Leadership and the C-word

Venn diagram of Lib Dem/Tory influence on Coalition policies“Two non-entities” – the curt analysis of historian David Starkey on the Lib Dem leadership race seems unduly harsh. But as a semidetached

Lib Dem looking for an excuse to reattach I have at the very least been struck by just how similar the two Lib Dem leadership candidates are.

The Lib Dems are now a very new and fresh party in the sense that most members have joined in very recent years or even months. For those of us with decades of libdemmery under our belts, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson almost feel like extended family. They are resilient folk who have been around for ages. Both of them are very much to be admired for withstanding the humiliation of losing their seats and then clawing those seats back.

White, middle-class, Oxbridge/Russell group, neither at first sight really exude life’s hard knocks. In fact, both have put forward moving accounts of just how searing real life can be. Jo Swinson’s speech in Parliament on combining politics and early motherhood was an astonishingly frank tour de force. Ed Davey’s poignant radio interview on his experience of early bereavement was truly memorable.

But, and it’s a very big but, how do we process their work in coalition? There is a poverty of debate in the party about the Coalition and about… err… poverty. The Lib Dems dropped austerity unceremoniously in 2015 (almost as suddenly as it was adopted back in 2010) and by 2017 it was almost as if the Coalition had never happened.

There is a small but growing academic literature on the Coalition, especially the disproportionate effect of welfare cuts on women, but at the leadership hustings in London last night the Coalition was barely mentioned. Housing was discussed but not the bedroom tax. Education was discussed but not the Coalition’s abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Maternity rights were discussed but not the Coalition’s axing of the Health In Pregnancy grant. The most important role that British liberals have played in government for a century has been neatly papered over only four years after it happened.

Jo and Ed are the ones who need to provide some more coherent answers on what they did in Coalition, what the consequences have been and what they might do in Coalition in the future.

* Ruth Bright has been a councillor in Southwark and Parliamentary Candidate for Hampshire East

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139 Comments

  • Mick Taylor 26th Jun '19 - 9:06am

    Both and and Jo have acknowledged that the Lib Dems made mistakes in coalition. This was partly due to being so naive about being in government at all after a gap of over 65 years and partly due to not even considering the advice offered by European Liberals who had vast experience of coalitions and ignoring the decades of coalitions that had happened in the UK both in local government and in the Scottish and Welsh assemblies.
    Be that as it may, what purpose will be served by dredging over the coalition years? Yes, we have learnt some very hard lessons and have only just started to recover. However our membership is now almost wholly different from that of 2010 and most of the MPs who served in government have gone including our former leader, whose refusal to listen to those who had experience of coalition was, in my view, the main factor in some of the sorrier decisions of our colleagues in government.
    The party has adopted new policies relevant to the current times and would seem highly unlikely to enter a coalition again – except perhaps for a brief ‘National Unity’ government to deal with Brexit and the referendum – at least whilst the so called main parties are led by their current leaders.
    So poring over the entrails will resolve nothing and only cause the party to be introspective when we face really important issues as a country.
    I suggest we now leave analysis of the coalition to the historians and get on with building the party and securing our place in the EU.

  • David Starkey is one of the rudest men I have ever met. Ignore him.
    Ruth’s analysis of the two candidates is spot on. It’s good to know that whoever wins the party will be in safe hands and they will command respect from within the party and without, Daily Mail readers notwithstanding.
    We mustn’t forget that the party endorsed the coalition at a special conference. It’s easy to remember the errors, born of lack of experience in my view, in retrospect but also easy to forget the tempering effect we had on the Tories and the many really good liberal policies that we did get through.
    It’s time to move on.

  • I think we need rather more than an apologies session. We need a hard look at how our entire political system works. The current BREXIT mess exposes parts of our constitutional setup unfit for purpose. What can we learn from our time in Coalition that we can draw on to get proper reforms?

    One starter question or me to anyone look at ths question (Jo and Ed included) is ‘Have you read the book ‘The Blunders of Our Governments’? With these lessons in mind we can perhaps make something positive out of our Coalition troubles times.

    Antony King and Ivor Crewe (2014) The Blunders of Our Governments.

    See this review from a Civil Service insider to get a sense of how important this book is.
    One key quote from the review
    >>>A common feature of the “blunders” is the extent to which policy development gets separated from the realities of the world. In the worst cases policy is developed by small groups of like- minded people in Whitehall who share the same set of assumptions and fail to test those assumptions outside the group. The group often assumes that there is only one way of doing things: a common example until recently was the assumption that the private sector is always superior in know-how and efficiency. They often have little understanding of how people on the receiving end of the policy will behave or react – what the authors call, “cultural disconnect”.
    In the featured case studies all this is frequently made worse by “operational disconnect”. “No feature of the blunders we have studied”, say the authors, “stands out more prominently than the divorce between those who make policies and those charged with implementing them…Most of the policy makers responsible for the blunders…assumed they had done the hard bit when they had decided what Government policy should be. Clearly they were wrong.” If you are reading this in HMRC, DWP or any other big operational department, you are probably already cheering the authors on.<<<

    https://quarterly.blog.gov.uk/2014/07/15/the-blunders-of-our-governments-review-by-sir-david-normington-gcb/

  • Richard Underhill 26th Jun '19 - 9:50am

    Did Jo Swinson not respond to Ed Davey’s idea of a coalition including the SNP?

  • Neil Sandison 26th Jun '19 - 10:28am

    Sorry Ruth in politics as in life you can rarely go back and undo past errors or omissions
    We can only look forward and learn by experience from the past .The new and refreshed Liberal Democrats are coning up with new and exciting policy and on the ground where it matters a new urgency for success is building on our local government and European election results .What we most need is a motivator to lead and a robust infrastructure to support that growth .

  • Ruth Bright’s analysis is accurate, and of course whilst Mary Reid is correct about how unpleasant Starkey is, unfortunately Starkey’s comment has an uncomfortable truth. It is to be hoped that in time the two leadership candidates may prove him wrong.

    The only comfort I can find about Starkey (a son of Kendal) is that (as the first Liberal Councillor in Kendal in 1972) the town of Kendal is still solidly Liberal on South Lakeland Council – in part due to the hard graft and example of Tim Farron.

    Ruth is correct that there is a vacuum in the party about poverty and inequality. The Liberal Democrats are the only political party (yes, the only) not to make a response to the Alston UN Report on Poverty in the UK. The silence is deafening….. and almost unbelievable.

    Ending that silence with a passionate endorsement would begin to repair the damage of the Coalition years. I say to Mick Taylor, having a policy locked in a cupboard is no good. It needs to be articulated by the Leadership candidates and our DWP spokesperson. It has not been – and there is an incomprehensible and embarrassing silence….. Is it residual guilt ?

    Add the latest news this morning about the impact of the Tory cut to a two child limit on child benefit in 2017, and there might, just might, be a possibility that the party could regain some moral authority if it spoke out.

    Two-child benefit limit pushes families further into … – The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/…/two-child-benefit-limit-pushes-families-further-into-pov…
    11 hours ago – The government’s two-child limit on benefits is having a devastating impact on family life as it pushes millions of children deeper into poverty, according to the first detailed study of the benefit cut. … Many parents reported stress and strained family relationships,

  • John Marriott 26th Jun '19 - 10:45am

    ‘David Starkey’ hogwash does exactly what it says on the tin. HOWEVER, for most people, Messrs Davey and Swinson are sadly ‘non entities’. Such is the general obsession with the Tory/Labour gavotte that, with the possible exception of Farage, politicians from other parties just don’t get a look in as far as the public conscience is concerned.

    Our politics, or should that be rechristened ‘political entertainment’, dances to the tunes that seek to portray people, who aspire to power. The current protagonists would like you to think that they are like you or me, and the foibles they agree to unveil, like confessing to building model buses out of “wooden crates”, or the odd midnight bust up, or having the look of an earnest parent trying to curry favour with his offspring by trying to be ‘cool’, prove that they really are members of the human race.

    It will be interesting to see how Victoria Derbyshire deals with the Lib Dem aspirants on Thursday. If anyone is watching, Ed and Jo might have a chance to prove that you can have a sensible debate instead of trying to tear lumps off each other. It won’t be entertaining; but it might be informative and could show that, if they and we can raise our heads above the slough of the coalition, there is more to life than Johnson/Hunt.

  • It’s interesting,as David Raw points out, that neither the two candidates or the party officially have commented on the Alston report. If the Lib Dems are moving to learn from mistakes of the coalition years put them behind them and move forward than what better way than accept the findings and use them as a centre price of non-brexit aspects of policy. Vague general statements on social justice are not the same. Katharine Pindars posts on LDV regarding the report have been illuminating on the matter.

    As to the candidates they both seem worthy to an outside observer. I’m not a party member any more but do vote Lib Dem generally. Jo seems better on slogans,vision, and communication. Ed seems to get more caught up in the detail and is less on the wider vision. Both seem to have their pet project, Jo on the fourth industrial revolution and the impacts of new technologies, Ed on the very real climate emergency we face. Both are highly important to us all but a leader also needs a wider viewpoint on a range of issues and inspire on them as well.

  • No. No. No.
    The last thing we should be doing now is talking about the Past, a Past that now seems very distant to most Voters.
    We have been granted a temporary window of opportunity, a window that is now, slowly, closing.
    We may get another small boost from the Leadership Election, though we will probably be drowned out by The Tories.
    We may get a boost from winning Brecon, but not if we let the Tories delay it till the Autumn.
    We could have got a boost from building a New, Remain/Progressive Alliance but that has been stymied until August by our Leadership contest.
    This is just the Time Not to be going on about the Past or inventing splits that don’t exist.
    We could be facing a General Election in a few Months, lets focus on that.

  • David Becket 26th Jun '19 - 12:40pm

    We have said we made mistakes, now let us learn from them.
    Many LDV contributors have referred to the Alston report. They should both be taking it up NOW. Are they listening.
    Another hole, which Nick Tyrone draws attention to in his blog, is support for business.
    If we need to be seen as pro business we need to up our game. Our current policies are not likely to be popular with business. That does not mean we drop them but we expand them. A start would be the opening of discussions with the CBI and other business organisations. Come on Ed and Jo, vision please.

  • @ Paul Barker “No. No. No….. The last thing we should be doing now is talking about the Past, a Past that now seems very distant to most Voters.”

    The Alston Report is about the present, Paul, and a pretty horrible present and future it is for a great many people and children ……. and the Party leadership and the DWP spokesperson are most definitely not talking about it…. the only party not to do so.

    It’s time they did. It’s a moral issue on a basic liberal principle… the principle that all people ought to be able to enjoy a dignified life and and be free from want.

    Here it is. Please, please read it from the PDF link below.

    Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston …
    https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Poverty/EOM_GB_16Nov2018.pdf
    16 Nov 2018 – appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in … .org.uk/MEASURING-POVERTY-FULL_REPORT.pdf, p. .

  • Sue Sutherland 26th Jun '19 - 2:01pm

    I really don’t understand why my party hasn’t responded to the Alston report. I can’t think of any reason our leaders would think that this is a good idea, unless they fear attacks from the left accusing us of being the instigators of the policy. I have to say I really don’t think it matters if hard left Labour supporters accuse us of that because most people aren’t thinking about the Coalition at all. If the effects of a policy are to push people into poverty surely we have a right to change our minds. Isn’t that right something we are fighting for in demanding a second Brexit referendum?
    What we want to know from Ed and Jo is what are their plans for the future and whether we can learn from our mistakes. The experience of power is invaluable if we are going to be taken seriously as a party that can bring about a better future for our country. For me the Coalition years were mostly excruciating but a lot of good people joined us in 2015 because they felt that Liberal values were worth fighting for. They have fought for them and our recent success in elections is a lot to do with the hard work they have put in.
    If you want to see the party tackle the problem of poverty, please come back and convince party members that this is vitally important, that we have to put right any injustice that we have caused. We have to get this across to whichever new leader emerges from this contest. I’m backing the one who talks passionately about discrimination and equality because I believe that if you do this in one area of inequality you will do it for all.

  • David Evans 26th Jun '19 - 2:07pm

    Mick Taylor, Neil Sandison, Paul Barker,David Becket, I think there is almost no disagreement in the party that we did get “it” wrong in coalition and we need to learn the lessons and move on. The problem is everybody’s “it” is different (if it is specified at all), and strangely is almost always an “it” that implies they personally didn’t get “it” wrong at all.

    That’s the problem you get from five years of denial from almost all senior figures that that there was a problem with what they were doing in coalition, followed by four years of hoping/pretending that it would all go away. Denial is never a strategy for learning and no-one was ever willing to have a post-mortem on what went wrong in coalition until all the guilty had either left the wreckage or got their excuses right.

    Now of course it is being argued it is too late for a post mortem and let’s “move on”. However, all that means is we are in danger of becoming a party in favour of education and learning – except for ourselves personally, where let’s forget and move on is becoming the mantra.

    David Raw, Ruth and Sean are right about poverty and the importance of the Alston, report, but there were so many other things that went wrong – NHS reform, Secret Courts, allowing Eric Pickles to be put in charge of local government, and most of all allowing Theresa May to implement her evil “Hostile environment” which led to the Windrush scandal. The problem isn’t just that these things happened, but why did we as a party allow them to happen. If we don’t learn that lesson, we will have learned very little.

  • Paul Barker 26th Jun '19 - 3:35pm

    Speaking for myself, I got the Coalition badly wrong, at least that’s what I think now. Most Party Members probably agree that we got it wrong & think about it a fair amount. Some of us seem to think of little else.
    Our Voters & potential Voters on the other hand think about the Coalition very little, have made up their minds & dont care very much. Thats why we should not be talking about it.
    Modern British History now divides neatly into 2 halves : 1945-2016 & 2016 onwards. Thats Modern in the Academic sense, for most of us the time before June 2016 seems like another World. What did we think about before Brexit ?
    Brexit here, like Trump in The USA has reset the clock. What looked Mad back then is normal now.
    The backlash against Brexit has opened a window for us but it won’t stay open if we waste our time arguing over the past.

  • David Becket 26th Jun '19 - 3:41pm

    There is one key reason why we got into trouble in the coalition, and it started in the Rose Garden.
    I have worked in coalition at local government level with both Labour and Tories. We were business like, we had disputes, mainly in private, but we showed a solid front to the electorate, however we did not appear as friends. We were different parties working together. We both had our red lines, and stuck to them, which at times needed some creative thinking. Our mistake was Clegg’s friendship with Cameron and his failure to stick to red lines. Why the MPs did not put their feet down beats me.
    Supping with the devil needs a long spoon.

  • John Marriott 26th Jun '19 - 4:03pm

    Oh, it’s the coalition, is it? When will some of you just move on? The fact is that, if we ever do get PR, the chances are that there will be many more coalitions in the pipeline, some of which a party like the Lib Dems may be willing to join.

    Don’t rule out another opportunity under FPTP. What happens if, whoever becomes the new PM, a motion of No Confidence is tabled and it wins? That, according to my reading of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, gives someone fourteen days to put an alternative government forward. We know that Ed Davey has suggested a ‘Government of National Unity’ at least to get us out of this current mess. So, if the opportunity arises, do the Lib Dems just ignore it because of previous experience or do they put national interest before political purity?

  • @ Paul Barker. Paul, I know talking about the Coalition triggers off a mixed response amongst ‘loyalist’ party members who ‘prefer to forget’, but it’s not about appearances and who was chummy with whom. It’s more fundamental than that.

    It’s about policy choices made and the impact on the less well off members of society…. something I find hard to forgive. As someone who joined the Liberal Party in 1961, was employed by it, held national office in the Young Liberals, stood for parliament and was elected as a Councillor five times (serving into my seventies) I witnessed decisions made in that Government that went against everything I believed the party to be and to stand for.

    You can say let it go……. but I need proof that the party has rediscovered its soul and values. I’ m not convinced when the leadership and DWP spokesperson ignores and take no part in debates on the Alston Report in Parliament. It appears that nothing has changed. Politics is much more than trivial matters of psephology and ‘flag flying’ – that’s the sort of stuff a Second Division football supporter feels about their club.

    It’s fundamental. It’s about what sort of party this is. I wait to be convinced – as I’m sure Ruth does. To take a phrase from Boris – ‘sandpapering’ the truth – does not equate with the truth. I need to know that genuine lessons have been learned. Ignoring the Alston Report does not convince me. Until then, Lib Dems will continue to appear no different to any other party – Brexit aside – as they twist and turn in every passing wind.

  • “There is a poverty of debate in the party about the coalition”. Really ? Really ? For some it remains a preoccupation. Reaction on the door step and our much improved performance at the polls this year suggest that whatever our sins in government, the public are ready to forgive us. Let us focus on the future and clarifying our message, “This is what is wrong…..and this is how we will fix it !”.

  • Peter Watson 26th Jun '19 - 4:33pm

    @John Marriott “Don’t rule out another opportunity [coalition] under FPTP.”
    That is why the party needs to demonstrate what it has learnt from the last “opportunity” and why it will be better next time.

  • Ruth Bright 26th Jun '19 - 4:47pm

    Paul. I do see what you mean. I have two teenagers and for them the history of British politics began sometime around the Scottish referendum! Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the death of my Dad’s friend Archie in the Second World War. We’ll pause a few moments for him this week. Can we not all walk and chew gum at the same time and take short term tactical decisions but look at where we have come from too?

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Jun '19 - 5:11pm

    Now that the voters are looking at us again with some interest but little knowledge of us beyond two facts – that we were in coalition with the Conservatives between 2010 and 2015 and that we oppose Brexit and want to remain in the EU – I believe we need to offer them strong, simple messages on what we are about.

    To my mind, we can offer strong, simple messages on what we intend for the economy, jobs and business, derived from our 2017 Manifesto, our 2018 Conference motions, and our ongoing development of these themes. We can offer strong, simple messages too on supporting the NHS and education and housing development, all of which voters probably expect from us, and on dealing with climate change and the environment, where we will not now however appear distinctive.

    So far, so good. We will show ourselves the thoughtful, reasonable, moderate party that people expect, and that our leadership candidates uphold. In keeping with that, we admit that we didn’t do enough to prevent devastating austerity policies being enacted in the Coalition, and so we dropped them sharply after 2015.

    But that’s not enough. In these four years of Tory Government, the lives of so many ordinary fellow citizens have worsened so much, as report after report from charities and think-tanks have testified, and as we can see with our own eyes and hear about constantly from the media, it is surely time for our party to show that we passionately care about this and will commit to insisting on better times and demanding action from the forthcoming government, whatever it may be.. THIS is where moderate centrism is not enough. THIS is where we need to show the kind of passionate commitment that our lost leader Tim Farron typified, formerly. Now the Statement and Report of the UN Rapporteur Philip Alston is what we can take as our standard to follow, and I ask our leadership candidates to adopt his findings and recommendations without delay.

  • I happen to agree with John Marriott. I’ve worked in Coalition and would again…… it’s not the being in Coalition – it’s what the Coalition does that matters.

    Good post, Ruth, and glad you mentioned Archie. The world didn’t begin in 2010 or 2016 and I have to disagree with Paul Barker when he says “Modern British History now divides neatly into 2 halves : 1945-2016 & 2016 onwards.”

    No, it goes much deeper than that. The 1945 bit – when Archie’s generation built something special – end in 1979. Sadly what followed has been a constant line of development.

  • Paul Barker 26th Jun ’19 – 3:35pm…………………….
    Speaking for myself, I got the Coalition badly wrong, at least that’s what I think now. Most Party Members probably agree that we got it wrong & think about it a fair amount. Some of us seem to think of little else.
    Our Voters & potential Voters on the other hand think about the Coalition very little, have made up their minds & dont care very much. Thats why we should not be talking about it……………..

    Paul. the reason that potential voters don’t talk about it is that, in the last EU and council elections, the subject (the only subject) was Brexit.
    Any election, post Brexit, will be about housing, poverty, welfare, etc; that is when the other parties will remind the electorate about the 2010-15 LibDem performance.

    Using the ‘Boris defence’ of,, “I don’t want to discuss that”, will not be a good strategy.

  • It’s interesting today, after all the talk on LDV about Lib Dem silence on the Alston UN Report, that the Guardian reports the Scottish Government has introduced a new scheme which will “boost the incomes of the country’s poorest families by offering them £10 a week for every child in addition to child benefit payments.”

    Aileen Campbell, the communities secretary, said the new benefit, the Scottish Child Payment, would “tackle child poverty head on” by mitigating many of the worst effects of the UK government’s cuts in social security payments. “Scotland is facing a spike in child poverty as a result of welfare cuts imposed by the UK government,” Campbell told MSPs on Wednesday. “We will not stand by and simply watch that happen.”

    It appears the Lib Dems are standing by………. in silence……..

  • Joseph Bourke 27th Jun '19 - 12:28am

    The political studies association offers an independent view on lessons to be learned from coalition by the junior party https://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/cameron-clegg-coalition-lessons-learned:
    “In terms of policy, the Liberal Democrats superficially did reasonably well. Over and beyond securing the AV referendum, they gained policy concessions in terms of the NHS, schools, pensioners, and a tax cut for the lowest paid. Indeed, approximately three-quarters of the Liberal Democrats manifesto commitments were in the coalition Programme for Government, whereas only two-thirds of Conservative manifesto commitments remained.
    However, to assert that it was a ‘win-win’ for the Liberal Democrats is questionable. In terms of policy three issues challenge this. First, the Conservative ‘red lines’ – on deficit reduction, defence, immigration and Europe – were protected. Second, any perceived gains that the Liberal Democrats had secured on social policy terms were nullified by the fact that future policy would be subordinated to the need to reduce the deficit. Finally, the Liberal Democrats allowed themselves to be exposed on their most prominent electoral commitment – a pledge not to increase tuition fees.
    Evidence from coalitions abroad demonstrates that the junior partner needs to acquire ‘ownership’ of distinct policy areas. Ownership equates to visibility and associations with distinct policies, but those policies (unlike tuition fees) need to aid the junior partner in electoral terms. The Liberal Democrats might wish, therefore, to reflect on the merits of depth rather the breadth. Having secured 23 ministerial positions in May 2010, the Liberal Democrats spread themselves thinly across government. The party calculated that having ministers in virtually every department would ensure impact across all aspects of government policy. However, this is difficult to demonstrate to the electorate. In retrospect depth rather than breadth, may have been a better option – position ministers in a small number of departments where they can make a clearer policy impact and sell this to the electorate at the end of the parliamentary term.”

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jun '19 - 12:41am

    Yes, and it was an SDP spokesman in the Commons who spoke out to recommend the Alston Report in the recent debate there on inequality sponsored by the Labour Party, in which none of our MPs participated. Scottish Lib Dems, including of course our welfare spokesperson Christine Jardine, and leadership candidate Jo, are you watching? Can I point out a couple of the Alston recommendations which are particularly relevant here?

    ” Reverse particularly regressive measures such as the benefit freeze, the two-child limit, the benefit cap and the reduction of the Housing Benefit, including for underoccupied social rented housing.”
    “Review and remedy the systematic disadvantage inflicted by current policies on women, as well as on children, persons with disabilities, older persons and ethnic minorities.”
    If these sound familiar, it’s not surprising: Philip Alston has come to the same conclusions here as our party has, so other parties who have recommended Alston – that is, the Greens, the SNP and Labour – are actually helping to recommend policies that our party already holds! Yet let’s not dwell on the irony , but look at all the findings, conclusions and recommendations on which Alston can lead us further..

    Thank you, Ruth, for giving us the chance to discuss Alston again. The harm that the successor government to the Coalition has wreaked, our party has the right and duty to help amend now. May I for accuracy’s sake make clear what we are talking about here? Philip Alston’s Statement after his November visit was a thorough and devastating account, to which David Raw, above, posted the reference at 1.15 pm. It was much discussed on LDV at the time. The final Alston Report on extreme poverty and human rights in the UK, published last month, fully upholds the Statement but sometimes uses more judicious language, and concludes with the twelve recommendations. It can be found at https://undocs.org/A/HRC/41/39/Add.1, and is the subject of Amber Rudd’s angry rejection.

  • David Evans 27th Jun '19 - 7:57am

    David Raw sums it up perfectly – It’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it. Coalition itself was not the main problem. It was what our party leaders did, and even more importantly, what they allowed the Conservatives to do, in Coalition.

  • David Lowrence 27th Jun '19 - 8:25am

    David Starkey – a legend in his own imagination. Using quotes from this opinionated irrelevance is neigh er helpful nor justified. Taking advice from outsiders with an axe to grind is never a recipe for progress and only helps to foster paranoia

  • Ruth Bright 27th Jun '19 - 9:36am

    “outsiders”! not very Liberal David L! I did dismiss the Starkey quote BTW.

    David R – thanks for the nudge on the Alston report. He is brilliant on the sanctions regime and the in-built wait for benefits (these mean that people get into difficulties fast and like Brer Rabbit in the tar once you are stuck it’s difficult to get out) but less good on the general background.

  • Clive Peaple 27th Jun '19 - 10:10am

    As in 2015, Liberal Democrats must have clear ‘plumb lines’ against which to frame policy. Re: Public Officeholding – Nolan’s 1995 ‘7 Principles’, against Social Care – JSMill etc. We do need to reassert simple principles against which we frame policy. If you like have a series of Litmus tests. Does this policy measure up to our Principles? Ignore the vagaries of a ‘Reality TV’ response, but still keep the fundamental principles simple. I recollect, in 2015 talking to a deposed LD MP who suggested that by giving LDs more than their fair share of Ministeries, it meant that LDs could only resign to show disapproval. This suggests expedience over principle. Mustn’t happen again. Remember LDs create and plan – Conservatives control and destroy….. Brexit dictates. Oh yes – and ‘bollocks to brexit’ is admirable. Wish I’d had it in 2015.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jun '19 - 11:37am

    Felt privileged to be able to watch Ed and Jo both coming over very well in the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC 2 just now. Only disappointed once, when they were asked near the end about priorities they would have after the Brexit issue is settled. Jo’s answer seemed rather general and unmemorable, when it could have been a moment to focus on major party priorities, and though Ed spoke up for environmental concerns and education, he didn’t mention then dealing with poverty and inequality. I’d request them both to focus on strong, simple messages for the future, to give clarity to the electorate on what we are about (I mentioned some we have to offer in a comment at 5.11 here yesterday), and of course to me dealing with the issues of poverty and deprivation raised so memorably by Philip Alston seems the first priority. (But let’s debate his answers – what do you find less good on his view of the general background, Ruth?)

  • Joseph, Thanks for the link to the PSA study. The report itself is very blinkered in its assessment stating very early on “In terms of policy, the Liberal Democrats superficially did reasonably well. Over and beyond securing the AV referendum (albeit not their preferred option of proportional representation)”. Clearly the authors do not understand Lib Dems and their aims – AV was never more than a fourth, fifth or even sixth best (least worst) option in most Lib Dems eyes, and a referendum on it was a lose/lose even before the tuition fees fiasco kicked in. As for their statement “approximately three-quarters of the Liberal Democrats manifesto commitments were in the coalition Programme for Government,” this was referred to repeatedly on LDV and elsewhere during coalition as a triumph, but no-one has ever been able to point to the research carried out to justify the figure and most importantly how it was calculated. I believe it was those sorts of shoddy statistics that acted to dissuade many in the party from facing up to our problems earlier, when we could have done something to turn things around.

    However, what is very interesting is the link it provides to the study “The Four Year Itch Dissension amongst the Coalition’s Parliamentary Parties” which clearly shows that we were the prop that allowed David Cameron to ignore his extreme right wing and their rebellions, because he could rely on the Lib Dems to give him a majority. For example our most rebellious MP was Andrew George with 56 votes against the party whip. He was the only Lib Dem in the Top 10 most rebellious coalition MPs. Those at the top David Cameron could ignore included Philip Hollobone, Philip Davies, Peter Bone, Christopher Chope and Bill Cash.

    Says it all really.

  • Like Katharine I took time out to watch Jo and Ed.

    Given a long memory of party membership and party leaders stretching back almost 60 years I hope to be forgiven if I make a judgement.

    Both did passably well in general…. Ed did mention poverty and inequality twice (though not the Alston Report). He also did well with the occasional bit of self-deprecating humour, had more depth of knowledge and was better briefed. Unfortunately both failed to deal with tough questions on the Coalition legacy

    In summary, sadly, and looking back over the last sixty years, I’m afraid neither is in the Premier League of Liberal Leaders I can recall – neither looks a Prime Minister in waiting…… but then very view MP’s of any party do at the moment. Maybe with time and practice they will develop. IMHO the two most impressive and substantial MP’s who speak with authority today are Dominic Grieve and Hilary Benn.

    @ Ruth I agree with Katharine that you don’t specify your concerns about knowledge of the general background. As Chair of a Scottish Foodbank – and talked to colleagues in Newcastle who were visited by Professor Alston – I think he does have wide knowledge of the background (helped by the fact that his brother is the Australian High Commission to the UK).

    Still waiting for the only British political party (the Lib Dems) whose spokespersons haven’t mentioned the Report to acknowledge it exists.

    Just over twenty graphic pages Ed, Jo, Vince and Christine……. the gist of which could be read in the bath. But still not a peep.

  • Matt (Bristol) 27th Jun '19 - 2:31pm

    Can I suggest that one reason the party did not respond to the Alston report was the loss of our DWP spokesperson due to Brexit? (Stephen Lloyd). I would imagine Christine Jardine (now in post) would have something to say, surprised she has not said it yet.

    I was hoping that Jo Swinson who has been outspoken on the ‘bedroom tax’ as a mistake she should not have voted for, would extend her fire to universal credit.

    The truth is, we are pursuing the opening Brexit gives us, but conscious that a no deal Brexit could make coherent promises about future spending turn to dust in our mouths.

    … the result from both candidates is some fuzziness about our future economic and welfare strategy, a vague intention to tack somewhat to the left of the Coalition if possible, and a lot of talk about ‘values’ which are somewhat ill-defined.

    I’m tolerating this for the present, but soon we need to be meaningful and meaty on these subjects.

    But again, the leader does not have direct control of policy. Tone is what matters. Personally, although vague, I prefer Jo’s tone, which is more explicit that certain aspects of coalition policy were the result of mistakes by this party.

    It has to be said that the current crisis is tailor made for the party, as it enables us to be wishywashy on economics and strong on constitutional, democratic, and international considerations. We will see how long that lasts.

  • Sean Hyland 27th Jun '19 - 3:02pm

    Ruth Bright – like a lot of what you had to say in your post. But have to disagree with you about Alston being OTT. I also come from a working class, but urban, background and live in the same. I worked for must of my career in the NHS particularly in the fields of community Learning Disability and Mental Health. I still have family, friends and past workmates I talk to who still work in it. I also have a range of friends in other services including the DWP. I’m also a service user because of my disabilities. From my own experience and from what they say its not an OTT assessment. Services are struggling to respond, and importantly and a big worry staff are walking away before they break. Most of the people I trained with are out of it now.

    Lib Dems should pay heed, in my opinion, to the things he highlights. LibDems have some good policies on education for example but they fail if the students cant concentrate because they are hungry or cant attend because they cant afford tampax/towels. Just one thought but when you start to break the big themes down you can see the impacts on individuals and families.

  • To clarify : my last post was a straight lift from Prof Alston about the context of his report.

    @ Ruth, as with Sean I’m sure we’d agree face to face. All I can say is I do see daily (as a Foodbank Chair of Trustees) the hidden extent of the problem…. much of it hidden because of personal pride. Universal Credit is cruel and confusing.

    Sadly Lib Dems, disappoint again today. Debate on child food poverty in the House today. Powerful contributions – including Jim Shannon of the DUP – not a soul on the Lib Dem bench. It really seems to be a gap in their consciousness. It should be right up there if they still have any pretensions to be a radical social liberal party.

  • Sean Hyland 27th Jun '19 - 7:24pm

    Ruth Bright i think we would largely agree as well in person on a number of issues based on past comments and posts from you on here. Yes I think we have done much to break down some taboos etc and are hopefully a little more enlightened as society in general.

    But we seem to have gone backwards, I think, on the concepts of welfare and it’s role in supporting those who need it most. I’d just like to see someone taking a grasp of this and putting out a convincing argument on the need to rebalance our priorities in general. I would have liked it to be a party i generally support but I’m not holding my breath.

  • Sean Hyland 27th Jun '19 - 7:33pm

    Final thought – if lib dems really want to demonstrate they have moved on from the coalition what better way. Some cohesive policies that address these issues is the best way to demonstrate they have learnt from the errors made. They can still promote the things they got right. Would hopefully also disarm a little some of the critics in the labour party who are using the argument of the the actions taken in coalition.

  • Bill le Breton 27th Jun '19 - 7:35pm

    Couple of thoughts. This election has not yet and possibly won’t put a great deal of pressure on the candidates.

    The winner will be put under huge pressure about our and his or her role in the coalition by Labour and possibly by the Greens. Knowing how they may react and testing their ideas for copying with this should be part of the examination they are going through within the Party.

    During the 2007 leadership election, Chris Hulne put Nick Clegg under enormous pressure – he was quite brilliant a wedge issues – which Clegg failed to cope with. Had the postal strike not intervened Hulne might well have won. This vulnerability to negative campaigning should have been a warning that Clegg would find the pressure and attacks which landed on the Party post the Manchester Debate impossible to cope with. Had be been better or had we had a different leader it is very possible that we would have been able to have realistic negotiations with two and not one potential coalition partner giving us much more power.

    Secondly, if things stay the same (which they may not do) no single party will have a majority after the next general election. And this time there will be four or five or even six parties capable of making up some combination in a coalition. In fact the result may very well require at least three Parties to combine to get a majority.

    That is going to favour certain qualities in a Party leader. Have these been explored in the present process?

    We may regret the good natured campaign we have had.

  • David Evans 27th Jun '19 - 9:41pm

    Bill, I know that hard questions have been submitted for the hustings, but have not been selected to be asked. I’m very sad that party officials in charge of the hustings meetings prefer the quiet life of a never ending series of questions along the line “Would the candidates like to say a few nice words about something Lib Dems care deeply about, so we can all feel good about ourselves?” instead of something that actually might just test the candidates mettle before their weaknesses are exposed (partly due to a total lack of practice) in the real world.

    Sadly Joseph only harking back to the good we think we did in coalition does not accord with the view of the public at large, many of whom have been totally shafted by austerity, and will simply lose us votes. Remember the fantasy put about during coalition that opinion polls assessed us as being in the perfect near central position, exactly where most people put themselves. Unfortunately most of us chose to ignore the fact that right of centre voters put us on the mid to far left and left of centre voters put us on the mid to far right. But of course that averaged us out as being in the right place – except when it came to gaining votes. 🙁

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jun '19 - 10:11pm

    Ruth, having caught up with the discussion on Alston’s devastating verdicts above, I must strongly disagree with you, and see the situation in our country very much more as Sean Hyland does. How can you assume that ‘the majority of politicians never have to worry about bills’? I would suggest that that could be far from the truth. Apart from the lack of security for all in holding elected office, what about the non-elected activists whom may have to depend on benefits? What about the activists who are drawing their pensions and pleased about the triple lock, but wonder how far savings will go with the falling standard of living and the necessity for self-help to pay for social care?

    Ordinary middle-class people certainly have to worry about bills when their employment suddenly ceases, because the retail sector is failing and the stores they work in are closing, or because an industrial concern is moving abroad, trailing all sorts of ancillary service people into sudden joblessness. It’s happening now to many fellow citizens. There are nonetheless plenty of people in employment, but that includes many in temporary, part-time or zero-hours jobs and on the minimum wage, and it’s a fact that more and more ordinary working families can’t make ends meet any more and have to resort to food banks because the top-up benefits aren’t enough.

    Alston points out also the effect on communities of local authorities no longer able to pay for services, whether Sure-start or youth centres or social care for the frail elderly and people with disabilities. He talks about a growing alienated society. Isn’t that what we are witnessing in the growth of ‘county lines’ drug-dealing and knife crime, for example? Yet the Tory leadership contenders promise tax benefits for the well-off and reduced corporation taxes! I think it’s time Liberal Democrats opened their eyes more to the real ills of our society today, and got to grips with solutions. We have enormous economic threads here on LDV, which I just hope are finding answers for our leaders to support, because they are much needed.

  • Joseph Bourke 27th Jun '19 - 11:09pm

    David Evans,

    in my opinion, ministerial experience is far greater practice for the real world of politics than any amount of fielding of awkward questions from media interviewers.

    On the Victoria Derbyshire show this morning a former Labour voter posited that we have some responsibility for Brexit vote because of austerity.

    Ed Davey said that he regrets things like the Bedroom Tax which he didn’t believe in but he thinks that Lib Dems did a great deal on mental health, same sex marriage, climate change. He also highlighted the Lidem role in blocking far deeper cuts in welfare benefits and suggested that the financial crash and the loss of national income and inflation that it caused was the ultimate cause of the Brexit vote.
    Jo Swinson pointed out the referendum only happened after we left. She said that we should not have gone back on the tuition fees pledge, but that we delivered a policy that has meant more people from low income backgrounds going to university.

    Public spending today as a proportion of national income is at a similar level to what it was was immediately prior to the financial crisis and unemployment is significantly lower than in 2007. The big changes over the last decade are in the proportion of GDP needed for healthcare and pensions. Our adopted policies (including for welfare) are based in part on increasing taxes so spending will be circa 40% of GDP.
    One of the unheralded policies brought in during the coalition was Steve Webb’s work on auto-enrolment. Today this means that employee and employer pension contributions of 8% of earnings for all employees over 22 are going into a pension savings fund.
    Universal credit could be a transformative policy in helping people escape the benefits trap if properly handled. However, like any big change program it needs substantial extra investment up front and it will deliver savings for the public purse over the longer-term. Starving the program of funding at the outset, as has been done, is a recipe for failure.
    Both of these leadership candidates are serious politicians as well as strong campaigners who have won back their seats at the first opportunity. We should be supporting their efforts to put the party back in its rightful place in British politics.

  • @ Joe Bourke “On the Victoria Derbyshire show this morning a former Labour voter posited that we have some responsibility for Brexit vote because of austerity.”

    That former Labour voter is correct…….. as for the rest I’m afraid it’s a case of you wearing rose tinted spectacles, Joseph……. and neither of them mentioned the Alston Report… yet again. Don’t they know it exists…. or is it an embarrassment.

  • Joseph Bourke – when you are down at the bottom of doesn’t make a bit of difference if somebody says ” it could have much worse you know if it wasn’t for us, we voted for it but we didn’t believe in it” Or maybe it’s just not worth bothering about some people because they are not likely to vote as politicians of all colours seem to believe.

  • I wonder why other parties can conduct illegal invasions or have presided over the destruction of so many regional economies, and yet it’s the LibDems who have to carry a shame badge around because of the coalition years? compared to now, they look like a time of
    fantastic government!

  • Joseph Bourke 28th Jun '19 - 1:22am

    David Raw,

    It’s not rose tinted spectacles David it is dealing with the reality of a fast changing political landscape. Just because the Conservative and Labour parties have decided to tear themselves apart, we don’t have to try and emulate them.
    There is an opportunity to present a comprehensive suite of policies that is attracting more and more support by the day and that could be enacted in a future coalition governmnt. Survets suggest many people understand and are prepared to pay a little more tax to address some of the most pressing issues including those highlighted in the Alston report.
    A program for government needs to deal with a wide range of issues. Brexit and Welfare provision are top priorities but equally pressing is social housing; the NHS; adult social care, child care services and local government services generally; schools and FE funding, policing, long-term structural unemployment and jobs that pay enough to live on, all of which are reliant on delivering a stable and growing economy.

  • Sean Hyland 28th Jun '19 - 1:23am

    johnm when I could walk i marched and campaigned against the policies of both Labour and Tories. Blair’s adventures in personal vanity at the cost of the lives of many both sides and Tory decimation of industry and regions are their badges of shame to this day.

    Unfortunately this is a site on the Lib Dems. Good or bad, and thankfully more good, their actions in and out of government are going to be discussed and debated. That’s what I like about Lib Dems, they don’t just troop in fear to follow a party line imposed from the top but are prepared to question and hold people to account. People might not always agree with each other but I’ve usually found it respectful, stimulating, and often very informative.

    I want the party to move on and show leadership. I might even rejoin the party if they start taking on board and offering a positive position on these matters.

  • David Evans 28th Jun '19 - 2:11am

    Joseph, believe it or not, ministerial experience is of no use whatsoever when the party you represent has become so small it has no chance of getting into government.

    As an economist, I would have hoped you would have realised you have to look at both sides of a balance sheet and the P&L to see how well you did. Sadly a few credits you accumulate above the line a few ministries are totally outweighed by the massive liabilities we accumulated under the headings of austerity, hostile environment, the NHS, local government finance cuts etc etc.

    As I said earlier, I think there is almost no disagreement in the party that we did get “it” wrong in coalition and we need to learn the lessons and move on. The problem is everybody’s “it” is different (if it is specified at all), and strangely is almost always an “it” that implies they personally didn’t get “it” wrong at all. The comments you mention from Jo and Ed simply reinforce that view – “Here’s one (and only one) thing that happened that I am upset about because it affected lots and lots of people, but I didn’t believe in it so it doesn’t really count against me, while on the other side here is a longish list of other things Lib Dems and I can feel good about, so let’s forget the rest.”

    All in all you are just demonstrating a total unwillingness to accept that they personally and Lib Dems in general got anything wrong at all. However, during coalition, when they were senior figures in the party, they did absolutely nothing to stop it totally collapsing around them, because as far as the public are concerned (and it is their votes that give you the power to become a minister) the big things massively outweighed all the rest.

    Liberal MPs in the 1920s, 30s and 40s consoled themselves with the delusion they were doing good things in coalition/National Government, while ignoring the fact that the party was collapsing around them. In the the 2010s a new generation of MPs made the same mistake. Surely you can see that?

  • Johnm 28th Jun ’19 – 12:49am…………………I wonder why other parties can conduct illegal invasions or have presided over the destruction of so many regional economies, and yet it’s the LibDems who have to carry a shame badge around because of the coalition years? compared to now, they look like a time of fantastic government!………..

    In opposition this party opposed the Iraq war. However, in government, it supported the ‘regime change’ war in Libya, supported military action in Syria (thankfully thwarted by the Labour party and Tory rebel MPs) and, despite setting umpteen ‘red lines’against an escalation in bombing (again in Syria), this party, under Tim Farron, voted for the action.

    As for the coalition being a fantastic government when compared to anything???? There is absolutely no doubt that many of those voting for Brexit did so because of their despair in their lives; a despair caused, in many cases, by the actions of the coalition government..

    If there is one thing that defines many on here it is ‘selective memory’.

  • @ Joe Bourke I take back the rose tinted spectacles, Joe…….. and replace it with tunnel vision.

    You don’t mention the Alston Report…… neither do our M.P.’s who don’t bother to turn up to debate it in the Commons or even make a public statement about it……. and you surely must concede that vis-a-vis the Coalition years and austerity they are either in denial…… or much worse, nothing has changed and nothing has been learned.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jun '19 - 10:19am

    Thanks, Ruth. I really admire our PPCs AND our local government council candidates, who very often struggle for years, and, as your vivid personal story suggests, probably find it financially hard-going as well. Then there is no certainty of continual employment even if temporarily successful, so there can be a sudden loss of income, and Lib Dems are not often comfortably circumstanced with city directorships or family wealth to fall back on. In a word, we know what it is like to live in this unequal society where Lib Dem policies are so badly needed.

    David Evans, while admitting all you write to Joseph about the ills of the Coalition years, I think we should be emphasising the points that things have got much worse for ordinary people as well as the especially disadvantaged in these four years of Tory rule, that their ministers have shown indifference to the problems highlighted by Alston, and that Liberal Democrats care about and have answers to end austerity and alleviate the poverty and hardships being suffered by so many in our society today..

  • The Guardian this morning : “The Gig economy in Britain doubles, accounting for 4.7 million workers. TUC finds worker rights fading as gig platforms proliferate to employ one in 10 adults”.

    What do our leadership candidates have to say about this ?

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jun '19 - 10:40am

    PS – I should have added, yes we do care, but – as David Raw just emphasised, we are not showing it enough at present. Our MPs, and especially our leadership candidates, should be backing the Alston report and discussing it in relation to our own existing and developing policies. And the aim of alleviating poverty and hardship should be central.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jun '19 - 1:18pm

    @ David Raw,

    “The fall in the value of the pound has already increased the cost of living for people in poverty by £400 pounds per year……”

    This is a typically British way of looking at the exchange rate. It’s a case of the higher the better as far as most people are concerned. It’s not the way the Germans,the Dutch and the Danes look at it. The former two went into the euro at far too low a level. The Danes peg their krone at an artificially low level against the euro.

    If our currency hadn’t been allowed to become so overvalued there would have been fewer closures of British manufacturing industry and there would have been fewer people in poverty in the first place.

    Here is Vince Cable saying the pound was 15% overvalued in 2015. I’d say that was an underestimate. The overvaluation problem was even worse ten years previously. So you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say the pound was overvalued in 2015 then blame Brexit for causing it to fall. If that were the case then Brexit might be a good thing.

    It’s not clear that Brexit was the cause. It would make perfect sense from both the BoE’s and government’s POV to have used the 2016 vote as an an ‘excuse’ for pushing the pound down on the forex markets.

    https://www.foremostcurrencygroup.co.uk/sterling-overvalued-10-15-vince-cable/

  • Peter Martin 28th Jun '19 - 1:38pm

    @ Joseph B,

    Public spending today as a proportion of national income is at a similar level to what it was was immediately prior to the financial crisis and unemployment is significantly lower than in 2007…………

    And how is this “analysis” different to what we hear from the Tories all the time? You must think they still need a bit of help from Lib Dems to sell their neoliberal austerity message?

    Do you ever watch films like “I Daniel Blake”? This is how Tories get the figures they want. They treat the unemployed as inhumanely as possible to force them into working in any crap gig economy based job they can find. See David Raw’s comment 28th Jun ’19 – 10:27am. The Tories goal is to eliminate unemployment by creating a new class of underemployed who aren’t counted as employed if they only have one hour’s work per week.

    And please don’t use the argument “oh but that is how everyone else does it!” Just leave that sort of nonsense to the Tories.

  • nvelope2003 28th Jun '19 - 2:54pm

    Curious that there has been next to nothing about Vladimir Putin’s view that liberalism has passed its peak and has no future in a world where the views of the elite are treated with contempt by so many people because they do not chime with their own beliefs.
    I think that has far more relevance than endlessly going over the mistakes of the Coalition although that was a disaster for the party which could probably be leading in the polls by now as people are desperate for a change but do not want Corbyn and even Boris’s star seems to be fading fast as his manifest unsuitability becomes ever more apparent. I guess we might have to wait a few more years for anything like the present circumstances to arise again. We must seize the moment and stop dithering.

  • Joseph,

    Ed Davey said that he regrets things like the Bedroom Tax which he didn’t believe in but he thinks that Lib Dems did a great deal on mental health“.

    So why didn’t he gather the majority of our MPs to tell Nick Clegg they would vote against the bedroom tax, rather than publically defend it? And what about the benefit cap which pushed those not in work further into poverty?

    Is there any evidence that mental health provision was better in 2015 than in 2010? I think locally to me there was a huge decline because of the NHS reforms and the decisions of the local Clinical Commissioning Group to cut services provided. Even by 2010 direct access to mental health doctors were curtailed compared to 1999.

    According to Wikipedia Ed thinks of himself as an economist. Then why did he support the Coalition government deflationary policies in 2010 which led to the reported double dip recession of 2011-12. Ed as an economist should have known better and of course he should have read our 2010 manifesto where we promised not to try to reduce the deficit until the economy was strong enough.

    Both candidates talk about opportunity rather than the reality. Creating the opportunity to thrive should include ensuring no one lives in poverty in the UK, that they have the free education and training throughout their whole life and that the state is there to provide them with the help and assistance for them to meet their ambitions (not a state which makes the unemployed and the unwell jump thought hoops to get their meagre benefits or force them into unsuitable work).

    With reference to Alston have either candidate stated that they recognise work does not lead those in poverty out of it?

  • @ Peter Martin In response to my comment, “The fall in the value of the pound has already increased the cost of living for people in poverty by £400 pounds per year……” , you say ‘This is a typically British way of looking at the exchange rate.’

    Well actually it’s not. It’s a straight lift from a quote by an Australian – Professor Philip Alston, the UN Raporteur in his report on UK Poverty. If you think you know more than this distinguished gentleman than you modesty knows no bounds.

    On a personal note I took a group of people to visit Stalg Luft 111 in Poland in 2016 during the Referendum. The exchange then was 30% better than it is now….. but hey ho, Peter Martin knows best and who am I to argue.

  • @ Joe Bourke “tunnel vision typically refers to being unable to see things that are not straight in front of you.”

    Well, Joe, the Alston Report is straight in front of the two leadership candidates ….. and in front of our DWP spokesperson as well …. but not a peep in the Commons or outside it……

    Every other opposition party – Labour, SNP, Plaid, Green, Scottish Green and even the DUP have raised the matter. Why not the Lib Dems ? Could you add your voice to those who want the Report recognised and endorsed by the Liberal Democrats or do you know why it hasn’t ?

    As to your passive acceptance of the Gig economy words almost fail me. It seems Orange Bookism lives with the devil take the hindmost unregulated gig ‘free enterprise’ economy – acceptable, I suppose, more to those in a defined benefit academic occupation. Do correct me if I am wrong.

  • Edis Bevan (comment 26th @ 9:35am),

    Thanks for the link to that review of ‘Blunders of our Governments’. The reviewer notes that, “In the worst cases policy is developed by small groups of like-minded people in Whitehall who share the same set of assumptions…”

    That could have been written about how Lib Dems make policy. It’s an approach that’s self-absorbed, long on process and short on developing and integrating the political smarts that our leaders and MPs must have.

    Hence all the most recent contested leadership votes (Clegg/Huhne, Farron/Lamb and now Swinson/Davey) have really been just ‘who-talks-best’ contests for the top spokesperson. Instead of winnowing out those rising stars with the capacity to be leaders, it reduces priorities and policies to technocratic issues decided by unknown and unaccountable others, all safely divorced from politics.

    Process rules, so things that don’t quite slot into the programme like Alston or getting to grips with why the economy only works for a tiny minority are passed by in favour of motherhood and applie pie. Yes, support is up – but not by much when you consider that both major parties are intent on committing suicide. None-of-the-above rules as never before.

    So, we grind on, failing always but smugly safe in our cultural comfort-bubble and quite unable to engage with the cultural revolt against the ruling classes’ post-Thatcher/Reagan breaking of the Social Contract that is, I suspect, the real driver behind both Trump and Brexit.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jun '19 - 9:25pm

    @ David Raw,

    It’s really not possible to use an ‘argument from authority’ in connection with Economic theory. There simply isn’t a consensus to draw upon. In any case I doubt the good professor Alston would disagree with your Vince Cable when he said the pound was overvalued.

    We can all fiddle around with spreadsheets to calculate how much better or worse off we’d all be if, on the one hand, the pound rose by 10% or, on the other, fell by 10%. What the spreadsheets don’t include in their calculations is the bigger picture of change in the competitiveness of British industry.

    Yes, we all like a high pound when we go overseas on holiday. That’s because we are lucky enough to have a job which pays for that holiday. For many, though, that high pound has meant they have lost a manufacturing job which means they don’t get to go on holiday in the first place!

  • Peter Martin 28th Jun '19 - 9:52pm

    @ David Raw

    PS

    “On a personal note I took a group of people to visit Stalg Luft 111 in Poland in 2016 during the Referendum. The exchange then was 30% better than it is now….”

    Did you by any chance buy a dodgy ex-Communist era calculator? The pound was, on the 22nd June 2016, buying Euro 1.30 If it had fallen by 30% it would have fallen to only buying Euro 0.91 (0.70 x 1.3)

    Or if it had fallen so that its old value was 30% more than its later value it would have fallen to exactly parity with the euro. ie £1.00 = Euro 1.00

    Yes the £ has fallen but not by this much.

    So, at least on the subject of basic arithmetic I would claim that, yes, I do know best 🙂

  • This is a slightly “everything and the kitchen sink” thread but a few points.

    “Austerity” was as much Labour’s fault for leaving “no money” as the coalition’s. And I know their apologists say it wasn’t their fault but the banks. But if it wasn’t their fault then it definitely wasn’t ours.

    On tough things in the coalition. Yes sure – see above. Tory things that we didn’t like yes. But the idea was to govern stably, not have the financial markets meltdown with an unstable coalition and restore the finances. Arguably all of which was to the medum term benefit of the poorer.

    That we seen to have been adults and cooperative is not then is not wholly to our disadvantage now with the squabbling kids in the government and opposition.

    On public service provision, the overall arc of spending was that Labour was pretty parsimonious during is first two terms with a splurge at the end. It means that in most areas the average under the coalition was better than under Labour.

    On our fortunes, all parties face a tough time for a few years after being turfed out of office, we are no exceptions. They normally find they have more to do “drawing a line” under it than they think they do for some years. I fear despite our poll improvement we’re doing the same and need to do more. I think without the coalition we’d now be on 30% not 20%!

  • Hi Peter. Yes, a slight concession, and I enjoyed your calculator comment, but still at thirty one year nose dive :

    Pound plunges after Leave vote – BBC News
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36611512
    The London stock market dives and the pound hits its lowest level since 1985 in the wake of the UK’s … 24 June 2016 …

    Hello Joe Thanks for the essay….. but no mention of the Alston Report I notice.

    How many members of the electorate know your list by heart ?

  • Ah Peter Martin, David Raw your cheery banter is making me nostalgic for the dear old zloty!

    Agree with everyone that King and Crewe “Blunders of our Governments” is outstanding though there is not a full chapter on the Lansley “reforms” . “So big you can see it from space” the “NHS Chapter” in Matthew D’Ancona’s “In it Together” also reminds us of all the Coalition stuff on health we might rather forget.

    Watching the coverage of the (other) leadership race little has cut through. But at least we now know Ed Davey could have been a spy and Jo Swinson watches “Fleabag”!

  • Michael BG – “Austerity” was as much Labour’s fault for leaving “no money” as the coalition’s. And I know their apologists say it wasn’t their fault but the banks. But if it wasn’t their fault then it definitely wasn’t ours.” – when you followed Canada during the same period, you would know that Paul Martin, who was far from a leftist, reined in Canadian banks and blocked every single attempt to deregulate banking from the Canadian Conservatives, and thus helped his country dodged a bullet. So it was Labour’s fault and they must be held responsible. Their job was to rein in the banks and they failed.

    About party would back Jo be

  • Peter Martin 28th Jun '19 - 10:53pm

    @ Michael BG,

    ” he (Ed Davey) should have read our 2010 manifesto where we promised not to try to reduce the deficit until the economy was strong enough.”

    Maybe he helped write it in the first place! It’s one of those statements which sounds good but is really quite meaningless. If the UK lets its exchange rate float then its liable to receive influxes of hot money into the economy. This is an inflow that appears as part of the capital account. The mirror image of the current account. It’s likely to show up in the books as a govt deficit and then a debt.

    The stronger the economy the more hot money will flow in, pushing the pound up and creating deficits and debts. That’s because those putting the money in will at some future time want it back! If the inflow doesn’t create debts in the Govt sector it will in the private sector. So it’s never going to work the way the authors of the manifesto tried to make us believe it would.

  • About party leadership, I would back Jo because from my point of view, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the most pressing issue currently, on par with poverty problems, because it is about wealth creation, which is crucial for any successful attempts to reduce poverty and improve public services in the long run. We are already lagging behind the US, China, Germany, Japan and South Korea, and maybe some other countries like France as well. All/most of these countries spend much more the the UK on capital investments and R&D.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jun '19 - 11:13pm

    You raise a vital point, Gordon. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Alston Report lies not so much in his recommendations as in his Conclusion, that the British social contract derived from Beveridge has been lost, in the Government’s drive at all costs to reduce overall expenditure and “to promote employment as the principal ‘cure’ for poverty”. He contrasts the achievement of a booming economy and high levels of employment in these last years with the Government’s refusal to change course and recognise the harm that has been wreaked in consequence through the great increase in poverty and deprivation in our country.

    The restoration of the social contract is surely an overarching aim which our party is best placed to pursue. We should declare ourselves the heirs of Beveridge and demand much better in this way. It is the emotional idea to which we can tie our policies honestly, for however clunky our policy processes, we do have the policies. Beneath such a banner we could open up our treasure-box to the public, and begin to put things right.

  • @gordon

    I think its an important point on leadership and policy. I’d like leadership candidates to issue a policy manifesto or a statement of policy direction and vision.

    It’s true that in theory policy is decided by members but in practice the leader has a lot of influence and more so as we saw with clegg in a coalition or hung parliament. Even in opposition the leader has to react to events, propose things, campaign etc.

    Secondly they would win a mandate for their policy direction and therefore for it to then be implemented by the party.

    From what I have seen very little is actually being discussed in the leadership election – policy, party organisation, the new electoral landscape. I appreciate there are other avenues and opportunities but I think we may rue this complete and utter failure of nerve by the parliamentary party.

  • Thomas,

    Austerity was a choice. It was not good economics. The deficit should have been left to reduce itself as the economy grew over time. If we had not had austerity I expect the budget would have come into balance at about the same time it is now predicted to do so.

    The banking crisis was not caused by the Labour government, it started in the USA. I accept that Labour could have regulated the banks better, but I don’t recall us calling for this before 2007.

    Peter,

    In the 2010 manifesto we promised not to reduce the deficit until the economy was strong enough and to have an economic stimulus in the first year of a Lib Dem government.

    It is very clear that governments can pursue policies to reduce the deficit and they can even work.

    If the deficit had been larger and economic growth stronger from 2010 onwards it is wrong to assume that this would have automatically led to a higher valued pound.

  • Joseph Bourke 28th Jun ’19 – 9:34pm…

    I note you’ve costed the NHS bit. What about the rest of the promises?

  • Peter Martin 29th Jun '19 - 9:15am

    @ Michael BG,

    “It is very clear that governments can pursue policies to reduce the deficit and they can even work.”

    OK but when have they ever actually done that?
    Maybe the period of a falling deficit in the coalition years? That was ‘achieved’ by replacing a public deficit with a private deficit. Is that such a good idea?

    Whenever have overall debt levels fallen at the same time as the economy has done well?

    The problem for all political parties is that the electorate are generally attracted to three economic goals and so feel they have to promise them to gain votes:

    1) A high pound.
    2) Low levels of both Government and Private Debt
    3) A successful economy with low levels of unemployment.

    So if the Lib Dems want to excercise some “Leadership” they need to explain to the electorate they need to choose any two from three. They can’t have them all.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Jun '19 - 9:17am

    Thomas: the most important issue could be climate change. Many people think so. It helped us win an election in Richmond Park, agreeing with Caroline Lucas.
    The airport and surroundings at Heathrow will continue to be an issue.
    Ed Davey said we stood down (in Brighton Pavilion) and that we would do so again.
    Did you see Professor Cox’s three programmes The Planets? or catch up?
    The weather forecasts on Venus or Saturn are frightening.
    We should look after the planet we have.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Jun '19 - 9:31am

    Matt (Bristol) 27th Jun ’19 – 2:31pm
    Stephen Lloyd is not a total loss.
    He works with the Liberal Democrat controlled council in Eastbourne.
    He has a disability and a hearing aid.
    We can hope that he will take the whip again in the future.

  • “The Lib Dems could once again be in the position of kingmaker and Swinson refuses to rule out a future coalition. “

    She has, however, ruled out coalitions with either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn as PM. Based on current poll ratings, we could well get enough MPs to ‘do a Borgen’, where we get to dictate who heads the Coalition in which we participate, and this could be the Lib Dem leader. Most likely it would be a Lib Dem+Labour coalition, but with Corbyn and his circle excluded from government. The way the two traditional main parties have moved to the political extremes probably precludes a traditional coalition like the one of 2010-2015.

  • @ Richard Underhill I’m afraid I must disagree.

    How Stephen Lloyd could be the Party’s DWP spokesman and vote for Brexit given all the dire warnings from the first Alston Un Report last November about the dire effects of Brexit on poverty and inequality is beyond me. At best he was confused.

    Still not a peep about it from any of the others though.

  • Joseph Bourke 29th Jun '19 - 2:03pm

    Peter Martin.

    the impossible trinity or trilemma https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2016/09/09/what-is-the-impossible-trinity is normally discussed in terms of the exchange rate only. It says a country must choose between free capital mobility, exchange-rate management and an independent monetary policy. Only two of the three are possible.
    There are countries that combine 1) A stable currency 2) Low levels of both Government and Private Debt and 3) A successful economy with low levels of unemployment. Switerland, Sweden and Norway are three that come to mind.
    The UK’s level of private debt needs to be understood in relation to the nature of the housing market here.

  • Peter,

    Looking at ONS figures (https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/governmentpublicsectorandtaxes/publicspending/bulletins/ukgovernmentdebtanddeficitforeurostatmaast/december2018) it seems that the National Debt to GDP ratio declined from 1995/96 (44.4%) to 2001/02 (33.7%) and from 2014/15 to 2015/16 and 2016/17 (86.5%) to 2017/18 (85.3%).

    During the Coalition years the ratio increased from 69.6% in 2009/10 to 86.5% in 2014/15. If the aim was to reduce it, it was a failure.

    I believe the aim of all governments should be to keep economic growth to around 3% and this should keep unemployment levels low.

    Alex,

    I think the failure of negotiations with Labour in 2010 prove that it would be stupid to try to have as the price of joining a coalition government the changing of the leader of the other party of coalition.

    I wonder if Jo has more wriggle room for a coalition with Jeremy Corbyn by having the reason for not being in government with him is her belief he is a Brexiter? If the Labour Party changed its policy to having a referendum how could she justify her refusal to join a coalition government with him as PM? (Especially if the Labour Party policy was to campaign for Remain.)

    Perhaps a more realistic reason for not going into a coalition government is STV. Perhaps we should say we will not go into coalition unless our partners will support bringing in STV for local elections by 2023.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Jun '19 - 4:27pm

    By Ruth Bright
    May we discuss several coalitions/arrangements?
    Campaigning jointly with Tories in 1918 general election, damaged Asquithian Liberals.
    Various arrangements during 1918-1939 caused other splits, so that even after 1945 some Tories stood and were elected as ‘and National Liberal’.
    In 1951 PM W S Churchill offered one cabinet post but our leader refused.
    Jo Grimond thought about the coalition issue without a practical result.
    Thorpe wanted nothing less than proportional representation. Heath could not deliver.
    Jo Grimond again, interim and brief.
    David Steel referred to “the two ugly sisters”. Personalities matter.
    Harold Wilson against any kind of arrangement.
    In the Lib-Lab Pact PM Callaghan was approachable but delivered little or nothing that only we wanted. Steel said he did not even try for PR for the directly elected euros.
    Liberals withdrew, others insufficient, Tory motion of no confidence carried by one vote with one abstention, SNP turkeys voting for Christmas.
    1979 Tory majority, Thatcher.
    Co-operation with SDP popular. SDP first leader designated Prime Minister Designate.
    Falklands war.1983 Thatcher again.
    Roy Jenkins resigns. SDP second leader unopposed. Two Davids. Merger, SDP split.
    Thatcher forced out in tears.
    1992 John Major wins by small majority of MPs and by a few votes.
    Personalities matter. 1997 deal with Blair.
    Big gains for New Labour. Big gains for Lib Dems.
    Scots and Welsh promised no Tory MPs, achieved for one parliament.
    Fair election systems achieved for Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.
    Lib-Lab coalition in Scotland a success. STV for local government in Scotland.
    Personalities matter. Lib Dem Deputy First Minister deputises twice (now a peer).
    Blair out, Brown in. ‘Stalin to Mr. Bean.’ ‘You lot are knackered.’ Rose garden.
    AV referendum lost. Machine catches Cabinet Minister speeding. Huhne resigns.
    The Fixed Term Parliament Act is an important constitutional achievement, lasting.
    0.7% for overseas aid in law. Much higher starting threshold for standard rate income tax. Failure on financing care for the elderly. AV referendum still misunderstood, wrong ask?

  • Richard Underhill 29th Jun '19 - 4:43pm

    David Raw 29th Jun ’19 – 11:06am
    If Eastbourne were your nearest target seat in a general election would you go & help?
    If so you might meet some people from Orkney and Shetland who have.
    I have always been a committed pro-European and remain so.
    Stephen is a very good MP and deserves re-election for the good of Eastbourne people.
    Jobs given out to MPs in coalition did not always help in their constituencies.
    Blame Nick Clegg’s management of people. Say it on Facebook if you want.

  • Peter Martin 29th Jun '19 - 4:49pm

    @ Joseph B,

    A “stable currency” doesn’t necessarily mean a free floating currency. All the countries you list are large net exporters. Switzerland has a history of trying to manipulate the Swiss franc downwards. Norway is in the enviable position of having a relatively small population and large oil reserves. It stashes its surplus away in a so – called “wealth fund”. Countries running a large surplus will do this to export capital and prevent their own currencies from becoming ultra expensive.

    Sweden “has followed the managed float system since November 1992.” In other words it manipulates its currency downwards!

    https://www.finder.com/uk/the-swedish-krona?country_from=GBR&country_to=SWE&amount=5000

    @ Michael,

    The UK govt’s deficit fell from 2010 onwards. Its still possible that the National Debt ratio increased. In any case its important not to mix up deficits and total debts. The period of the coalition years was also complicated by the large scale implementation of QE and the question of whether Treasury bonds owned by the BoE should or should not be included in debt totals.

    The supposed improvement in the earlier period you mention was due to the shifting of public debt to private debt as interest rates were cut and lending deregulated as was the neoliberal fashion of their time.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Jun '19 - 4:52pm

    Joseph Bourke 29th Jun ’19 – 2:58pm
    Even the current government is subsidising “investing”, withdrawing CO2 from the air to make bicarbonate of soda.
    There must be many other ideas available.
    The last PM to be open to ideas was Churchill in 1940, in the three party coalition.

  • Richard Underhill,

    you are right to point out that personalities matter. Nick Clegg was insistent that he could not work with Gordon Brown as leader of a Lib-Lab coalition in 2010. During the coalition years, the Labour party made it clear that Nick Clegg would have to go if there was to be any future cooperation between Labour and LibDems https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/17/ed-miliband-labour-liberal-democrats-coalition
    I think in the end a certain level of humility should prevail. It is not for opposing parties to say who the leader of other parties should or should not be. If there is a hung parliament, negotiations should be on the basis of the closeness of fit with manifesto commitments rather than personal relations or hostility to the other party leader. A bit of personal disliking between the leaders of coalition partners may not be such a bad thing and aid in maintaining differentiation.

  • Paul Barker 29th Jun '19 - 6:10pm

    Perhaps we should talk about where we are now & where we might be soon. An Election “now” would probably get us 50 MPs in a hung Parliament, in practical terms not very different from where we are now – more forming alliances to try & stop Brexit.
    However, some recent “predictive” Polling suggests that an Autumn Election with Tories, Labour & LDs all keeping their present lines would see a big shift with us in the lead on 30%. That would make The LDs the largest Party in a very fractured Parliament.
    Our best option would be surely to form a Minority Government & invite Rebels in other Parties to Vote with us, issue by issue. We could Revoke Article 50 right off.
    This sort of “Predictive” Polling of the “How would you Vote if …..” type has a very poor record of actually predicting how Voters will move but it is suggestive. Other evidence suggests that New Leaders won’t make any immediate difference except to remind Voters that we are still here; the big question is if Labour stick to that Fence, another known unknown.

  • Richard Underhill. No, I’m afraid I wouldn’t. My party right or wrong is immature.

  • Alex Macfie 29th Jun '19 - 9:56pm

    Michael BG: The reasons for the failure of negotiations with Labour in 2010 were (1) the arithmetic didn’t work, and (2) Labour didn’t really want to be back in government having just lost the election. Given the lack of a Parliamentary majority for any sort of Labour-led coalition, it’s on the face of it surprising that the Lib Dem leadership took the idea as seriously as it did, and the only real purpose for the Lib Dems of talks with Labour would have been to give us more leverage in our talks with the Tories.
    However, if a future general election were to produce a hung Parliament in which a workable coalition involving Lib Dems and Labour and maybe some other groups could command a Parliamentary majority, then Labour would have an interest in agreeing to someone other than Corbyn as Prime Minister.

    Note that I did not say anything about party leader. The Prime Minister and leader of the largest party in government are separate posts. The suggestion by Ed Davey about some current Labour backbencher being a potential PM in a Government of National Unity shows that they do not have to be one and the same, and the PM does not even have to be a leader of any party at all. I’m not saying Lib Dems should tell Labour to depose Corbyn as Labour leader as condition of joining a coalition. Who is Labour’s leader is up to Labour. But Lib Dems could refuse to accept Corbyn as PM in a Labour+Lib Dem coalition government, and insist on having someone other than the Labour leader as PM. And indeed this was the Borgen scenario: Birgitte, leader of the Lib Dem equivalent Moderate party, refuses to allow the left-wing Labour leader to be PM, and instead becomes PM herself in a coalition including Labour but excluding its leader. But the Labour leader remains Labour leader for the time being.

  • Peter,

    Indeed the deficit was reduced from £141.3 billion (8.8% of GDP in 2010/11 to £43.4 billion (2.1% of GDP) in 2017/18 with £89.3 billion (5.6% of GDP) in 2014/15. So we agree it can be done.

    Alex,

    While I accept the two factors you state were important, you have ignore a third. Gordon Brown was quite keen on forming a coalition but once it was made clear that we wouldn’t support him as a long term Prime Minister he couldn’t use his influence to get enough support for a coalition. It has been said that many leading Labour MPs were more concerned about being the leader of the Labour Party than forming a coalition. History should show that it is impossible for one party to set conditions on who leads another party when negotiating a coalition.

    The 2010 coalition negotiations were initialised by the party leaders. I can’t see it being done any other way (maybe possible with the Greens and the SNP, but the Conservatives still dealt with Arlene Foster and not just the DUP leader in the House of Commons.)

    I do accept that it is possible for Parliament to elect someone other than a leader of a political party to be PM, but it would not happen following a general election and coalition negotiations. I am not convinced that a Government of National Unity could be formed during this Parliament. There is no way that Jeremy Corbyn would support a coalition government in which he was not PM if Labour were the largest party in that coalition government.

    A work of fiction – Borgen set in Denmark is not a good basis for an argument on how the UK system works.

  • Peter Martin 30th Jun '19 - 6:15am

    @ Michael BG,

    “So we agree it (the reduction of the Govt’s deficit) can be done.”

    Yes, of course, we agree it CAN . But HOW? NOT by cutting spending and raising taxes.

    It can be done by reducing the trade deficit by having a lower lower pound. It can be done by relaxing monetary policy, ie reducing interest rates, to encourage the Private sector to run a deficit instead of the Govt having to do it. Both have happened since 2010.

    You know this because you understand how the sectoral balances have to be maintained. I think prominent Lib Dem economists like Vince Cable understand it too. The question is why there’s no willingness to explain the arithmetic to the electorate.

  • David Evans 30th Jun '19 - 1:13pm

    On this David (Raw) I’m afraid I have to disagree with you. Stephen Lloyd is s good Liberal and will always be an asset ot our party and our values.

    I thinkk you miss the point when you say “How Stephen Lloyd could be the Party’s DWP spokesman and vote for Brexit given all the dire warnings from the first Alston Un Report last November about the dire effects of Brexit on poverty and inequality is beyond me. At best he was confused.” Quite simply he made a promise to the voters of Eastbourne that he would vote in favour of Brexit, because they did. And he is keeping that promise.

    I don’t know what is logic behind that decision was, but perhaps it was “The people of Eastbourne made this decision by a majority of nearly 15%. If I stand on a remain platform I will lose and we will get an MP who votes for Brexit and all the other Conservative rubbish as well. If I stand and promise I will vote leave, Eastbourne will have a Lib Dem MP who can vote against all that other Tory rubbish. Which is better?”

    Ultimately it is a question of balance – do all the good bits I help get and all the bad bits I can help stop outweigh the one thing I have to personally sacrifice, but will have zero net effect because the Tory would vote that way anyway? If he was only interested in his balance sheet on what he thought when faced with the Almighty, he might decide purity was best, but for the people of Eastbourne, perhaps he decided some wins in reality were better than total defeat on everything.

  • Yeovil Yokel 30th Jun '19 - 1:55pm

    Well said, David Evans.

  • @ David Evans Then we’ll just have to disagree, David.

    If Mr Lloyd was next door to me – thankfully he’s 500 miles away – I wouldn’t campaign for him. To say my geographical location and party label should determine who I would offer to help and support is a wafer thin argument and mischievous.

    I take the same stance Jo Grimond took when he was Party Leader and refused to campaign for and support an anti-common market Liberal candidate in a by-election…. I believe from memory it was Oliver Smedley.

    Mr Lloyd I’m sure is a very nice human being – but he has got himself in the most enormous muddle over Brexit. He trooped through the lobbies for all the austerity measures including universal credit and I’m afraid he didn’t perform at all well in opposition as DWP spokesman.

    I don’t believe in the mantra of ‘my party right or wrong’, and I don’t think you do really when you have had time to think about it. I regard the problems of poverty and inequality as of prime importance – and Brexit if it is enabled by Mr Lloyd’s vote in the lobbies will make things much worse.

  • Joseph Bourke 30th Jun '19 - 7:36pm

    As we look to the future and a potential return to government, The IPPR commission on economic justice is a useful guide and makes a wide-ranging series of recommendatios worthy of consideration https://www.ippr.org/files/2018-10/cej-final-summary.pdf:

    ” Many of the causes of the UK’s poor economic performance – particularly its weaknesses in productivity, investment and trade – go back 30 years or more.
    Economic justice needs to be ‘hard-wired’ into the way the economy works.It is not sufficient to seek to redress injustices and inequalities simply by redistribution through the tax and benefit system. They need to be tackled at source, in the structures of the economy in which they arise. These include the labour market and wage bargaining, the ownership of capital and wealth, the governance of firms, the operation of the financial system and the rules that govern markets.
    Our 10-part plan includes far-reaching but achievable measures to:
    • promote ‘ investment-led growth’ by raising public investment, holding down house price inflation and reducing the incentives that currently favour short-term shareholder returns over long-term productive investment
    • rebalance the economy through ‘new industrialisation’, away from an over-dependence on the finance sector towards a more diverse array of manufacturing and other innovative, export-oriented industries, located right across the country
    • give workers greater bargaining power, making it easier for trade unions to negotiate on their behalf to achieve higher productivity and to share its rewards fairly through better wages and conditions and reduced working time
    • pursue ‘managed automation’, accelerating the adoption of new technologies across the economy and ensuring that workers share in the productivity gains and are helped to retrain
    • promote open markets which reduce the near-monopoly power of dominant companies, particularly in the digital economy, and make data available to promote innovation for social good
    • spread wealth more widely in society, both by widening ownership of capital and through fairer forms of wealth and corporate taxation.”

  • christopher moore 30th Jun '19 - 7:37pm

    Regarding Stephen Lloyd, he’s been an outstanding constituency MP, with a large personal vote in Eastbourne as a result.

    There are several issues I don’t personally agree with him about; nonetheless I believe in tolerance of dissent within the party, even on our approach to Brexit.

    It’s surprising how many Leave voters DID vote Lib Dem in the recent locals and Euro Elections.

  • @ Martin ” I am not sure how this thread got into the Stephen Lloyd debacle.”

    It was the usual Richard Underhill off piste zinger distraction, Martin. He asked me, “If Eastbourne were your nearest target seat in a general election would you go & help?”

    My answer was, “No”.

  • Innocent Bystander 30th Jun '19 - 8:16pm

    Joe,
    Has Sooty agreed to lend you his magic wand?
    What do you think governments all across the western world (including ours) have been trying to do for decades (without any success)?
    What will be different from the efforts of the NEDC (prop. H. Wilson 1962) and countless near identical efforts since?
    All have disappointed.
    Were the people running those intellectually inferior to today’s generation of political thinkers so we will succeed when they failed?
    Could there be deeper, and more disturbing, problems underlying our woes?
    Or will yet another dose of ‘promoting, pursuing and rebalancing’ somehow work this time?

  • Joseph Bourke 30th Jun '19 - 8:56pm

    Innocent Bystander,

    every new generation has to confront the problems and issues of its times. Brexit is a particular UK issue, but there are wider and deeper disruptions on the horizon that cannot be avoided. Globalisation is here to stay as a vast new middle class develops in asia and africa and the balance of advantage in terms of trade shift from the west to the east and south. Demographic changes will see the number of those aged 75+ increase by one-third within a decade. The so calle 4th industrial revolution will see many routine jobs replaced with robotics and AI aplications. Finally and perhaps most importantly, climate change and environmental sustainability will force rapid changes in energy and raw material sources and consumption.
    If the political system is to be any use to this generation, these challenges have to be confronted. The IPPR report notes:
    “The UK economy is not working. It is no longer delivering rising living standards for a majority of the population. Average earnings have stagnated for more than a decade – even while economic growth has occurred. Too many people are in insecure jobs; young people are set to be poorer than their parents; the nations and regions of the UK are diverging further. As more and more people feel economically disenfranchised, the political consequences are being felt across society.
    Fundamental reform has happened twice before in the last century following periods of crisis – with the Attlee government’s Keynesian reforms in the 1940s and the Thatcher government’s free market reforms in the 1980s. Ten years after the financial crash, change of this magnitude is needed again.
    It used to be thought that prosperity and economic justice were in conflict; we had to choose one or other but could not have both. The international evidence now points in precisely the opposite direction. A more equal economy generates stronger and more stable growth, lower social costs and greater wellbeing. Both economics and morality argue for an economy which achieves prosperity and justice together. “

  • I am afraid that I agree with Martin and David Raw.
    Mr Lloyd is doing his best to prove he’s not a Liberal. I argued in a post some time ago that he should consider the words of Edmund Burke when he said he owed his electors his judgement and he should not sacrifice his judgement to their opinion.
    No doubt there will be some fudge on this, but if Mr Lloyd does want to take the LibDem whip again he really must stop this nonsense about Brexit and support the overwhelming party line that it is bad for Eastbourne and bad for the country.
    Quite frankly he is doing his constituents a disservice following the line he does.

  • Peter,

    Hopefully you will recall my example from last week, which had Savings minus Investment of 0.5, Taxation minus Government spending of -8, and Imports minus Exports of 6, this was a “snap shot” of the economy when it was not in equilibrium. When equilibrium was reached S – I was 0.58824, T – G was – 7.29412 and M – X was 6.70588.

    I do not accept that the sectoral balances have to balance all the time. I only accept that they balance when the economy is in equilibrium.

    I think MMT believe that having a private sector deficit is a bad thing and leads to recessions. I wonder if these recessions could be avoided if the government sets economic growth as its target. Then when economic growth is declining the government would increase its own deficit to maintain economic growth and so avoid a recession.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Jul '19 - 2:10am

    Joe, I find your lists rather useful. When I first read the ten-point plan of the IPPR which you posted I thought it was a recap of our own party policies, so appealing it was. Can you please let us know how far our policies do relate to this? I feel particularly despondent about the way wealth is spent on city investments and buying property as an asset to be bought and sold rather than as part of housing provision, instead of wealth being used for investment in industry or infrastructure which could provide jobs and increase productivity, as you have suggested elsewhere. Do we have any policies as well as Land Value Taxation to help remedy this? The first of the ten-point IPPR plan doesn’t explain how the ‘investment-led growth’ is to be attained, but perhaps the full plan develops their ideas. Would you like to see our policies develop further along these lines?

  • Joe Bourke – “pursue ‘managed automation’, accelerating the adoption of new technologies across the economy and ensuring that workers share in the productivity gains and are helped to retrain” – we should ensure that “managed automation” will never end up restraining the growth of automation, because even if our industries double the use of automation, we still lag far behind Germany, Japan, the US and South Korea. We must also kickstart and nurture our indigenous British robotic manufacturing sector, which we currently don’t have, to take full advantage of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. This cannoy be achieved without a *vertical, sector-based, industrial policy*.

    Joe Bourke – “• promote ‘ investment-led growth’ by raising public investment, holding down house price inflation and reducing the incentives that currently favour short-term shareholder returns over long-term productive investment
    • rebalance the economy through ‘new industrialisation’, away from an over-dependence on the finance sector towards a more diverse array of manufacturing and other innovative, export-oriented industries, located right across the country”
    Fully agree. Our total investment (public + private) as percentage of GDP should be increased to over 21%.

    Michael BG, Joe Bourke -https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/grossdomesticproductgdp/articles/ananalysisofinvestmentexpenditureintheukandotherorganisationforeconomiccooperationanddevelopmentnations/2018-05-03
    Currently, the level of investment as percentage of GDP in the UK is just 2.9% for public sector and 14% for private sector, well below OECD average figures (3.5% and 17.9%), according to ONS data. My target will be increase public investment to 3.5-4% and private investment to at least 18% of GDP.

    I would also accept some form of currency manipulation to assist our exporters if necessary.
    Pushing for export-led economic model also has far greater positive impact than just influencing the 4 components of Aggregate Demand. Most academic research shows that involvement in export also significantly improves firms’ organizational efficiency and productivity, they are generally far more productive than businesses which only operate in domestic market.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jul '19 - 6:48am

    @Michael BG,

    I would say you’re mistaken in your belief that the sectoral balances only balance when the economy is in equilibrium. If you look up Steve Keen on the subject you’ll find that he’s saying that the idea of an equilibrium is highly questionable in any case. The earth’s atmosphere is an example of a system which is never in equilibrium. This makes predicting the weather difficult – but not impossible over a short term.

    I’m not quite sure what what you’re saying your numerical examples show. In both cases the Govt is running what most would consider to be a sizeable deficit largely to support a trade imbalance. The MMT line is that there’s nothing wrong with that. I take a slightly more nuanced view. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with the trade deficit is everyone accepted there almost certainly had to be a govt deficit to fund it. In the absence of such acceptance then the only logically course is to ‘manage’ the currency, Swedish style, to ensure that trade approximately balances.

    @ Innocent Bystander, @ JoeB @ Thomas

    “Has Sooty agreed to lend you his magic wand?”

    Yes very good!

    The idea that Governments can somehow legislate for “managed automation” is odd especially coming from a Liberal Democrat. If you are to look up fruit picking robots on youtube you’ll see marvellous examples of the available technology. But it’s not cheap.

    So if I’m an apple grower, am I likely, out of the kindness of my heart, to spend on robots and other “adoption of new technologies” and “ensuring that workers share in the productivity gains and are helped to retrain” ?

    I’d say probably not! Sure, I’ll get a quote and then put some numbers in a spreadsheet and do my best to calculate the overall costs and the likely benefits. The decision will hinge on the level of workers’ wages. If they are high I’ll go for the automation. If they are low then I won’t.

    As usual, the mainstream have things the wrong way around. It isn’t the introduction of automation that leads to higher wages. It’s the high wages that leads to the introduction of automation.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jul '19 - 8:41am

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “Mr Lloyd is doing his best to prove he’s not a Liberal.”

    It looks like you’re saying its totally verboten to be a Eurosceptic and have liberal opinions too. I’m probably to the left of the Lib Dems but I’m as liberal as anyone. ON questions of race, sexual orientation, the right to free speech etc then my answers will tick all the right boxes.

    But let’s look at the last one. Free speech. Is anyone speaking out against the EU excluding themselves from membership of the Lib Dems? What about evidence based discussion?

    We’re likely to see a huge fight break out shortly between the EU and Italy on the question of spending and the introduction of a parallel currency which will present some difficult questions for supposed Liberals. The so-called Liberal Mark Rutte of the Netherlands is calling for the EU to take a hard line with Italy with the imposition of muti- billion euro fines.

    How is this supposed to help a struggling economy? If the Italians want to introduce a parallel currency why aren’t they free to do so? If they want to borrow more on the open money markets then why not? How does a requirement for ultra strong central control fit square with the Lib Dems desire to devolve power away to the regions?

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-28/rutte-says-the-eu-must-intervene-over-italy-s-public-finances

  • christopher moore 1st Jul '19 - 11:27am

    @Peter Martin 1st Jul ’19 – 8:41am
    @ Mick Taylor,
    “Mr Lloyd is doing his best to prove he’s not a Liberal.”

    Hi Peter, as I’ve said before,

    I agree with you very strongly about this.

    It’s perfectly possible to be liberal and a Eurosceptic. It should also be possible to be Eurosceptic and a Lib Dem.

    I am myself a Remainer, but share some of your often expressed crticisms of the EU.

    As I mentioned above, Stephen Lloyd has been an outstanding constituency MP. His desire to try to take on board the views of the majority of his consituents – different to his own – on Brexit seems typical of the man. He should be warmly welcomed back into the Commons’ Whip, when he so wishes.

  • Thomas,

    Thanks for the information about the level of investment in the UK, which is 16.4% of GDP. The latest figures seem to be 2015 where Government investment was 2.6% of GDP leaving 13.8% for private investment. (I couldn’t see a split of the 16.7% of the first quarter of 2017.) If we put these figures in my Keynesian equitation we get Investment 13.8%, Government spending is about 38% and Exports about 31% (which is lower than I thought) leaving 17.2% for domestic consumption.

    Peter,

    I agree the economy is unlikely to ever be in equilibrium. Therefore the sectoral balances are unlikely to actually balance.

    With regard to Stephen Lloyd, I recall we once prided ourselves that elected representatives of our party do not have to always support party policy. With regard to him standing as a Liberal Democrat in a snap election, I am not aware that taking the party whip is necessary. Being a party member is and being an approved candidate is. I think he would still meet these requirements.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jul '19 - 3:25pm

    @ Michael BG,

    “Therefore the sectoral balances are unlikely to actually balance.”

    Take a look at this the graph about half way down this page. The sectoral balances do indeed always balance!

    Why do you think they don’t? Do you have a reference?

    https://gimms.org.uk/fact-sheets/sectoral-balances/

    @ christopher moore,

    I probably should keep out of the Stephen Lloyd discussion. The LibDems have become essentially the party of Remain. It must be very difficult for any Eurosceptics still left in your ranks. I’m not sure if I can recommend the Labour Party as being any more tolerant. If JC is deposed, as is entirely possible, then it certainly won’t be.

  • christopher moore 1st Jul '19 - 4:10pm

    Martin 1st Jul ’19 – 3:51pm
    I note no one has answered who anti-Brexit voters should vote for in Eastbourne.

    They should vote for Stephen Lloyd. He’s a Remainer and will argue for Remain in the campaign.

    He’s not in favour of a No-Deal Brexit. And would not vote for that in the Commons.

    What his position will be re any putative future deal with the EU, he will doubtless make clear during the election campaign.

  • christopher moore 1st Jul '19 - 4:14pm

    @ Peter Martin The LibDems have become essentially the party of Remain. It must be very difficult for any Eurosceptics still left in your ranks.

    Well, at a local party level, I believe there’s far more tolerance in practice than you’d imagine from many of the intolerant remarks on LDV.

    What’s more, at the Euro elections, we had a fair amount of support from 2016 Leave voters.

    I presume some of those had changed their view on Brexit; but others voted Lib Dem for other reasons.

  • David Evans 1st Jul '19 - 4:29pm

    David (Raw), Perhaps we will have to just disagree, but I am afraid you do seem to be confusing someone else’s comments with mine.

    Firstly you say “To say my geographical location and party label should determine who I would offer to help and support is a wafer thin argument and mischievous”, except I never suggested you should do so, perhaps someone else was promoting that wafer thin argument and being mischievous, but it wasn’t me.

    Secondly you say “Mr Lloyd I’m sure is a very nice human being – but he has got himself in the most enormous muddle over Brexit,” but I put forward a totally logical and unmuddled scenario as a possible explanation for his position, which you haven’t addressed at all. You may believe he is wrong, irrespective of my proposition, but it certainly isn’t a muddled viewpoint.

    Next you say “I don’t believe in the mantra of ‘my party right or wrong’, and I don’t think you do really when you have had time to think about it,” when as you know I have been one of the most consistent and vociferous commenters over many years pointing out the massive errors and illiberal things our parliamentarians supported both in coalition and afterwards.

    You have also missed an important point in Stephen’s past, the simple fact that he voted against the increase in Tuition fees, and indeed said the party “should have died in a ditch” to defend their position on it. Perhaps he is a politician who believes in keeping his promises. Indeed he is one of only two Lib Dem MPs left who voted against Tuition Fees. Of course if all our MPs had listened to him at the time and voted with him, David Cameron wouldn’t have been able to destroy us anything like as effectively as he did, and there would not even have been a Brexit referendum.

    He is a good Liberal, but like every one of us he is not a perfect one, but I would support him without hesitation.

  • chris moore 1st Jul '19 - 4:35pm

    David Evans 1st Jul ’19 – 4:29pm He is a good Liberal, but like every one of us he is not a perfect one, but I would support him without hesitation.

    He’s a good Liberal and a brilliant constituency MP, as well as being a very kind individual.

    He’s a credit to the party.

  • According to the latest YouGov poll 19% of Lib Dem voters are “Leave” whilst 20% of Con
    voters are Remain. Why is there any discussion ref the MP for Easbourne he apparently represents 19% of us. Eastbourne is a Lib Dem success area locally and nationally, not least because of him. I am a solid and emphatic Remainer but ask that he be left alone, as David Evans points out his record on Tuition Fees is better than our present two candidates for leadership!

  • Joseph Bourke 2nd Jul '19 - 1:36am

    Thomas,

    The IPPR economic justice commission analysis dovetails with your views.
    “New technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics have raised anxieties that increasing automation will destroy large number of jobs. But past experience of automation is that, while many jobs change, many others are created as productivity and incomes rise. The greater risk is of growing inequality, as the rewards from automation flow to the owners of capital in profits, rather than to workers in wages. Lower-skilled workers may especially lose out.Though strong in technology start-ups, the UK lags far behind other developed countries in adopting automating technologies. To avoid falling further behind we need to embrace ‘managed automation’ – accelerating the uptake of new technologies to boost productivity, while ensuring that the rewards are shared with workers, and protecting and retraining those whose jobs are lost. This will require new social partnerships between employers and trade unions, at both firm and sector level.”
    That is, I believe, advocating a ‘vertical, sector-based, industrial policy’.

  • Joseph Bourke 2nd Jul '19 - 1:47am

    Katherine,

    the IPPR report explains:
    “The UK economy has an unbalanced model of growth. It is overly reliant on household consumption, much of it based on ever-rising property prices and excessive household debt. At around 17 per cent of GDP, public and private investment is around 4 per cent below the developed country average. The stock of business capital is falling and R&D investment is lower than our peers. Low investment has several causes, including excessive short-termism among major companies and financial markets; a banking sector overly focused on lending for land and property rather than to businesses; and insufficient demand in the economy. To move to an investment-led growth model will require reforms to corporate governance and the regulation of the finance sector, and a larger role for public investment, particularly in providing ‘patient capital’.
    Despite some world-leading sectors, the UK economy is internationally uncompetitive. We have had a trade deficit (imports greater than exports) for 20 years, and in 15 of them it has exceeded 1.5 per cent of GDP. In 2017 it was the largest of all G7 countries. Sterling has been kept high by capital inflows from overseas; its value has reflected and supported the success of the UK’s financial sector, but damaged manufacturing, which now makes up just 10 per cent of the economy’s gross value added. To improve our international competitiveness we need to diversify and expand our innovation-leading and exporting sectors. This will require what we call ‘new industrialisation’: the development of innovation-based industrial clusters across the UK, anchored around our universities. This should form the central aim of a more active industrial strategy. A new National Investment Bank is needed to provide long-term finance to help build successful start-up companies into major exporting businesses. ”
    This mirrors closely the basis of Libdem economic policy around public investment and R&D, regional investment and state directed seed capital via development of the British business bank and green investment bank.

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Jul '19 - 12:12pm

    Thanks, Joseph, it’s good to be reminded that Liberal Democrat economic policy does mirror the IPPR demands, so that we will seek much more public investment including regional investment and more R&D, fostered by;the enhanced British business bank and by the green investment bank that we want. But I know that the green investment bank established when Vince Cable was Business Minister in the Coalition was subsequently sold off by the Conservative Government. Can it be re-established? Our 2017 Manifesto called for the setting up of a British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank, so perhaps we need more clarity on which banking institutions we wish to see developed to provide the necessary seed capital for growth.

    It is in any case to be hoped that Sir Vince continues to be the strong voice for a better (and much needed) economic and industrial strategy, not only within our party, but within whatever influential role our party attains in the forthcoming re-alignment of parties in the British government.

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Jul '19 - 1:21pm

    It’s becoming increasingly likely that no Party will have a majority following the next General Election. Let’s prepare for that eventuality. Electoral and constitutional reform must be a red line for helping any other form a government.

  • Joe Bourke – the short-term solution to boost automation is obviously to import robots from Germany, Japan… However, we must think long-term, which means we must have policies to develop a domestic automation industry. The situation here is that any British automation industry would be “a weak, new industry facing competition from foreign giants” a.k.a an infant industry having to gain ground against Japanese/German domination. In other words, some forms of protectionism in line with Alexander Hamilton or Friedrich List must be adopted, for example, subsidies/preferential loans for robot manufacturers, state/national bank investments in building up industrial capacity… You cannot grow an infant industry without protectionism, especially when larger, more powerful established first movers already exist (Japan, Germany…).

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jul '19 - 8:36pm

    @ JoeB,

    “Despite some world-leading sectors, the UK economy is internationally uncompetitive.”

    No it isn’t. We’ve heard this sort of bland statement for years. It was said just as often in the 60’s. Since then our economy has grown threefold? So how have we done that if we are so uncompetitive? It’s a stale excuse. Can’t we have some new thinking?

    You yourself have made the argument that the UK economy is running close to full capacity. So how can that be if it is “uncompetitive”? You can’t have it both ways.

    I’ve argued with you about that. So the ‘lack of competitiveness’ theme might appear to suit my POV better than yours but even so I’m rejecting it. The main problem isn’t one of competitiveness. It’s mostly one of aggregate demand. Raise that and the economy will grow. Wages will rise. Employers won’t want to pay the higher wages so they’ll be more inclined to spend on automation. We’ll return to our pre 2008 growth levels in productivity. As always we have to recognise that if we try to achieve too rapid an improvement we can have an inflation problem. That’s the only constraint.

  • Mark Seaman 2nd Jul '19 - 11:34pm

    @Thomas … agree with your comment 100%. The move towards robots and associated automation will happen, and unless the UK has its own industry to provide this, we will face a perpetual balance of payments crisis and not have the means to implement a Universal Basic Income system. The EU rules will not let us take the route to build such an industry with government intervention, and the private sector does not care about what nation it’s good are made in.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jul '19 - 6:41am

    @ Mark Seaman,

    Just on a point of information: You can’t have a balance of payments problem if the currency freely floats. Money flows in and out of the country are usually considered in terms of the capital and current accounts which should balance.

    If the two tend towards imbalance the currency’s exchange rate will move on the forex markets to rectify it. However, when the government tries to fix or guarantee the value of the currency this movement is disallowed. Any resultant imbalance is then termed a balance of payments problem.

  • Peter,

    It is a very pretty graph but it has no references to any data. I think the private sector figure is assumed from the other figures, as no one can know how much is being saved, including that which is saved in cash.

    You made some good points on 2nd July at 8.36 pm. I think I read somewhere that we export more to most countries than we import accept for countries in the EU. However we do have an investment issue compared to Germany and it is recognised we don’t spend enough on R & D. The Liberal Democrats recognise the first and have come up with a possible solution, which I think the Labour Party also has.

  • clive english 4th Jul '19 - 6:24pm

    Starkey is an historian only in his own and certain TV companies imaginations, who thinks that history is a record of the doings of Monarchs and heir hangers on, but who is completely ignorant of the role of economics, culture or wider social factors in shaping history. About the only person he compares favourably too as an historian is Rees-Mogg, but he comes from the same very limited perspective in which only the White Aristocracy have any relevance. I would worry if this individual ever endorsed us.

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