LDVideo: Nick Clegg on buoyant form, saying: Liberal Democrats needed to govern responsibly and fairly

Nick Clegg looked not just ready for but enthusiastic about the 122 day long election campaign to come this morning. He was in great form at his monthly press conference and in a short video afterwards made 3 key points:

1. “The simple question is who can finish the job of sorting the economy but do so fairly.”

2. It’s not lefty Labour or never-ending austerity with the Tories. He also called the SNP, UKIP and Plaid a “rag bag” of factional and sectional interests who would make a mess of the next Parliament.

3. Liberal Democrats offer compassionate, fair government and economic competence.

Watch the whole thing here.

It was ok as an opener. He sounded like he was up for the fight and also came over like a human being and not a slick political machine delivering soundbites like some others. George Osborne’s sterile delivery of the same old Labour-bashing that we’ve heard for the last 3.5 decades just makes me want to yawn. Ed Miliband’s brandishing of the NHS as a talisman he hopes will compensate from a lack of cohesive vision from his party. Has there ever been a more banal slogan than “Labour’s Plan for Britain’s Future?” I mean, against that, Stronger Economy, Fairer Society, Opportunity for Everyone sounds like pretty inspiring prose.

Labour would do well to remember that the last time it relied so heavily on the NHS to scare people into voting for them, in 1992, they lost. 23 years ago there was also no Labour Government screwing up the NHS in Wales for everyone to throw back in their faces either. Truth is, the NHS is under strain under Coalition, Labour and SNP rule. It faces challenges that we are barely beginning to meet. As a society we will at some time have to debate paying more taxes to pay for such a good, comprehensive health care system that’s accessible to all.

Nick Clegg was the only one who allowed a glimpse into the soft underbelly of his values. It wasn’t a deep enough look, but there’s room to build on that. At least he had the start of a melody. For the others, it seems they have learned nothing from the binary sterility of the Scottish referendum debate.

It wouldn’t be an election campaign without a bit of cheap humour at the expense of your opponents.  My favourite is the way he described Labour, even if it probably isn’t going to win that many votes:

 Conservatives were like mobile phone salesmen who signed you up to a contract then cut the number of calls you could make, while Labour was like an ex leaving late-night voicemails asking for one more chance.

I’m not happy about the way  the Guardian and other media outlets have portrayed what he said about what the Liberal Democrats can bring to government. Any coalition government is an entity in itself, not a Labour or Tory Government with Lib Dems or, heaven forbid UKIP, SNP, DUP or anyone else in it. They are not quite getting what Nick actually said, which was:

I will always defend the values of British liberalism – of compassion, fairness and tolerance – as party politics becomes more fragmented and extreme than before.

Because coalition – the ability to compromise, to strike the right balance between extremes – is what has helped pilot the country through some of its most testing times over the last five years. It has enabled us to start the work of building a stronger economy and a fairer society, so that everyone has the opportunity to get on in life.

A strong coalition government, with Liberal Democrats anchoring it in the centre ground and not lurching to the extremes of left or right, remains the best way to make sure we finish the job and finish it fairly.

That is why a vote in May for the Liberal Democrats is the only vote for economic security against economic turmoil; for stability against uncertainty; and for the national interest against petty populism. That is the case I will make every week till May 7th. A prosperous, secure future for our country depends on it.

It’s not hard for Clegg to sound better than the others today but he needs to do much better to tug on people’s heartstrings. His core message is far too bland at the moment. He needs to get passionate about the stuff he has brought to the table, showing the impact of giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in so many ways. He needs to make the nation see that they can’t afford to lose the Liberal Democrats from Government. He needs to say that even when there was no money, he chose to channel government resources into supporting and giving opportunities to those who really needed them. Clegg is selling himself and his ministerial colleagues short if he doesn’t get more vigorous about that.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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51 Comments

  • Erm there is already an article on this speech at —
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-cleggs-press-conference-today-44070.html

    The 15 comments so far on the speech that follow that article seem to indicate that “buoyant form” are not the first two words that come to mind for most folks.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Jan '15 - 7:18am

    Dan, I must have missed that period of Alliance/Tory Coalition between 1983 and 1987. Nearly 30 years ago, voters would have pointed and laughed at the very idea of coalition government. You are not comparing like with like.

    I think it’s very unfair of you to suggest a self-serving motivation behind the desire to be in government. Our mental health and care services could do with Norman Lamb in charge for at least another five years to consolidate the cultural and institutional change he has started.

    The Lib Dems have brought some very good things to this government’s table. I think the mental health and children stuff alone is enough to make a strong case for people’s votes, along with the fact that a recovery from a deep recession has been enacted without the mass unemployment and destruction we saw in the 1980s.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Jan '15 - 7:23am

    John, Dan and fellow mongers of doom, you might be interested in this tweet to Lib Dem Voice last night. People are getting fed up with the way a few people derail threads into a spiral of negativity.

    https://twitter.com/MathewMcCarthy/status/552159327533166592

    Mark Valladares had a post on the same thing the other day.

  • Peter Watson 6th Jan '15 - 7:57am

    @Caron Lindsay “People are getting fed up with the way a few people derail threads into a spiral of negativity.”
    The articles on LDV are overwhelmingly positive so possibly invite a contradictory response (people are more likely to post if they disagree with an article or a post). But in addition to the authors of these, with 40000 members, 1500 of who participate in LDV surveys, it would only take a very small proportion of optimistic Nick Clegg fans to swamp the negativity of half-a-dozen regulars. Even the MPs alone could manage that. It’s an opportunity to rehearse the arguments they will be making on doorsteps over the next few months,and if the doom mongers are wrong it should be simple to demolish their arguments. In the words of the Delia Smith, “Where are you? Let’s be ‘avin’ you! Come on!” Are the members-only pages havens of positivity and optimism for people who could come and spread their good news on the public forum?
    Or perhaps negative comments by members and former voters are more accurate and representative of Lib Dem sentiment than a few people who would rather not hear those views than engage with them.

  • Caron
    I find the suggestion that all comments that appear in LDV must be sunny and positive and that we should “all pull together” faintly reminiscent of the sort of gentle totalitarianism caricatured by Orwell in earlier chapters of Animal Farm. I do not anticipate you urging us to chant “Four legs good, two legs bad” etc. But I hope you see my point?

    If we all follow the advice of the hangman and we “all pull together” it will not save the person with the noose round their neck.
    In 2015 it is the Liberal Democrat party that has the Coalition noose round it’s neck. You pull hard on the rope if you want to, but lots of us would prefer to prevent the hanging.

    As Dan rightly says — ” Simply parroting the latest nonsense from Great George Street makes the situation worse. “

  • Denis Loretto 6th Jan '15 - 10:28am

    Do John Tilley et al think that their fulminations will actually remove Nick Clegg as party leader between now and May? At what point will they decide that this is a lost cause for them and park their ambition to replace him at least until after the election? If they continue on their present track the only sensible conclusion one can come to is that they are not just anti Nick but anti Liberal Democrat. Everyone knows we face a very tough battle so let’s hear it – do these people want the party to do as well as possible on May 7 or not? Will they be working with the rest of us grass roots campaigners towards that end or not? Are they for us or against us?

  • Bill le Breton 6th Jan '15 - 10:38am

    Caron, just a point of history. In 1986 there was a special weekend meeting of the Liberal MPs in Hebden Bridge to which council leaders experienced in multi-party administrations were invited to examine the consequences of no single party gaining a majority in the Commons. Two future members of Parliament came as Council Group leaders to share their experiences, Andrew Stunell (Cheshire CC) and David Heath (then leader of a minority administration with Labour on Somerset CCC. There were more, but memory fails me.

    The 1987 Alliance campaign was marred by the SDP’s continuing focus against Labour long into the campaign and long after it was obvious that Labour were going to do disastrously. And given the very real possibility of a balanced Parliament, were the Liberals not right to fear some kind of coalition or confidence and supply arrangement being campaigned for by David Owen with the Conservatives?

    Perhaps Dan is warning us not to repeat this mistake. 33 of our held seats and half a dozen of our best chances for gains are Conservative facing and require tactical votes in-order to win. Just look at the Labour vote in those seats in 1987 or 1992 to get an idea of just how many people we have won over between 1992 to 2005 and just how it was that we rose in Commons representation to into the 60s.

    The best position for the Party in this election is one of equi-distance in terms of campaigning focus. The present positioning of the Leadership is far from equi-distant. (See Paul Pettinger’s piece this morning https://www.libdemvoice.org/we-need-to-stand-up-for-liberal-democrat-distinctiveness-on-economy-44074.html ). Those shaping this strategy spent their entire Parliamentary life under a Labour Government and this shows. I cannot believe that Paddy and Olly are not pulling their hair out – every step forward they and our candidates make in persuading left leaning people in Bath or Berwick to ‘lend us their vote’ are undermined by lapses from equi-distance.

    So, a few people here try to warn people of this folly. Are they really deserving of being silenced?

    You mention a tweeterer. I hope I have the right person but someone commented here yesterday about how well they were doing in a certain constituency in which an Ashcroft poll in June showed the party to be in fourth place behind the Conservatives and Labour UKIP, when a few miles up the road those same polls show a couple of acute marginals? I kept quiet yesterday as I think members have their own forum for such debates, but who is doing more damage; those warning against asymetric campaigning or those undermining the necessary targeting strategy?

    Of course, neither. Both are campaigning for what they believe. And if this is not a campaigning site, what possible value has it?

  • Denis Loretto 6th Jan ’15 – 10:28am

    To answer your rhetorical question as if it was a genuine question seeking an answer — No I do not think that any comment I make in LDV will have the least impact on Clegg.
    Why should I think that? He does not have a habit of listening to anyone outside his small and exclusive circle.

    As to your other question about whether ” I am for you or against you ” — I don’t think I know who you are. If we have met and I have forgotten you then I apologise.

    You may be an ordinary grassroots member of Liberal Democrats as you claim.
    You may even have a record of working hard for the party which would put my own paltry efforts to shame.
    You may think that the best thing for the party is that we all behave like the poor bl–dy infantry and on command jump out of our trenches to get mown down by machine gun fire.

    Perhaps you can enlighten us?

  • paul barker 6th Jan '15 - 11:24am

    There was some really interestin Polling yesterday which I have lost. Essentially it was asking a series of questions about what Government Voters want on May 8th, taking them through a series of stages beginning with now & moving on to “If this happens, would you prefer…” questions. Even at the start a third wanted The Libdems involved in the next Government & that rose to a half in the later questions. The reason was that about half the Voters want a moderate, Centrist administration with the other half divided between Socialist Labour & hard-line Tories. This is our hope, that substantial numbers of Voters want Moderation & recognise that we are the way to get it.
    It will be a tough fight & we will probably not destroy the Labservative Establishment in one go but lets not give up before we begin.

  • Hi Caron.
    With the very greatest respect there are thousands of ex Lib Dem activists who have virtually given their lives to the party. They have worked hard and played their full part in its development from a small acorn to thousands of councillors over 60 MPS, a membership at one time of almost a 100,000.
    BUT they have seen in decimated, destroyed and now ignored. Something is very wrong and simply trying to say things are great, we have a great future and lets pull together is simply making matters worse.
    To get those people back the PARTY has to wake up NOW, accept the real reality of the situation and change something before the election, otherwise we will face humiliation in the leaders debates.
    John Pugh accepts this in his BBC interview and appears to call for others than Clegg to do the front presentation work.
    WE ARE A PARTY IN CRISIS

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '15 - 1:10pm

    Caron Lindsay

    It’s not lefty Labour

    What lefty Labour? I don’t see any lefty labour. Is Labour arguing for taxes which “squeeze the rich until the pips squeak”? No, and not even a much milder version of that. Is Labour arguing to “nationalise the top 100 monopolies”? No, and not even a much milder version of that.

    The Labour Party is WAY the right of where it was a few decades ago. It is way to the right of where OUR party was a few decades ago. If one really wanted to criticise the Labour Party it should be for too much timidity when it comes to proposing something different from the Thatcherism which has now become the political norm, not for being “lefty”.

    When most of the population denounces ALL our mainstream politicians as being an out-of-touch elite, only interested in making life pleasant for the rich, and having no idea what life is like for those on average or below average incomes, quite obviously there’s a big political gap on the left, not a situation where a centre-right party like the Labour Party of the day gets criticised as “lefty”.

    The problem is that it has been so long since anyone serious in politics has made a big call for proper policies of the left. The result is that most ordinary people are hardly even aware of the existence of such ideas. This is in part due to the way the political right has re-positioned politics so that you are either a right-wing voter, or someone who thinks “all politics is bad, and nothing to do with me, so I don’t vote”. It is also in part due to the way what was the mainstream left became obsessed with fringe issues, and became more a vehicle for people from upper middle class backgrounds wishing to strike a pose against social conservatism than a vehicle for ordinary people to take power for themselves and build an economy where wealth is more equally shared out.

    When I say “most of the country” I mean I hear these sort of thing being said by ordinary people – not particularly poor or deprived people, no, people on average sort of incomes, people with their own houses, people who are getting by – in places which on paper are “true blue Tory”, where politics was (at least until recently) Tory v. LibDem.

    People say these sort of things, but now wouldn’t even think that means they should be voting for a “lefty” party. Actually, most ordinary people don’t even think in terms of left-right any more. If anything, “left” now means to them people obsessed with what they would call “political correctness”, people who are always going to jump on you and abuse you because you used the wrong language, people who hate anything which is “traditional”. It does NOT mean, however, people who want to build a fairer society by which is meant with wealth more evenly spread and an active state to make sure of that.

    So, because the very idea of what was once mainstream left politics has disappeared from people’s consciousness, people who want that sort of thing are all over the place when it comes to voting or expressing an opinion in an opinion poll. They may well go to the Conservatives, or UKIP, not because they actually support the extreme right-wing economics of those parties, but because sometimes those parties (particularly UKIP) can manage to get them by a superficial social conservative message, or by making out they are the rebels against the “elite liberal establishment”.

    The political right HAS made a hard push of its ideological political message, of the idea that the state is bad, that we must make life more pleasant for the rich by taxing them less because the rich are very skilled people and we will all benefit by their skills if life is made pleasant for them, that dog-eat-dog competition is the way to improve things. We can see the success of that ideological push by the way it has taken over the Liberal Democrats, through the Orange Book types at the top, and the impressionable youngsters who seem to be taken in by this simplistic ideology, who seem to be the only people joining our party these days (at least if one goes by contributors to LibDem Voice).

    There has been NO balancing ideological push from the left. None. It has been taken over by theoretical ivory tower Marxists who want to make it something they only talk about between themselves in their ivory towers, by those who seem to want to use it only to talk about foreign policy issues (mostly anti-Israelism), and by those who see it in mainly in terms of social liberalism and tend to hate the working class for not being as socially liberal as they are.

    We Liberals once had it right. Our origins as a revival of a party that had hung on in the more remote parts of the country, done in a way that worked through local communities meant we were seen naturally as the anti-establishment party. Our core liberalism saved us from the dangers that engulf the political left: the drift into authoritarianism and the arrogance that comes from Marxist theology. That combination of being a “party of protest” but also one with a good pragmatic core not driven by ideology served us well, the compassion which derived from our background in nonconformist Christianity saved us from the drift to an inhuman economic right form of liberalism which developed in many of the continental liberal parties. But we seem to have been absolutely determined, under the current leader, to throw all that away.

  • Denis Loretto 6th Jan '15 - 1:24pm

    @John Tilley

    Depressingly I can only interpret your non-reply to my question as displaying that you could not care less how our party does on May 7 – perhaps even that you would be rather glad if we suffer badly because that would in your view justify the antipathy towards Nick Clegg with which LDV readers have been assailed for so long. I hasten to say that you are perfectly entitled to continue to put forward your views but the time when you could be seen to be trying to help the party by urging it to find a new leader is now past. You know as well as I do that Nick Clegg will now lead us into this election and I think I speak for many in saying the time has come to buckle down and work to produce the best result we can. If that makes me “poor bl-dy infantry” then I am proud to be so. I asked you whether you were for or against “us” – not “me” so my personal credentials are not relevant . Let’s just say I live in a Lib Dem held constituency and I am determined that it will remain a Lib Dem held constituency. It would be nice to know that you would agree with that ambition but I am not holding my breath.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 6th Jan '15 - 1:35pm

    Caron, I believe you to be a good sort, a Lib Dem to listen to, but please don’t try to stifle criticis of the obvious – that Mr Clegg has made a complete hash of being in coalition with the tories. We had a golden opportunity to show coalition works – so both parties could be proud of the resulting acts of parliament. That should have led to better voting strategies for the people, better and more representative parliamentary houses, better support for working citizens in all sectors, more understanding and support of the weak in society – and much more.

    And what did we get? Every little thing that a deceptive PM wanted to show about his anti-LD principles. And a Deputy PM who went along with it to show that coalition is another word for ‘do as you are told’ even when it crosses our red lines. We have to speak now or continuing this charade will repeat the same compliance we deplore. Stand up against Tory policies or be damned for supporting them!

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Jan '15 - 1:44pm

    Anyone who thinks we stifle criticism on this site really needs to go read a few comments threads. They could start with this one.

    John Tilley, all I did was give you the feedback from a couple of sources and suddenly you are talking about Orwellian dystopia. Perhaps maybe just a tiny bit hyperbolic?:-).

    We aren’t the party website. Of course there will be criticism of the Powers that Be – I do enough of it myself. But you might want to think about how you all come across to others sometimes. People hold back from commenting because of the reception they fear they will get.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '15 - 2:57pm

    Denis Loretto

    Depressingly I can only interpret your non-reply to my question as displaying that you could not care less how our party does on May 7 – perhaps even that you would be rather glad if we suffer badly because that would in your view justify the antipathy towards Nick Clegg with which LDV readers have been assailed for so long.

    Well, I can’t speak directly for John, but he’s been a long-term and active member of the party as I have, and I feel much the same about many of the the things he talks about as he does. You’d probably be saying the same about me as you say about him had I sent an earlier message to this thread.

    Sorry, but do you REALLY think that those of us who have spent decades of our lives and thousands of pounds of our own money helping build up the party “could not care less” about how it does in the general election?

    I am desperately sad to see how badly it is doing in the opinion polls, how many council seats it has lost (including ALL of them it held in the borough where I played such a big part in building it up to be the main opposition party), and it seems little chance of any turnaround in the general election.

    I do think the party has come under a lot of unfair criticism, and I have defended it here and elsewhere in public on that basis. I’m not a Tory and have no sympathy with Tory policies, but I do see how the 2010 general election meant we had no better choice than to form the current coalition, and I also see that the policies coming from it are about what one would expect from a coalition which is 5/6 Conservative and 1/6 Liberal Democrat. I perfectly understand the need to support the democratic decision of this country to have this government (as confirmed by the 2 to 1 vote in favour of the system which gave it to us in 2011), even if it is very, very far from my personal choice, and I think those who suppose that somehow 57 LibDem MPs could have persuaded 307 Tory MPs to ditch all their policies in favour of LibDem ones, and think the LibDems are dirty nasty rotten people for not managing that, are talking nonsense.

    But consistently, from 2010 onwards, all attempts I make to defend what our party has done are undermined by its own leader. My criticism of him has always been constructive, as I believe very much in constructive opposition – that is why I am so dismissive of what I call the “nah nah nah nah nah”s. Constructive opposition means you don’t just say “nah nah nah nah nah”, no, when you think someone is doing wrong, you say why they are wrong and you say what they should do instead. Politics has been SO damaged by “nah nah nah nah nah” opposition, where politicians on one side just throw abuse at the other without admitting the real issues and acknowledging that if they were in power they’d be faced with similar problems and have to make similar difficult decisions.

    However, Clegg and those surrounding him KEEP putting out just the sort of lines which justify the unfair attacks on the Liberal Democrats. He and his followers (who I call the “Cleggies”) seem determined to push the line that actually,
    yes, our opponents are right, we really have shifted way to the economic right and now have policies which in my younger days would have been called “Thatcherism”. They seem determined to push the line that they are oh so pleased with themselves for being “in government”, so our opponents can say “there – they gave up their principles because all they cared about was power for themselves”). They seem determined to try and make out they had a huge impact on this government, which is a very, very, very, very, very, right-wing government, so that makes use seem a very, very right-wing party – which is NOT THE SORT OF PARTY I JOINED AND WORKED FOR!!

    And here we are again, just a bit more of this, with the throwaway line accusing this right-wing Labour Party (ok, no “verys” here, just “right-wing”) of being “lefty”.

    Anyway, I feel like I’m banging my head on a brick wall. The latest missive sent to me as a member by Ryan Coetzee was the limit, with its constant use of the Tory tax-cutting message when once we were the party who stood for “a penny on income tax for education”. I sent it back to party HQ, along with an appeal for money to help Simon Hughes in his constituency which I ripped to pieces.

    Do you know what it means to me that I felt like ripping up this appeal to pieces? If you knew how much time I spent helping get Simon elected in the first place, maybe you would.

    So, if you don’t like me saying where I think the party is going wrong, maybe I’ve had enough and now I’ll go quietly. And on May 7th I’ll do the same with my ballot paper as I did with that appeal. Me – not voting! Me, who all my life has always said “You MUST vote, and be practical, if what is available is not your ideal, at least vote for the better of the options”. Now there is NO-ONE I have any interest in voting for. Clegg and the Cleggies have wrecked the party I once devoted my life to. And all people like you can do is abuse me for my last attempts at bringing it back to one I’d want to support.

  • Matthew: re “My criticism of him has always been constructive”. I think this is largely true, sometimes on the obsessive side, but really quite different to John Tilley. You often offer realistic solutions that show understanding of the difficulties of government and the difficulties of coalition. I am intrigued by your comment about helping in Bermondsey as I cannot recall you there, but of course many came to help out. I am not sure what Coetzee is doing, but the evidence is that this government has significantly increased the tax take from the better off compared to previous governments as much by reducing available rebates as a higher income tax; apart from this I think we do have to spell out that Lib Dems have been instrumental in raising the tax threshold. On the basis of Conservative party pronouncements before 2010, it seems likely to me that the Tories would rather have reduced inheritance taxes before raising the tax threshold.

    I do not agree with your right/left characterisation. It leads to oscillating accusations of the Party being ‘Tory Lite’ or ‘Labour Lite’. This is really the same error as those who advocate centrism; it is simply off target for a Liberal party. There is a pressing need for the Party to advocate programmes that follow a distinctively Liberal direction.

  • stuart moran 6th Jan '15 - 4:07pm

    Martin

    Your comment about Bermondsey is unacceptable as the implication is clear -Matthew is being economical with the truth. I find that quite disgraceful, especially as you do not share you real name ( that is up to you of course) and Matthew comes across as a man of high standards

    perhaps an apology should be in order……

    I

  • David Faggiani 6th Jan '15 - 4:31pm

    As someone who is quite new to posting and submitting articles on LDV, it can be quite wearying, the tone and high anger of the comments on here. I wish everyone could approach every comment with politeness, as though they were then about to turn around and buy their opponent a beer. But, that’s the Internet. And I certainly understand why a lot of Lib Dems (myself included) are very, very annoyed, and feel betrayed.

  • stuart moran 6th Jan '15 - 4:46pm

    David

    Normally I would agree and know I am as guilty as any other but I find the implication of Martin’s post about someone who I have respect for as unpleasant in the content and tone

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '15 - 6:55pm

    Martin

    I am intrigued by your comment about helping in Bermondsey as I cannot recall you there, but of course many came to help out.

    I came to help out a couple of times before the by-election was called, then a few more times during the actual by-election, and then again in the general election afterwards. I’ve also helped in later general elections there. It was a defining part of my career in the party, probably the thing that confirmed in me that I wanted to be a long-term and active member of it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '15 - 7:04pm

    Martin

    I am not sure what Coetzee is doing, but the evidence is that this government has significantly increased the tax take from the better off compared to previous governments as much by reducing available rebates as a higher income tax; apart from this I think we do have to spell out that Lib Dems have been instrumental in raising the tax threshold.

    Yes, and this is what I mean by us becoming a “Tory” party. When there is so much suffering due to government cuts, and many of them are counter-productive and lead to more expense in the long-run, and we have cutting the deficit as a priority, sorry, we should NOT be making raising the tax allowance a priority. When we do that, we negate all we have said about the need to cut the deficit and the need for all these damaging expenditure cuts.

    The claim that reducing the tax allowance helps poorer people is wrong. It helps ALL those who earn enough to pay income tax – it pays as much to the millionaire as it does the average earner. It does NOTHING for those not earning enough to pay income tax, except hitting them with the service cuts needed to pay for it. I believe we must all contribute to the recovery of the economy and of social decency, and sorry, but I do think that means people have to pay their share in tax.

    By pushing the idea that we can cut taxes and that’s all wonderful and what people want, we are not engaging in what we should be doing, which is a serious debate about what people want from government and how it is to be paid for. There are very strong social and demographic reasons why government spending has to rise, so long as we expect to have an NHS, state education and so on. When this is the case, we must be honest about it, and not pretend we cab join the Tories in a tax-cutting bout and pretend that will have no adverse consequences.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '15 - 7:09pm

    Martin

    On the basis of Conservative party pronouncements before 2010, it seems likely to me that the Tories would rather have reduced inheritance taxes before raising the tax threshold.

    Yes, and I’m happy to accept cutting the income tax threshold as a compromise if the Tories insisted on tax cuts, and we bargained with them to make it this sort of tax cut rather than a tax cut which only helps the super-rich.

    However, this was not being put as that. It was being put as the central aspect of what Liberal Democrats would be campaigning for in 2015. So not a compromise, but what we would actually do if we have the free choice to do anything. Sorry, but I just cannot give any support to the Liberal Democrats in the general election if this is to be a central part of its campaign. None, not even to Simon Hughes.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Jan '15 - 7:24pm

    Matthew Huntbach – ‘When this is the case, we must be honest about it, and not pretend we cab join the Tories in a tax-cutting bout and pretend that will have no adverse consequences.’

    Indeed. Osborne talked about a ratio of 80:20 spending cuts to tax rises. Plainly that has consequences, it’s a staggeringly loaded ratio. What one makes of that is, of course, another matter.

  • Matthew: Could you explain the logic of taxing those who earn at or below the minimum wage? I really do not see the case. It seems inefficient, over complex and counterproductive to me. Those on low pay are most likely to recycle their earnings. In principle, a liberal principle I would have thought, the state taking with one hand and giving with the other should be avoided so far as possible. Do we want to induce people to feel beholden to the state in this way? Nor is it acceptable if it turns out that tax take tips the balance between whether people feel that they can afford to take up employment. To me the logical next step would be to reduce the national insurance contribution for the low paid, but presumably you would be against this for the same reasons you have stated.

    Of course in isolation you can make the case you do, but the raised threshold is not in isolation, there is the overall tax take and two other income tax rate thresholds which have not been raised in the same way, then there are other taxes to consider (particularly those on ‘business’ schemes that are used to avoid income tax), so it is fallacious to view the threshold in isolation. What matters is the overall tax take.

    Are you quite sure that you haven’t been taken in by the ‘nah, nah, nah’ faction that you normally would expose?

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '15 - 11:43pm

    Martin

    Could you explain the logic of taxing those who earn at or below the minimum wage? I really do not see the case. It seems inefficient, over complex and counterproductive to me.

    So, what would you do? Not tax them, but make them pay fees for health care, fees for education and so on?

    In principle, a liberal principle I would have thought, the state taking with one hand and giving with the other should be avoided so far as possible.

    Then go out there and say “As a liberal, it is a fundamental principle of mine that there should not be an NHS, instead people should pay for health care”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '15 - 11:56pm

    Martin

    I do not agree with your right/left characterisation.

    Well, you make my point very well. Like the people Orwell wrote about in 1984 you want to abolish the very language we use to talk about these things, so that people can no longer even think about it because they do not have the language needed to think about it. That was just the point I was making.

    At the basis of the idea of “left” and “right is the idea that the people who have power and wealth are the right people to have power and wealth and so it should be protected (the political right) and the idea that power and wealth are too much concentrated in a small number of people and so action is needed to spread it out (the political left). So if you say you disagree with this, you are saying that the issue of inequality of wealth and power is not important. Yet inequality of wealth and power has grown very much in recent decades. Isn’t there something odd in the idea that when we had a more equal society, politics was much more on this left-right spectrum, but now inequality has grown, we aee told it is irrelevant and we can’t even talk in those terms?

  • Matthew: You are being silly. It is as though, on your assumptions, those not earning would not b entitled to health care and education. In fact you appear to be arguing for no tax thresholds at all. I know there is an argument that supports this, which would have all benefit payments taxed too. There is a certain consistency in this idea, but it would be excessively bureaucratic, wasteful and inefficient.

    I do not know any Liberal Democrats in the UK who do not support universal health care and universal entitlement to education up to 18, irrespective of how much tax is paid.

    I still fail to appreciate the sense in taking taxes at the same time as handing out welfare benefits. I suppose I could see the sense if the aim was to make people feel that they belonged to the state. But Liberals are against that sort of thing!

    By the way, I am curious to know “when we had a more equal society”. I just cannot think when that might have been.

  • As a former voter of the Liberal Democrats, people are correct when you are now perceived as the Europhile wing of the Conservatives.

    I appreciate that the party had to make a hard decision when it joined in with the Tories, and I would have liked to have seen a pro-civil liberties stance taken with similar Tories such as David Davis. Some of the ‘direct democracy’ some of the Conservative back benchers also seems compatible with the aims of the party. Unfortunately the support of nonsense like secret courts and the Data Retention Bill completely betrayed any liberal principles.

    I don’t want to hash up the whole NHS reorganisation / bedroom tax and so on, but support for all this sort of stuff is pure hard Conservatism.

    As for the whole left / right / centre debate, we have moved to the hard right economically. The fact that probation services are being privatised, and child protection was considered is pure far right dogma, and I wonder how far before police constables and soldiers are contracted out to shysters like G4S, as there can’t be much else left. I think the party should take the centre ground on these sort of issues, in that some things are far best to competition in the private sector, but a lot of these essential public services for where competition is impossible (i.e. military, policing, probation service, ambulance service – and everyone’s classic example – the railways) are better off state owned. I don’t think arguing for a return to state ownership in these cases is anything like ‘socialism’. Nationalisation is never discussed these days, and yet the vast majority of people want to see the railways and utilities state owned, no privatisation of the NHS, and almost universally distrust and despise the big outsourcing companies (G4S / Serco / A4E / Atos / Capita).

  • Denis Loretto 6th Jan ’15 – 1:24pm
    “……..,,. I asked you whether you were for or against “us” – not “me” so my personal credentials are not relevant . ”

    Denis , why do I feel that you are trying to make this a “personal” thing?
    Is it perhaps because you have made a personal attack on me — that you have made personal accusations about my motives and beliefs ?
    Or am I being over sensitive?

    Matthew Huntbach sums up my position perfectly whe he says —
    “…. do you REALLY think that those of us who have spent decades of our lives and thousands of pounds of our own money helping build up the party “could not care less” about how it does in the general election? ”

    I had assumed that you were the Denis Loretto from Mole Valley but I note that you have written — ” Let’s just say I live in a Lib Dem held constituency and I am determined that it will remain a Lib Dem held constituency. It would be nice to know that you would agree with that ambition …. ”

    I am not at clear what your ambition is. I do not know which constituency you now live in and therefore which MP you are talking about.
    I cannot agree with you if your ambition is simply tribal — To elect anyone with a Liberal Democrat rosette irrespective of what they say or what they do?
    Liberal Democrat MPs after five years as junior partners in a Conservative dominated Coalition now divide into distinct groups.
    There are MPs who have demonstrated a commitment to ideas set out in The Preamble to the Liberal Democrat Constitution.
    There are other MPs who are more interested in Orange Book myths and the free market doctrines of Hayek and Thatcher.
    If your ambition is to elect or re-elect a Pound Shop Thatcherite that is your choice. It is not mine.
    I will continue to work for and fund with my own limited money those genuine Liberal Democrat MPs and candidates who share the core beliefs of the party that I have been a member of since I was a student in 1970.

  • Denis Loretto 7th Jan '15 - 9:22am

    @John Tilley – “I will continue to work for and fund with my own limited money those genuine Liberal Democrat MPs and candidates who share the core beliefs of the party that I have been a member of since I was a student in 1970.” [Anybody – how do you get passages into italics by the way- apologies for technical ignorance.]

    John, thank you for what you will be horrified to learn I regard as a reduction in what someone earlier in this thread described as the “nah nah nah” factor. I have no wish to make anything personal – my original comment was directed at “John Tilley et al” , meaning those who have over quite a long period been strongly opposing Nick Clegg’s leadership. I think you are accepting my point that Nick is with us through the election at least and I am genuinely glad to see that you are not opposed to and indeed will help Lib Dems to be elected or at least those Lib Dem candidates of whom you approve. Me – I think politics is about choices – not always easy ones. Even if some Lib Dem candidates do not appear to match precisely my personal beliefs and aspirations I think they are highly likely to be more worthy of support than candidates representing other parties. If that is a moderate form of tribalism so be it.

    As you are determined to identify me and have done enough research to get as far as Mole Valley you might as well know that I moved to Southwark a couple of years ago. Oddly enough the name of Simon Hughes has already figured in several posts above. I repeat my determination to get him re-elected. We are going full pelt on canvassing, delivering and telephoning right now so if anyone out there can help just follow the contacts on our website. You would be particularly welcome, John.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '15 - 9:47am

    Martin

    By the way, I am curious to know “when we had a more equal society”. I just cannot think when that might have been.

    Here are a few references to articles about our society becoming less equal. If you are unaware of any of this, you are astonishingly ill-informed. It is a major issue which anyone who is involved in politics should be aware of.

    http://www.jrf.org.uk/media-centre/new-poverty-and-wealth-maps-britain-reveal-inequality-be-40-year-high-705

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk-most-unequal-country-in-the-west-1329614.html

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/blighty/2011/12/rising-inequality

    http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/06/27/inequality-is-rising-thats-the-fact-now-we-need-to-change-that/

    http://www.tutor2u.net/economics/revision-notes/a2-micro-distribution-of-income-and-wealth.html

    http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/310/economics/rising-inequality-in-the-uk/

    http://www.businessinsider.com/piketty-and-the-ft-agree-on-income-inequality-2014-5?IR=T

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sharp-increase-in-income-inequality-6272486.html

    http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/inequality-in-the-uk-whatever-happened-to-social-mobility

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/feb/10/uk-super-rich-richer-as-majority-squeezed

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0745644651/?tag=libdemvoice-21

    http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/a-tale-of-two-britains-inequality-in-the-uk-314152

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16545898

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/eecfa104-3af9-11de-ba91-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3O7nwU5S1

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2070099/Pay-gap-growing-faster-UK-worlds-richest-countries.html

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8935943/Gap-between-rich-and-poor-growing-fastest-in-Britain.html

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/danny-dorling-on-education-and-inequality/2015835.article

    http://highpaycentre.org/blog/New-film-the-shocking-rise-of-inequality-in-britain

    http://inequalitywatch.eu/spip.php?article58

    http://www.welfareweekly.com/widening-income-inequality-harming-uk-growth-finds-report/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/deborah-hargreaves/inequality-society_b_4062304.html

    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/tackling-inequality-in-britain/

    http://www.poverty.org.uk/09/index.shtml

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c01c72e0-0b7a-11df-8232-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3O7nwU5S1

    http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resources/multimedia/infographic-income-inequality-uk

    http://rt.com/uk/196172-uk-g7-wealth-inequality/

    http://inequalitybriefing.org/

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/uks-shocking-wealth-gap-widens-under-coalition-government-1448650

    http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2013/08/05/wealth-inequality-in-uk-now-equal-to-nigeria-un-report/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/17/billionaires-uk-oxfam_n_4977201.html

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/dec/05/income-inequality-growing-faster-uk

    http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/britain-needs-pay-rise/pay-inequality-has-soared-across-london-and-south-east-2000

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/carney-warns-of-rising-inequality-as-average-us-chiefs-pay-tops-10m-9442505.html

    http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate-uk/2010/01/25/inequality-in-the-uk-the-paradox-under-labour/

    http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/what_everyone_needs_to_know_about_wealth_in_the_uk

    http://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/inequality-has-risen/

    https://www.dur.ac.uk/news/newsitem/?itemno=20097

    https://tompride.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/britain-is-the-only-g7-country-with-rise-in-inequality/

    http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2013/10/29/inheritance-figures-reveal-the-stark-inequality-of-great-bri

    http://www.govtoday.co.uk/economy/18262-lagarde-rising-inequality-a-dark-shadow-over-economy

    http://www.presstv.com/detail/2014/05/17/363071/wealth-gap-growing-in-britain/

  • Denis Loretto
    Thanks for the invitation to help in Simon Hughes constituency.
    As someone who worked in the Bermondsey By-election I think I might have got there 30 years before you.
    As my office was at the Elephant and Castle through the 1980s I regularly delivered Focus in the Rockingham Estate.
    I stopped helping regularly in that constituency when I became leader of the council group in Kingston.

    I guess having gone on to get a majority on Kingston Council, a London Borough which went on to elect 2 Liberal Democrat MPs in is not good enough for you.
    The Stakhanovite Tendency in today’s Liberal Democrats obviously demands more.

    Perhaps you would like put on a Show Trial and repeatedly ask me the question “Are for us or against us?” until I break down and declare unceasing, heartfelt loyalty to Big Brother?

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '15 - 10:19am

    Martin

    Matthew: You are being silly. It is as though, on your assumptions, those not earning would not b entitled to health care and education. In fact you appear to be arguing for no tax thresholds at all. I know there is an argument that supports this, which would have all benefit payments taxed too. There is a certain consistency in this idea, but it would be excessively bureaucratic, wasteful and inefficient.

    You wrote “In principle, a liberal principle I would have thought, the state taking with one hand and giving with the other should be avoided so far as possible”. Well, that is precisely what is happening if we have an NHS – the state takes the taxes with one hand to pay for the health care services provided with the other. It is precisely what happens if we have a state education system – the state takes the taxes with one hand to pay for the education it provides with the other.

    The point is that there are reasons why state expenditure as a share of GDP will naturally rise – so long as we have an NHS, state pensions, state provided roads, state education and so on. These things have to be paid for. They can’t all be paid for solely by taxes on the super-rich. I do take the point that there is a limit to the level of taxation that can be applied.

    Increasing tax allowances has to be paid for – either by higher taxes on the rich, or by cuts in services. Increasing income tax allowances is NOT, as Ryan Coetzee says and wants us as Liberal Democrats to say, primarily helping out lower income people. It gives out the same amount of money to EVERYONE with an income above the allowance level. I simply cannot go out and campaign for the Liberal Democrats if that involves putting across a message I believe to be fundamentally untrue – and Ryan Coetzee is saying this fundamentally untrue message will be at the heart of the party’s general election campaign this year.

    Increasing the tax allowance means handing out money that would otherwise to be used for state services to EVERYONE, no matter how wealthy, who has an income above a certain value. If you say that is good, because tax should be something small paid only by very wealthy people in order to avoid the “state takes with one hand and gives out with the other” effect, then it must mean you envisage a system where what up till now has been provided by the state through taxation is provided in some other sort of way. Well, we have already done this with the funding of university education, and it hasn’t gone down well, has it?

    I believe, and have experience both my own and from people I know, that we long ago reached the point where the sort of expenditure cuts being made are counter-productive as the short term budget reduction they give is overridden by the long-term costs they cause. Under those circumstances, I believe we have no choice but to increase tax, and we cannot do it all by taxing the rich. If we don’t reverse what is happening, we are trapped in a downward spiral in which we will all suffer.

    I feel this is a message we need to get across. Pushing the idea that we are the party of tax cuts does not do that, it does the opposite. We need a mature debate in which the people of this country understand and make realistic choices about what the state provides and how it can be paid for. We got this badly wrong in the 2010 general election, when we talked of abolition student tuition fees without mentioning that this needs to be paid for by higher taxation. Because we did not put that balancing factor, people supposed it was something that could be achieved with a wave of the hand, and denounced us when it couldn’t be achieved because there was no way the senior coalition partner would agree to that balancing factor. The dilemma we were in which led our Parliamentary party to make the decision it made on this issue would have been much better understood had we been honest in the first place in our election campaign about the necessary balancing factor. Pushing cutting tax allowances as the biggest thing we are about in the 2015 general election makes the same mistake.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '15 - 10:37am

    Jimbob

    I don’t want to hash up the whole NHS reorganisation / bedroom tax and so on, but support for all this sort of stuff is pure hard Conservatism.

    No, what is called the “bedroom tax” is pure socialism – allocating resources on the basis of need.

    Why should we subsidise a single person to live in a three-bedroom council house when there is a family with five children living in a two bedroom flat and told they will NEVER get the three-bedroom council they need because there are not enough such houses coming up, every one that does come up will go to someone with higher needs priority than that family with five children living in two-bedroom flat?

    This is REAL. I am talking about what was the major casework issue when I was a councillor in what was a council estate ward, although much of that had gone into private hands through “right to buy”. I had to deal with so many cases of people coming to me in despair because they had been told there was no chance they would ever get a council house (if you had a roof over your head, you never got an allocation, no matter how overcrowded, because all allocations went to those who were emergency homeless cases). Then I had to deal with people asking me to defend their right to live in council houses bigger than their needs – usually a relative wishing to have the tenancy passed on to them and claiming they had always lived there with their elderly parents, when it was rather dubious whether they really did.

    The fact is that every council house released through people who don’t have the need for one of that size being encouraged to move out would be reallocated to people who DO have the need for it. Why do you call that “pure hard Conservatism”, Jimbob?

    Of course, the problem was in the implementation. It was very wrong to withdraw the rent subsidy for unneeded bedrooms without making sure everyone affected was offered accommodation suitable to their needs, and some sort of compensation for the disruption caused. However, the line we keep getting in discussion of this which suggests the “bedroom tax” was enacted through pure malice, ignoring the actual reason for it, is another of those unbalanced political discussions.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '15 - 10:56am

    Denis Loretto said,

    “Do John Tilley et al think that their fulminations will actually remove Nick Clegg as party leader between now and May? At what point will they decide that this is a lost cause for them …”

    Speaking personally, I have campaigned internally against Clegg’s leadership ceaselessly since 2008, when his “big permanent tax cuts” speech to Conference first revealed him as an entryist neoconservative, albeit cleverly disguised as a nice overgrown young fellow with a disarmingly sunny air. I have seen Clegg survive blunder after blunder, and have gradually come to accept that no amount of success in rational argument will remove the man, as he is sustained by an internal power structure similar to that described in “The Prostitute State”: http://www.theprostitutestate.co.uk/page9.html. I think our last chance was lost last summer, when Libdems4change and Libdem Fightback narrowly failed to achieve lift-off, thanks amongst other things to inadequate exposure on LDV. So yes, I think that it has now become a lost cause, until after May 2015. This does not, of course, mean that opponents of Cleggism should leave the field. On the contrary, they should find a better way to keep fighting.

    “…and park their ambition to replace him at least until after the election? If they continue on their present track the only sensible conclusion one can come to is that they are not just anti Nick but anti Liberal Democrat.”

    Clegg and his allies are anti Liberal Democrat. They have taken a party set up to be independent of powerful vested interest, and they have sold it out to the most powerful vested interest in Britain.

    “Everyone knows we face a very tough battle so let’s hear it – do these people want the party to do as well as possible on May 7 or not? Will they be working with the rest of us grass roots campaigners towards that end or not? Are they for us or against us?”

    Well, John Tilley can speak for himself, but here’s my answer. I think the grass roots campaigners who carry on flogging this dead horse are profoundly misguided. I think that a crushing defeat for the Lib Dems, which could be severe enough to unhorse Clegg and prevent the renewal of the ConLib coalition, is what the nation needs. It is also what the party needs. It’s like the medical advice that is given to severe alcoholics. You won’t recover, until you have first hit rock bottom.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '15 - 11:04am

    Denis Lorreto

    Even if some Lib Dem candidates do not appear to match precisely my personal beliefs and aspirations I think they are highly likely to be more worthy of support than candidates representing other parties.

    I have to this day (see my previous message) defended some of the difficult decisions our party has had to make in coalition. As I’ve said many times, I despise the “nah nah nah nah nah” type attacks on the Liberal Democrats in the coalition which take no account of reality, which seem to assume the Liberal Democrats with 57 MPs could somehow have brought a government with 100% Liberal Democrats policies into existence, the “nah nah nah nah nah” type attacks which ignore the decisions that ANY government would have to make in the current situation.

    I have no sympathy with the Labour Party, because this sort of “nah nah nah nah nah” attack has been what it has been all about since May 2010. Instead of encouraging a realistic debate, of winning hearts and minds to realistic policies of the left, it has assumed that all it needs to do is make “nah nah nah nah nah” attacks on the Liberal Democrats, and enough ex-LibDem votes will come its way to win a majority. Because this is how Labour works, as I’ve said, the political right wins in the long run because no-one is actually out there campaigning in a constructive for the other side.

    So, I REALLY do want to be out there fighting for the Liberal Democrats. But how can I do that when all the lines I would use in defence of the party get undermined by its leader and those surrounding the leader? How can I do that when Clegg and the Cleggies keep on and on saying things which bolster the “nah nah nah nah nah” attacks made against us? How can I do that when I am told the general election campaign for the Liberal Democrats will centre on such a thing, and that thing is something I believe to be fundamentally untrue and damaging? I can’t. So I won’t. That means I have no-one to vote for (please don’t get me on the Greens, I have no time for them).

  • David Allen 7th Jan '15 - 12:07pm

    Matthew, “That means I have no-one to vote for”

    This reminds me of a young man I know well, who is intensely engaged (on the Left) by social and political issues, but will not vote. I think his analysis would be that historically, real change only takes place through major events such as revolutions, and so political activity is a waste of time unless the conditions exist for such major political change. I understand the argument, but would contend that for example, new political forces such as the Labour movement (over the period 1850-1950), communism and indeed Nazism all grew up as the result of hard mundane political slog over an extended time period. (Once upon a time I believed the same could happen as the SDP-Liberal Alliance grew to replace Labour on the left of British politics, once upon a time…)

    So I’m going to stick with politics, and I’m going to vote. I probably share a lot of your reservations, even distaste, for Labour and the Greens. Nevertheless – Labour are worth voting for, on the basis that if you know a bucketful will be tipped over you, then you should vote for water in preference to urine. Alternatively the Greens are worth voting for, as they are relatively uncorrupt, albeit arguably bad for their own cause because they are stuck in their own little niche. Clegg, of course, is not worth voting for, and neither is anyone else who cannot be relied upon not to support him.

  • Matthew: Of course the state does provide health care services and education, so in absolute terms people are obliged to the state for this provision. In these cases the Liberal argument is a matter of balance: the Liberal gain, in terms of life opportunities, possibilities open to individuals is clearly greater than the negatives (dependency and subjugation to the State). This does not apply very well to tax take that is accompanied with state cash support add in the issue that taxation can produce situations where people might be worse off in employment than out of employment, it is easy to see how the state can inadvertently become a factor for limiting opportunity and effectively keeping people ‘in their place’. Raising tax thresholds can be part of a strategy for helping the low paid and if other thresholds are not changed can be a mechanism for making taxation more progressive rather than less.

    On the tax and tax question, I think it is certainly fair to proclaim that we are the party that raised tax thresholds (and not concede the credit to the Conservatives for this), however it would not be honest, and as you point out would not be to give the wrong message, to say that we are a party of tax cuts. In general the coalition has raised taxes and, in particular, the tax take from the better off has increased markedly. Nonetheless, I am sure you appreciate a need to forestall a Tory attack that would try to paint us as irresponsible spendthrifts. Your plea for realistic debate is heartfelt and well made, however not forestalling hyperbolic attacks has to be done to try to prevent unrealistic polemic.

  • Denis Loretto 7th Jan '15 - 1:19pm

    Well at least we are now getting a clearer picture as to where several of those who have been regaling us for some time on LDV actually stand. In some cases they are not currently supporters of the Liberal Democrat Party whatever their stance may have been in past times. Perfectly entitled to continue their contributions as are the various (usually Labour supporting) trolls who have at least made their opposition to the Lib Dems clear all along but it is helpful to know where they stand.

    It is good to know that John Tilley is not one of these. As a fellow by-election veteran (I started in Orpington where I lived in 1962) I still nurse the hope that he will make a comeback to Bermondsey in the next few months. We need all the help we can get.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '15 - 2:53pm

    David Allen

    This reminds me of a young man I know well, who is intensely engaged (on the Left) by social and political issues, but will not vote. I think his analysis would be that historically, real change only takes place through major events such as revolutions, and so political activity is a waste of time unless the conditions exist for such major political change.

    Oh yes, like in Syria right now?

    I have nothing but contempt for the line “don’t vote, it only encourages them” with the supposition that not voting means The Revolution will happen and that will magically solve everything. History shows that never happens. When The Revolution happens, it invariably results in something nasty. However, when it doesn’t happen, democratic mechanisms just wither away and become mere ceremony. There isn’t some point where the turnout drops so low that people say “Hey, this isn’t working” and do something. The most likely thing if people stop voting is that we will see a return to aristocracy, with the election just some weird half-forgotten ceremony.

    I don’t know what I will do when the election comes. But mostly, things said and done by Labour tend to push me towards thinking I’ll carry on doing what I’ve always done – vote Liberal Democrat. Most of what comes out from the leadership of the Liberal Democrats has the opposite effect on me. The Ryan Coetzee New Year mailing was one of those, I was appalled by it, it may be the last straw.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '15 - 2:57pm

    Martin

    however it would not be honest, and as you point out would not be to give the wrong message, to say that we are a party of tax cuts.

    The New Year Coetzee mailing, presumably sent to all members, does just that. So Martin, it seems you now a gree with me. Clegg and the Cleggies are going to run an election campaign based on a fundamental dishonesty.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '15 - 3:21pm

    Martin

    This does not apply very well to tax take that is accompanied with state cash support add in the issue that taxation can produce situations where people might be worse off in employment than out of employment, it is easy to see how the state can inadvertently become a factor for limiting opportunity and effectively keeping people ‘in their place’.

    Yes, but the blanket raising of tax threshold. which the Coetzee mailing goes on and on and on about as if it is the main thing the Liberal Democrats are about doesn’t do that.

    The biggest factor causing the issue you raise is the running down of council housing, so people are forced into private renting paid for by Housing Benefit. If we are to reverse that, it requires big brave policies. No-one has dared do it, not the Blair/Brown governments who let the disaster caused by “right to buy” to carry on building up.

    Yes, taking tax and returning cash welfare payments may seem silly, but if that’s the most convenient way to work out overall contribution positive or negative, why not? It’s just an algorithm. We could, and have suggested merging tax and welfare systems into one, but that would just be a different algorithm. Let’s suppose the state takes 5% of GDP in tax and immediately hands it out as cash welfare. The overall effect is no different than some more complex system where the 5% is not taken in the first place. What is in people’s pockets stays the same. So why is it that some people make some big fuss about it, as if one way it’s big bad bullying state, and the other way it’s not, when in reality it’s just different ways of calculating the same thing?

    We could do with the NHS what we did with subsidy for universities – introduce some complex system of automatic entitlement loans and repayment and write-offs, so that if you analyse it very carefully you find that deep down underneath it means much the same people pay much the same as when it was directly subsidised. That might make the magic number people very happy, but it would in reality be just another change in algorithm – and see how the change in algorithm on university tuition went down …

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '15 - 4:08pm

    Martin

    Nonetheless, I am sure you appreciate a need to forestall a Tory attack that would try to paint us as irresponsible spendthrifts.

    Making tax cutting a principal theme of our election campaign, as Coetzee is urging, does just that.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '15 - 4:10pm

    Matthew Huntbach’s post:

    “Martin ‘however it would not be honest, and as you point out would not be to give the wrong message, to say that we are a party of tax cuts’.

    The New Year Coetzee mailing, presumably sent to all members, does just that. So Martin, it seems you now agree with me. Clegg and the Cleggies are going to run an election campaign based on a fundamental dishonesty.”

    Matthew, I don’t agree with that! Clegg and the Cleggies are going to run an election campaign based on a fundamentally honest position, which is “The Lib Dem activists can go hang. Policy committees can go hang. Truth can go hang. We are Conservative allies, and we insist on campaigning with them as tax cutters, whatever anybody says. And we will ally with them in or out of the next government, whatever anybody says. What you see is what you will get. Read my lips!”

  • Matthew Hunbach

    I am one of the few who are in blissful ignorance of the Coetzee message. From what you say I am better off having not see it.

    But it is a symptom of what is wrong. Some “expert” is shipped in from South Africa and is paid a six- figure sum to do a job that Des Wilson did for nothing. Yet we are less than a hundred days from nomination papers being due in for the General Election and we do not have candidates for half the seats !!

    This major organisational failure, the parliamentary by-elections where the party could not even scrape together 5% of the vote tell us something about the lack of effectiveness of the elections part of HQ.. I cannot think of any business or indeed any pubic sector job where such a key element of the operation does not have to account for failures so fundamental.

    We are told that we should all pull together but that if there is a disaster it will be the fault not of this fundamental failure but the result of a dozen people posting comments in LDV.

    I am happy to say to HQ that if they pay me £100,000 I will never make a comment on LDV again.

    The impact on the General Election would be that I would be able to send £20,000 to five constituencies where the money would make a real difference to keeping a decent Liberal Democrat MP.

    Will Mr C say he same ?

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jan '15 - 10:53am

    JohnTilley

    But it is a symptom of what is wrong. Some “expert” is shipped in from South Africa and is paid a six- figure sum to do a job that Des Wilson did for nothing.

    I imagine the reply to my point would be that when some opinion pollsters went out and asked questions, the increase in tax allowance proved to be a very popular policy. Well, sure. If you ask people “Do you want to pay less tax?” of course they will say “Yes”. If you ask people “Do you want better NHS services?” they will say “Yes”. If you ask people “Do you want free beer?” they will say “Yes”.

    The point is that we need a more honest debate which informs people of what the real options are, the good side as well as the bad side of any policy proposal. As with tuition fees, we should have said “Yes, we want to abolish them, but if you agree with us, then you need to agree with us on how it is to be paid for – so here’s some proposals on tax increases which you probably wouldn’t like if put to you in isolation”. Because this was not done, instead there was just vague hand-waving “oh, it’s all costed”, we were hit badly. People supposed a Conservative-LibDem coalition would involve Conservative policy on taxation and LibDem policy on government expenditure., and accused us of betrayal when we had to admit it couldn’t be that.

    So with the NHS. We have to be honest and say “If you want the NHS to continue providing all reasonable health care without direct payment from patients, you will have to agree to more taxes”. As we have seen, even the promise to keep NHS funding level doesn’t work, if in order to do so we have to make big cuts elsewhere – in local government and the social care it provides – so causing a knock-on effect of increased demand on the NHS.

    I had something of an insight into the faulty way ad-men think when I had a bit of a discussion with some of those running the “Yes to AV ” campaign. I asked them why it was that the material they were showing us lacked anything in the way of a proper explanation with examples of just how AV works and how it could resolve some of the dilemmas we have with FPTP. The y replied to me (paraphrasing, but not much) “Oh no, we can’t do that, we tried it out and people found it boring”. So, we ended up losing a campaign which we should have won because the ad-men thought people would find it boring if we properly explained our case.

    Politics is not about selling something like a consumer product. It is about getting people to think, and from that basis make rational decisions. As part of that, yes, we may have to overcome barriers, to get people to think about thing they initially find boring, to get them to see there are policy aspects they may not like at first glance which are necessary to obtain those they do like.

    Once upon a time we hit on a good way of doing that. We called it “community politics”. We found that if you started with concrete local things that people could get their heads round, it could lead them on to a political discussion which they would otherwise never have got to. We found that if we broke the conventions, and presented political things in a way that people did not instantly recognise as “politics” we could get through to people who would shut off at the first sign of anything that was conventional party political politics.

    This discovery of community politics did not involve importing highly-paid ad-men to tell us how to do it. No, it involved the insight of ordinary party members, who used their own experience as ordinary people leading ordinary lives to know how to communicate to ordinary people, and a loose network of people swapping ideas on that basis rather than a top-down structure with the leadership telling us exactly how we should do it and expecting us to act as unpaid salespeople sticking to a central “party line” and a central ad-man constructed image.

  • Malcolm Todd 8th Jan '15 - 11:10am

    David Allen
    “Labour are worth voting for, on the basis that if you know a bucketful will be tipped over you, then you should vote for water in preference to urine. ”

    That’s almost beautiful in its clarity about the sort of choice we face. And has almost persuaded me to vote Labour (little that it matters who I vote for, of course — I doubt Kenneth Clarke’s voting habits are influenced by how many votes the little fish nibbling at his feet received this time).

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