Liberal Democrats and Socialists: can we form a progressive alliance?

Last Thursday Clive Lewis a Labour MP was the first non-Liberal Democrat to give the Social Liberal Forum’s Beveridge lecture (you can access it HERE ) entitled ’21st-century progressive alliances & political re-alignment’. Clive Lewis called for ‘a progressive alliance of the mind’, involving individuals, campaigns and movements. After outlining the great challenges facing us all today, he said that there is a crisis of democracy in our country, with people turning to the wrong solutions such as Brexit and populism.

“Liberalism”, Clive continued, “is a powerful political philosophy with important things to say about individual freedom, democratic politics and the market economy and about how these interact” (time stamp in the video: 23.18). But he said that much conservative and liberal propaganda claims socialists want to snuff out the freedom of selfish individualism and mould it into a perfect collective (27.59), as a kind of Socialist ‘Borg’ (antagonists of Star Trek) wanting to assimilate liberalism. He said this was not true as “Most Socialists want to find ways of allowing more people to benefit from and have a say in the management of the co-operative processes in which they are already engaged in almost every aspect of their lives. That sounds remarkably like freedom and equality to me” (28.38).

He said, “It is the Neo-liberals who are the Borg”. “Neo-liberalism puts the market economy above everything else, including individual freedom and democratic politics. Neo-liberalism urges freedom and democracy only if they support the market economy, and if they don’t, then, it will use the state to curtail both.”

His outlook did not appear optimistic. He said, “Enlightenment Europe with all its notions of reason, rationalism and progress had embarked on a programme of genocide, slavery and brutal empire” (31.04). Yet the philosophies of both Socialism and Liberalism were based on Enlightenment thinking. The philosopher’s defined modern humanity in the context of western Christian thought had little idea of how most humans lived and saw them as inferior. He continued, “How else do we explain the fine words of the US constitution that ‘all men are created equal’ but then watched the growth of African slavery and genocide of American indigenous peoples?” (32.51). Nowadays, with regard to the climate-change crisis, we still think in a colonial manner, not considering where the natural resources are coming from and the effects of getting them on the native populations. “Even Beveridge’s welfare state and the NHS, the core of Socialists’ and Liberals’ pride, was only achieved because of the vast wealth and resources taken from the Empire” (34.44).

He drew some comfort from people having realised in the COVID crisis that lives did come before profit. He said he wanted to end his lecture talking about the politics of hope, making “An appeal to the shared tradition of the social liberal and the socialist who work alongside each other and builds the welfare state, to the common values embedded in our collective institutions, most obviously the NHS, to our principled commitment to defending the human rights of all” (43.05). There must be “a radical commitment to freedom and equality for all” (43.26).

In a further article, we will consider Clive’s lecture in the context of Liberal Democrat history and our present moves to build on the Beveridge legacy.


* Michael Berwick-Gooding is a Liberal Democrat member in Basingstoke and has held various party positions at local, regional and English Party level. Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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  • I don’t think so.

    1) I do not consider Socialism to be progressive. I like Clive Lewis generally but he’s not a Liberal. I’m sure his views are genuinely held and where it is in our interest we should work with MPs like him to further shared objectives.

    2) Any talk of a “progressive alliance” invariably boils down to whether you think we should be subservient to the Labour party because that is the political reality. If Labour wanted a progressive alliance in UK politics they would have opposed FPTP.

  • @ Andrew T. You illustrate the problem with the post 2010 Liberal Democrats…… kneejerk anti-socialism…. a similar disease finished off the Liberal Party in 1924……. though the 2020 Starmer Labour Party, and Clive Lewis in particular, aren’t particularly died in the wool old fashioned socialists.

    As to being “subservient to the Labour party”, it didn’t stop the now Dearly Departed Leaders of the 2010 Lib Dem Party being subservient to the Conservative Party for five years did it ?

    Unfortunately for the Lib Dems, the clock ticks on and the world moves on, increasingly without them.

  • John Marriott 5th Aug '20 - 6:50pm

    My experience of dealing with ‘socialists’, if that’s what Labour supporters want to call themselves, is not very encouraging. It’s OK on their terms. Paddy Ashdown thought that Blair was his soulmate, until the latter won the 1997 General Election by a landslide.

    It would appear that neither author of this article has ever been a councillor. Please correct me if I am wrong. From my experience of 30 years as a councillor, trying to work with ‘socialists’ is often like wrestling with treacle. Labour still sees itself at national and local level as the natural if not the ONLY alternative to the Tories.

    Clive Lewis may be genuine in his desire for some kind of cooperation. I guess that David Cameron was as well. However FPTP means that the Lib Dems would probably for ever be destined to be the junior partner, ‘das Zünglein auf der Waage’ as the Liberal FDP used to be called in Germany (something that used to tip the scales between the Christian and the Social Democrats) – and that when you have PR. We don’t and neither Tory or Labour is going to give up their chances of getting an overall majority.

    I’m sorry to be such a damp squib; but unless we get PR in some form, getting any form of alliance that could last any length of time at whatever level is just wishful thinking.

  • Cancel my membership if we join a coalition with Labour with Lewis as a Minister.

  • @ Paul “Cancel my membership if we join a coalition with Labour with Lewis as a Minister”.

    Was that your position when the party went into Coalition with the Conservative Party in 2010, Paul, or do you simply reserve that position for a Starmer/Lewis Coalition ?

    Please do tell because your answer will be most revealing.

  • Richard Easter 5th Aug '20 - 9:09pm

    It’s clear that the party is still divided as to whether it is centre right “neoliberal” or centre left “social democratic”. Working with Starmer and Lewis in some sort of anti-Tory agreement is fine in my book – but it appears to be a deal with the devil for some, who would no doubt jump enthusiastically into bed with Tory wets, or even the likes of Grayling.

  • Am so, so, tired and bored with hysteria from those who take offence with people who intend none. If you can’t listen to people who stretch out a hand for discussion, or contrive to take offence with an extreme misinterpretation so national broadcasters pick it up from this website, (like in an article a few weeks back) just how robust are your professed liberal values?
    Different political groups frequently get over-tribal, and there are often excitable or scheming types to be found in Westminster, and councils across the UK.
    This Social Liberal Forum’s Beveridge lecture sounds very interesting, with the Labour MP Clive Lewis- who has recently stood out in advocating Westminster Electoral Reform to PR- speaking at the event with interesting arguments, and acknowledges the differences between Socialist and Liberal traditions, while pointing out how both can sometimes be caricatured towards their dogmatic tribal extremes, which doesn’t help either Labour or LibDems electorally. I’m grateful to the article contributors for sharing what was said at this event here.

  • James Belchamber 5th Aug '20 - 10:16pm

    I found this article meandered a little. But on the initial question: Yes, quite easily.

    Socialists can also be Liberal – indeed, there are many party members that are both Democratic Socialists (or Market Socialists) and Liberals. Achieving greater (and more equitable) liberty through the democratising of the means of production seems like a valid tool for approaching the inequity of our current economic system.

    I think the problem here is two-fold: one, that Liberals are seduced by fear-mongering stories of “Socialists” marching in and seizing what is “rightfully owned” by someone or other. This is honestly a little silly – while some Socialists certainly do harbour fantasies of armed struggle, most want a democratic and gradual approach (it’s worth noting here that Socialists entertain similarly fantastical ideas of Liberals, part of an endless and vicious cycle of demonising each other – and dividing the left).

    The second part of the problem is that Liberals simply hold a more holistic conception of freedom – this leads us to champion other causes that are not in the perspective of a Socialist, to add requirements to policies that simply aren’t Socialist requirements, and to dilute progress towards more purely Socialist achievements. This is frustrating to a Socialist that is not also a Liberal, as well as to a Liberal that is not a Socialist (and for what it’s worth, I fit in that latter category. I don’t think Democratic Socialism is evil or anything, but I don’t think it’s the best approach to solving our economic inequities).

    But it would be better if we had to work together – to plot a course that satisfies more of us, and that we can then sell to the public as a unified vision. I would rather horse-trade policies with a Socialist than a Conservative anyway (though mapping that to political parties isn’t always perfect).

    It is a reality in the UK that the Labour party holds the keys to a healing of the divided left. We would work better (at least, in the current political system) if we were all in the same tent trying to achieve broadly the same goals (and we would be better able to marginalise our respective kooks).

    But it’s in their hands.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Aug '20 - 10:18pm

    Thanks for these early comments, everyone. John Marriott, I haven’t myself been a councillor (being latterly the other sort, a counsellor), but Michael certainly has, for several years. I expect it is as you say far from easy, but I suppose there are some successes in NOC areas as well as when we hold control. We do of course need electoral reform, not forgetting the reform of the House of Lords which Boris Johnson is helping to make look ridiculous, but I suppose even more imperative for progressives of every party is sustaining diminished local authority services.

    Richard Easter, I do believe that our party is now predominantly centre-left, with neo-liberalism successfully abandoned. It should make working with moderate Labourites easier. Although some will always distrust us, so will some Lib Dems refuse to have anything to do with Labour, as David Raw highlights. I believe we have to try working together, as the Social Liberal Forum which Michael and I have joined evidently advocates.

  • Peter Martin 5th Aug '20 - 10:44pm

    It would make more sense for both parties to concentrate on why they have ended up losing much of their traditional support base. The Labour Party has seen a declining vote share in its traditional heartlands over a number of elections. An alliance with the Lib Dems won’t help to reverse that trend. Former Labour voters in Stoke and Leigh, not to mention former voters in the whole of Scotland, aren’t going to come back to the fold because of some “progressive alliance” with the Lib Dems. The same is true for Lib Dems. Labour can’t do much to help you recover former strongholds in Devon and Cornwall.

    Just maybe, at some time in the future, when both parties have figured out what they need to do to get their former voters back from the Tories and Nationalists it might make sense to have a discussion about an alliance. It’s not going to make any difference at present.

  • Many thanks to the authors for sharing this interesting SLF lecture. Clive Lewis is not a tribal ‘Labourite’, but an intelligent, independent-minded and principled Libertarian Socialist with a genuine commitment to pluralist politics, as well as electoral and political reform. As such, there is a legitimate debate as to the optimal balance between liberty, equality and community – as well as considerable common ground with Social Liberalism – that can usefully be explored with him and others of his open and democratic persuasion.

    Unless/until we can finally secure an end to FPTP, “progressives“ in all parties will need to work together much more effectively in the current parliament than the last in order to achieve shared political objectives – and also to ensure the defeat of Johnson’s Tories at the next General Election. Anything that promotes such cross-party understanding and cooperation should therefore be welcomed.

  • I think most voters see Starmer as a fairly decent man and perhaps a pact with Labour is a good idea. However, you need to stay well away from Lewis and other Corbyn supporters. You will not win the Tory seats you need if you are seen sharing a platform with the likes of Lewis.

  • Thank you everyone who has posted a comment, especially the supportive ones of David Raw, Richard Easter, James Belchamber and Sean Hagan.

    Andrew T,

    Did you actually watch and listen to Clive Lewis’ lecture? Clive Lewis says he believes that to be a progressive a person has to answer yes to these two questions?

    Are you prepared to challenge economic self-interest in favour of the common good?
    Do you think our political problems come from too little not too much democracy?

    We should conclude that he can answer yes to them. Therefore Andrew T do you think liberals should not work with people who can say yes to these questions?

    John Marriott,

    As Katharine said I was a borough councillor. This was in the 1990s winning my seat from the Labour Party, and when we setup a joint administer the year after I was elected. So I have worked with Labour councillors. Later I was part of some negotiations with Labour on a couple of matters and these were very difficult. I do have experience of how difficult it is to work or try to work with members of the Labour Party.

    Clive Lewis’ talk was about finding common ground. There is clearly common ground, but even Clive accepts some Labour members want nothing to do with any Liberals.


    Why would going into coalition with the Labour Party under Keir Starmer with Clive Lewis as a minister be any worse than going into a coalition with Theresa May, Iain Duncan Smith, Andrew Lansley, Michael Gove and Eric Pickles?

    James Belchamber,

    You say, “meandered”, I say, “covered a lot of ground” as did Clive Lewis’s lecture :).

  • There was the Lib-Lab pact, but generally Labour isn’t interested in forming alliances.

  • Richard Easter,

    You make valid points. If we do take the route of trying to work with the Labour Party down to and beyond the next general election this would mean that the party would have not only rejected many of the policies enacted by the Coalition government but hopefully rejected economic liberalism.

    Peter Martin,

    Indeed, both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats need to address the issues raised in their general election review reports. However, if someone in either party believes that we must get rid of this Conservative government at the next general election, then I believe they need to recognise that some working together will be needed. After 1992 this was recognised and we should be looking to see what worked then and seeing if we can replicate that.

    Sean Hagan,

    Clive Lewis said during the lecture that many Labour Party members support PR because they want to “change the unfair electoral system we currently have, which holds back our chances of success, it is also because, a change of voting system, will, we believe, help foster a cultural change within central left political parties” (39.23).

  • No.

  • Peter Martin 6th Aug '20 - 6:56am

    ” if someone in either party believes that we must get rid of this Conservative government…”

    Of course we both would like to. But just wishing isn’t going to make it happen. First of all we need to know how to count and then add up the figures.

    The latest polling puts the Tories on about 44% with Labour on 35% and the Lib Dems on 8%. So even adding the two figures together won’t be enough. That’s never going to happen anyway. You only need to read the comments on LDV to know that the second choice of Lib Dem supporters is just as likely to be the Tories as Labour.

    So it’s all pointless unless the vote share of both parties is increased. The first step to doing that is to get back to some meaningful politics and stop harping on about Brexit. The voters have had enough of that.

    The voters also have had enough of their parties telling them what to think. There needs to be more listening. That’s what democracy actually involves. There is a tendency by leading politicians of both parties to dismiss anything they don’t like as ‘populism’. Of course, if they do that too much, they end up being not very popular themselves. Not very popular quickly translates into unelectable.

  • Richard Easter 6th Aug '20 - 7:07am

    Having read Starmer’s 10 pledges, I can’t personally see anything remotely controversial there. It’s also clear that Starmer is genuine about these things, rather than a smokescreen to cover up much harder left wing aims. Starmer’s foreign policy also seems to chime more with the Lib Dems – he’s no fan of Trump and resolutely anti-Saudi Arabia, not keen to rush into wars, but at the same time open to working with the UN, EU and EFTA nations positively.

    Those on the right of the Lib Dems may not like the idea of any tax rises (although 1p on the pound for the NHS was a vote winner for the party).

    Nationalisation again may be controversial amongst the party right – (although I’d question as to why we are best served with public services being owned / run by foreign governments, Middle Eastern despots, anonymous unaccountable foreign investors or appalling companies such as the likes of G4S), and once you accept that the navy, road network, police or court system are better run by the state, then you accept that the state does do some things better – and it is popular with the public.

    The other issue could be on unions – but never forget that Nick Clegg was strongly against the Trade Union Act of 2016 – so if it’s good enough for Clegg to oppose, the centre left of the party shouldn’t find any issue here.

    With those out the way – Starmer’s pledges could easily come out of the Lib Dems – without much question: Social Justice, Economic Justice, Climate Justice, Peace & Human Rights, Migrants Rights, Devolution of Power – does it get any more Lib Dem than that! Moran could have easily written all that!

  • Richard Easter 6th Aug '20 - 7:19am

    Peter Martin – you raise a good and difficult issue. I’d call it the “culture war” more than anything else. I was listening to Ian Dale the other day and he was arguing (rightly) that he was not left wing – but because he said on some social issues he is centrist, he is regularly accused of being left (as a term of abuse).

    My concern is that amongst some parts of society – John Major and even the Tories Johnson booted out are considered as much of the left as the SWP – and thus all enemies of Britain. This means that Labour and the Lib Dems for that matter in any iteration are considered “anti-British Marxists” by a sizable minority or whatever the usual diatribe is.

    There is this perception (wrongly) that anyone left of (and probably including) Philip Hammond hates the armed forces and is solely concerned with promoting migrants, terrorists and the EU above the British. It’s an exceptionally pernicious bubble that needs to be burst somehow. If people simply thought the issue was that Corbyn was a dangerous Marxist or whatnot, and they wanted a centrist alternative – the Lib Dems may well have romped home and Change UK wouldn’t have been a laughable failure. Instead we are dealing with something far more insidious.

    I don’t know what the solution to it all is, but the fact that significant numbers of voters still think the Tories are doing a good job, beggars belief.

    On a related note however, I do think attempts to frustrate or cancel Brexit were exceptionally counterproductive, and that hasn’t done anything to help either Labour or the Lib Dems.

  • Steve Trevethan 6th Aug '20 - 7:31am

    Might one way to address this matter rest in considerations of attitudes to and understandings of the currently powerful theories and practices of Neo-Liberalism?

    If you agree to a significant extent that Neo-Liberalism aims to privatise public infrastructures, including the machineries of democracy, centralise power to the very wealthy and pretend that goods and services can be better delivered with increased monopoly and weaponised debt powers, then might you have enough common ground to make a cup of tea and a chat worthwhile?

  • David Warren 6th Aug '20 - 7:32am

    We have to be prepared for some level of co-operation with Labour particularly around issues like electoral reform but a progressive alliance is a bit more tricky.

    Having spent 30 years as a Labour and trade union activist I can testify that there aren’t many Liberals in that world. Their right and the left are both authoritarian to their core something which is totally alien to us.

    Even in areas like mine where electorally they are insignificant Labour have an arrogance about them. Their way is the only way and they mostly don’t like us Liberals, not only because of coalition. They see us as a nuisance that gets in the way as what they feel should be a straight fight between them and the Tories.

    To have a progressive alliance you need to have all the parties in it to be progressive. I am not sure the Labour Party deserves that description.

  • Silly idea: we don’t form alliances with anyone. We stay independent and vote according to each issue. Do we never learn? It leaves me is despair. Layla Moran would not be an MP next time if this suggestion is taken up, would we have any MPs at all?.

  • Richard Easter 6th Aug '20 - 8:22am

    Personally the more I think about it, the more I find the idea of a Moran led Lib Dems working with a Starmer led Labour, with figures like Clive Lewis and even perhaps Caroline Lucas on board, an appealing prospect. Bottom line is, we need a progressive alliance of some sort.

    I say that as someone who believes the referendum should be upheld and seriously considered a leave vote myself.

    The Tories have the bulk of the media on their side and there seems to be an even nastier form of far right libertarianism led by right wing commentators and the even more whackier parts of the Tories creeping through now slowly – and taking hold – with even Johnson and Sunak being increasingly viewed as too left wing and too soft in some quarters!

  • David Evans 6th Aug '20 - 8:47am

    The problem with any form of Progressive alliance is the willingness of others to enter into and stick to any sort of fair agreement (see “Coalition agreement and Regressive Alliance” ad nauseam for what can go wrong there), and the impact of its simple existence on soft Con voters returning to ‘the Conservative fold out of fear of Labour.

    Both are significant risks that well meaning Lib Dems have been very poor at facing up to in the past.

  • @ Martin “David Raw: Could you clarify? I presume your point is not that having been subservient to the Tories the parliamentary party should (in a spirit of fair play?) offer to be subservient to Labour”.

    No, Sir. You’re jumping to conclusions. I was simply trying to tease out the anonymous Paul’s position on the political spectrum.

  • The striking thing about this thread is how Anglo-centric the comments are. In Scotland Labour has but one M.P…. but we do have PR for elections to the Holyrood Parliament and to local Councils and no such nonsense as an appointed unelected second chamber still with an hereditary element. We also have a political culture which is, and always has been, generally anti-Conservative.

    Observing from afar I see a confused Liberal Democrat Party (in both England and Scotland) still dazed from its Coalition experience and not sure what it really believes in. What’s left when 6% is split in three different directions should be a basis for a lot more profound thinking about values and future directions than appears to be the case.

  • Michael Bukola 6th Aug '20 - 10:16am

    Clive Lewis is a pragmatist and to that extent I will extend the hands of friendship to him. When Clive Lewis stood for the recent Leadership of the Labour Party, he was willing to work with the SNP in order to regain power, effectively sanctioning yet another Scottish independence referendum for political expediency. A step too far I think.

  • Julian Hawkins 6th Aug '20 - 10:18am

    Interesting debate – and more enlightening than mud-slinging. I think David Warren and Evans made some good points about the problems in trying to work with the left. But I would add – which left? Some people on the left are relatively liberal, others very authoritarian. We can (within reason) work with the far left liberals (the people who want more community enterprises), but the authoritarian left want to accumulate all power into the hands of them and their friends. They are our enemies, just as much as the authoritarian right. Look at the way Momentum nearly destroyed what passes for democracy within the Labour party – any attempt to cooperate with people like that is likely to fail because they will simply use it to damage us as much as possible, even when doing so helps the Tories.

  • David Garlick 6th Aug '20 - 10:29am

    Whilst one ‘Party’ sees their views as sacrosanct there is little chance of an alliance. The mistrust between Labour and the Liberal Democrats runs so deep that I dont expect it to be bridged in my lifetime. In that circumstance I see little point in discussion of a general ‘alliance’ but some glimmer of hope on an issue by issue discussion starting with Climate Change and Energy and possibly social care provision and funding. Those would be my top priorities for early action.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Aug '20 - 10:43am

    “The fact that significant numbers of voters still think the Tories are doing a good job beggars belief”. wrote Richard Easter, above, and I know what you mean, Richard: I was startled to hear a vox-pop interview with a family on Radio 4 one lunchtime recently finding that the majority thought Boris Johnson was doing quite a good job in handling the current crisis. The fact is I suppose that progressive thinkers in our parties have not only to counter the extreme views of both Left and Right but also to accept that most ordinary people don’t think like us, either! But we need to win their votes.

    What do ordinary people want? I suppose, politicians to let them get on with their lives without much interference but with a helping intervention where necessary. We may be open and outward-looking and care about economic justice, but people care most about their own lives, work and pleasures. If the Tories can restore stability, make sure there are enough jobs, houses and a slightly rising standard of living, that will do. You could even say that people don’t want progressive thinking! And we can’t say we know better, but just quietly get on with trying to do better.

    David Warren. You give a telling description of how difficult it has been and will be to work with so many of the Labourites with entrenched positions – I see it here in Workington too. I think we will have to find shared objectives to concentrate on.

  • Richard Easter

    “I don’t know what the solution to it all is, but the fact that significant numbers of voters still think the Tories are doing a good job, beggars belief.”

    I’m not sure that’s true. I think it’s that voters look at what the opposition has to offer and despair.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Aug '20 - 11:03am

    Just one other thought, about what ordinary people may want. I see I didn’t mention the NHS or schools. I think that’s because we all in this country do take it for granted, that we have a good NHS, so well demonstrated in the current crisis, and good enough schools and colleges to provide for our children. But in the matter of health and social care provision, and of providing good early-years schooling and technical training suitable for the high-tech economy, there is surely much on which progressives can work together.

  • Richard Easter 6th Aug '20 - 11:25am

    malc: “I’m not sure that’s true. I think it’s that voters look at what the opposition has to offer and despair.”

    Then we and Labour should be terrified – that someone like Johnson and the libertarian whackos in his cabinet, are more attractive than a moderate social democrat like Starmer and a balanced cabinet, or a centre left Lib Dem party. Or for that matter Change UK – which were more of a centre right establishment outfit.

    It appears to me that there is a stupid narrative going around that Blairism involving spending too much money, siding the EU against Britain, extending the public sector and introduced mass immigration into the UK. The usual “Gordon Brown bankrupted the world” nonsense.

    The Lib Dems are essentially the same as the above but additionally obsessed with identity politics, undermining the referendm and unworkable green issues on top of this.

    Corbynism and to an extent Ed Milibandism and Starmerism combines both but with more spending, plus greater trade union power and nationalisation.

    Note, I don’t agree with the above crude narrative – but it seems like culture war basically has taken over rational debate, and thus we have the above situation where only Johnson can save us from political correctness / the green lobby / the unions / the state and so on…

  • Over the decades I have co-operated on specific campaigns with Marxists of various stripes as well as Labour and one nation Conservatives (whatever happened to them?). However until the Labour Party can grasp the nettle of Westminster PR any pre-election jiggery-pokery will come to grief. As a Liberal Democrat councillor in a largely working class ward, I assume I must be one of John Marriott’s damp squibs, having lost any romantic illusions about Labour many years ago.

  • David Warren 6th Aug '20 - 11:33am

    Thanks Katherine.

    You are right there are opportunities to work with Labour people on an issue by issues but even then it can be difficult due to their desire to dominate. The ‘Yellow Tories’ stuff isn’t new, when I was active in the Labour Party in the 1980s Liberals were described as Tories without their kicking boots on and worse.

    Our main objective between now and 2024 has to be to win as many seats as possible in the General Election which will likely take place that year in the expectation of a hung parliament. If that happens we will need to get a commitment to PR written in blood from any Labour nominee for Prime Minister!

  • Barry Lofty 6th Aug '20 - 11:37am

    I spent most of my working life being part of a family retail business and as a small independent company I never felt that the Conservative party or Labour ever represented our interests which is why, I suppose, my father and myself supported the Liberals/Lib Dems because we believed, perhaps naively, that they had a more inclusive, common good approach to politics. In my dotage I begin to feel I was so wrong but cling to the hope along with like minded people from other parties that it is not too late for them all to come together and save us from this self serving hypocritical government and others like them. A forlorn hope perhaps and if this post is off subject I make no apologies!

  • I think we need we need to work with Labour simply because it is the only way to break the Tory stranglehold on power (and SNP in Scotland). I’m not sure I would refer to it as a progressive alliance more an alliance of necessity.

    However New Labour did introduce progressive policies that we welcomed such as the Human Rights Act, tripling of foreign aid, the Northern Ireland peace process, civil partnerships, devolution, House of Lords reform and Bank of England Independence.

    Some of these policies were developed by the joint Blair-Ashdown agenda of the late 90’s. Had it been a Lib-Lab coalition it would have been one of the greatest reforming governments of all time, with PR introduced civil liberties better protected and no Iraq war.

    If we were like many European countries and the left dominated and the centre right struggled to get into power then my view might be different. However the instinctive small C conservatism and right of centre leanings of the English public in particular mean that Labour need to work with us and us with them.

    That was true before Brexit but is even more important now we are turning our backs on the greatest political achievement in modern history and embracing a world of chlorinated chicken instead.

  • Steve Trevethan 6th Aug '20 - 12:22pm

    Is the BBC impartial?

  • Peter Martin 6th Aug '20 - 1:22pm

    @ Richard, @ Katharine @ Malc

    “the fact that significant numbers of voters still think the Tories are doing a good job, beggars belief”

    The only thing they can be judged on since the election is their handling of the Covid 19 problem.

    We can all think of ways that the Government could have handled it better with better testing and getting it right with better PPE provision etc. But would a Labour, or a LIb Dem, govt have done any better? I can’t honestly say they would.

    It could have been a lot worse. The Government could have counted up how much it was going to cost to put the economy on life support and then calculate how much VAT and income tax was going to have to rise “to pay for it”. Just like the Office of Budget IrResponsibility tells us all we have to at election times. So we could have had a ‘fully costed’ program which really would have been a disaster. The fiscal measures put in place have been relatively good. Much better than I would have expected. Having said that – of course they could have been better. I’m not convinced that the £10 deal is a good use of resources for example.

    I’ve posted up this graph before. It’s turned out a lot better than many (including myself) expected in late March. I feared another Spanish flu type outbreak with deaths measured in the hundreds of thousands. It could still be that if we do have a strong second wave but I’m much more optimistic that we won’t.

  • David Evans 6th Aug '20 - 2:16pm

    Peter Martin, you say you don’t think a Labour or Lib Dem government would have done any better, but as you know the report into the country’s strategic stockpile following from Exercise Cygnus found massive problems in areas like PPE, care homes etc.

    It isn’t just the mess the Tories made during the crisis, which as always was based on “Oh dear, what has hit the fan today?” What was incompetent was the total lack of advance planning and dealing with the problems identified well before Covid was here.

    As they say “Failing to plan is Planning to fail.”

  • Peter Martin 6th Aug '20 - 2:59pm

    @ David Evans,

    You could be right in that a Lib Dem or even a Labour govt would have handled it all so much better than the Tories. But we’ll never know. I’d give them a mark of 65%. Which isn’t a disaster but could, as you say, have been better.

    @ All,

    There are and always has been plenty of ‘Lib Dems’ in the Labour Party. Our great leader is one for a start. A few like Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger were silly enough to think they could actually be elected on a Lib Dem ticket. Most were much more aware of on which side their bread was buttered and sensibly stayed put.

    Most Lib Dems would fit in perfectly well!

  • Paul Barker 6th Aug '20 - 3:10pm

    The ” Agreement” we had with Labour in 1997 involved both Parties Not Targetting most of the Others targets while maintaining the nonsense that we were “Fighting For every Vote” in Public.
    That sort of Under the Counter Deal is the best we can hope for in 2024 & would be very useful but the ball is in Labours court, we are hardly going to say No are we ?

    In terms of going beyond that sort of Mutual Self-Interest, it seems to me that we have far more in common with The Greens in England & Wales than with many in Labour.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Aug '20 - 3:56pm

    The requirement to get the Tories out at the next General Election really doesn’t have anything much to do with their handling of the health crisis, Peter Martin, though David Evans is right to point out some deficiencies there. This Government has allowed the rise in poverty, the need of ordinary working folk to have to resort to food banks, the callous treatment of disabled and disadvantaged people, and the rise of health inequality so great that far more people have died of the virus in the poorer areas. In addition we have a Prime Minister who has tried to suppress parliamentary rights, wants to curtail the judges, runs an authoritarian central cligue with a powerful unelected adviser while appealing to populism, and safeguards the rights of millionaires including Russian tax exiles, wealthy property developers making their piles out of land development, and off-shore companies owning care homes.

    Know your enemy! It needn’t be the Labour Party. As Marco says and Tim Farron also said, the Blair government did much good. And just in the last few days I have read of the Labour Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham pointing out the hardship of so many workers in essential services on zero-hour contracts, refusing testing and keeping on working because otherwise they simply can’t feed themselves and their families. To fight the injustices and inequality and start seeing poverty reduced at the same time as saving our freedoms and democratic rights, progressives at every level surely need to work together.

  • Barry Lofty 6th Aug '20 - 4:10pm

    Katherine Pindar: Well said, everything that you mentioned is the reason that makes me feel so frustrated and annoyed with the present state of our country.

  • @Michael BG

    I wrote in my initial response:

    “I like Clive Lewis generally but he’s not a Liberal. I’m sure his views are genuinely held and where it is in our interest we should work with MPs like him to further shared objectives.”

    I thought I was being fairly balanced.

    Really though the question is what do you mean by a progressive alliance?

    My view is simply that no such thing is realistic at national level. We have been in government in Scotland and Wales with the Labour party, we are currently in government in Wales with the Labour party. Our MPs regularly work with Labour and other MPs where we share a common goal.

    If we had PR for Westminster elections I’ve no doubt the Conservatives would not enjoy the dominance they have enjoyed for a century.

    Perhaps my issue is with the title of this piece and not the content?

  • Sorry to rain on the parade but this is all this a bit premature. What have the Liberal Democrats got to offer the Labour Party ?

    The best a party on 6% can offer at the moment is to get its own house in order, get its new Leader elected, get a clear intelligible set of policies to tackle the issues of poverty and inequality (not the guaranteed minimum income which will be laughed out of court), survive the Scottish elections next May ( doubtful), then see if it’s still breathing and hope the electorate is suffering amnesia about the Coalition.

    In the meantime I expect some radicals will disappear to a more competent Labour Party under Keir Starmer (as happened post WW1) – or the Greens in Scotland…. and that some of the more flaky orangistas will return to their spiritual home in the Tory Party (as happened en masse in 1924).

    It would help if the new Leader could avoid flakiness and show a bit of Leadership (difficult given a sclerotic Federal Board system and more Chief Executives than a Football Club).

    It was even worse in 1951.

  • Barry Lofty 6th Aug '20 - 5:38pm

    You might also say what have the Labour party got to offer, ok they have a more credible new leader but I suspect behind the scenes it is the same old party, and he is going to need the money from the big unions to get them anywhere near forming a government.

  • Peter Martin 6th Aug '20 - 5:56pm

    @ Richard Easter,

    “I don’t know what the solution to it all is…..”

    Neither do I have a complete solution, but we have to start throwing out some different ideas. These might be slightly more different than most!

    For all their talk of eliminating poverty, a so-called ‘progressive’ position is still to retain a pernicious, albeit slightly less pernicious when they are in charge, benefits system, which provides below poverty level payments. When they do venture into UBI territory they have the not-so-small problem that the numbers ‘to eliminate poverty’ just don’t add up and soon they retreat back out again.

    We all agree there aren’t enough well paid proper jobs, rather than just mini-jobs, and won’t be if left to the free market. Yet ‘progressives’ think that a guaranteed employment commitment from government with the complete package of paid holidays, pension schemes and all other benefits that allow for a decent life, is somehow obectionable. The corollary is that somehow they think a duty to contribute to society through work is also offensive and they would rather people who can work be able to have the right not to, even though they still want their ‘fair share’ of the national output.

    Would progressives approve of some person driving away their expensive 4WD people mover or squatting in their holiday home just because they themselves don’t have one? If they were in shared accommodation would they say to all the residents there was no need to do anything, like clean the kitchen now and again, unless they somehow felt like doing it?

    And yet most ‘progressives’ do not seem to seem to appreciate the contradiction. It is no wonder many in the traditional working class find the modern ‘progressive left’ manifesto, with its almost total emphasis on identity politics, not at all to their liking and vote accordingly.

  • David Evans 6th Aug '20 - 6:43pm

    David Raw, totally agree with your point with just one query on your final sentence – “It was even worse in 1951”.

    Was it definitely so? At least in 1951 we had a Jo Grimond who retained O&S which he had won for the first time in 1950. Also we were clearly the third party in the UK at that time [Tell me if you think I am clutching at straws with that one].

    All the best.

  • Whatever LibDems think of the relative merits of the alternative Borgs in Labour and Tories, the Tories have not shaken off any previous marginal tendencies to believe in reform and will now stick to FPTP like glue. They even stated so in their manifesto as if to fend off other potential coalition partners and any detractors left.

    Only parties out of power for long enough and disadvantaged by the present system will be sure to support serious voting reform and AV was not serious or proportional, sometimes less so. Labour will shortly have failed to win a GE since 2005 and have been losing vote share since their high point in ’97 in very single GE. They are now less helped by FPTP as it is increasingly helping the Tories to an even greater extent.

    If Labour do not get elected by the present system and change the voting system soon, it is likely that Scotland would separate and leave a UK rump unable to elect anything other than Tory governments except; judging by the past; and the twice in high points across 100 years

  • Assoc of Libdem Engineers & Science live leadership hustings now:

  • @ David Evans “just one query on your final sentence – “It was even worse in 1951”.

    In 1951 Liberals won just 6 seats (12 in 1019). In 1951.

    Yes, there was future star, Jo Grimond (married to Asquith’s granddaughter). But he was the only one of the six to win in a three cornered fight. The other five were given a clear run with no Tory opponent (Churchillian kindness and nostalgia).

    In 2019 Lib Dems got 3.7 million votes and stood in every mainland UK seat. In 1951 Liberals got 730,000 votes and stood in 109 seats. So, Yes, it was worse in 1951.

    @ Barry Lofty, “You might also say what have the Labour party got to offer”.

    202 seats Barry and real talent amongst them compared to 12 seat and …??

  • @ David Evans….. Sorry, typo… add on a millenium. 2019.

  • Barry Lofty 6th Aug '20 - 8:18pm

    Fair point David, but it does not change my general opinion on the Labour Party, I would need some convincing that there will be a change in direction under the new management, I hope there is.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Aug '20 - 8:34pm

    David, I guess there weren’t enough Liberals around in 1019, judging by the fact that the locals weren’t united enough to keep out the Normans less than 50 years later… Come on, it’s usually you who can lighten the gloom with a quip or a cheerful tune from YouTube! To be serious for a minute, though, I’d say that what Lib Dems could be offering Labour is a bit of passion about all the wrongs that need putting right. Thanks, Barry, for your approval, and I don’t perceive any dotage around you.

    I hope John is right, and the Labour party may really be inclined for voting reform after all their failures. Besides, Keir Starmer isn’t going to find it easy to hold his multi-layered party together, with pro-Corbyn union leaders already making threatening noises. There is plenty of disaffection in the Tory ranks as well, and a fair few outcasts from both major parties who could conceivably find a home in a progressive Lib Dem party. Which we must ensure that we are.

  • I do wish people would stop saying we’re only on 6% of the vote.

    How accurate are the polls at the moment?

    It is very difficult to cut through at present but I am sure that in next years local elections we will be above 6% whoever is leader.

  • John Marriott 6th Aug '20 - 8:40pm

    Some people are getting to sound like Hitler in April 1945 stuck in his bunker and moving imaginary armies around.

    You see, ‘ordinary people’, whoever they are, just don’t do politics any more, if, indeed, they ever really did. If these people are viewed as ‘ordinary’, what does that make those, who call them that? I feel quite sorry for all those sincere people with a social conscience, like the authors of this article. It’s not as if they were pushing at an open door. Perhaps being ordinary might just be a better modus vivendi. The trouble is, I don’t feel ordinary, like, it would seem, about 8% of the electorate. So the job in hand would seem to be how to spread that feeling.

  • David Raw

    “@ Barry Lofty, “You might also say what have the Labour party got to offer”.”

    “202 seats Barry and real talent amongst them compared to 12 seat and …??”

    Fair enough about the 202 MP’s, but what talent? I look at the Labour MP’s and I see very little – and I say that as someone who has voted Labour for the vast majority of my life. There is far more talent in the Tory party – you may not like their policies but talent wise they are miles ahead. I also think you are being a little harsh on the Lib Dems – Farron, Jardine and Olney are all excellent MP’s. I just wish Jardine had stood for the leadership.

  • Richard O'Neill 6th Aug '20 - 9:53pm

    Clive Lewis is an interesting guy. His own man I think, he never really buckled to Corbyn and how much he speaks for the new Starmer regime is questionable.

    For me Liberals should be open to working with Labour in the short term, given the current circumstances where the Conservatives have been in for a decade. However its for Labour to take the lead and court Liberals rather than the other way round. Personally less bothered about PR rather than short-term and practical achievements.

  • Steve Trevethan,

    As you say being anti-neo-Liberalism is common ground for progressive politicians and could mean it is worth having a chat. A start maybe, but having shared solutions to the UK’s problems must exist for any sort of alliance to be possible.

    David Warrren,

    You make some excellent points. I am sure anyone who has seen the Labour Party work (even from the outside) recognise that many of their members believe that if someone is anti-Tory then that person should support the Labour Party. Clive Lewis does refer to this belief in his lecture. What did you think of Clive Lewis’ definition of a progressive? (I expect he would recognise that not all Labour Party members can answer yes to both questions.)


    On Sunday on LBC Radio ( Layla Moran said that she had Labour Party and Green Party members campaigning for her, so I think your prediction is not based on what happened in the past.

    Richard Easter,

    Do you believe that if Ed Davey becomes party leader the prospects of a progressive alliance are nearly nil?

    David Evans,

    You make a valid point about the willingness of both sides to enter into and stick to any agreement. I think Clive Lewis sees an informal progressive alliance and not one which embraces everyone in both parties, but would include some common policies for after the next general election, one of which he hopes would be PR to replace FPTP at general elections.

    John Bicknell,

    The last general election makes it extremely unlikely that the Labour Party could win a majority in the House of Commons after the next general election. Therefore if progressives will need to work together in Parliament after a general election for there to be a non-Conservative government, then it makes sense to work together in some ways before the general election and have worked out some shared policies and some places where, as in 1997, activists from one party are discouraged from doing huge amounts of work in their constituency.

  • “Do you believe that if Ed Davey becomes party leader the prospects of a progressive alliance are nearly nil?”

    No that’s not correct, there may not be a formal alliance but under Ed Davey an informal arrangement is quite possible.

    It is important to remember that Ed is the successor to the Ashdown-Kennedy tradition and he would be pragmatic where necessary.

  • Michael Bukola,

    At the moment our party’s policy is to oppose another independence referendum, this might change before the next general election. I don’t know how split our party is on this in Scotland.

    David Garlick,

    I think I read in another thread recently that the Labour Party constitution does not allow them to stand down candidates and support another party’s candidate. If this is true, then any “alliance” would not include common candidates or the standing down of candidates in particular seats.

    Peter Martin,

    I am not sure that most Liberal Democrat members would be happy in the Labour Party. We mostly do want a society as set out in the preamble of our constitution. Clause IV of the Labour Party Rule Book ( is just not the same. Also there is a very different culture in the Labour Party to that in the Liberal Democrat Party.

    Andrew T,

    You wrote, “I do not consider Socialism to be progressive” and implied you did not want there to be a progressive alliance between Liberal Democrats and Socialists. Therefore I questioned why you thought Clive Lewis was not a progressive and why you think Liberal Democrats should not work with people who Clive Lewis defines as progressive.

    I think both Katharine and I in the comments section have given a good idea of what a progressive alliance looks like. As you say we have worked with the Labour Party in government in both Wales and Scotland, therefore it should be possible in the future to work with the Labour Party in a UK government. I think it would be useful to work together in some ways before we work together in a UK government. Part of this is having some policies which are the same such as PR for general elections.

  • I’ll say it again: we need to stop wasting our time looking for magic bullets like “Fair Votes”, “Progressive Alliances”, or “Revoke” and get back to being the party that is known for its campaigning on its core values – “None shall be enslaved by poverty….etc”, plus a massive dose of environmentalism.

  • @ Tony Hill “get back to being the party that is known for its campaigning on its core values – “None shall be enslaved by poverty”….

    Which of course is why the party voted for the Welfare cuts and the bedroom tax when they were in government…. and why the MP for Edinburgh West ignored numerous requests to raise the matter of the Alston UN Report on Poverty & Inequality in the House of Commons.

    @ Michael Bukola So you want to tie Scotland into the permanent dominance of a first past the post right wing government and refuse the people of Scotland the right to a democratic choice on this ? Where’s the consistency in wanting a second Brexit Ref but not on the future of the governance of Scotland ?

  • John Marriott 7th Aug '20 - 8:55am

    I’ve been thrashing around for some time to work out why, after all that has gone on this year, Labour is not ahead in the polls and why the Lib Dems are around 6% (on a good day), people still think that Johnson is doing a good job. I think that Katharine’s use of ‘ordinary people’ might have given the game away.

    You see, many people have unfortunately given up on politics and many of its practitioners long ago. What they want is ‘show biz’ and Johnson in his blusterings gives them just that. In his own warped way that’s exactly what Trump has been giving them on the other side of the pond. Indeed, one could argue the same for politicians in the past like Lloyd George and Churchill – rascals in many ways; but they had something before show biz was more effectively ingrained in the national psyche which struck a chord with ‘ordinary people’. And, for that matter, what about Disraeli in his younger days? That none of the aforementioned was or is in any way ‘ordinary’ just adds to the riddle. Somehow I don’t see anything of that kind of personality in people like Starmer, Davey/Moran or Lucas. If Johnson does get a visit from the men in grey suits, there’s always little Rishi waiting in the wings with his winning smile and impeccable table manners – and he appears to be able to do sums as well. What’s not to like? The fact that he’s filthy rich, thanks to marrying the daughter of a billionaire, and went to Winchester before sniffling money around in the City is beside the point. If Yorkshire folk would have him (sorry, David Raw), then why not the rest of us?

    Now, how do we make ‘ordinary people’ take politics seriously? Search me. Do we need a red, yellow or green Boris Johnson? Or do we stick to policies properly debated at conference, virtual or full fat, and hope that one or two might just cut through? Perhaps Messrs Bourke or Martin might have the answer.

  • Barry Lofty 7th Aug '20 - 9:25am

    John Marriott :A very good summing up of the position we all find ourselves in at this present time, your thoughts as to why Johnson and Trump managed to be so popular must be the reason the world, and particularly us, have been landed with such a pair of self serving nincompoops! I hope you are right anyway because any other reason would be even more worrying, ie they are the sane ones and people like you and I are the idiots. No jokes please!

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '20 - 9:32am

    @ John Marriott,

    “Now, how do we make ‘ordinary people’ take politics seriously?”

    Be careful what you wish for. Because, when everyone does take it more seriously, it very probably won’t be at all to the Liberal Democrats liking. We saw that in the Brexit vote. A record turn out, with many people voting for the first time, delivered a body blow to your beloved UK membership of the EU.

    So from a ‘progressive’ POV the trick is to keep everyone reasonably happy with the status quo – so they don’t start taking politics too seriously. The last thing any party with an interest in keeping the UK in the EU should have done was form an alliance with an austerity loving neoliberally inclined Tory party in 2010.

  • John Marriott 7th Aug '20 - 10:00am

    @Peter Martin
    Your response disappoints me for several reasons. Firstly, like you I am at present politically homeless. Now, as I was a member of the various ‘Liberal’ parties for the best part of forty years and having represented that side of politics on various councils for thirty of those years (which many must be fed up of my telling them so), I would like to feel that, before I finally go, I hadn’t been flogging a dead horse for most of that time.

    Secondly, I trust that your tongue was firmly in your cheek when you wrote; “ – so they don’t start taking politics too seriously”. If that really is what you believe, then you deserve everything you get!

    However, I don’t really mind if I don’t get exactly what I want, as long as I get what I need, as the song goes. That means, for example, any form of PR that really is PR, a acceptance from the electorate that, if you want Scandinavian levels of social services (yes, another favourite phrase of mine) you need to pay Scandinavian levels of taxation. That will do for starters.

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '20 - 10:01am

    @ Michael BG.

    “Also there is a very different culture in the Labour Party to that in the Liberal Democrat Party.”

    I don’t know about that. The problem with most Labour party meetings is that they are pretty boring and newcomers often don’t stick it out for very long. I’m often just thankful if the meeting ends in time for us to have a quick drink in the pub afterwards. Leafleting at election times can be quite tedious too. My dog, Millie, had had quite enough when we were only half way through my first round last year and stubbornly refused to carry on! Maybe she has more sense than me 🙂

    You probably only hear tales from Labour defectors of how Stalinist, or maybe Trotskyite?, we all are. I’ve never been to a Lib Dem meeting so I don’t know for sure, but I’d be surprised if it was much different.

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '20 - 10:18am

    @ John Marriott,

    “….many people have unfortunately given up on politics and many of its practitioners long ago.”

    That’s not really true. The Labour Party membership peaked at around 600,000 a few years ago which was quite an achievement. But you’ll be happy to know that figure is falling quite fast now that Sir Forensic has taken charge.

    The Remainers did well to get the numbers they did out on to the streets last year. Most of them won’t have been involved much in politics before. This really goes to support my point that people will only get more involved when they aren’t happy about something.

    So the paradox, for us more political types, is that we do want to create a better functioning society which leads to widespread happiness. And naturally we would like them to be more interested when we try start up conversations on our pet subjects.

    But if everyone is happy why would they want to trudge the streets on boring demos or waste evenings of their lives in boring political party meetings? Why would they want to talk to me about Modern Monetary Theory, or Joe Bourke about Land Valuation Tax, when they really are more interested in whether some Royal Princess is going to have another baby?

  • @ John Marriott Rishi Sunak. Funny you mention him, John. I’ve always had a special feeling for Richmond, Yorks.

    A look at the figures (normally a solid Tory seat) reveals Rishi’s vote fluctuates and actually dropped last December, just as it did dramatically when he first replaced Little Willie Hague. It’s been Tory ever since 1910 when the last Liberal MP Francis Dyke Acland lost it….. though Little Willie had a fright in the by-election when he replaced the departing Leon Brittan.

    The Lib Dem vote there last December improved to 12%, still a fair way behind the 28% polled by yours truly in 1983. I well remember that dear old Dalesman Kit Calvert (saviour of the Wensleydale cheese factory in the 1930’s) telling me how railwaymen at Hawes Station set off fire crackers on the line to celebrate when Acland gained Richmond in 1906.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Aug '20 - 10:41am

    John Marriott. Fortunately,. John, I believe the country is realising that Boris Johnson the showman is not the right person to be leading us in this national as well as international crisis. The time for showmanship is over, as Trump also seems to be finding, since Covid19 refuses to die down. In the confusion of messages and lack of any effective new slogan, our ‘ordinary people’ may now be ready for more serious political thinking and proposed direction. The Chancellor’s pot of gold must be nearly empty, thousands of people are already or will be soon unemployed and experiencing the inadequacy of Universal Credit, and the difficulties of finding advantageous trade deals with the rest of the world to replace those we have thrown away will soon be evident.

    It is a time therefore when politicians offering answers seem likely to be heard, and the job of progressive politicians is surely to make sure we work together to propose good ones. We Liberal Democrats should take the lead in this, using the window of opportunity of media coverage which a new leader and our conference should offer us next month. But, Tonyhill, just campaigning as we have done leaves us at 8% at best in the polls.

    We need as David Raw rightly says to remember our Preamble. ‘None shall be enslaved by poverty’ should be at the forefront of our campaigning, and expressed with a passion up to now unfortunately lacking. We can give this message structure by demanding a new Beveridge-type social contract, of the sort Philip Alston, the UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, suggested to us was needed after his fact-finding visit and study in his Statement of November 2018 and Report of April 2019. The Government’s duty with a new social contract should be first and foremost to relieve poverty which will be increasing, and progressive politicians should surely campaign together now to ensure that it is relieved.

  • John Marriott 7th Aug '20 - 10:43am

    @Peter Martin
    Yes, your tongue is firmly in your cheek. As for Remain, I was always pragmatic about the EU. As President Johnson famously said; “Better inside the tent looking* out than outside the tent looking* in”.

    *Verb changed to get past the editors.

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '20 - 10:47am

    @ David Raw,

    “Where’s the consistency in wanting a second Brexit Ref but not on the future of the governance of Scotland ?

    Why would you expect consistency? If the first result goes your way why would you want to risk that by having another contest?

    If someone is found Guilty on a criminal charge they may well decide to put in an appeal. But why would they want do that if the verdict had gone the other way?

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '20 - 10:56am

    @ John Marriott,

    No you’re misunderstanding what I’m saying. My tongue is where it normally is.

    For example, it would have been a lot better in the German pre war population had been much less disenchanted with their existing politicians who didn’t have a clue how to run an economy, and also much less inclined to get involved in changing things. Yes they did have to radically change things. But, as we all know, the results weren’t what anyone would have wished for!

  • Steve Trevethan 7th Aug '20 - 11:50am

    An agreed target or purpose does not require agreement upon method of attack. The two are connected and significantly different.
    If opposition parties agreed upon the pressing need to expose the deception and greed behind Neo-Lib theory and practice, and attacked however they chose, that is more than likely to expose the fallacies of N-Lism, raise public consciousness and create a political entertainment with valid purpose.
    Such is an available way to create cracks in the “Blue Wall.”

  • @Michael BG

    I think it comes down to trust and competence. I trust Layla Moran to work with the Labour party. I trust Ed Davey a little less. I do think we need to forget about government and concentrate on rebuilding the party as our priority.

    I hear a lot about how beating the Conservatives is some kind of moral imperative and I really dislike much about the present government but they are running at ~44% in the polls and we’re going to need to find a way to get our message across to those people.

    We need to get back to national relevance and then the Labour party can come to us, the mathematics will dictate that for them just as it did for the Conservatives in 2010.

  • David Raw – I was actually agreeing with you. I haven’t posted much here recently but during the Coalition years I was highly critical of much of what the Party was doing in government. We need to get back to being the party that we were before we were traduced by Clegg and his cronies.

  • Richard Easter 7th Aug '20 - 2:25pm

    Michael BG

    I am not keen on Davey. His attacks on trade unions in disputes -such as the rail one were far more aggressive than even the Tories, and felt like he was playing to the local tory vote by denouncing those horrible rail types (an example of the working class who we complain won’t vote Lib Dem – instead we insult them). I found it quite disgusting. Especially now when its the rail workers at work and catching the virus and proving their worth for the nation.

    Davey has also struck me as economically much more to the right aside from this. And his opinion poll rating is not particularly good.

    Just as Corbyn and Starmer cannot be associated with Iraq, Blairism or whatever is toxic to parts of Labour, Moran cannot be associated with the coalition – and is much more likely to appeal to centre left voters. I suspect it will be easier for her to work with Starmer.

    The party needs a reboot. And I don’t see any future for a Change UK style party of centre right economic liberals. Davey is not likely to be trusted by Labour or Green voters, and given some of the attacks on him by the likes of Gudio Fawkes – it looks like he’ll struggle to get votes from the right.

  • @ Tony Hill Thanks, Tony, understood, …… and I was trying to develop your point.

    In terms of the party itself, I wonder what efforts have been made to survey the opinions of the twenty one thousand plus (probably more) members who stopped paying membership subscription post May, 2010. I bet the answer is none whatsoever unless the editors of LDV can tell me otherwise.

    Two simple questions :

    a) What stopped you renewing ? and, b) What would the party have to do or say to convince you to rejoin again ?

    Any sensible commercial organisation wouldn’t hesitate to attempt to analyse its (former) customer base for feedback.

  • John Marriott 7th Aug '20 - 3:42pm

    @Peter Martin
    Just what are you on about regarding Germany? Do you really mean pre war? If so, WHICH war? If you are referring to the interwar years, 1918 to 1939, you need to differentiate between what happened pre and post 1933. In fact, what caused the collapse of the Weimar Republic was largely the fault of its Constitution, which allowed for such a plethora of parties to be represented in the Reichstag. After the disaster of hyperinflation in the early 1920’s the phase up to the late 1920’s saw a booming economy, fuelled largely by US credit, albeit still with dangerously high levels of unemployment; but with a massive slump in the popularity of right wing parties like the NSDAP. Other factors allowed Hitler’s Nazis to recover, firstly the Wall Street Crash and subsequent slump and secondly the refusal of the SPD to enter government. I could add the premature death of Reichskanzler Gustav Stresemann as well. The use of Presidential decrees by Hindenburg, necessitated by the act of musical chairs played between enter right politicians like Brüning, Von Schleicher and Papen, meant that, with barely a third of the popular vote, the Nazis were able to gain power, initially in a coalition. You know the rest.

    It’s interesting to speculate what might have happened if a) the terms of the Treaty of Versailles had been less harsh b) Stresemann had lived and c) the Wall Street Crash had never happened. Equally one could speculate what might have happened to the Heath Government’s chances of survival had the Arabs not attacked Israel in 1973. As Harold Macmillan was supposed to ave said; “Events, dear boy, events”.

    @Katharine Pindar
    You might be right about Mr Johnson being rumbled. However, what’s to stop ‘ordinary people’ not falling for another show biz merchant? OK, carry on about a new ‘Social Contract’ if you wish. I don’t doubt your sincerity. Just how long would that last in the heat of battle?

  • @ John Marriott “the collapse of the Weimar Republic was largely the fault of its Constitution, which allowed for such a plethora of parties to be represented in the Reichstag”.

    Still in favour of PR, John ? Agree about Stresemann though….. far too young.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Aug '20 - 6:26pm

    Ah, John (Marriott), remember that in the heat of face-to-face battles of the past, the standard had to be preserved above all else, so if the standard-bearer fell, his nearest comrade would pick it up! Let the Social Contract be our standard now, never to be dropped. When I asked the two candidates about it at the first, Social Liberal Forum, hustings on July 4, Layla Moran said “I think there is going now to be a new social contract, whether specific or more general”. and Ed Davey remarked that he had already been to the Federal Policy Committee and told them, “Post-Covid we need to think of something like a Beveridge 2.” I wouldn’t claim that either of them has really got the hang of the proposal yet, but we will continue to show them how important this standard could be for the party.
    (Meantime, thank you for the German history lesson – we should perhaps be learning from Germany now, just as Lloyd George did I seem to remember from Bismark’s Germany.)

    Steve Trevethan, I think neo-liberalism was the cuckoo in the Liberal Democrat nest, destructive at the time but flown away, and I trust a thoroughly deceased non-cuckoo now. After all, if it flew to the Tories, some hawk would have eaten it for breakfast!

  • David Raw,

    You set out lots of the problems that the party faces, but at the end you give us all hope by writing, “It was even worse in 1951”, when we only had 6 MPs and I think fewer councillors.

    We are in second place in 91 seats. In the 29 seats where it might be said we are well positioned to win, 23 of them are held by the Conservatives. If we won all 29 seats and held the ones we hold now we would have 40 MPs. If the Labour Party won 84 more seats than they have now and were the largest party they would need support from other parties and we would be well placed to provide it.

    David Evans,

    Not being the third largest party in the House of Commons is a real issue and we need to recapture that position. If we had more than 59 MPs we would be assured of being the third party. (Currently there are 48 SNP MPs, while in 2017 only 35 were elected.)

    Peter Martin,

    ”the numbers ‘to eliminate poverty’ just don’t add up”

    Do you have any evidence that increasing Universal Credit to £157 a week for a single person and £271 for a couple can’t be done because the numbers do not add up?


    While it seems that Ed Davey wants to present himself as being in the Ashdown-Kennedy tradition, I am not convinced he is really in the same tradition as Kennedy. I still see him in the Clegg tradition. When he asserts what he has done recently in the party, I see it as top-down.


    Both Katharine and I would like the party to make eradicating poverty, so no-one can be enslaved by poverty, one of its top priorities. Please see our follow-up article (

  • John Marriott 7th Aug '20 - 7:35pm

    @Katharine Pindar
    As always, the doyenne of diplomacy. I know all about picking up standards, as my wife and I are currently watching all the episodes of ‘Sharpe’ on Youtube (Napoleon has just been dethroned and Sharpe is heading home to sort out his latest missus).

    Seriously though, it really is good that people like you are trying to steer liberalism towards the light. It’s just that some of us have seen so many false dawns that cynicism is our middle name. I wonder if my friend, David Raw, is listening.

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '20 - 8:18pm

    @ Michael BG,

    It’s been a while since we’ve had an article on LDV about UBI. No doubt it won’t last! The only semi-credible report I’ve seen is from Dr Malcolm Torry who was just about able to make a case for a much lower figure than your £8164. Even so there were some assumptions in his report which were questionable to say the least.

    Even more questionable would be the effect on Lib Dem core support in Richmond and Twickenham when you had to explain to your A and B social groupings why their tax bills would have to rise.

    So who’s report are you working off?

  • Steve Trevethan 7th Aug '20 - 8:23pm

    Might it clarify the trajectory our party is currently on, and that to be expected and planned for with either leadership contender, if the membership could be given clear and committed information on the theory or “school” of our economic policy?

    Perhaps we need clear statements more than what appear to be absences of information and/or expressions of hope?

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '20 - 8:35pm

    “neo-liberalism was the cuckoo in the Liberal Democrat nest, destructive at the time but flown away, and I trust a thoroughly deceased non-cuckoo now.”

    I hope you’re right! But the cuckoo looked to be doing alright for itself in Dec 2019. See ref below.

    If the Govt had adopted the Lib Dem economic model which insisted that everything had to be “fully costed” so the taxpayers and voters knew “where the money was going to come from”, like the support needed to keep the economy going in the last few months, we’d really in the mire now with VAT at least at 35% and a basic rate of income tax at 60p in the pound!

    I haven’t stopped to work this out BTW! It’s just a guess. Maybe someone could tell me how many pennies on income tax they think would have been needed.

  • @ John Marriott, I heard you, John !

    Actually Katharine happens to be a good friend. I hope she won’t mind me telling you she helped to organise the choir when we erected a blue plaque to the Suffragist and anti-Conscription campaigner Catherine Marshall near Keswick a couple of years ago.

    And thereby hangs another tale. Michael Mears (Rifleman Cooper in your favourite TV Sharpe) is another good friend… and contributed to the plaque.

    By now, If you’ve run out of stuff to read, try looking up Catherine Marshall. Some woman.. started as a Liberal….went Labour because of the War…. harangued Asquith in Downing Street to rescue C.O.’s from a firing squad in France….. which he did.

    Michael BG “at the end you give us all hope by writing, ‘It was even worse in 1951’ ”
    Aye, well, thanks, Michael….. but…. it’s a long way to Tipperary.

  • David Raw’s questions about the members (many of whom were activists) who were lost to the party during the Coalition years are really important. This probably isn’t the thread to discuss the subject, but it is something that needs airing.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Aug '20 - 10:49pm

    Thank you, John, for your kind words, and I like my honorary title! But diplomacy is not always the answer in politics. I’m not going to be diplomatic to our liberal-socialist friend Peter Martin, who is blatantly using distraction tactics again by straining after his favourite topic: I don’t think our tax policies need revisiting on this thread. Yes, I enjoy the Sharpe saga too, and I was pleased to learn about the wonderful Catherine Marshall (and get to meet David in person) at the excellent and very enjoyable ceremony he organised for her blue plaque installation.

  • John Bicknell,

    My counter-point to Clive Lewis being an outlier was to point out that it seems to me that others in the Labour Party need to embrace his position if there is to be a non-Conservative government after the next general election. I am saying there is a need for the Labour Party to achieve a better working relationship with us.

    Peter Martin,

    Part of that different culture concerns language. With a colleague we had a meeting with two Labour Party members, I wanted to get down to business and to focus on the issues, but they wanted to set out the background to our meeting and the history of the items we were discussing. My colleague who hadn’t warned me, said that this is what it is always like negotiating with Labour Party members.

    We also have long meetings and lots of leaflets to delivery.

    David Raw,

    The boundaries of the Richmond (Yorkshire) constituency were changed in 1997 and 2010. After 1997 it seems that the changes in boundary were the main factors in our going from second place to third. I think the jury is out on the effect of the 2010 boundary review on our vote but it might have increased our chances. 12.1% is getting close to our 19.1% of 2010.

    Steve Trevethan,

    I agree MPs from both parties should be attacking Neo-Liberalism. However, can you recall any of our MPs (possibly with the exception of Tim Farron) attacking Neo-Liberalism? And if you can, please can you post a link to them doing it.

    Andrew T,

    I had not seen anyone saying that they thought Layla is more competent than Ed. I do get the impression that Layla favours working with Labour Party MPs and members more than Ed.

    Richard Easter,

    I agree Ed Davey calls himself an economic liberal and I think his economic thinking is on the right of the party and not where the party’s economic thinking was under Ashdown and Kennedy. I haven’t seen any poll rating comparisons between Ed and Layla. If you have, please can you post the internet links to them?

    Guido Fawkes has attacked both candidates, maybe they are worse on Ed Davey.

  • Steve Trevethan 8th Aug '20 - 8:04am

    Alas, I cannot name any M.P who has attacked Neo- Liberalism.
    Where is there mention of comparisons with/alternatives to Neo- LIberalism?
    Is it possible to pursue the best of economic theory without competition from others?

  • Peter Martin 8th Aug '20 - 9:19am

    @ Steve,

    “Alas, I cannot name any M.P who has attacked Neo- Liberalism.”

    I don’t think it’s much better in the Labour Party. I’m not wanting to be partisan about this. Even when MPs attack it, I’m not sure they know what it is that they actually are attacking, because they then start up about having to follow “sensible fiscal rules”. As the last few months shows, there is only one; viz, the Govt of a currency issuing country can do what it likes providing it doesn’t cause too much inflation.

    The problem for politicians is that this doesn’t sound good to the average voter. So it’s probably too much to expect they will actually say it in public. The best we can hope for is that they will actually start to better understand how it works in private. Some already do. Rishi Sunak looks to be well up to speed. Even so, when things do start to return to ‘normal’ I’m sure he will revert to ‘normal’ too. Whereas it was OK to spend hundreds of billions, of money he hadn’t got- in neoliberal terms, to put capitalism on life-support during the emergency, it soon won’t be OK to spend a tenth of those figures to properly fund the NHS, or educatation, or social services.

    The same thing would have happened after major wars. So after WW1 we had a slump and unemployment rose into double figures. There was no ‘roaring 20’s’ in the UK. This would have been presented as necessary ‘to help repay’ war debts. But how does keeping someone unemployed help do that? We became more enlightened after WW2 but then lost it all again in the late 70s.

  • @Michael BG

    “While it seems that Ed Davey wants to present himself as being in the Ashdown-Kennedy tradition, I am not convinced he is really in the same tradition as Kennedy. I still see him in the Clegg tradition.”

    He has said that he would be prepared to work with Starmer to defeat Johnson for example in this Business Insider interview:

    It is encouraging that he can get his messsge across in the media without having to correct what was reported.

    I know that he contributed to the Orange Book and was a Cabinet member in the Coalition, but the same is true of Cable and he isnt viewed as a Cleggite.

    I actually think the OB encompassed a broad range of ideas and in itself did not imply a shift to the right. Charles Kennedy himself promoted some of the key OB figures eg Oaten and Laws.

    In fact as I recall in 1999 it was Simon Hughes who was seen as the left candidate and Kennedy was seen as more of a candidate from the centre so in that regard there are zome parallels with this contest.

  • Richard Easter 8th Aug '20 - 11:35am

    Michael BG – I have not seen any public polling of Moran vs Davey, but the public opinion of Davey is not good.

    It is highly unlikely Davey is going to improve on those ratings. In contrast – Nick Clegg up until October 2010 had positive ratings – and in May 2010 even was as high as 53% in some surveys! Kennedy had consistent positive ratings – again as high as 37% in 2005. The figures can be found at

    The party cannot go into an election with a leader with such dismal ratings. We have two examples of this mistake from 2019. Swinson ended up losing her seat. Corbyn lost to an 80 seat majority. Even Swinson and Corbyn on rare occasions had positive ratings. Davey never appears to have.

    I agree with you about Davey being much more on the right of the party. That sort of commuter belt “corporate liberalism” does not appeal to me, and I’m much more interested in winning the West Country back – if I am brutally honest.

  • “but the public opinion of Davey is not good.”

    He is an Interim and Joint leader

    during a pandemic

    and where the planned elections that could have galvanised support were postponed

    So unfair to judge don’t you think?

  • Richard Easter 8th Aug '20 - 12:13pm


    No I don’t think is unfair. Starmer has managed to gain a positive reputation throughout the pandemic. Davey has consistently negative ratings. This does not bode well for the party.

    As I said before, I found Davey’s intemperate attacks on rail workers on strike worse than anything uttered by even Grayling, so I have little time for the man anyway. I don’t expect Lib Dems to act like rabid Thatcherites.

  • Labour are still behind the Tories in the polls and a You Gov poll has Starmer 1% behind Johnson for who would make the best PM.

    Bizarrely this has led some Corbynites to claim it was a mistake to elect Starmer which shows the irrationality of looking at polls at this point.

    In any case I believe Ed Davey’s strengths would be most apparent during an election campaign where he would gain popularity during the campaign as voters saw more of him rather than squandering a strong position through rookie errors.

    Ultimately it is not about national vote share it is about winning our target seats and I think Ed would be well received in these seats.

  • Richard Easter 8th Aug '20 - 1:37pm


    The Corbynites are utterly wrong. Corbyn had dreadful personal approval ratings. Starmer however has positive ones. Clegg had positive ones, as did Kennedy – regardless of the party being below Labour or the Tories. The major reason given in poll after poll for Labour’s terrible loss in 2019 was Corbyn. It does not bode well for any party to enter into an election with an unpopular leader.

    Davey’s personal opinion polling is poor, and I cannot see him attracting centre-left voters. Moran however may well make much better inroads – being untainted by coalition, and not linked to right wing economics or union bashing.

    The argument that the more voters see of a leader, the more they will think highly of them didn’t work for Swinson. It worked a small amount for Corbyn in 2017 – but nowhere near enough, and then completely destroyed him in the year that followed.

  • To add to the comments by Richard Easter, whilst I’m not entirely convinced by Layla Moran‘s leadership credentials, what is particularly alarming about Ed Davey’s consistently poor “net favourability” ratings is the proportion of voters who have never heard of him. After 20+ years as a Lib Dem MP, including 3 years as a Cabinet Minister, this hardly reflects well on his ability to achieve the sort of media “cut-through” that the party will need to regain credibility or to make any sort of impression on public opinion – quite apart from any wider concerns that social liberals, let alone social democrats or other “progressives” may have, e.g. regarding his previous policy positions and his coalition voting record, etc.

  • John Marriott 8th Aug '20 - 3:04pm

    @David Raw
    I missed your question to me on PR. The answer is yes, provided any system adopts the ‘5% Rule’, or it’s equivalent, which the West Germans did for the second Federal Elections in 1953. In the case of Germany, unless a candidate wins outright, all parties represented in the ‘List’ half of the draw have to get at least 5% of the popular vote to be represented in Parliament. As the liberal FDP usually gets all its MPs from the indirect list, it has on at least one occasion that I know of failed to get any MPs elected at all.

  • David Evans 9th Aug '20 - 9:43am

    I think there are too many people here expecting our new leader, whoever he or she may be, to somehow magically raise the party’s profile nationally (in a good way) to achieve quick progress. Sadly it was never like that and never will be. Most voters vote for one party or another out of a sense of habit, and building that habit is what creates a core vote.

    Sadly Nick, by his actions in coalition, got most of our previous core vote out of the habit very quickly, and only a few, very well organised constituencies managed to hang on to their vote. It is no surprise that most of our leaders in the successful years up to 2005, simply encouraged the party to get out and campaign in their local communities, and the failures have been the one’s with the big ideas. Most recently, Vince and Tim realised this, but Jo and Nick did not,

    Sadly Layla seems to think that being radical is what is needed, and as gaining national press coverage is her strongpoint she will turn this into success, but what we all need to remember is most people just want simple honest politicians who are competent in running things. Radical posturing is for small parties who would rather remain pure than become relevant and will do nothing for our future prospects.

    We have to accept we are back to being a small party which has to focus on local survival and the long slog of slowly building relevance again. The one thing we need any leader to do is not make a mess of it.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Aug '20 - 9:47am

    To me, the important question about Ed Davey is not, whether he is favourably viewed well or how much is known in the opinion polls – Jo rapidly became known, not seemingly to our benefit – but whether if elected he will lead us in a progressive direction, relating well to progressives in the Labour party. I believe he will. He wrote in Liberator, “My vision is of a party that fights for a more caring, greener and fairer society”, and I believe he wrote truthfully. I think progressives will have a task to do soon, to uphold the rights of the poorest and most neglected of our society and demand better benefits, restriction of capitalists at every level (for instance in the provision of more social rather than executive housing), and a commitment that fairer and more equal results be demanded from every government action.

  • @Richard Easter

    “ The argument that the more voters see of a leader, the more they will think highly of them didn’t work for Swinson.”

    I didn’t say this would work for everyone, it depends on the politician and their personality!

    I think the public will warm to Ed Davey the more they see of him as he has a calm and likeable interview manner and is good at interviews, Question Time etc.

    Layla Moran is also an articulate performer. Unfortunately for Jo Swinson media appearances were not really her strongest area, this was clear during the leadership election so I did not expect her to become more popular during an election campaign.

  • John Marriott,

    Can there really be too many political parties? There are just over 400 political parties registered in the UK (

    In the Weimar Republic there were seven main political parties. Today we might expect most democracies with a PR system to have at least eight:
    Communist; Socialist; Left Liberal; Right Liberal; Conservative; Nationalist; Far Right; and Green and we might expect also a party for Social Democrats. Currently there about seven “main” political parties in France and at least six in Italy.

    I would add to your factors causing the collapse of the Weimar Republic the treaty of Versailles, the stab in the back myth, that too many political parties didn’t support the Weimer Republic, and President Hindenburg. I am not convinced that the SPD played a significant role and you may have over-estimated the importance of Gustav Stresemann.

    Katharine Pindar,

    I wish I thought there were no neo-liberal supporters in the party.

    Peter Martin,

    You didn’t answer my point
    ”Do you have any evidence that increasing Universal Credit to £157 a week for a single person and £271 for a couple can’t be done because the numbers do not add up?”

    UBI and eliminating poverty are not the same. Having a UBI will not necessary eliminate poverty.

    It is strange that you argue about the funding of UBI when you recognise that government income increases with economic growth and there is therefore no need to fully fund increased spending on increased welfare payments. (As you point out in your comment of 8th August 9.19 am)

    You posted comments on my 2018 article where I set out how a very basic Universal Basic Income could be funded based a number of reports on UBI.

    Steve Trevethan,

    I agree it would be very helpful if both candidates were much clearer on their economic school or theory of thought.

  • Peter Martin 10th Aug '20 - 5:35am

    @ Micheal BG,

    You’re asking me to justify something I haven’t written. What I did say was:

    “When {progressive liberals} do venture into UBI territory they have the not-so-small problem that the numbers ‘to eliminate poverty’ just don’t add up and soon they retreat back out again.”

    But, you’re saying the purpose of a UBI isn’t to eliminate poverty? OK I’ll agree on that!

    Economic growth isn’t the major factor. “Fully funding” is not the right way to look at the question of how much taxes might have to rise . As I said there is only one fiscal rule. The need to avoid too much inflation. Or hit whatever target is set. Fiscal policy (ie taxing and spending) has therefore to be counter-cyclical. It’s when the economy appears to be doing well with high levels of revenue that the Government should tighten up rather than thinking they have lots of money to spend.

    That wasn’t the case at the time of the election and it isn’t the case now. But it could be at some future time. Most economists, like in Dr Malcolm Torry’s report, try to calculate the neutral point. The problem is that this isn’t so easy define. Increased taxation for higher welfare provision will involve taking money of those who are less likely to spend it and increased welfare provision will mean handing money to those who are more likely to spend it.

    This isn’t an argument against redistributive fiscal policies. Just that all factors need to be included.

  • Peter Martin 10th Aug '20 - 6:10am

    @ Katharine,

    “I wish I thought there were no neo-liberal supporters in the party.”

    I wouldn’t be too hard on them!

    We all, unless perhaps we happen to work for the Treasury or the BoE, only have experience of being currency users. When we have more income we know we have more to spend. If we want to spend more money than our current income, we know we have to sell something, earn more or borrow it. It’s quite difficult, even seemingly for most professional economists, to avoid that line of thought. That’s what leads to neoliberalism. Even members of far left parties fall into the trap.

    But everything changes for central governments which are also currency issuers. They have to spend “money they don’t have” into the system in the first place otherwise there wouldn’t be any money for the rest of us to spend. They have to assume the debt or the liability so everyone else can hold the asset. It’s nowhere near as hard to understand as Quantum Mechanics (IMO) but it does need a little lateral thought.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Aug '20 - 3:18pm

    The question is, Peter Martin, what our present government will be prepared to spend our money on next. We cannot of course trust it, because its values and priorities are not ours, which is why Michael and I want us to gather progressive forces together, and suggest our own party can do that best under the overarching theme of the Social Contract.

    Even a columnist from The Times, Philip Collins, had this to say in his column on Friday.
    “This is the weakness of the government approach – not that it is too radical but that it is not radical enough. Levelling up will require a new school curriculum in which non-academic education is given the same status as going to university. It will require expensive improvements to hospitals and schools in poor areas. It will require better childcare and a solution to social care.” This he wrote within a column covering planning, housebuilding and jobs. Well done, Philip, you are in the Social Contract mode, since the Social Contract we are advocating will deal with all such topics under our five headings. Liberal Democrats should be preparing to campaign on them all.

  • Peter Martin,

    You are misquoting me, I wrote, “UBI and eliminating poverty are not the same. Having a UBI will not necessary eliminate poverty.” If the UBI is set at the poverty level for individuals then it would eliminate poverty, the only scheme I have seen with a level above this is Malcolm Torry’s ‘Recovery Basic Income’ of £196.59 per week, even with his suggested large increases in all the income tax rates he states it would cost a further £236.63 billion which is unfunded from increases in taxes ( However, a rate equal to the income tax personal allowance linked to its abolition I have shown can be funded from tax increases, however at this rate it does not eliminate poverty. The better option is to increase working-age benefits to the household type poverty levels which I estimate would cost about £63 billion and could be done gradually over between seven and ten years depending on how much is decided to allocate to this project each year.

    The conclusion to draw from your further comments is that so long as the economy is not at full capacity it would be possible to increase working-age benefits and stimulate the economy so long as it doesn’t cause inflation to increase. Therefore it might be possible to fund my £63 billion of extra welfare spending without any increases in taxes.

    I don’t think your assertion that the currency issuing governments need to spend money they don’t have into the economy is very useful in convincing people that a government budget deficit is not a problem. I think the idea that the economy is in a state of equilibrium when
    Savings + Taxes + Imports = Investment + Government Spending + Exports is more useful.

  • Peter Martin 11th Aug '20 - 7:22am

    @ Michael BG,

    You’re just saying that:

    (S-I) + (M-X) + (T-G) =0,

    Which is the well known sectoral balance equation. But what makes you think this only applies to an economy in equilibrium? Do you have a reference for this?

    There was a tweet from Steve Keen not too long ago in reply to another one:

    “If you see the word “optimal”, “maximize” or “utility”, stop reading the paper and throw it in the garbage. Repeat as needed.”
    SK: ” You forgot ‘in equilibrium’ ”

    I think we could include “structural” too!

  • Peter Martin,

    When I was studying economics with the addition of C – Consumer spending an equation was used understand how Keynesian economics worked. I was taught

    Consumer Spending + Savings + Taxes + Imports = Consumer Spending + Investment + Government Spending + Exports

    When the economy is in equilibrium.

    We then changed one factor and worked though how the other factors changed if the marginal propensity stayed the same for each factor. During this process the economy is not in equilibrium and Consumer Spending + Savings + Taxes + Imports does not equal Consumer Spending + Investment + Government Spending + Exports

    Therefore “When G + X + I is greater than T + M + S, the level of national income (GDP) will increase. When the total leakage is greater than the total injected into the circular flow, national income will decrease” ( (I have used this model in some of my previous comments over the years.)

    “The state of Equilibrium

    “In terms of the five sector circular flow of income model the state of equilibrium occurs when the total leakages are equal to the total injections that occur in the economy. This can be shown as:
    “Savings + Taxes + Imports = Investment + Government Spending + Exports
    “S + T + M = I + G + X” (

  • Peter Martin 11th Aug '20 - 11:29am

    @ Michael BG,

    OK Thanks for that. I’ll give it some thought!

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '20 - 8:08am

    My first thought was that (S-I) + (M-X) + (T-G) =0 is an ex post accounting identity. It always holds true.

    However, if we were to try to collect the figures for each term and fit them to the equation there would always be some error due to time delays and I think this is the basis of the argument (injections, leakages etc) used in the Wiki article.

    if, for example, the actual investment contains some unintended inventory accumulation, which would signal that producers have overestimated consumption demand. In which case, further income changes – investment falling, employment falling, consumption falling (for example) – would then change the balances but still maintain the accounting relationship.

    So if time delays are playing a part then there could be an argument for saying the economy isn’t in equilibrium.

    But I’d question if it ever truly is. It could be compared to a bicycle. it looks like it is going along steadily enough but there are lots of little corrections going on via the handlebars which keeps the bike upright. Try riding a bike with the handlebars locked!

  • Peter Martin,

    I agree the economy is never likely to be equilibrium, but the equation C + S + T + M = C+ I + G + X along with the idea of ‘marginal propensity’ are a very useful tools in understanding how a change in one factor effects the other factors. I think this equation is useful in showing that austerity cannot stimulate growth.

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