Jeremy Corbyn is not just unelectable

My Sunday at Liberal Democrat Conference seemed to dwell more on Jeremy Corbyn than might be ideal. In the Agenda 2020 session on spelling out our priorities and vision for policy development for the next 5 years, I may have derailed things a little with the following observation.

Corbyn’s election is certainly a challenge to liberal economics. If anybody else – ourselves included – had suggested price controls, printing money, and offering easy alternatives to austerity that (like Syriza) you can’t deliver, they would not only be seen to be wrong, but thought to be highly cynical, grubbing around for votes with populist messages that can’t be delivered or in the knowledge that they would do more harm than good.

But Jeremy is a congenial old leftie, a conviction politician, who really believes this stuff, and can therefore get away with it. His opponents in the Labour leadership campaign were right to call him unelectable, but barely tried to win the policy argument, to show conviction of their own, or to offer true hope in the place of his false hope.

We face the same challenge. It is not enough to observe that printing money and price controls are the stuff of economic basket cases. It is not enough to observe that “austerity” is the battleground of the last two elections and won – there is likely to be little deficit left by 2020 anyway – and Corbyn is fighting the last war.

These are merely practical arguments and we must make a moral case for a more liberal economics. We must offer hope to the many where Corbyn only offers comfort to the left.

An SLF Fringe later in the day was introduced as exploring the distinctive liberal position we can take as against Osbornomics and Corbynomics, but focussed as it turned out on attacking Osborne and treasury orthodoxy on such things as borrowing to invest in infrastructure. It is an important point to make. But doesn’t there come a point where Corbyn is simply a bigger threat to our economy than Osborne, so much that it puts equidistance under some strain? As I said earlier, conscience may demand a position of yes to working with Labour but no to working with Corbyn.

The problem with this is that we may end up adding to the Tory message rather than promoting our own. The Tories have the money and volume to drown Corbyn when the time is right. There is no need for us to pile on. Tim Farron has set the right tone in rejecting personal attacks, and maintaining respectful disagreement on policy, giving the example of Europe.

We need respectful disagreement on the economy too. Corbyn is not just unelectable, he is wrong. He will be sunk for it, and we don’t want to be seen to be sitting next to him when it happens.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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79 Comments

  • PHIL THOMAS 21st Sep '15 - 3:46pm

    Interesting article. Most people I speak to see Tim Farron as a close resemblance of Corbyn. Both unelectable and lightweights. Both parties could and should do better for the sake of Democracy.

  • This is the same old same old Joe. You are only going to harden Labours attitude if you suggest’ No deals’ with Corbyn. Do you think Labours ‘wrong’ choice in leader will improve your chances in Sheffield Central where last time the Lib Dems came a tame 4th. Just asking..

  • “Corbyn’s election is certainly a challenge to liberal economics. ”

    I can see how you’ve done it, Joe, but you’ve confused liberal economics with economic liberalism.

    Not the same thing.

  • On the economy LibDems need thier own position from a liberal perspective, not one based upon where they think others will position themselves.

    Corbyn is a distraction, don’t fall in to focusing on him.

  • Dave Orbison 21st Sep '15 - 5:12pm

    If you are so cock sure in your repeated assertions that Corbyn is unelectable why do you harp on about him? If you are sincere in not wishing to make personal attacks why do you keep doing it?
    Even when Corbyn announces an EU position in line with the LibDems, rather than be content that there is a common platform to work from to oppose the Tory isolationists, Clegg still cannot resist attacking Corbyn.
    Yesterday, like many others, I received a letter from Farron. Astonishingly it criticised Labour for ‘flip flopping’ on the Welfare Bill. Just to remind you Corbyn has consistently refused to support the Bill and to accept austerity as justification to inflict huge cuts on the poor, sick and weak who really welfare – the genesis of which lay within the Coalition Government and the austerity Clegg and Alexander were all too willing to force feed us over the last five years. Now the LibDems have changed their position. (You have.) Corbyn has ensured Labour change theirs. Yet Farron, Clegg, yourself ridicule Corbyn and his policies whilst courting the Blairite wing who effectively supported the Welfare Bill. In Clegg’s speech he sets out a list of things the LibDems are in favour of. Almost all would be supported by Corbyn. Many opposed by the Blairite wing. Yet your leader appeals to the Blairite wing to join you and deride Corbyn. It makes no sense. In attacking Corbyn you are simply and transparently trying to capitalise on the Tory inspired Press campaign against Corby with all their lies, smears etc. Not only is it opportunistic, it makes no sense when viewed on a policy by policy basis. There is a long list of positions the LibDems took prior to being tainted by the trappings of power and Corbyn and LibDems were much more together than the authoritarian, Torylite Blairites.
    You may dismiss Jenny Tonge as being now removed from mainstream LibDem ‘powerhouse’. But all credit to her to have the principals to be prepared to speak out favourably about Corbyn the man, based on knowing him rather than those on here who are just living out their inward looking fantasies. Best illustrated by Clegg putting the Farron-Lamb as a model compared to Corbyn. How many voted in each election? How many came to listen to Farron or Lamb? Sadly, Farron has set the course for the LibDems on a petty anti-Corbyn position – anyone would think he not the Tories were in power.

  • Joe Otten,
    Jeremy Corbin is not the prime minister and the election is five years away. Anyway. Corbyn is yesterday’s news. The new kid on the block is piggate.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Sep '15 - 6:03pm

    I’m against socialist economics. It’s not equality if those who are working are getting the same as those who are not. There’s also arguments about personal responsibility and compensation for individual and economic risk and sacrifices.

    However when it comes to equidistance mentally I’ve already moved over to the Conservatives. I state it on a comment under the previous thread: I think Tim needs to toughen up against ISIS. His call for a potential coalition with Corbyn’s Labour “depending on arithmetic” is also alarming.

    If I voted Conservative last time I would probably be voting Lib Dem next, but I think the Tories deserve a vote from me.

  • “Corbyn’s election …. and offering easy alternatives to austerity …”

    As has been pointed out many times before austerity isn’t an option; it doesn’t work and never has. It employs a reasonable-sounding but entirely wrong analogy – that the financial constraints on a sovereign are the same as those on a household (a fallacy of composition) – to enable the powerful to unload the consequences of their foolishness on the powerless.

    FWIW Osborne is striving mightily to create the appearance that his austerity plan is working by unloading the debt on the public and by fiddling the government books – hence PFI to keep a growing pile if it off balance sheet and todays news of Chinese financing for new nuclear – debt hidden in the next generation’s electricity bills.

    When Lib Dems start to get to grips with that reality they will have something to contribute. Until then they are only noise.

  • @Eddie Sammon

    Your comments seem to suggest that you’re on the very right of the party, both economically and socially.

    While we are looking to achieve power, which does mean having a broad appeal, this shouldn’t be at the expense of everyone in the party who is to the “left” of you (or more socially liberal – there are a lot of us.

    I’d urge the leadership, you, and those like Otten to remember that.

    I’m much too liberal to trust the labour party with civil liberties, and I don’t trust Blair/Brown economics. My views align quite closely to Corbyn, but I don’t trust Labour’s darkside.

    I imagine a large number of past LibDem voters – the ones you won during the Kennedy era – feel the same way.

  • “If anybody else – ourselves included – had suggested price controls… they would not only be seen to be wrong…”

    You’ve supported price controls in the past, on things like financial services and transport.

  • Dave Orbison 21st Sep '15 - 7:46pm

    AM. I wholly concur with your sentiments. I see the Labour ‘dark side’ as the authoritarian Blairites curtailing civil liberties, pro Iraq war pro austerity. All the more concerning that these are exactly the types Farron, Clegg Otten and co want to woo. However I see OMOV as a huge step forward. I hope Corbyn achieves this too. Too long parties have been run by a Parliamentary elite.

  • Samuel Griffiths 21st Sep '15 - 8:23pm

    “As has been pointed out many times before austerity isn’t an option; it doesn’t work and never has. It employs a reasonable-sounding but entirely wrong analogy – that the financial constraints on a sovereign are the same as those on a household (a fallacy of composition) – to enable the powerful to unload the consequences of their foolishness on the powerless. ”

    Could not have said it better myself. Thank you for this contribution Gordon, it’s nice to see I am not the only LDV reader appalled by this continued assault on basic economics. AM makes excellent points too.

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st Sep '15 - 8:26pm

    AM 21st Sep ’15 – 6:57pm
    “@Eddie Sammon Your comments seem to suggest that you’re on the very right of the party, both economically and socially.”

    AM – Fear not, our friend Eddie is not a member of the Liberal Democrats at all.

    Regarding Joe Otten’s observation that Corbyn is unelectable, as a direct result of ‘our’ totally inept political handling of the coalition with the Tories, he perhaps needs to bear in mind that we were not exactly electoral hot property only this May.

    I would contend that while we continue to focus on wishy washy status quo-supporting Centrism (as opposed to radical social liberal democracy), we will remain somewhat more akin to ‘lost property’.

    People want real change and we should be offering them the positive Liberal and Democratic alternative to the political version of rip off Britain.

  • Gordon,
    there is a certain irony about champion of private innovation and enemy of statist monopolies having to scrounge money from communist china to finance the next generation of nuclear power stations to owned by the people of France. But that’s the Tories for you, so extreme and fruity they are willing to impose higher prices that benefit foreign communists and nationalised industries on Britain to “prove” that state ownership never works !

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st Sep '15 - 8:44pm

    Steve 21st Sep ’15 – 4:18pm
    “ … Joe, but you’ve confused liberal economics with economic liberalism. Not the same thing.”

    Absolutely right Steve!

    OK, I think that’s my quota of permitted posts used up for today so I’m off to bed to watch Doc Martin. Night night!

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Sep '15 - 9:50pm

    Thanks AM. I’m not on the very right economically – I’m too authoritarian for that – but on the right of the party yes.

    Stuart is correct that the party has supported price controls in financial services. Steve Webb even said he wanted to put the pensions industry “into a vice” and “tighten the screw each year”. I remember fuming at that comment.

    Stephen Hesketh is right that I am not a member, but I don’t pretend to be and have often mentioned this myself. I’ve called for a status box on libdemvoice so we can make it clear what our relationship to the party is (someone else came up with this idea).

  • Dave Orbison 21st Sep '15 - 10:59pm

    @Carl Gardener any piece that refers to Corbyn or Corbynism as opposed to the Labour Party policy is clearly personal.
    Hence pieces by Joe Otten and others that use such terms rather than refer to the political party are making it personal presumably in a rather shabby attempt to benefit from the Tory Press smears of Corbyn. To say anything other wise is in my opinion disingenuous. More importantly I’d ask the question why is there so much vitriol to Corbyn and warmth to Blairites MP’s when, by any objective assessment, Corbyn and LibDems pre coalition have shared much more common ground?

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Sep '15 - 11:42pm

    Hi Joe, I don’t mind a fee cap, I just think Steve Webb went too far with it.

    Regards

  • David Walker 22nd Sep '15 - 1:02am

    Just to pick up on one of many misconceptions, you suggest that ‘printing money’ is an economic policy that either is impossible or does more harm than good. The coalition was printing money in vast quantities for years and giving it to bankers (the current government still is). So it’s definitely possible. Of course it has done more harm than good (encouraging the speculative housing bubble and widebning the inequality gap etc). But when it is suggested that money be created and spent usefully in the economy that’s just crazy.

    I am appalled at how blinkered and brainwashed the Liberal Democrats have become. I left the party out of disgust at their support for economically illiterate austerity. Lib Dems should be working with Corbin and Syriza, not deriding them.

  • Dave Orbison 22nd Sep '15 - 1:25am

    Joe – “Can you suggest a way…” Simple omit the name Corbyn. Refer just to the Labour Party whether that be in regard to agreement/disagreement re a given policy. Stick to facts as to what they say rather than supposition and use of labels. Incidentally decide if it is a virtue when a leader consults and agrees a consensus or if you prefer a leader who imposes his will no matter what – You seem to blow hit and cold on this. Above all, above all, reserve your position on all policies issues and decide if one by one, you actually agree with what the Labour Party position (now with Corbyn as leader) is something you agree with. E.g. Labour Party now for staying in EU, against Welfare Bill, against Trade Union Bill.. Really not that difficult.

  • @Joe Otten

    In many ways, even if not all ways, the labour party has potentially the best leader for a generation… And one who has been in the position for a week.

    In that week, and in the leadership election previous, he has outlined broad principled, but no real economic policy… And he has repeatedly stressed that policy will be decided on by the cabinet & party – not just him.

    If Labour do come up with an incredible, and unachievable fiscal policy we should rightly attack it, and propose our own if possible – our own being both responsible and liberal.

    At the moment, all this talk of Corbynism, labour abdicating their responsibilities by electing a Nice Bloke ™, and yes… Trying to woo illiberal MPs because they can’t accept a democratic result – it all feels like we’re getting our retaliation in first.

    It doesn’t wash well. We look at best irrelevant, and at worst like a mouthpiece for Conservative HQ.

    LibDem policy, as decided on by LibDem members – and Liberal principles and campaigns – let’s focus on those please. Let’s lead the way, and allow liberals of any colour to follow. Let’s not alienate them please. Precious few people are paying any attention anyway.

  • I will say this though… QE as previously proposed by Corbyn et al comes with it’s own dangers (apparently. I’m not an expert) …

    The idea is to print money to invest in infrastructure rather than banks. However if you’re facing inflation and QE’d too much… you can recall it from the bank.

    It’s much harder to recall a bridge.

    So one needs excellent predictive powers, or come to a compromise that allows for the fine control that may be needed.

    Obviously… we want in on that compromise.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Sep '15 - 6:35am

    Joe Otten

    But doesn’t there come a point where Corbyn is simply a bigger threat to our economy than Osborne, so much that it puts equidistance under some strain?

    The Tories are just as extreme on the right as Corbyn is on the left, with the difference that Corbyn’s ideas are just a hazy wish-list, while the Tories’ are what they are doing in government.

    Norman Lamb has warned of the imminent collapse of the NHS. Is he a leftie who doesn’t know what he is talking about? The almost universal feeling of stress in NHS workers at having to work with the unworkable economics pushed on them is frightening.

    The way house prices are rising so that it is impossible for most of the population to get a home of their own is frightening. Perhaps it is even more frightening that this is the basis of our country’s supposed economic success under the Tories, a Ponzi-scheme thing which now relies on rich foreigners to keep feeding it. The extent to which our economy is based on personal debt is frightening, it is as bad as what Corbyn proposes in terms of national debt. There is a real fear that it will all collapse if interest rates rise. In a way, inflation caused by Corbyn-economics is becoming necessary as a way to stop that, it means house prices stay the same while everything else goes up, which was what got us out of the house price boom of the early 1970s.

    Our country is becoming the most unequal country in the developed world. Class divisions are bigger than they have been for decades, but we aren’t supposed to talk about that because liberals here have this idea that if you don’t talk about it, it will go away.

  • John Tilley 22nd Sep '15 - 7:11am

    Mr Corbyn was elected as an MP in 1982 and was re-elected in 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2015.

    He had previously been elected as a councillor in 1974 and on the 3 subsequent occasions that he stood .

    To say that he is “unelectable” is therefore rather odd.

    If you get the headline wrong there is a danger that your reader might doubt what is said in the rest of the article.

  • Matthew Huntbach.
    I agree, but the reason no one wants to talk about it is that unlike the 1970s we have stagnant wages and virtually no manufacturing base Osbornomics have their basis in the orthodoxies of nearly 40 years of “centrist” thought, rather than a few months of Heath’s mismanagement. Deflation is the result of low disposable incomes and reliance on cheap borrowing to plug the gap. QE was supposed to maintain the illusion of inflation by devaluing the currency. One might suspect that monetary policy has been designed to cover for much cheaper and more plentiful imports. In the Victorian ere the solution was hiking up tariffs to protect the manufacturing, but since we barely manufacture anything and no one has the will to tackle globalisation that solution is off the cards. The main problem is that too many people believe in contrary ideas the most amongst the most obvious of which is that you can have green economies and free markets, high wages and the free flow of labour etc. And that all these contradictions will be resolved by more of the same.

  • “I’ve not confused liberal economics with economic liberalism, but I am asserting a close connection. If others think socialism is more liberal than liberalism, then I think they need to adopt a different terminology or risk confusing people.”

    It is you and your orange-book chums that are deliberately trying to confuse people. The binary language of liberalism vs socialism belongs to the 1930s (with the strange exception that you’ve replaced the word capitalism with liberalism for reasons that are not clear) and debases political discussion. Corbyn, for example, appears to be advocating a mixed-market economy, which would put him firmly in the centre of the economic/political spectrum, which just goes to show how trite and meaningless political debate has become when he is routinely referred to as ‘hard-left’.

  • Joe Otten………………… But doesn’t there come a point where Corbyn is simply a bigger threat to our economy than Osborne, so much that it puts equidistance under some strain?…………..

    I listened to Osborne, in China, speaking about the “£2 billion being guaranteed by the UK taxpayer”….

    I was reminded of the ‘loan’ company when the borrower gets his father to act as a guarantor and then ONLY pays 50% interest….My thoughts were, “Why doesn’t the father get a loan from his bank and get his son to pay it back at the banks 4% interest?”….

    Corbyn wants to borrow directly; Osborne doesn’t…

  • @Steve perhaps you will give us some successful examples of planned economies

  • Joe Otten on 21 Sept @ 10:44 pm re price controls

    You say that in “energy markets, rents, groceries etc. …. consumers do know and understand what they are buying.” making a distinction with investment markets which lack transparency.

    Market fundamentalists’ belief that markets normally deliver good outcomes with just a few exceptions is mistaken. They rarely do although “failure to understand” is only one of many failure modes. Here’s another hoisted at random from today’s news.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-34323136

    The thing is that markets almost always “fail” in ways that advantage the most powerful players involved so it should be no surprise that market fundamentalism is the favoured belief system of plutocrats and their bag carriers everywhere – the Tories for example. So anyone advancing this POV, whether they realise is or not, is arguing from a Tory position’. That is a big part of why the Lib Dems involvement in the coalition went down like a lead balloon with the electorate.

    Proper ‘liberal economics’ would worry about the many ways markets fail and how they can be fixed so that ordinary people who don’t possess much economic power get a fair deal. The potential pay-off is huge. Long ago (well before I had ever been in an Aldi or Lidl) I estimated that supermarkets were overcharging by around a third. The subsequent rise of the discounters proves my point.

    To be proper and effective liberals we need to rediscover a liberal understanding of economics rather than adopting a self-serving Tory one.

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd Sep '15 - 1:33pm

    Gordon – isn’t the rise of the discounters that you mention a fairly perfect example of the market providing a good outcome? I don’t recall any state intervention to support Aldi and Lidl against the now-struggling giants.

  • Malcolm Todd – No. The price gouging of the public went on for years and years and continues even now, despite the discounters’ rise – just a little bit less round the edges of this one sector. It’s endemic not just in supermarkets but in other retail and non-retail sectors. The cumulative loss to the public is immense and growing; moreover they don’t even benefit when wearing another hat as a producer, employee etc. since most of the excess profits are funnelled upwards into the economic stratosphere.

    You mention “state intervention” which I didn’t. For the avoidance of doubt let me just note that the conventional socialist form of subsidies etc. is rarely a good approach. Much more effective is changing the ground rules as that can tackle the root causes of problems in a sector and is cheap.

  • Dave Orbison 22nd Sep '15 - 3:43pm

    Carl – you refer to ‘Corbynism’ I think my comments were relatively straightforward. Of course you and others are free to discuss your views of Corbyn – it’s a free country. However, in terms of the position adopted by the LibDems and the Labour Party under Corbyn and for that matter Farron’s leadership, I think it more relevant to compare the party lines on both parties when looking an any specific area of policy. Much has been written, a lot of which is inaccurate about Corbyn, but it is not his policies we should be looking at but the definitive polices that emerge from Labour as and when they happen. Likewise the LibDems. For example, the Labour Party Shadow Cabinet has appointed a Minister for Mental Health, it seems Labour will campaign to stay in the EU, renationalise the railways and has just announced a review of Legal Aid. The LibDems should be able to say we agree with Labour, or disagree, without any need to personalise it.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Sep '15 - 4:07pm

    Being elected time and again for a safe seat is not the same as being electable as Prime Minister. Nevertheless Corbyn bashing will not do the Liberal Democrats any good and most likely do harm. There has been no uplift in opinion poll ratings for either the Labour or Liberal Democrat parties despite some useful local byelection wins and increases in votes for the latter.

    Corbyn has chosen to support some policies which are apparently backed by opinion poll findings but not others which are equally popular but presumably not to his liking. To make renationalisation a priority when various state owned services are not performing well is quite frankly a purely ideological fixation which will waste £ billions and do no good at all for the general public.

  • @Joe
    “Oh I hadn’t thought of the cap on pension charges as price controls.”

    Though of course it is exactly that.

    Out of curiosity, what do you think about price controls on public transport?

    “Proper ‘liberal economics’ would worry about the many ways markets fail and how they can be fixed so that ordinary people who don’t possess much economic power get a fair deal.”

    Totally agree, but few liberals seem much interested in taking up the challenge. Whatever one thinks of Corbyn’s solutions, he has diagnosed the problem very eloquently – his economics policy paper is persuasive on this point and the message will strike a chord with more voters than people like Simon would like to think.

  • Still no answer from you Joe. Will Sheffield Central be a better result for the party in 5 years time with the unelectable Mr Corbyn running the show for Labour..will the Lib Dems do better than the rather limp 4th place in May- Just asking.

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Sep '15 - 6:43pm

    @John Tilley:

    “Mr Corbyn was elected as an MP in 1982 and was re-elected in 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2015.

    To say that he is “unelectable” is therefore rather odd.”

    If he had come fourth in his constituency with a record 31 per cent swing against his Party, might you consider him potentially unelectable?

  • Thank you for making the point Tony Dawson much better than myself. Joe Otten has a lot to say about Corbyn and Labour but answering a straight question about the disaster that was Sheffield Central and NOTHING.. no poems no jokes NOTHING…Come on Joe answer the question.

  • @Tony Dawson perhaps Mr Corbyn will stand in Witney next time, or Arundel maybe, and then we’ll see how electable he is in circumstances less favourable than “pin a red rosette on a donkey” territory.

  • TCO,
    Arundel is a safe tory seat with a vote of 61 per cent , it like saying Osborne will only prove himself electable by standing in Rotherham or south shields.

  • Wonder how many of those new LibDem members feel duped: “Lib Dems would go back into coalition with Tories”
    gu.com/p/4cjaf/stw

  • George Kendall 23rd Sep '15 - 6:18am

    @Steve

    I use the phrase hard left, because, in my opinion, it would be unfair on socialists to simply call Corbyn a socialist. The problem with Corbyn’s policies is that either they won’t end austerity as he has promised, or, in the long run, they would be disastrous. On looking at them superficially, they may seem moderate, but when you think through the implications, as Vince Cable says, they are not.

    @Stuart

    I suspect that you’re right that some will find his arguments superficially atttractive. But I think most will follow the old maxim, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

    @nvelope2003 “Corbyn bashing will not do the Liberal Democrats any good.”

    I think you’re right. But what we need to ensure is that the Tories cannot portray us as Corbyn-lite. They’re currently trying to poison the Labour party’s reputation through it’s association with Corbyn. I’m sure they’d love to do the same with us, if we let them.

    @AM

    I try not to bash Corbyn, I try to provide detailed arguments.

    I don’t want to criticise Labour, because there are many people who self-identify as Labour, who are appalled at Corbyn as leader. My motivation is to show these moderate Labour supporters that there is still a left-of-centre party that rejects unrealistic leftwing policies, but is also anti-Tory. If we can get them to join, we’ll be much more able to take the fight to the Tories, and, to start with, take back those 27 seats we lost to them in May.

    @Dave Orbison “it is not his policies we should be looking at but the definitive polices that emerge from Labour”

    I agree with the first, but I’m dubious about the second. Those policies will not be definitive. Rather, what matters with a politician is where they are hoping to take the country. Cameron gave the strong impression he wouldn’t cut child tax credit. But, inevitably, with the cuts in benefits he was planning, he was bound to do something like that.
    https://fullfact.org/factcheck/economy/child_tax_credit_cut_promise-46421

    In the same way, for MacDonnell to meet his promise to end austerity, there are many things he’d have to do which he isn’t telling us.

  • George Kendall 23rd Sep '15 - 6:18am

    @Caracatus, @David Walker

    Printing money is an option during a recession. We have now had seven months of growth at over 2%. If we were to use printing money to stimulate the economy now, when would we stop printing it?

    The last quantitative easing was in July 2012. And that wasn’t printing of money in the way MacDonnell plans it. It was buying government debt which will, in time, be repaid by the government.

    @Tony Dawson

    Tony, you know, probably better than most, that that’s grossly unfair. Many of those who stood in 2015 did nothing to boost their own vote, but travelled to other seats to help Lib Dems with a better chance of being elected. Joe was one of them.

    @Jimble “Lib Dems would go back into coalition with Tories”

    That’s the Guardian headline writer. Tim’s not ruled it out, but the key quote is as follows:

    “You know, there are those that would like me to take this opportunity to distance myself from the past five years, to say it was all some dreadful mistake, to say I disagree with Nick. But I don’t and I won’t,” he [Tim Farron] will say on Wednesday.

    I’m delighted about that. There’s a huge amount I loathed about what the Tories forced through the coalition. And I’d like us to start really attacking them on what they are doing now. But Tim is right. We can’t just be an adjunct to the new hard left Labour party, and particularly his shadow chancellor, John MacDonnell. And we need to continue to be about trying to put our values into practice.

    As for new members being supposedly duped, most of those new members joined before Tim was elected leader, many of them responding to Nick Clegg’s excellent resignation speech. I’m hoping many more will join in the months to come.

    @Carl Gardner

    Have you thought of switching to us? With Labour now under Corbyn there is a desperate need for us to strengthen, and provide a realistic alternative to the Tories. Would you consider joining us to help that happen?

  • Peter Watson 23rd Sep '15 - 7:40am

    @George Kendall “As for new members being supposedly duped, most of those new members joined before Tim was elected leader, many of them responding to Nick Clegg’s excellent resignation speech.”
    I think the word speech is redundant here. Clegg’s leadership oversaw a reduction in the number of members (councillors, MEPs, MPs, etc.), and it was his resignation that signalled a change, not what he said on that day.

  • Dave Orbison 23rd Sep '15 - 7:41am

    @ George – “we need to ensure is that the Tories cannot portray us as Corbyn-lite. They’re currently trying to poison the Labour party’s reputation through it’s association with Corbyn. I’m sure they’d love to do the same with us, if we let them.” “I try not to bash Corbyn, I try to provide detailed arguments.” “I suspect that you’re right that some will find his arguments superficially attractive. But I think most will follow the old maxim, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t”

    George you contradict yourself. You attack Corbyn as ‘hard-left’ then describe his polices as superficially attractive. You provided no detailed analysis to your arguments – Corbyn is supported by many economists though I accept economics is like religion – we can never be sure whose right. As for the LibDem reputation, if you haven’t already seen the news, it’s in tatters. The LibDems are a laughing stock. Blunt and painful but given the arrogance shown on LDV by some contributors, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were the majority party. The Tories played the LibDems off the park and you still want to focus on Labour. Is Germany run by a hard left Government? No. But they have a state owned rail system and rent controls as Corbyn advocates.

    I make no apologies for repeating what I have posted elsewhere – more people have joined the Labour Party since Corbyn was elected than there are members of the LibDems- just pause for a minute and think what that tells you – despite all the venom spewed out by the Media and the attacks by Tories Lib Dems (8 MP’s) in contrast to the warm support and cooperation offered by Greens, SNP or Sinn Fein (61 MP’s). Farron’s solution is to continue to attack Corbyn and woe Lab MP’s (twice rejected at the polls) who supported Iraq War and curtailment of civil liberties and welfare for the sick, impoverished and young.

  • Old liberals ruled 23rd Sep '15 - 8:07am

    @George Kendal. If you and the Guardian are right and Tim uses his speech to say “You know, there are those that would like me to take this opportunity to distance myself from the past five years, to say it was all some dreadful mistake, to say I disagree with Nick. But I don’t and I won’t,” he will give up his final chance to ever get back those voters who left us in the coalition years and he will condemn us to the wilderness forever. It will confirm to voters that we have no regrets and entrench the real sense of betrayal they hold against us as the party who duped them into believing in a better form of politics and sold out for a few years in power.

    It will confirm that Tim will be our last leader ever who is an MP, as we will simply go on losing across the country until there are none left. All because too many of us would rather be delighted by avoiding facing up to our past and prefer to carry on pretending nice words about our ideals and each other are enough.

  • George Kendall 23rd Sep ’15 – 6:18am …………………..That’s the Guardian headline writer. Tim’s not ruled it out, but the key quote is as follows………………“You know, there are those that would like me to take this opportunity to distance myself from the past five years, to say it was all some dreadful mistake, to say I disagree with Nick. But I don’t and I won’t,” he [Tim Farron] will say on Wednesday…………………..I’m delighted about that. There’s a huge amount I loathed about what the Tories forced through the coalition. And I’d like us to start really attacking them on what they are doing now. But Tim is right. We can’t just be an adjunct to the new hard left Labour party, and particularly his shadow chancellor, John MacDonnell. And we need to continue to be about trying to put our values into practice………..

    Well Tim had no problem ruling out any co-operation with Corbyn but, even after the disaster (for the party) of 5 years of ‘co-operation’ with the Tories he still can’t bring himself to put clear water between him and them…..rather like in an abusive marriage, he believes they still love us….After all, his speech lambasted Corbyn/Labour and barely touched on Tory policy

    No-one expects us to be ‘an adjunct’ just to act on a policy by policy basis…..It appears we have learned nothing from the last 5 years and, forget the faithful, our standing in the polls show that the wider electorate feel the same….

    post 1 of 3

  • If Tim does not separate the party very clearly from the last 5 years and Cleggs disaster I fear it really will be game over and the party as welL as the country deserves better. Oh by the way Joe I implore you for the last time on this thread to answer my previous questions about Sheffield Central…COME ON JOE -JUST ASKING.

  • Oh dear. If it’s true that Tim intends to say that he agrees with Nick, then I’m afraid he will be further alienating the 92% of the voters who quite clearly DISAGREE with Nick. I can see how it’s happened. The Lib Dems are ‘a family’, and a very small one in the HoC now. There is a tendency to bunker down.

    Many if not most people voted for Tim as Leader precisely because they thought that he, unlike Norman, *would* disagree with Nick and the last five years.

    Tim is simply unelectable, I’m afraid.

  • Paul In Wokingham 23rd Sep '15 - 9:22am

    @George – It now seems to be generally accepted right across the spectrum of the Liberal Democrats that the effect of QE has been to make the rich richer. Paul Marshall wrote an article published in the FT today that actually has this exact headline. I welcome this apparent Damascene conversion but notice the caveats and cop-outs around the timing and viability of Corbyn’s proposals.

    The Bank of England’s mandate for QE allowed it to buy all sorts of investment-grade instruments but it stuck entirely to the purchase of gilts. For many years I and others on this site have said that the party should have been urging the Bank to buy – for example – AA-rated bonds from social housing providers that would have allowed the construction of new homes. This would have been completely within the terms set for QE and would have pumped money directly into economy rather than – as actually happened – creating a glut of cash that was used to stoke risky investments, give free money (yes, I literally mean that) to the investment banks and boost the assets of the already rich.

    I have no expectation that the current QE will ever be unwound. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a plutocracy. Ideals such as “fairness” and “decency” seem positively quaint.

  • @Glenn “Arundel is a safe tory seat with a vote of 61 per cent , it like saying Osborne will only prove himself electable by standing in Rotherham or south shields.”

    Exactly – thank you for proving my point. One of the comments above alluded to Mr Corbyn’s electoral success, but failed to acknowledge that this was achieved in the sort of seat (Islington) where a monkey with a red rosette would win a landslide.

  • Paul In Wokingham 23rd Sep ’15 – 9:22am
    “.,, generally accepted right across the spectrum of the Liberal Democrats that the effect of QE has been to make the rich richer. Paul Marshall wrote an article published in the FT today that actually has this exact headline. I welcome this apparent Damascene conversion but notice the caveats and cop-outs around the timing and viability of Corbyn’s proposals.”

    As ever Paul, a useful and informative pointer from you! Perhaps LDV might reprint Mr Marshall’s piece here?

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Sep '15 - 11:09am

    @Old liberals ruled

    I agree with what you say about the danger of Tim Farron not distancing himself from Clegg. I’ve been disappointed by what I’ve seen coming from him since he was elected leader, and it has not inspired me to return from being just a token member of the party to being an activist as I used to be. I appreciate he needs to keep the party united, and I think it would be a mistake just to write off the coalition as a mistake, but we do need to get the message across that the coalition was not about ideological agreement with the Tories, but about political necessity due to the balance following the 2010 general election. We need to get across the message that it was not something we were happy about, due to the limited influence we had because of the distortions of the electoral system and because of the big difference in policy and ideology between us and the Tories.

    The central message needs to be that the more Liberal Democrat MPs there are, the more Liberal Democrat would be any coalition in which the party is involved. Nick Clegg singularly failed to get this message across, very much supported in that failure by Tim Farron who was one of the most enthusiastic pushers of the disastrous line “75% of our manifesto implemented”. By exaggerating what was achieve, huge damage was done as people saw the claims, and saw the reality of a government that could not be anything else but dominated by the party which had five-sixths of its MPs, and that made us look pathetic at best.

    Making out that we are just panting to be back in that situation carries on making us look pathetic, and gives out the message that all we want is “power” meaning jobs for a few of our MPs rather than actual influence.

    It is important that we get the message out that we can’t act as “kingmakers” in a balance of power situation, because any coalition depends as much on the willingness of the other parties as on what we want, and the presence of other small parties means we may not get a choice as we didn’t in 2010. Ruling out coalition with a Corbyn-led Labour party undermines that message, and in effect says that a vote for us is a vote to continue with a Conservative-dominated government. That was what lost us most of our former voters in 2015, and there’s no sign of significant others coming to take their place.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Sep '15 - 11:12am

    Carl Gardner

    AV, for instance, was a terrible idea—yet many LibDems seem to think the country voted aganst it because of the wicked Tories, or the Daily Mail, or because they’re actually craving STV.

    No, the country voted against it because they wanted to punish the LibDems for “propping up the Tories” by supporting an electoral system whose best aspect, according to its Labour supporters, was the way it props up the Tories.

  • Carl Gardner,
    highlights the central problem with all this Corbyn bashing. There really isn’t much common ground between Conservatives and liberals and there are no soft Tories. The coalition was a marriage of convenience, not a meeting of minds and the “economic liberal” wing of the Lib Dems keep failing to understand this. The blunt truth is that chasing after the centre right vote simply pushes things further to the right which favours the old order.
    We have a government that seriously believes that accumulating a grand total of 24 per cent of the electorate is representative, that nearly broke up the UK and that believes risking the economy on a gamble with the EU to shut is back benchers up is reasonable. Yet the Lib Dems blame the symptoms rather than the cause, it’s UKIPs fault, it’s the SNP fault, it’s Corbyn fault etc. This is the result of a political Stockholm syndrome or a the condition of a whipped dog cowering in front of its master. Corbyn is not in power and has no finalised policies, whilst David Cameron is in power and Osbornomics are unravelling in creeping unemployment, unsustainable debt, low productivity, homelessness, a collapsing NHS, poor international relations and now a leader who is a world class laughing stock. Yet we are supposed to believe that the most pressing issue is a man who has been Labour leader for two weeks and that the answer to the Lib Dems problems is to embrace more of the stuff that caused the problems!

  • Paul in Wokingham

    You appear to misunderstand the criticisms of QE, I imagine that if you asked Tory MP they would accept your basic statement of:
    “the effect of QE has been to make the rich richer”
    The question is not of the basic facts of the past policy but looking backwards did it also benefit the poor too and looking forward what would be a better approach in the future.

    How much the poor benefited is something that can be argued over extensively so I’ll just say this, you have to weigh (impossible to prove) factors of how much did the economy benefit compared to a hypothetical no-QE scenario against how much the rise in asset prices has harmed them.

    The purpose of the policy was not to make the rich richer (though that was a foreseeable side effect). It was to ward of deflation. Many people have concerns about how that was done but that doesn’t mean that everyone regards it as a conspiracy against certain people or that there is agreement on what the alternative should have been.

    The sensible criticism of QE would be that the policy was intended to cause inflation in consumer prices (due to the fear of deflation) but the QE was directed at the asset market. As a result there has been rampant inflation in asset prices and low (by historic standards) consumer price inflation.

    Marshall references the approach that I would have favoured (Helicopter Drop) of distributing £5,800 to everyone, as (unlike his description of being “frittered away”) this would have achieved the stated policy objective of increasing consumer inflation, allowed those who’s modest saving would have been eroded to ‘top them up’ and protect themselves (for those with vast cash savings the top up wouldn’t have made it), those with debt could have partly de-leveraged (that was needed), the extra spending others would have engaged in would have driven the CPI up (the intended outcome).

    I notice that you refer to Marshall’s article as a “Damascene conversion” just to check, was he a cheer leader for the old QE approach? I don’t actually know as I don’t hang around with him so genuinely have no idea, I assume you do.

  • Just to clarify when I wrote:
    “just to check, was he a cheer leader for the old QE approach? I don’t actually know as I don’t hang around with him so genuinely have no idea, I assume you do.”

    I am assuming you know, not assuming you hang around with him.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Sep '15 - 3:02pm

    (Great speech by new leader!)

    It is six years almost to the day that I advocated here at LDV using the monetary sector to fund part of Government spending – which has now been dubbed people’s QE and which has attracted the support (in particular situations) of this policy by until today the most influential Liberal Democrat of the last ten years, Paul Marshall.

    The idea was of course derided here. But of course using the monetary sector to fund parts of G – T was common practice in the 1970s – here is an article from the Bank of England Quarterly http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/archive/Documents/historicpubs/qb/1984/qb84q4482492.pdf on the financing of the PSBR from 1952 – 83.

    We gained control of inflation in the 1980s by eliminating this practice and it seemed obvious to me in 2008/9 that countering deflation and a major deleveraging, then, could be best achieved by simply reversing that by reintroducing it to fund major infrastructure programmes which were then shovel ready.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Sep '15 - 3:47pm

    Do we need this kind of unconventional monetary policy now? No. The monetary base (which is a good measure of when easing or tightening of monetary policy is needed) has been rising at 6 % per annum for some time.

    Have we reached escape velocity? Well there’s a lot of gravity pulling us back globally and from the quite demanding fiscal consolidation planned by the Tories. The US was using $85billion a month to offset their ‘fiscal cliff’, we are doing ours with no money creation, which is a tall order.

    But, as Marshall is, I think, saying if a new shock were to hit us before there is scope for tackling it with interest rate cuts, using the monetary sector to ease monetary policy will again be necessary and – as he neatly argues – at that time using a people’s version of money creation (QE2) may be seen as a just version when QE 1 helped the better off.

    Again, as Marshall says, Corbyn’s position would be stronger if he advocated this policy ‘when and only when occasion arises’ of a new recession before interest rates have risen. I think Murphy his adviser HAS been saying this, but not Corbyn.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Sep '15 - 4:05pm

    Another ‘line’ coming from the Corbyn camp is that IF Osborne takes the economy through to 2020 without another recession and with growth as anticipated by the OBR, then, he will win that election for the Tories: game set and match. And that therefore the only circumstances in which the Tories will lose the next election is if the fiscal consolidation does not happen and is seen to have been a factor in decent into another recession.

    In this situation, Corbyn argues, (and now Marshall???) we shall need and have a mandate for a ‘people’s QE’. Marshall is right therefore in saying that we as Liberal Democrats need a contingency plan. The world is still characterized by deleveraging (which reduces the money supply) and by excessive demand for money to hold (which reduces the velocity of exchange).

    Here are some choices in that event : – QE funded tax cuts; QE funded infrastructure expenditure; QE funded citizens’ payment (see @PSI above); or combinations of these.

    We are on a knife edge, so we shouldn’t rule anything out yet and we should keep watching the monetary base and changes to NGDP.

    So, that’s my three comments. In the unlikely event of any of them being read and anyone wishing to challenge me on their content, please note that a response will have to wait until tomorrow !

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Sep '15 - 5:42pm

    Carl Gardner

    As I said, LibDems are in complete denial about the AV referendum.

    Please explain. Why do you say AV is a “terrible idea”? It is not proportional representation, but it does end the problem of having to vote X to avoid splitting the vote and letting Y win. That gives people more choice, means they can opt for smaller parties or independent challengers without fear of splitting the vote as they can give a fallback second preference to the one whose vote they would otherwise be splitting. Why do you oppose giving people that choice?

    The central line of the”No” campaign was that the current system is good because it distorts representation in favour of the party with the most votes and against smaller parties. In 2010 and 2015 the party with the most votes was the Tories, and it did indeed distort representation in their favour. In 2010 it rules out anything but a Tory dominated government, and in 2015 it gave the Tories complete control of the country on 37% of the vote. So, as I said, is very much “propping up the Tories”.

    Of course, Clegg and the “Yes” campaign were so useless they were unable to get across these simple points, but that’s another thing.

    And just because I think the minor reform of AV is worth having if it’s all that is on offer apart from keeping FPTP does not mean I have changed my mind on thinking STV much better. Another simple point which Clegg and the “Yes” campaign failed to get across.

  • Bill

    I have a number of concerns about the infrastructure route (and the tax cut too).

    Firstly the “shovel ready” label is always cited but the problem is that government infrastructure projects are often assumed to be but in reality very few are in the way people expect. The lead time of projects is long (for sensible reasons: safety, logistical constraints, etc. Some just bureaucratic: planning, consultation exercises, lobby groups). I would prefer the government had a longer term plan of infrastructure investment planned (along with plans that didn’t pass a CBA but in changed circumstances may see cost fall or benefits rise) so there was a clear idea what would be achievable and how that would show what may be possible to contract for during economic slowdowns but we shouldn’t assume that they all would kick off immediately.

    Secondly the impact on incentives. The couple in their 50s or 60s who have saved for decades could see their saving badly eroded by significant changes in monetary policy, if however the “helicopter approach”/”citizens payment” approach would help those with moderate savings by enabling them to ‘top up’ from the payment in order to counter act the adverse impacts of any required policy.

    The tax cut approach would share dome of the issues in terms of the benefit following to one group rather than another, also governments have struggled to readjust when they needed to raise taxes.

    Also Investment needs a long-term financing plan to ensure they are delivered as required, trying to force a few through with some short term printed money may put too much pressure on those selected for them to be deliver well (rather than as good value and done well) and will cause planning for them to be skewed by future expected QE (which may or may not be required when it comes down to it).

    Better to keep it simple, fund infrastructure in a slow steady way from taxation and use monetary policy as a reactive mechanism which delivers the hit across the economy when it is needed not just to the chosen projects in a way and time that will be inherently unpredictable.

  • TCO.
    I get your point but you are swapping one extreme for another which to me undermines your argument. A Pin the blue rosette to a porcine head seat doesn’t prove un-electability either.

  • George Kendall 24th Sep '15 - 8:15am

    @Bill le Breton

    You might be surprised that I agree with a lot you’ve just written.

    I remember at the 2010 conference, other Lib Dems suggested we should think of alternatives to QE, including funding capital projects. In the crisis situation we appeared to be in at that time, it was a possibility.

    What is different, as you say, is that Corbyn has proposed it after we have had seven quarters of growth over 2%, and has not confined the policy to recessions.

    When I’ve come across Murphy, I’ve never been impressed by him. But if he has said restrict it to recessions, he’s gone up a little in my esteem.

    I think printing money for infrastructure is still dangerous, partly because it compromises Bank of England independence. If interest rates are still too low, in extremis, it’s not necessarily a crazy idea. Ideally, our finances should be sufficiently robust, that we could borrow rather than use QE, but that’s not likely for a long time.

    I don’t think we should publicly propose it now. But perhaps worth having in our back pocket if there are no other options. I also agree with a lot that @Psi says.

    (And yes indeed, Tim’s done well)

    @Glenn “there are no soft Tories”
    You’re mistaken. I was discussing an issue recently with one who recently joined our party.

    @Carl Gardner

    Thanks for your post. It’s good to hear a critique of the party from a social democratic, but presumably not liberal social democratic perspective.

    While I don’t agree with all your criticisms, it’s good to hear them. To often the comments we hear from the left are from those who sympathise with Corbyn, rather than with the old Labour leadership.

    I wonder, though, whether everything will be up in the air in two years time. If the social democrats fail to oust Corbyn, they may have a choice, leave politics, or create a new centre left force. If they do that, I hope they’ll be prepared to work with us. The last thing we want is to fracture the anti-Tory vote even further.

  • @Glenn “I get your point but you are swapping one extreme for another which to me undermines your argument. A Pin the blue rosette to a porcine head seat doesn’t prove un-electability either.”

    I agree. But the person who made the original point seemed to think that Corbyn’s record of electability as a councillor and MP in Islington made him highly electable. My point was made to illustrate that it was nothing of the sort.

  • George Kendall 24th Sep '15 - 3:36pm

    @Carl Gardner

    I think you’re right that the general public are relatively content with FPTP. Not happy, just not wanting to risk a change.

    I think they’re wrong to be.

    The problems in the Labour party are a symptom of a system that doesn’t allow new parties to form. With some form of PR, Labour would have split decades ago. Corbyn, or someone like him, would lead a party with probably no more than 8% of the vote, and a social democratic party might command 30%.

    But without PR, the only realistic way for the extreme left or the extreme right to get decent representation in parliament is by joining one of the big two.

    If one of these two parties is taken over by their extreme elements, as has just happened, it’s bad for democracy, as there is no viable opposition. As happened in the 1980s/1990s, after a period out of power, Labour may hope the extremists will see sense, and the social democrats will regain control. I wonder, though. After the Tories have finished their campaign of tarnishing Labour’s reputation for having Corbyn and MacDonnell in the top two jobs, Labour may not recover. Especially if the Tories cut off most of their funding from the unions.

    What if the Tories then decide to follow the instincts of their extreme right? If both parties are controlled by the extremes, that could do massive long-term damage to the country.

    I don’t understand why more moderates don’t see this, and realise that changing the election system is the best way to ensure that the government is reflective of the consensus of UK opinion, rather than the most powerful extreme element.

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