John Pugh MP writes…Liberals must tackle rising social inequality and improve social cohesion

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKThe nice thing about Lib Dem Voice is that they print what you say rather than what they want you to say.

After the disappointing General Election of 1987 I made the press ,when as Party Chairman of the only constituency in the England we had gained, I suggested it would be good for the party if David Steel  stepped down and Paddy Ashdown took over. I think I got that one right.

So understandably I thought long and hard before saying anything public on strategy and leadership issues. But as we had just lost 72% of the seats we defended in the local elections (the Tories lost 17%), were on course to lose 91% of MEPs and had dropped to 7% in the last week’s polls,I struggled to think how I could actually make things much worse.

I just do not accept that this scale of losses is an inevitable consequence of being in government or in coalition ( notwithstanding Nick Thornsby’s well-argued piece ). Sure we had some good successes (in Southport we won 6 out of the 7 seats) but rarely were our successes due to national factors. This scary decline continues and need not abate.

Optimists point out that we could still hold up to 37 seats in the General Election if we just dig in properly,but we thereby effectively concede the overwhelming majority of the country to our political rivals and that is not a strategy for the future.

We risk repeating the errors of the 1920s when a diminishing band of Coalition Liberal MPs intent and  on their own survival tried to cling on, while the party in the country withered. Only when Grimond decades later urged the party to get out of the trenches and walk towards the sound of gunfire did the party revive.

Sometimes of course it’s important to husband resources, defend carefully etc.. but to inspire people to vote for you we have to have a better offer than a talent to moderate the excesses of others in the name of centrism-though that’s actually worth something.

Nick Clegg has said that we must and indeed should get the credit for the economic recovery and the economic competence it implies.I agree but even if successful, it’s still not enough.

Voters by and large don’t vote in gratitude. Ask the 1,700 or so Lib Dem councillors who have lost since 2011! If the nation didn’t vote for Winston Churchill for winning the war, ,hey won’t vote for Nick Clegg just because they think he saved the economy. Those who voted UKIP last week didn’t do so because UKIP had done something for them.

My belief is that we need to fill out the anodyne “Strong Economy and Fairer Society” and start talking more about long-term,growing social inequality and declining social cohesion. Social inequality of course implies inequality in power as well as in wealth. I share the current concern over this with such obvious lefties as the Governor of the Bank of England , the Pope and my good friend Norman Lamb- all of whom have spoken out recently about it. The coalition story in addressing social inequality is much better than people currently credit.

The importance of promoting social cohesion – generational, communal, north and south, Scots and English, old families and new arrivals- is that ultimately it is our answer to the divisive nastiness of UKIP. Social cohesion though isn’t an automatic result of the free movement of labour.

Those two many-faceted themes coupled with sound economic management and policy would I believe resonate powerfully throughout the land.

Addressing those problems is not a backward step nor a leftward step -its the politics of the future. I could spell it out more but don’t here want to trespass on the patience and forbearance of Voice readers

Nick repeated only a few days the ageing mantra about “not looking in the rear view mirror” -presumably a soundbite drawn up originally by an ingenious,young Spad who I hope is still clutching his provisional licence. In my experience not looking in the rear view mirror leads to dreadful accidents and havoc in one’s wake.

The reality is that there is a huge crash ahead unless we respond vigorously to the growing, worldwide social inequality and diminishing social cohesion . It will be the failure of Liberal politics if we don’t see it coming.

 

* John Pugh was Liberal Democrat MP for Southport until 2017 and was elected as a Councillor for the Dukes ward of Sefton Borough Council on 2 November 2017.

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55 Comments

  • @Alex You’re wrong. The big problem is that Nick is too defensive. When did he last argue what he wanted above and beyond the coalition? Or what we’d be doing if we had more MPs? (Imagine! A message about why we should have MORE MPs).

    Cameron loves to tell us what the Lib Dems have stopped him doing. That lets him portray a vision of his party that is bigger than what the coalition government is doing. We stick with defensively arguing that the coalition is the best of all possible worlds and outlining what we’ve stopped the Tories doing. Really? There’s really nothing we want to do beyond the coalition agreement? John says we want to do more to build social cohesion. Others say we should be doing more on civil liberties and the environment. Surely we want SOMETHING more than we have today.

    Our problem is that Nick is too defensive. Defending the EU. Defending the coalition. It’s time to go on the attack. Tell the world what we want this country and this continent to be like. What we want to change. And stop thinking that we can get anywhere just by obsessively seeking to justify a decision that was taken four years ago.

  • “We risk repeating the errors of the 1920s when a diminishing band of Coalition Liberal MPs intent on their own survival tried to cling on, while the party in the country withered.”

    Risk? That’s been happening for the last four years. The question is what we do about it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 1st Jun '14 - 4:44pm

    ‘The importance of promoting social cohesion – generational, communal, north and south, Scots and English, old families and new arrivals- is that ultimately it is our answer to the divisive nastiness of UKIP.’

    With respect Mr Pugh, I think that this speaks to something of a misunderstanding of the nature of UKIP. UKIP is NOT divisive, or at least not in the sense I think you mean here. Sure, UKIP do have something of a, ‘them and us,’ in their wildly over-simplified world-view, but they do have a sense about them of, ‘togetherness.’ Just not one that includes freely moving labour which, as you say, does not necessarily bring about cohesion. In other words, what might be called a, ‘closed,’ view.

    The rise of UKIP to my mind reflects a wider public mind set that started under Brown and continued under the Coalition. For years under Blair all parties (and I stress all) seemed to talk the language of, ‘openness.’ This included optimism about large scale immigration, internationalism in foreign conflicts, a corporatist stance on global big business and multiculturalism in public policy. Unfortunately the stark reality is that an awful lot of people have found that openness has not worked for them and have just had an absolute gutful of it. They have just had a gutful of seeing wages put under pressure, of internationalism meaning foreign adventurism, of national utilities and businesses falling into foreign ownership of local schools seeing uncontrolled influxes and so on. It did not strike me at the time, but the Syria vote was precisely a reflection of a more closed public sentiment. In that case, a feeling that internationalism or not, foreign wars are not our business.

    This is the increasing disconnect. The politician’s openness to global business is the public’s economic dislocation. To politicians there was international concern about conditions in Syria to which the public quite bluntly said that those Syrian conditions were not in their name. The EU is essentially the high-point of the open world view and the public took the opportunity at the EU elections to say exactly what they think of the open agenda. It’s not racism, as some have lazily suggested, but it is a belief that openness and cohesion have been, if not exclusive, at least divergent and not in the interests of many voters.

    It is a criticism made of many political movements; that they simply talk to themselves with the result being an expression of a collective group-think. In the past few weeks there seems to have been something of a reluctance to engage with a more closed set of voters. Simply saying over and over again that in the net figures there is some economic benefit from migration is not cutting it precisely because openness is not longer seen as worth the benefit.

    I just worry that in 2015 there will be an idea that all the LDP needs is one more heave and the public will once again buy into openness. A far deeper change is needed.

  • Bill le Breton 1st Jun '14 - 5:07pm

    Alex, where is John Pugh saying we should run away from gun fire. He is suggesting that the key fight is against the impoverishing forces of inequality and intra-community strife. We need the strongest possible Liberal force to achieve that and one that can lead and inspire people in ther communities to rally to that banner. 2015/20 will be a greater challenge to Liberalism than ever 2010/2015 was, and that was bad enough.

    Tell me who else you think is saying that we should duck this fight. It is an insult to all the campaigners in the party that you should suggest it.

    Nick Clegg’s stubborn refusal to step down and make way for someone better able to lead that fight does neither the the country nor the people any favours. It is the Somme all over again. What good did that do?

  • Leo Waldock 1st Jun '14 - 5:15pm

    I consider myself a floating voter who lives in a constituency with a Lib Dem MP. If I lined up all the important issues of the day I don’t think I would ever reach ‘improve social cohesion.’ It certainly isn’t in the top 30.
    Nick Clegg described the Lib Dems as the party of in. The voters heard him, disliked what he said and voted for every other party on the ballot. If you honestly think the public is baying for ‘social cohesion’ then fine, go for it. In 12 months time you’ll be wondering how you were so terribly misunderstood and why the public is so misguided.
    Or you might stop this business of talking in jargon and focus on issues that actually matter to the people you meet in Sainsburys and Tesco.

  • Steve Comer 1st Jun '14 - 5:19pm

    I welcome John Pugh’s honesty and openness, and he talks from a position of strength representing Southport where we have had some success in recent years (and unlike some MPs he doesn’t claim all the credit for that success himself either).
    Martin Tod is right when he talks about defensiveness, its partly that and partly cautiousness. This was also a fault of Tony Blair, who having won a huge parliamentary majority twice, still ran scared of the political agenda of the Sun and the Daily Mail

    It was OK to campaign as ‘the party of IN’ in the Euro elections, but NOT if you have no ideas on what reforms you need to make and what vision you have for the future of the EU. When asked the direct question in the second debate, Nick Clegg had no answer, and just waffled on with an answer that supported the status quo. Withdrawal from the EU was not a realistic prospect at these elections, and the voters knew that. We were right to target the risks from the Tories and UKIP, but why doe we run scared of a Liberal vision for Europe. Other Liberal Leaders don’t, the Liberal candidate for Commission President wrote an excellent book alongside Danny Cohn-Bendit from the Green Party, called ‘For Europe.’ Available from all good bookshops and tax dodging Amazon!

    This is the problem John Pugh articulates, we are being attacked for policies that were not in the coalition agreement, but not articulating what we would do differently. To give two examples:
    1) We are being pilloried for Gove’s nationalisation of education, which now goes to the illiberal extreme of fining parents who have to take children out of school, and telling English Literature teachers which books to use. These are not Liberal policies, and if we don’t support them we should say so, not give the impression we are going along with them.
    2) We have been defending the under-occupancy charge (aka ‘bedroom tax’). Now I’ve no problem with getting people who are under-occupying social housing to downsize to a smaller home, Councils always did, but it has to be done with sensitivity. Of course the housing provider has to have smaller property in the same area to offer such people. If we’d seen a major house building programme for social housing to rent as well as shared equity, and housing for open market sale, then in time you could bring in an under-occupancy charge. But if you put the cart before the horse as the coalition has done you rightly get accused of attacking the underprivileged.

    Good analogy about the rear view mirror too, John!

  • Little Jackie Paper 1st Jun '14 - 5:39pm

    Steve Comer – ‘but why do we run scared of a Liberal vision for Europe’

    Mind if I have a go at that? There is lots of reform in Europe at the moment, the problem is that very little of it is what the UK political parties look for. On January 1st next year 19 of the 28 EU members will be in the Eurozone. By sometime in the early 2020s, the EU IN/EZ OUT group will be (at most) 4 of 28. Any reform that assumes EU IN/EZ OUT status is going to have to work with the fact that they will be a very small group in the EU with I would guess an influence on the reform agenda that is marginal. The UK joining the EZ is not going to happen.

    There is lots of talk of, ‘reform,’ but no one ever seems to have much idea of what that is, still less if it can be delivered. Now, of course, if the rest of the EU want to accelerate integration, that is for them. The reform is there, but isn’t what the UK wants.

    There is perhaps a more general point that there is more than the EU when it comes to supranationalism.

  • Jonathan Pile 1st Jun '14 - 5:40pm

    John has it exactly right and party loyalists are doing the party no favours by losing their ears to his arguments. Truth is as the poll showing that Nick is now the most disliked party leader in history (-65%) which takes some doing. We need to focus on what simple message the voters will connect with on 2015. To just say – weren’t you lucky to have the lib dems around to save the day or could have been worse won’t win around any supporters however true it may be. We must offer a manifesto to inspire our 20% of the voters – ie we can change the world, win the war against global warming, we can end poverty in Britain and abroad, we can protect liberal Britain against intolerance and greed. We need to oppose fracking, HS2, expansion of air travel, tax evasion, erosion of civil liberties, support greater democracy, protect the green belt, repeal tuition fees, sack Gove , enhance liberal state school universal education and Lower state waste.

  • Duncan Brack 1st Jun '14 - 5:52pm

    I agree with a lot in this article, but where does the figure of 72% come from, as the proportion of the seats we defended but lost? The BBC website gives totals of 427 seats won (i.e. held or gained) and 310 lost – in other words, we started with 737 seats and lost 310 – which is 42%, not 72%. Still bad, obviously, and disappointing to be back at 2011 and 2012 levels of losses (41% and 44%) after a slight improvement in 2013 (26%) – but not 72%.

  • A Social Liberal 1st Jun '14 - 6:25pm

    Yes, Yes, YES ! ! !

    This is why I joined the Lib Dems. Well said John, Caracatus and Bill le Breton!

  • Cllr Steve Radford 1st Jun '14 - 6:26pm

    Strange in 1988 the party created was the Social and Liberal Democratic Party in the words of Ashdown a “new” Party which turned its back on its Liberal roots until the crushing defeat at the 89 Elections.

    Seems like three years of continuous crushing defeats the new party has learnt little

  • paul barker 1st Jun '14 - 7:19pm

    I think I agree with the article, we should be doing more to push ouselves as The Only Party of Reform in British Politics. One way to do that is to talk about The Reforms weve made in the last 4 years & then go on to the ones we wnt to make. All of us.
    Once again the comments column is clogged up with calls to destroy The Leadership we Elected. More relentless negativity – just what we dont need.

  • I agree, Paul; the declined AV referendum is a square which needs circling, but that aside, you’re quite right.

  • While I am not sure that the line “We risk repeating the errors of the 1920s when a diminishing band of Coalition Liberal MPs intent and on their own survival tried to cling on, while the party in the country withered (sic)” is strictly true. I do take the point that by the late 1940’s and 1950’s the diminishing band of Liberal MPs were only really intent on their own survival and a strategy that says we should dig in, in our MPs seats is just doing the same and will lead to vast areas of the UK were the Liberal Democrats will be a poor third or fourth (or maybe fifth). Of course this is part of the outcome of having a targeting strategy but having a message that gets through to the people even where we are weak is important in keeping our nationwide presence.

    John Pugh is right to say, “Social inequality of course implies inequality in power as well as in wealth.” When we talk of social cohesion do we include the issue of those people who are disconnected with society and feel hopeless and that nothing will or can change for them? Liberalism is supposed to be a message of hope. Let us proclaim hope to the hopeless. Would giving everyone a Citizens Income be a start? Is Caracatus right “that for many people work isn’t a route out of poverty”? Or is it that without full unemployment work isn’t the route out of poverty? Can we bring back full unemployment and hope and tackle poverty all in one?

    Caracatus mentions housing and housing has been mentioned on lots of threads talking about changing our message. So I agree we need to deal with the housing shortage. How can people have hope if they know they are never going to get a place of their own to live in? Our policy is to build 300,000 houses a year. What are we doing to make this happen? If the Tories are stopping us, then why haven’t we told the people? But I don’t think it is the Tories who are stopping us doing it, it is Nick and Danny and their cautious economic policy and the idea that the deficit is bad.

    I don’t know how to promote social cohesion but I believe that getting people out of poverty, having people live in a place of their own, and giving them meaning to their lives would be a start.

  • @ Steve Comer

    “We are being pilloried for Gove’s nationalisation of education, which now goes to the illiberal extreme of fining parents who have to take children out of school”

    Fining parents for taking their children out of school for a day or two is absolutely detested by every parent I speak to. Of course if you’re a wealthy MP with massive summer holidays its not a problem for you. Repealing this daft legislation alone would give us a couple of points in the polls.

  • Tony Dawson 1st Jun '14 - 8:45pm

    @Alex Wilcock:
    John, we’re currently in the middle of the gunfire, having walked into the height of the fighting with our eyes open in 2010.”

    There is something rather Kitcheneresque in your comment, Alex. For some, the sound of gunfire is only heard by turning up the sound on the radio and, whoever wins the war, the retirement will still be to the same villa in Biarritz. For other, it is not so much gunfite as the third wave of cluster bombs. Guess who is calling for change?

  • Tony Dawson 1st Jun '14 - 8:51pm

    @Bill le Breton :

    “Alex, where is John Pugh saying we should run away from gun fire.”

    If we carry on the analogy, Bill, John Pugh has not only been facing up to gunfire, in his Southport constituency he has been involved in serious hand-to-hand fighting – and coming out on top against the odds. This tear, the Lib Dems in Southport have, for the first time in history, gained as many (slightly more, actually) votes as Conservative and Labour put together. I think only John hemming and Tim Farron have bettered that. Yet, year after year, rather than being relieved by paratroopers, he and his team have been subject to repeated doses of shrapnel from allegedly ‘friendly fire’. 🙁

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jun '14 - 9:06pm

    I agree we need to tackle inequality and improve social cohesion and that this is not necessarily left wing stuff. However, my worry is that a large section of today’s political activists seem to get their ideas from highly prejudiced and misleading left-wing media outlets that only pay lip service to the plight of small businesses. In fact, if you mention policies such as a living wage or forced workplace pensions will hurt them the response you are likely to get is a shrug.

    This is why I cling onto centrism, because once any party allies itself with the left it begins to close its ears to the concerns of businesses and they always leave it up to the right to defend their cause.

    Oh and then there is the problem of the left dismissing the plight of white men in society and actively promoting and pandering to prejudice against us.

    These are the reasons why I felt the need for a full throttled defence of Nick Clegg, to prevent the party being swamped with Guardian led activists who seem to have a too simple definition of what progress seems to be.

    I admired you “grabbing Nick by the collar” after the election, but I didn’t admire the attempts of others to defenestrate him without a discussion or an alternative in place.

  • Chris Manners 1st Jun '14 - 9:11pm

    ” The coalition story in addressing social inequality is much better than people currently credit.”

    What about the food banks?
    Rent arrears?
    Benefit cuts?

    Doubtless you can find some figures showing inequality falling, but that’s John Major territory- relatively lean times in the City bringing the top down.

  • Stephen Hesketh 1st Jun '14 - 9:19pm

    John – Thanks for this contribution.

    Re “My belief is that we need to fill out the anodyne “Strong Economy and Fairer Society” and start talking more about long-term, growing social inequality and declining social cohesion. Social inequality of course implies inequality in power as well as in wealth.” – I couldn’t agree more.

    The disconnect between governments and the governed and between those with power and those who have been progressively disempowered appears to be one of the main drivers in voters all over Europe turning to the authoritarian right and left – as if they have ever had record of delivering peace, prosperity, democracy or social cohesion! How quickly we forget the lessons of history.

    Jo Gimond’s words regarding us advancing towards the sound of gun fire therefore seem particularly apt.

    Balancing social, economic and political equality with personal and collective freedoms is the best answer we have to these excesses and to the threats we face by ignoring them. It is also natural Liberal Democrat territory.

    Yes, we do need to take the fight to those who flirt with extremism. Centrism is simply insufficient and the continuing unfettered free market economic policies of the Thatcher era – which massively accelerated the breakdown in social cohesion and the widening in the gap between the richest and everyone else – are part of the problem not its solution.

    One final thought, not using the rear view mirror may be a natural response … if you are careering towards a cliff edge and you are hoping the passengers haven’t noticed!

  • Alex Wilcock —–in the middle of the gunfire —-
    Alex that may be true of some of us. The medics have been busy over the last fortnight as the fatally wounded have been carted away from one electoral battle after another.
    Sometimes you can be in the middle of the gunfire because the troops behind you have opened fire on their own officers.
    Not often spoken about but actually something which occurs in all wars. People break military discipline because they come to realise that it is the only way to survive. Paddy Ashdown is not the only person in this party with some knowledge of things military. The poor bloody infantry in the Liberal Democrats realise that if they are ordered over the top and out of the trenches again next May without a change leadership the slaughter will be repeated. If the officer in command becomes unfit for command it is his subordinates’ to remove him from command.
    Not sure if you are familiar with the terms SNAFU.
    Situation Normal All F****** Up.
    It accurately describes what has become the norm for Liberal Democrats with Clegg as leader.
    There can be no denying the fact of electoral slaughter.
    There can be no denying the serial failure to deliver constitutional reform.
    To say that party members went into this with their eyes open ignores the repeated failure of Clegg to keep his side of the deal.
    From the top down NHS debacle , through the bedroom tax, via illegal subsidies to nuclear power and agreement by the leadership to secret courts and the bombing of Syria —nobody in the party signed up to those things when they signed up to coalition.

    But this is not about coalition — it is about the ineptitude of one leader, Nick Clegg.
    He gives coalition a bad name but he has demonstrated that he is no good, no good at all, at the implementation.
    He over promised and under-achieved over and over again.
    It is now time for him to go.

  • Tony Dawson 1st Jun '14 - 9:26pm

    @Eddie Sammon:

    “, my worry is that a large section of today’s political activists seem to get their ideas from highly prejudiced and misleading left-wing media outlets that only pay lip service to the plight of small businesses.”

    The evidence for which is. . . . . .?

    Eddie, why not engage with your own local Liberal Democrats to find the truth rather than sitting in front of a computer inventing straw men? I speak as one who spent a number of years in self employment and a shorter time as an employer.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jun '14 - 11:04pm

    Tony, my evidence is from looking at the laws being signed and promoted. I will try my best to engage locally as soon as possible, I just am quite house-bound at the moment. I also want to lessen my general negativity.

  • David Allen 2nd Jun '14 - 12:48am

    John Pugh says we need to do more about social inequality. Little Jackie Piper points out that some aspects of the UKIP agenda, in particular the fact that open immigration hurts many of the worst off in our society by driving down wages and taking away jobs, also need to be addressed. Eddie Sammon speaks up for small business. So, are we all over the place?

    Not in the least! We have to show that we care about what ordinary people care about. John Pugh is quite right to start with worsening social inequality. Ways to help tackle that problem include more financial transfers to help areas with the greatest influx of immigration. Ways to help tackle that problem also include giving small business more opportunities to create real wealth – as opposed to letting manipulation of the housing market create phoney wealth.

    All of these things can be promoted by a new, independent leader with a positive agenda. None of them can be promoted by Clegg doggedly defending the failed past history of the coalition.

  • David Allen 2nd Jun '14 - 1:00am

    I will just add two ideas of my own for the party’s new direction. First on immigration:

    we have to square the circle between our own liberal attitudes (and the overall economic benefits) and the strident demand from so many for controls. I think we need to look more carefully at Farage’s comments about twenty-nine million Romanians. Of course it’s easy to rubbish the remark and insist that very few of them are actually flying to London tonight. However, to say that is to ignore a weakness in our own position, which is that in theory, they could be. Why should we accept that silly provision, even if it is highly theoretical? Isn’t there a case for a high upper annual limit on EC migration, in the interests of social cohesion?

    I’m not talking about Cameron’s silly figures like tens of thousands, I’m talking about figures like half a million or higher. Half a million Poles coming to the UK in a single year was too many. A staggered influx would have placed less strain on resources, and on all our indigenous workers who suddenly had to find new jobs. A high cap on the rate of internal EC migration, on the numbers allowed within a short time interval, would not truly conflict with the principle of free movement. But to call for such a cap would hugely reassure very many people that we do listen, we do care, we do know how ordinary people feel, and we don’t treat it with the kind of Lady Bountiful disdain that UKIP have rightly sneered at.

  • David Allen 2nd Jun '14 - 1:07am

    Next on social inequality.

    There are two blatantly open goals here. One is extreme wealth, bankers’ bonuses, share options and the like. Clearly none of the parties is doing much about it because it is against the interests of their rich donors. That includes the Lib Dems. It should not. We should renew ourselves by refusing large donors and by echoing Obama with an appeal for a mass of small donors.

    The second is regional policy. London is sucking the life out of the rest of Britain – and in the process, stifling its own residents’ quality of life through rampant house price inflation. We got rid of “old fashioned” regional policy, and look what happened. We need it back. We need regional government to fight for the regions in the same way that Salmond has successfully fought for Scotland. We need funding formulas which favour investment in the regions. We need to continue moving Government from London to the provinces. Then we can solve our inequality problems and our housing problems.

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Jun '14 - 1:14am

    @David Allen
    “London is sucking the life out of the rest of Britain – and in the process, stifling its own residents’ quality of life through rampant house price inflation. We got rid of “old fashioned” regional policy, and look what happened. We need it back. We need regional government to fight for the regions in the same way that Salmond has successfully fought for Scotland. We need funding formulas which favour investment in the regions. ”

    A fervent amen to that.

  • Richard Dean 2nd Jun '14 - 2:48am

    My feeling is that “social inequality” and “social cohesion” are too vague for voters to use as a basis for choice. These concepts don’t seem to address people’s immediate concerns, and they don’t distinguish LibDems from others.

    No Labour voter will believe that Labour like social inequality, and if John Pugh writes that “the >>coalition<< story in addressing social inequality is much better than people currently credit" , then how does it make LibDems different?

    How is "social cohesion" different from "throw foreigners out"?

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 2nd Jun '14 - 8:21am

    I’ll not repeat my lists of policies for LDs to promote, from the last few days, and they don’t exactly chime with Jonathan Pile’s [though agree with most] but John Pugh has the general analysis right in my opinion – we must promote our policies and NOT follow the Tories any longer. How that is handled in Parliament might well be a problem for ministers but coalition government in the modern world is in our own hands and being ‘nice’ is not an ideal to win votes. Stand up for LD policies. If an issue is not in the ‘Agreement’ we should have our own policy on it. And not vote Tory again in any division in the HoC or HoL. Our manifesto is being shaped now and the many good policies to develop are beginning to emerge as above. I applaud the thinking of all contributors.

  • Simon McGrath 2nd Jun '14 - 8:31am

    David Allen:
    ” One is extreme wealth, bankers’ bonuses, share options and the like.”
    Leaving aside the large drop in bonuses since 2008 , lower bonuses equals lower tax which means more cust or more borrowing. Which one do you prefer?
    “. London is sucking the life out of the rest of Britain” or to put it another way, London and the SE transfer huge amount of money to the UK. The Surrey Borough of Elmbridge pays more income tax than Cardiff.
    ” We got rid of “old fashioned” regional policy, and look what happened.” It didnt work, that why we got rid of it.

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Jun '14 - 9:02am

    @Simon McGrath
    “. London is sucking the life out of the rest of Britain” or to put it another way, London and the SE transfer huge amount of money to the UK.
    I have seen public sector regional research departments closed down under this coalition, with the funding transferred to organisations in London.

    Result: less bang for the buck, because London is unarguably a more expensive place in which to operate, as well as loss of jobs in other regions, which nobody bothered to acknowledge as a problem. Most of the people involved have since ended up moving to London to chase jobs there (as that is where all the funding is now being spent for some darn fool reason), whilst some have left the country. That is not a ‘transfer of money to the UK’. It’s just incestuous London luvvies lining their nests with taxpayers’ money.

  • Former LibDem here, but still more sympathetic to the LibDems than any other party.

    I think John Pugh has this right.

    There’s a broader problem in the UK – the left is offering nothing to people. UKIP do well because they respond to people’s worries and concerns. We know this is in the wrong way – by invoking nationalism, xenophobia and so on. By blaming the other the right has an easy narrative. Combine that with appeals to a mythical past, they have an easy strategy.

    The left offers nothing. Either ‘Vote Labour – they’ll sort it out’ (which isn’t believed) or impenetrable jargon and squabbling from the far left.

    The LibDems could be articulating an alternative vision to UKIP. Attack inequalities and the myth of meritocracy. Attack centralisation and the nationalisation of our lives. People feel like they have no control over their lives, so they attack easy targets, why not show how they can take control over their lives instead?

    Doubtless I will disagree with much that the party says, but it’ll be better than the current apparrent strategy of not rocking the boat.

  • Simon McGrath 2nd Jun ’14 – 8:31am
    “….The Surrey Borough of Elmbridge pays more income tax than Cardiff….”

    I do not doubt this. The term “stock-broker belt” is not much used nowadays, but if it were then it would describe Elmbridge.
    The price of houses is often in millions of pounds. £6 million for a house is not unusual. Even a modest two up two down terraced Victorian house In Claygate (originally built for “artisans” ) went for £1 million recently.
    The bigger houses have gardens which are often beautiful and carefully manicured by a team of contract gardners, far better than anything at Hampton Court Flower Show or The RHS at Wisley, both of which are only a five minute drive away in the Porsche.
    The in and out drives of big Elmbridge house have their fresh inches of yellow gravel crunched by Mercedes, Bentleys and of course the run about Chelsea Tractor for the lady who lunches at Carluccio’s in Esher to while away an hour or two spotting celebrities and the occasional footballer’s wife.
    Those spoiled children who have not been banished to public schools wear clothes sometimes more than once, the Cobham Oxfam shop is to be recommended if your kids are ever passing through the town.

    I live a couple of miles away in slightly less posh Kingston. But I know Elmbridge very well. In fact I spent a very pleasant time at Molesey Cricket Club at the weekend (don’t tell Paddy anyone or he will be jolly cross that I was not delivering leaflets).
    It does not surprise me that residents of this borough pay more tax than Cardiff. If you told me it paid more income tax than the whole of Wales I would believe you. Some of us would argue that is a very convincing case for a major programme of redistribution of wealth and higher taxes for those who can clearly afford to pay much more without even cutting down on a ski-ing holiday and the holiday home in the Bahamas.

    There is an urgent need to increase taxes on those who can more than afford it. A trip to Elmbridge shows quite clearly that despite austerity and that Coalition mantra “We are all in it together” — there are many people who have spent the last six years laughing all the way to the Golf Club. The economic policies of the coalition with very low interest rates and very cheap labour has made these Elmbridge mega-home owners even richer than they were to start with.

    John Pugh is right to state the need for Liberal Democrats to — ” start talking more about long-term, growing social inequality and declining social cohesion. Social inequality of course implies inequality in power as well as in wealth. I share the current concern over this with such obvious lefties as the Governor of the Bank of England , the Pope and my good friend Norman Lamb- all of whom have spoken out recently about it. “.
    He is also right to call for a change of direction and a change of leader. He is looking to the future rather than blaming Gordon Brown, which just looks pathetic to the voters four years after Brown was ditched ( even though he was never as deeply unpopular as Clegg is today).

    Meanwhile, Simon MCGrath does not give us any figures for Elmbridge with regard to the bedroom tax. My guess is that there is more bedroom tax collected in Cardiff than in Elmbridge.

    This comment is being posted at 10.28am on Monday 2nd June 2014 — from a modest Victorian semi-detached dwelling in Kingston upon Thames, just down the road from Elmbridge.

  • Simon McGrath 2nd Jun ’14 – 8:31am
    “….The Surrey Borough of Elmbridge pays more income tax than Cardiff….”

    I’m sure they do; however, there are more voters in Cardiff (Manchester, Liverpool, etc.) than in Elmbridge…

    Instead of chasing the ‘Elmbridge vote’, the LibDem message should be aimed at those not lucky enough to live in .Embridge,

  • Tom Snowdon 2nd Jun '14 - 11:40am

    David Allen is spot on. We should be concentrating our efforts on policies to tackle excessive wealth gaps, inequality between individuals, and inequality between the regions.

  • David Allen 2nd Jun '14 - 12:14pm

    Funnily enough, my son lives in Elmbridge. In a rented, beautiful but tiny flat which his family is rapidly outgrowing. He is a successful young London academic, insofar as there can be such a thing. An alternative view is that London is no place for academics, they don’t earn enough to pay bankers’ prices for housing. For my son, the London housing market is a bit of a nightmare. Of course, once he gets his feet on the housing ladder, he’ll probably earn more just by sitting and watching his capital appreciate than he does by working hard educating young people. Meanwhile, his family are pushed for living space. Regional policy would be good for Sunderland of course. It would also be good for Elmbridge!

  • Stephen Hesketh 2nd Jun '14 - 1:07pm

    Eddie Sammon1st Jun ’14 – 9:06pm
    “my worry is that a large section of today’s political activists seem to get their ideas from highly prejudiced and misleading left-wing media outlets that only pay lip service to the plight of small businesses.”

    Hi Eddie, Regarding small businesses, I have a completely different take on Lib Dem beliefs and policy. Historically, both Labour and Tory have favoured big business; Labour due to them more likely to be Unionised and the Tories because of financial contributions and them generally favouring the rich and powerful over the rest of us.
    On the other hand, small businesses are more likely to be based in the communities to whom they sell their services and from where they are more likely to draw their employees. Small businesses are also more likely to grow and employ more people rather than be involved in endless mergers, takeovers, consolidations and ‘economies of scale’.

    Have you not heard Vince Cable complaining to the banks about them not making loans available to SMEs?

    The Tories looking after small businesses is a complete myth.

  • Steve Comer 2nd Jun '14 - 1:52pm

    @ Gareth Wilson
    Thanks for your support on the school holiday fine issue. I hesitated to raise it in a party that always used to have a lot of teachers in it. So either the teachers in the party agree its stupid, or they are so disillusioned by Gove that they’ve resigned as members!

    I’m concerned that this policy is also institutionally racist. In the Islamic and Jewish faiths funerals take place soon after death. This means people who have relatives in another country (or even in some cases another part of the UK) often have to attend at short notice when a family member dies. As a Councillor I dealt with cases where people had to gone to Pakistan for funerals, and then had problems re-entering the UK. Automatic fines mean we will be fining parents for taking their children out of school for their grandparent’s funerals. How insensitive and illiberal is that?

    In the past matters of attendance and absence were left where they belong, with Head Teachers, who in turn were accountable to Governors and the Local Education Authority. Now with the Nationalisation of Education the Secretary of State knows best. Liberal Democrats should have been opposing this, and making clear it was a daft Tory policy. Our silence on it leads voters to the conclusion that we are saying “Carry on Michael.”

  • Simon McGrath 2nd Jun '14 - 2:06pm

    @John Tilley

    You become daily a more entertaining, older version of Dave Spart. By the way according to the ONS average family income in Kingston is £1150 per week, in Elmbridge is £1100.

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Jun '14 - 2:13pm

    Hi Stephen, I agree the Conservatives looking after small businesses is a bit of a myth, I often say their attitude towards the super rich and powerful shows they are still the party of feudalism.

    Anyway, there is much for us to work on, but I also urge the need to put things like cutting employer’s national insurance and stamp duty at the topic of the political agenda. It shouldn’t be left to the right to argue for these things. I know there are reverse arguments about things that shouldn’t be left to the “left” too.

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Jun '14 - 5:33pm

    Stephen, by the way, I don’t like it when politicians harass banks to lend to small businesses. That’s not pro small business, it’s pro instability and it is always quite telling when people are asked for a pro small business policy and they come up with an anti big business one. The left is too infatuated with state intervention to do what most small businesses would want and to get out of the way a bit.

  • Stephen Hesketh 2nd Jun '14 - 8:16pm

    @Simon McGrath 2nd Jun ’14 – 2:06pm
    “By the way according to the ONS average family income in Kingston is £1150 per week, in Elmbridge is £1100.”

    Simon, I rather think you make and reinforce the point made by John Pugh, John Tilley and the majority of other contributions in this thread.

    How many people carrying out vital social roles such as say care home staff are likely to take home less than this each a month! It only goes to show how our society has been sucked in to believing that the financial sector is more deserving than other groups – be they doctors, engineers or care home assistants! Million pound bonuses, come on!!!!

    Social cohesion?

  • Euan Davidson 2nd Jun '14 - 8:36pm

    Mr Pugh didn’t seem to care too much about the inequality faced by the LGBT community, when he voted against equal marriage.

  • Tsar Nicholas 2nd Jun '14 - 9:26pm

    I wonder if any Lib Dems have taken account of how student debt will adversely affect the ability of graduates to obtain new mortgages under the new rules introduced in April.

    From This Is Money:

    http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-2646007/Student-loan-debt-IS-considered-applying-mortgage.html

    Graduates with a mountain of student debt could find their future plans of buying a home thwarted after the Financial Conduct Authority confirmed the debts are now considered by mortgage lenders after the introduction of the Mortgage Market Review in April.

    “In the current academic year, university fees can be up to £9,000 per annum, not counting accommodation and cost of living, meaning debts of tens of thousands of pounds for students.

    But despite recent advice suggesting otherwise, graduates will now have these student loan debts included in the affordability calculation for a mortgage.

    Big blow: Graduates could struggle in the future for mortgage lending as debts are now factored in.”

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Jun '14 - 10:20pm

    @Tsar Nicholas
    The USA might be a useful comparison: Student loans: the next big threat to the U.S. economy and How college debt is crippling students, parents and the economy.

    The US are seeing serious problems despite the fact their graduate debt is actually much smaller on average than average British graduate debt will be (students in this country would love to graduate owing just $26k, or slightly over half of one year’s median income. Federal loans also have a lower interest rate!) The result for the US economy has been slower economic growth and less spending power; also, it takes longer to get into a position where you can buy a house or a car or contemplate parenthood. Ho hum.

  • “Graduates with a mountain of student debt could find their future plans of buying a home thwarted after the Financial Conduct Authority confirmed the debts are now considered by mortgage lenders after the introduction of the Mortgage Market Review in April.”

    I wonder if there’s any possibility that this will stop Lib Dem apologists claiming that these are not debts at all, because the repayments are “a graduate tax in all but name”. Somehow I suspect not.

  • “The reality is that there is a huge crash ahead ”

    You are dead at the wheel, and your foot is pushed down on the accelerator..

    “The importance of promoting social cohesion – generational, communal, north and south, Scots and English, old families and new arrivals- is that ultimately it is our answer to the divisive nastiness of UKIP. Social cohesion though isn’t an automatic result of the free movement of labour.”

    No, a LACK of social cohesion is the automatic result of that.

    And what is your policy response ? More of the same.

  • Neil Sandison 7th Jun '14 - 1:59pm

    John Pugh is right in many of his comments Liberal Democracy has lost its way and drifted into an all too ready over crowded centralist place in politics.Lynne Featherstones words in a recent interview keep ringing in my ears .The political establishment has forgotten how to speak human.I would include Nick Clegg as part of that establishment.
    Will the Liberal Democrats be prepared to regain their progressive and reformist position in British politics or will we adopt Nicks 1920s position of just putting the wagons in a circle to defend some existing MPs in a limited number of seats whilst the Liberal Democrats become extinct in much of the UK.
    Please note i am speaking as a Councillor in Rugby where we not only retained 2 wards we were defending but gained a third from the toriies .Its time for the progressives in this party to reclaim the party we, not Nick Clegg created it and recognise that ultra loyalty to a leader will only lead us to the same outcome we saw under Dr David Owen for the SDP and which the Labour Party suffered under Gordon Brown when they were too timid to let go of a leader who come to the end of their useful period of office ..

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