Bitcoin and it’s like ( or Fakebooks planned currency), so the statement “Money is the creation of the Govt” is demonstatratively untrue, while people have faith in bitcoin it has value, if people lose faith in sterling ( like the Zimbabwe dollar) it will have none. Now Brexit damages the faith in sterling and its value is falling, it is having a crises of faith, but remove Brexit, the faith will return and creating a few billion extra to invest in infrastructure will be over looked by the faithful. Now the geekier among us will try to come up with wonderful explanations, but actually all those explinations do is increase the faith or decrease the faith, what they don’t do is change the fact that currency is based on faith. So the first step to give the polticians the headroom to increase the amounts needed to tackle poverty and ignorance is cancel Brexit. The faith in the currency will increase, the extra amounts spent will be overlooked because there will be an expectation of increased GDP growth ( The none Brexit dividend) and some good will be done.

  • Thanks Katharine for reminding us of this important area that I like to think we agree needs work, but needs constant attention.

    This is such a big topic, but what interested me lately was how people view the terms austerity and poverty and the role of having a healthy economy and the impact of political decisions. Austerity especially is a word that has become very politically loaded, and is used as a catch all term of abuse to abuse us for what happened while we were in government, but it very frequently includes the poverty that came as a result of the economic downturn that happened before we were in government, and all of the further cuts that happened when the Tories didn’t have us to nag.

    It is annoying from a political campaigning point of view that we are getting the blame for ‘enthusiastically’ enforcing policies that resulted in x, y and z, when anyone objective knows we weren’t enthusiastic, and that x was a result of the financial crash of 2008, and z was because we weren’t in Government any more. In many ways, that’s politics, and we just have to suck it up, but in practice it means that we get on the defensive and society is distracted from the reality that allows us to fully analyse what causes poverty and the many factors that contribute. In that scenario we are denying ourselves the knowledge required to do better in the future.

    The above might seem obvious, but I had a recent conversation with a Left-leaning Brexit supporting Labour voter. They were completely unwilling to accept that all forms of Brexit would be bad for ordinary people. He held the view that all that’s required is for there to be a Labour government, because ‘austerity is a political decision’, and Labour would simply choose not to inflict austerity on the people, and therefore there wouldn’t be any poverty.

    Dilettante. I am so pleased you talk of testing policies as rigorously as possible. I love your suggestions. Another problem in our politics is the bold assertion of a policy idea before cherry picking evidence to support it, and no backing down. We need to make it OK for politicians to be uncertain about ideas and to change their minds when evidence suggests an alternative is better.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Aug '19 - 1:43pm

    Excellent contributions from some, Catherine and Katharine especially.

    David Raw is correct on one thing, why the obsessing about splinters, SLF, Liberal Reform, have a place, but we must go beyond these labels or strands, there should be a way, beyond the supposed left or right of our party, to unite in debate and conclude on ideas, for now, and long into tomorrow.

    I do think people should take up my regular points but rarely do. There is waste and until people realise that poverty and inequality is also due to the greed and elitist attitudes of the quantity , not quality, at the top, ie the successful, the well connected, the correlation between these two, nothing shall change.

    Example, yet another, why do we pay a fortune on top salaries, council executives, lawyers, just two, one totally public sector, the other usually private, bin the norm that they are entitled to hundreds of thousands while staff get minimum wage in councils, and legal aid is hard to get. A reason in the arts, I rarely care a jot about arts council increases or slashing of their funds, is much goes to elites, to those who are able to play what is, a game, those who are part of an in crowd, and who fit the criteria, often modernist, rarely innovative, as modernism is actually conservatism, to be in any way traditional is actually rather original today, and thus radical!!!!!!!!!!!

    I see so much absurd waste. A million spent on a flatter local pavement, to crate a cafe society, all it did was worsen the traffic danger, and need bollards added!!!!!!!!!! A state of the art, art gallery, fourteen million, it has no painters, no local artists, it imports its exhibitions, nearly all, from conceptual “artists,” receives nothing but public money, is considered a flagship, is an outrage!

    Austerity would have been fine, if it had slashed the corporatist welfare, the massive salaries, the elitist budgets, the pointless expenditure, and increased the lot of the poor.

    You won’t here that in Alston, excellent though that man is, nor from Corbyn and his leftist special, well paid top brass, unionised interest groups, but could and should from Liberal Democrats!

  • TCO – “@Martin BG @thomas sadly for you the corporatist approach of those who joined in the sixties and seventies, and didn’t join Labour as they saw them as the establishment, is long gone. Two thirds of our members are new. Surveys show that Gen Xers and Millennials are far more economically and socially liberal than preceding generations.
    This is good. We need to encourage innovative approaches to business.”

    Dear sir, the Liberal Party had stopped being classical liberals since 1908 if not 1906, not the 1960s, and became a firmly social liberal party since the 1930s.

    And yeah, the youth are so economically liberal that half of them voted Corbyn in 2017, and 40% of them still supported him according to latest polls. Oh, and don’t forget the latest US mid-term election.

    And the idea of new business stars simply emerging with zero state partnership and support is pure mythology, even with the case of Silicon Valley. At the very least, much of the R&D stage requires massive government funding.

    frankie – I feel like TCO is a “socially liberal” Thatcherite who is trying to turn our party into a Thatcherite one.

  • @frankie

    “And given that most of the Orange bookers have fled to greener pastures, here’s hoping “Liberal Reform” is back amongst the fringes;”

    Nope. We’re still here and there’s more of us than ever.

    “after all their Tory companions have been defnested and replaced by “Spend, spend populists”,”

    I can’t disagree. The statist authoritarians are in the ascent in the conservative and Labour parties; thankfully on the wane in ours.

    “unfortunately some among us have yet to wake up to “The times they are a changing” and austerity is so 2010, not 2019. Tried it failed and led to Brexit, trying it again will make things even worse.”

    Brexit was in the main voted for by well off baby boomer pensioners, brought up on war myths, cosetted by full employment, the welfare state, index linked pensions, grammar schools and most importantly massive untaxed house price inflation windfalls.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Aug '19 - 3:29pm

    That is kind of you, Jayne, but really it is the Liberal Democrat party which is good – good in its values and aspirations for the people of our time, even if we have to ask a bit more from its intentions at present. I am proud to be a Lib Dem member and activist. I am proud to be in the company of Lib Dem councillors who do actually try to help the people they represent, and of Lib Dem retired councillors who devote themselves still to essential services like the Trussell Trust and do their best to keep the party’s thinking and policies fresh and in tune with its principles.

    I was pondering just now about the poor and disadvantaged people I have focused on, that they don’t have a voice in what is happening to them in our country today. And that Lib Dems don’t just want to speak for them, but, unlike the other major parties, try to give them a voice . We do indeed, Catherine Jane (thank you for commenting) want them to share power. We want to devolve power down to the lowest possible point, whether it is individuals in a community or workers in a factory.

    It’s a hard aim, and we can disagree about its implementation, so that I think it is sharing power to offer the people another vote now that so much more is known about the implications of leaving the EU. But our councillors do try and put the principle of power-sharing into practice. I have a memory of a councillor leaning on a gate post, letting a woman who wanted help talk for a long time, maybe half an hour. She was being listened to, her voice was allowed to be heard. it was a start for her, and it is something a councillor can offer.

  • William Fowler 12th Aug '19 - 3:41pm

    Terrible fixed costs in this country – standing charges from energy companies, council tax, TV licence, high rents, etc… if the fixed costs were eliminated or much moderated in the case of rent by building lots of small homes, then most of the problems of the poor would go away, rather that make them ever more reliant on money from the State. This would tie in well with the Liberal side of the LibDems as it would make it much easier for people to pick and chose their lifestyles rather than be channeled into forty’s year of mortgage and a life devoted to being a wage-slave. Not a new problem but a rather more intense one, these days.

  • Steve Trevethan 12th Aug '19 - 4:06pm

    Thanks for the point on sectoral balance!
    Does this mean that if the government recoups in taxation all the money that it is responsible for issuing, there is none left for the private sector?
    When the government borrows money, as we are told it does, from whom does it borrow?
    What are the rates of interest, penalties etc?

  • Katharine Pindar,
    please forgive me if I misrepresent your views, when I say that I am surprised in what you write — or do not — above, and in two quick scans which have failed to spot anywhere else above: that is, any reference to a Universal Basic Income , or “UBI”! (Yesterday, the 11th, was my birthday, and I got off to a slow start owing to family obligations — welcome, but inconvenient!). I am probably too late now to add usefully here, and shall attempt a contribution a.s.a.p.

    Meanwhile — especially in view of many recent complaints in this forum that the Guardian has ceased to be a liberal newspaper in a lurch to the Left — may I urge readers here to read the piece in the Guardian today by Will Hutton. I also hope they will read the recently published Report for the Labour Shadow Chancellor by Professor Guy Standing of the Progressive Economy Forum. It is very readable and thorough, and promotes the idea of UBI in terms which make it sound clearly a policy more akin to Lib Dem thinking than to Labour, in my opinion. I believe that UBI appears in the manifesto of the Green Party as well as in Labour’s, so I am alarmed by the apparent reluctance of LDs to get to grips and get ahead in what ought to be a major plank in ours. If we don’t get stuck in NOW we shall find ourselves flopping around in the wake of progress!

  • Catherine Jane Crosland,

    Brexit is extremely likely to cause our economy to decline, and this will adversely affect the poor, therefore it is true that Brexit should be stopped to assist the poorest in society. You are correct as liberals we have faith that the people will make the correct decisions for themselves, therefore the only way the decision to leave the EU can be overturned is via another referendum. This does not disenfranchise them and gives the people the power to determine if they still wish to leave the EU now they know that what was promised in the referendum campaign with regard to leaving cannot be provided. I think it would be a betrayal of our liberal values if we advocated staying in the EU without the people voting for this in a referendum.


    My name is Michael not Martin! In another thread you wrote, “of course I believe in addressing poverty” (8th Aug 1.34pm And the author of the article took issue with this. I have seen no evidence that you think the party should address poverty. I have suggested what I consider very modest spending commitments to address the problem over 12 years and still you can’t bring yourself to support them.(My radical solution was to address poverty in 8 years.)

    (If you do go to the above linked thread please could you answer my question – Please can you explain why the company you work for does not allow its employees being seen in public as a member of a political party?)

    So long as debt interest does not increase faster than government revenue there is really no problem. The UK is an example of this as we have had a national debt since 1692. We have coped with levels of national debt being 157.24% of GDP in 1763, 155.6% in 1784, 260.34% in 1821, 181.68% in 1923, and 237.94% in 1947. So a forecast of 85% should not concern anyone including you.

    William Fowler,

    If the national Council Tax Benefit scheme was restored then the poorest in society would not have to pay any Council Tax. If we had more homes for rent, then rents would be lower. Unfortunately, it seems that it will take 20 years to address this issue according to Shelter and more than 31 years with our policy on building new social homes.

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '19 - 6:56pm

    @ Nonconformistradical,

    Yes. It just a simple arithmetical relationship.

    Say a country started up a new currency. It doesn’t matter what it’s called.

    In the first instance the Government issues 100 million into the economy and simultaneously imposes a tax to give it a value. It gets back 80 million. So its deficit is 20 million. The assets of the Domestic Private sector is therefore 20 million.
    Govt Debt = 20 million. DPS assets = 20 million.

    In the second year the government spends another 100 million and gets 70 million back in tax. Also in this year we see the start of foreign trade. Exports = 10 million. Imports = 20million.

    So the position is now. Government Debt = 50 million. Assets of PDS = 40 million Assets of Overseas sector = 10 million.

    That’s all there is to sectoral balances – in a nutshell.

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '19 - 7:01pm

    @ TCO,

    It helps insofar as anyone might need to understand the economics of their local council. The local council is a currency user and not a currency issuer. The central govt is a currency issuer and not a currency user. That’s the big difference which you’ve failed to appreciate.

  • Peter,
    You don’t have to be a government to be a currency issuer. Bitcoin et al ( and the proposed Fakebook currency) are not issued by government but because people have faith in them they have value. The Zimbabwean dollar was issued by a government but as people had no faith in it, it had no value.

    You can try the German Liberal approach and be crushed by the populasists. Why do you think the Tories defenested the austerity Tories, no votes in it and if you don’t get votes you don’t get power. As to being in the acent in the Lib Dems, time will tell but if you are the party is doomed, too few people vote for your policies because they are unpopular and damaging to far to many.

  • Wouldn’t it be lovely (with some notable exceptions) if people made a comment about Katharine’s first paragraph. The fact they don’t is most revealing. As a reminder, this is what she said…….

    “The other main British parties don’t care enough. Do we? About the plight of ordinary working families with insufficient income to keep bread on the table. The distress of troubled teenagers unable to find a quick response to mental health problems. The struggle to make ends meet for single mothers with more than two children. The worry of people with disabilities facing proving again their need for Personal Independence Payments. The hopelessness of people losing their homes because of delays in Universal Credit payments. The alienation of young people who can’t see a future beyond gang culture and drugs. And the despair of people in dead-end ill-paid jobs or ill and alone at home who can’t see any prospect of their life ever getting better”.

  • Neil Sandison 12th Aug '19 - 9:22pm

    Thanks katherine Pindar but the shadow of Grenfell is the untold story of the many multi-story tower blocks which will now have to be demolished at a time of acute shortages of available social housing .We are 150 miles up the motorway from Grenfell but hve found at least 5 high rise blocks affected by latent defects and concrete cancer behind cladding and poor construction .This was known by ministers of state and the various state building control agencies but they provaricated and buried these defects in the very long grass of Whitehall. No minister or secretary of state or permenant civil servant will ever be held to account but local councils will have a very long term legacy of debt trying to put the problem right .

  • David,
    Many of us care. If Brexit is defeated we have a brief opportunity to change this country for the better. In the chaos and recriminations of the poltical class, democratic change can be made. In the relief of the markets at the removal of uncertainty, we have the opportunity to invest in infrastructure. But we can only achieve this if we have a Lloyld George, an Attlee or even a young Churchill to push the changes through, if we have polticians too afraid to offend then nothing will change and the suffering will grind ever onwards.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Aug '19 - 1:09am

    The issue here is, as David kindly reminds us, whether we care enough to put the crying ills of our society at the top of our agenda for the future. To reject then the attitudes and values of this Tory government, which are not our values, and insist that remedies will be found. They should come in the restoration of a social contract between government and people which reasserts that all the people will be defended from the great ills, and, in exchange for responsible commitment to our society, be able to seek and find personal fulfilment, health and welfare, for themselves and for their loved ones.

    No, we don’t need a great leader, we just need collective determination and action. You have been so good at deriding the fantasy sunlit uplands of the Brexiteers, with their unicorns and faeries. But if Brexit is stopped we can have real sunlit uplands, because as you say there will be a brief time of relief and renewed energy, and the revival of the markets and economic growth should allow real money to be spent and invested.

    Thank you for your thoughtful reflection on how poverty increased, and the views of it and of our involvement and of the future. I do believe we are better placed than Labour to deal with such problems for all the people, and in the political turmoil to come Liberal Democrats can provide answers which others will also come to accept.

    Neil Sandison,
    Yes, that other problem of housing, the making safe of tower blocks, will surely mean that major government financing will be needed. On social housing, and on local government services, we can see where funds from renewed growth and from borrowing if necessary should be spent and spent well.

    Roger Lake,
    We have had this discussion before, whether our party should support a Universal Basic Income. There will be a pilot project, but as Michael BG has explained, it is an idea with financial drawbacks, and our party has rejected it before. However, that does not mean that our left-of-centre party (sorry, TCO, but you are indeed wrong there) will not continue to devise means of bringing social justice and fairer shares for all.


  • Fiona,

    When we were in government I remember seeing our MPs on the TV supporting austerity. The best way for us to disassociate ourselves from the benefit cuts is to have polices to reverse them all including all the ones made in 2012 for 2013. At the moment we don’t, there are some benefit cuts made in 2012/13 which we are not committed to reversing.

    Roger Lake,

    Thank you for pointing out Guy Standing’s report. There are many issues with a Citizens Income, but the policy paper being discussed at conference in September does include piloting a secure income guarantee scheme which is unconditional.


    You are correct many care, but I am not convinced the majority of our members care enough to have radical policies to solve the problems Katharine lists within 5 years or even 10 years. It seems clear that our Work and Pension’s spokesperson doesn’t care enough to support radical policies. If she had supported my submission to the consultation on the “A Fairer Share for All” policy paper I would expect the paper we are discussing in September to be much more radical than it is. I am told I influenced it, but I don’t think I influenced it enough.

  • Roger Lake – I am very skeptical of UBI because the right can use it as a backdoor to roll back the welfare state, I mean, the welfare state as a whole.

    frankie – “In the relief of the markets at the removal of uncertainty, we have the opportunity to invest in infrastructure” – I find “investing in infrastructure” is of course essential but the phrase has become too generic. Perhaps I will add “invest in national R&D, subsidies of business scale-up, industry/manufacturing modernization and commercialization of new technology”. That will make us more distinct from the others, especially with the “commercialization of technology” stuff, bringing technology from the lab to the market, since Britain is very weak is this area. Also, reverse the previous Tory corporate tax rate cuts and replace it with capital investment and R&D credits, like in Canada under Trudeau. Also, set a clear goal of increasing (both private and public) investment/GFCF as percentage of GDP to 23% (above OECD average).

  • Peter Martin 13th Aug '19 - 9:02am

    @ Steve Trevethan,

    “Does this mean that if the government recoups in taxation all the money that it is responsible for issuing, there is none left for the private sector?”

    Yes. The Government’s debt is mainly the number of pounds which it has issued and spent into the economy which it hasn’t recovered in taxation. This wouldn’t include any borrowings in a foreign currency. These are debts in the normal meaning of the term.

    “When the government borrows money, as we are told it does, from whom does it borrow?”

    It can be anyone with spare ££. Banks. Overseas central banks. You and I if we buy Premium bonds or NS certs. The ‘borrowing’ is essentially just an exchange of one type of IOU for another. Usually £ IOUs for Gilt IOUs.

    @ frankie,

    There’s commodity money (ie gold, silver, bitcoin) and there’s Govt fiat money. Commodity money has a value because of its perceived intrinsic value. Nearly always measured in $ which is, of course, Govt fiat money.

    Why does the $ have a value? It’s because the US government has the power to levy taxes in $ and throw people in jail if they don’t pay. That creates a demand for the dollar! If I were able to do that I could create a demand for my business cards too. If I could levy a tax on my neighbours payable in my business cards, with the threat of jail if they didn’t cough up, then I could get my lawn mowed, my house painted, my car services simply by paying people in business cards. They’d be worth something!

    Govt fiat currencies have to be properly managed. Usually the type of hyperinflations you mention occur after wars have destroyed the productive base of the economy in question.

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Aug '19 - 11:21am

    If there is an unavoidable difference between the monies issued by government and those recouped through taxation, is it possible to “balance the books”?
    Does the borrowing of money to sustain our currency mean that we are borrowing money to pay back money that we have previously borrowed?

  • Peter Martin 13th Aug '19 - 12:31pm

    @ Steve Trevethan,

    ‘If there is an unavoidable difference between the monies issued by government and those recouped through taxation, is it possible to “balance the books”’.

    It depends on how you define that. If you’re running a significant export surplus then the central bank will end up with a surplus of foreign currency. It can’t simply change that into local currency on the forex markets because that will increase its value on the forex markets. That’s not what a net exporter wants.

    On the other hand your exporters want the local currency to pay their employees and other bills. So the central bank has to create it from nothing using the foreign currency , or govt bonds denominated in the foreign currency, as an asset. The creation of the local currency adds to the National Debt. But do you count the foreign currency, even though you’ve no immediate use for it, as an offset?

    It usually is. So the big net exporters can have usually balanced govt budgets. But not everyone can be a large net exporter! The big net importers nearly always have govt budget deficits.

    “Does the borrowing of money to sustain our currency mean that we are borrowing money to pay back money that we have previously borrowed?”

    Its been a long time since a British govt has openly gone off to anyone to borrow money, usually in US$, to sustain the currency. It’s not a good idea to borrow significant amounts in a foreign currency. Usually the “borrowing” arises because people end up with ££ they don’t want to spend so they buy some gilts to pick up a small amount of interest. Just like you or I might buy a few Premium bonds.

    Having taken in the ££ the government should seek to recycle them by spending them back into the economy at the same time as assessing the likely inflationary impact of that spending.

  • I’m glad Katharine has tried to refocus this thread onto the reality of her main article.

    It doesn’t need a genius to invent an immediate new radical policy because there is plenty of evidence around with many recommendations of immediate short term steps that could be taken to alleviate the situation. See for example the web sites of the Trussell Trust, the Child Poverty Action group, the Rowntree Trust, the CAB, and even the IFS. All of them have specific recommendations. We could even (dare I say it) develop the school meals policy of Laws & Clegg when in Coalition to get school kitchens to stay open during school holidays.

    What it needs, as Katharine and Michael BG both suggest is a determination to get outside the Brexit thought bubble and focus on the need to take action whether we are in the EU or not.

    Frankly the Liberal Democrats (unlike the Scottish Government) have yet to show any interest in what is the most pressing domestic issue of social justice at the present time. As to cost, it’s a funny thing how governments can find money for wars in Iraq etc., or any other pet scheme of a particular Prime Minister.

  • @Katharine Pindar having though about this would you agree with these principles?

    Optimism about human potential.
    All individuals, no matter their background or identity, can flourish in life with the right support.

    Evidence not ideology.
    We should be open-minded to new thinking, applying solutions to public policy problems on the basis of good ideas rather than tired ideology.

    Pro-market not free-market.
    Markets are the best way of allocating resources, but they can be inefficient and inequitable, so government and social institutions can help correct market problems.

    Social justice.
    Politicians and policymakers should focus attention and resources on supporting and empowering the most vulnerable, here and abroad.

    Rewarding contribution.
    Supporting the vulnerable should always be the priority, but hard work and both economic and social contribution should be praised and rewarded.

    Individual success and communal responsibility.
    Free and flourishing individuals and businesses also need to be environmentally, socially and economically responsible.

    Open and integrated societies.
    People should be free to be themselves and pursue their dreams, but we also need to build a society where there are opportunities to relate to and support others.

    The importance of institutions.
    Individuals learn from and are supported and protected by enduring democratic and social institutions, which need defending and modernising.

    Positive about politics.
    Democratic politics and government has been and is fundamental for reducing conflict and injustice.

    Powerful citizens.
    We need to create and revive routes for citizens to take greater control of the politics that affects their lives, locally and nationally.

  • TCO – well, what you guys do in practice is more important. The Orange Bookers were known for pushing for “reducing the size of the state” (Thatcher’s previous attempt to do so led to massive reduction in public R&D and capital investments, which is a majot cause of our lag in productivity). Also, they also support deregulation, “pro-growth” tax cuts, and “welfare reform” (many “welfare reform” legislations in real life are actually quiet attempts to roll back the welfare state as a whole).

    Finally, the truth is that, in Canada, the Liberals did not rebounce by being centre/centre-right economic liberals, they ran from the left. Had they ran as “Orange Bookers”, Harper would have been re-elected in 2015, and the Liberals would have been permanently displaced by socialist NDP. Trudeau’s leftist approach saved the party.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Aug '19 - 9:27am

    “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is leased upon the land.” Words of a half-remembered poem seem appropriate, when the recent Chancellor the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, denounces the intention of the present Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to leave the EU with No Deal if impossible conditions are not met, as ruinous to the economy and the Union. For a moment, after hearing him on Today, it seemed futile to be bothering about what Liberal Democrats should be prioritising after Brexit is settled, when the country is in an existential political crisis. But then comes the thought, our participation in government could come quite soon this winter, and in any case, the needs of the poorest and most unprivileged people of this country remain as pressing as ever and demand our attention.

  • @Katharine Pindar I’m interested in your views on the principles I outlined.

    @Thomas the Orange Book is about rebalancing what the State does. Exploring alternatives to monolithic, insensitive and inflexible provision.

    Canada has no equivalent of the Labour Party so your comparison doesn’t work.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Aug '19 - 12:08pm

    “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” are the correct words from WB Yeats’ The Second Coming , only half-remembered indeed, but seeming significant here today.

    I wonder what parties two of our anonymous commenters here support. Are you a member, TCO, since you conclude your interesting analysis, which I am thinking about, with ‘We need’, while Thomas, you who seem to be an active industrialist (?) use the horrid American phrase ‘You guys’, suggesting you are not a member. Your suggestions generally seem useful, Thomas, so I hope you may be thinking of joining us.

  • TCO – it’s the NDP and in 2015 the Liberals started from the 3rd position and literally rose from the grave.

  • TCO,

    Please can you answer my earlier question – Please can you explain why the company you work for does not allow its employees being seen in public as a member of a political party?

    What you listed are not principles.

    rebalancing what the State does” sound like a smaller state.

    The role of the state in a liberal society should be:
    Providing a safe environment for people to live in (now and in the future);
    Controlling power;
    Ensuring economic prosperity;
    Ensuring people have the education and training they need;
    Ensuring everyone who wants a job has one;
    Ensuring everyone who wants a home of their own can have one;
    Ensuring no one lives in relative poverty;
    Ensuring no one has to conform;
    Providing the conditions so everyone can fulfil their full potential.

    I don’t think the coalition government scored well on most of these.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Aug '19 - 6:27pm

    Bravo, Michael, I do like your list of what you think ‘the role of the state in a liberal society should be. I think the only questionable point in the list is ‘Controlling power’, because the state IS the source of power, and how far it should use the power, and control that of institutions and people, is a big question only to be answered in particular cases, I think.

    I think you are coming from a central perspective, whereas I am definitely left-of-centre, and believe my party is so in the majority. I am happy with the document issued last autumn, DEMAND BETTER, subtitled ‘Liberal Democrat priorities for a better Britain’ in small caps. As Michael wrote, you are not listing principles, and the principles we hold are set out in the Preamble to our Constitution.

    Many of your suggestions are acceptable, but “All individuals can flourish in life with the right support” is a dubious proposition to me, and ‘right support’ is an easy get-out for a non-activist. Definitely unacceptable is your deprecating ‘tired ideology’, since we need to root our policies in our clearly understood principles. But thank you for thinking out and setting out your own ideas in detail like this, provoking thoughtfulness in your fellow Liberals.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Aug '19 - 1:03pm

    Dr Sarah Wollaston MP joining us should strengthen the case for making social justice one of our top priorities, given her known concerns. The party is on alert for a General Election, and so I suppose the Manifesto must be in nearly completed form. I hope Lord Newby may have been keeping tracks of this debate, not only in this thread but in Nick Rider’s earlier one, and has put our existing proposals for relieving absolute poverty and ending austerity at the top of the list. There was a moving article too in Sunday’s Observer, about the real hardship incurred by a woman suffering a sanction, that is withdrawal of her benefit for many weeks, because she missed an appointment. Not surprisingly, because she had a miscarriage. This heartless system MUST be reformed.

  • Katharine,

    Our tradition is the control of power, Conrad Russell taught me this. In the past we aimed to control the power of the monarch and then landowners and gentry, now we have to control big business. Controlling power is also about giving power to the people, in the past the extension of the franchise, today ensuring that people are connected to those they elect, and the protection of minorities.

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