Liberal Democrats must be radical now

Liberal Britain must be neither a country of entrenched privilege riding over the less fortunate, nor a nanny state shepherding and corralling its people.

Liberal Democrats stand for liberty, the freedom of every individual to make their own decisions about how best to live their lives. We trust people to pursue their dreams, to make the most of their talents and to live their lives as they wish, free from a controlling, intrusive state and a stifling conformity; a free and open society that glories in diversity.

That statement of our principles contained in the Agenda 2020 party consultation paper makes me doubt the ideas of Universal Basic Services and Universal Basic Income, discussed here lately.

“We stand for equality”, continues the declaration of Agenda 2020. Yet UBS and UBI could be argued as likely to reinforce structural inequality in Britain. The benefits might be intended to keep the mass of the population reasonably content in having enough to live on and being looked after, while the rich and privileged might willingly pay for the right to continue to accrue wealth and power in unchallenged peace.

The policy would then be the equivalent of the bread and circuses of Roman Emperors, so Liberal Democrats should shun it. It is too easy for us in our middle-class, educated way to avoid facing the glaring inequalities of our country by offering palliative measures, as we did in lifting poorer people out of income tax but ignoring the poorest who didn’t pay tax at all.

Yet, evidence of the glaring inequalities mounts by the day. It was reported recently via a Freedom of Information request made by Labour’s David Lammy that, between 2010 and 2015, 43% of offers of places at Oxford University were made to privately educated students. Only 7% of British children are privately educated. So continues the upward flow of privilege which leads to top jobs in the City, Parliament, the Judiciary and the most prestigious Media outlets being dominated by the privately educated.

Here today we also now have the staggering information that half the population are in a potentially financially vulnerable situation. “50% of consumers display one or more characteristics that signal their potential vulnerability”, notes the report, Understanding the Financial Lives of UK Adults, published this month by the Financial Conduct Authority after its biggest ever study of households (https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/research/financial-lives-survey-2017pdf). It found that 4.1m people are already in serious financial difficulty, particularly in the 25-34 age group, and that just under 8 million are over-indebted.

Our reaction to these and other studies of growing inequality already noted here (see Kirsten Johnson’s article of October 19) should confirm that Liberal Democrats are valuably different from the rest. But we have to offer more than palliative measures. As our Leader has stated, we must find radical solutions, including reforms to taxation of land, property and inheritance, and a redirection of the tax system to wealth rather than income. Where great wealth continues to accumulate and is not invested in productive capacity it must be challenged. It is up to our party now to produce the proposals that neither of the two big parties has the vision or the commitment to a better future for everyone that the Liberal Democrats offer.

* 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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35 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Oct '17 - 3:44pm

    Katharine

    You as ever write from a perspective of common decency and common sense. Your Liberal and democratic values are the sort to get us far , but whether that direction is radical , is not the main thing .

    Many talk radicalism but have conservatism in their marrow, in their inability to change, adapt , to circumstances.

    Thatcher was a Conservative but not conservative. Se was a radical of the centre right, in the context of her time. Now she would be considered fairly mainstream until at least recently, on aspects f an agenda that has moved further to the right than once was so.

    Attlee is held up as a radical, a socialist of credentials many very more left wing activists admire, but in his day, was a social democrat who was in the centre of his party.

    Gaitskell was considered a right winger in Labour party politics, but only for means testing glasses and false teeth at a time of austerity, and supporting an independent deterrent. He was a social liberal who was a great believer in new ideas , he even wanted , after only a decade or so of it existing, to consider the tv licence something to question, with the BBC getting a monopoly of the cash being perhaps not fair when other public broadcasting by independent programme makers could not access it.That became Liberal Democrat policy under social democrat , Charles Kennedy. Gaitskell also was one of those who wrote an alternative to clause 4 , so much better than the original or later one, and some of which can be seen in our preamble , as Shirley Williams and others involved can see in their history as Gaitskell supporters.

    We should be the Radical Moderates.

    Today , with so much extremism, radicalism is often seeking moderation.

  • Peter Martin 29th Oct '17 - 4:35pm

    @ Katharine,

    “The policy (for a UBI and /or UBS) would then be the equivalent of the bread and circuses of Roman Emperors, so Liberal Democrats should shun it.”

    I might well embarrass you by saying you are absolutely correct about this!

    Just giving out money for nothing is excluding people from society when we should be looking at ways of including everyone. It is not good for anyone to be given the message that they have nothing to contribute and therefore they should just sit quietly in a corner, living on meagre benefits, while everyone else gets on with running the economy.

    If we create a class of unemployed people and keep them unemployed long enough we end up with a class of unemployable people. This isn’t to argue that there shouldn’t be social benefits for the low paid or that free health care should be linked to employment through insurance schemes but we do have to get away from the idea that robots will do all the drudgery and the rest of us will then have nothing to occupy us.

    There’s plenty to do. We don’t have to have 30+ children in every classroom. If expensive private sector schools can have 15 children per teacher then so can the public sector. I think it might be some time before we can replace teachers with robots!

  • Nonconformistradical 29th Oct '17 - 5:32pm

    I agree with Peter Martin. People need their self-respect as well as access to the basic necessities – food, roof, clothes etc. Not much self-respect from sitting around all day…

  • @ Lorenzo ” Attlee was a social democrat”.

    Oh yes ? Then why did his government nationalise basic industries and public utilities ? The Bank of England and civil aviation were nationalised in 1946. Coal mining, the railways, road haulage, canals and Cable and Wireless were nationalised in 1947, electricity and gas followed in 1948. The steel industry was nationalised in 1951. By 1951 about 20% of the British economy had been taken into public ownership. All, incidentally, opposed by the Liberal Party.

    As the grandson of a coal miner, I can also tell you that within a few years of nationalisation, progressive measures were carried out to improve conditions in the mines, including better pay, a five-day working week, a national safety scheme (with proper standards at all the collieries), a ban on boys under the age of 16 going underground, the introduction of training for newcomers before going down to the coalface, and the making of pithead baths into a standard facility.The newly established National Coal Board offered sick pay and holiday pay to miners.

    Sticking labels on things, i.e.Social Democrat, is historically inaccurate and misleading , Lorenzo. If anything he was a democratic socialist and an atheist.

  • Simon McGrath 29th Oct '17 - 6:37pm

    The 7% figure for pupils at independent schools is misleading : 18% of 16+ pupils attend independent
    schools

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Oct '17 - 7:06pm

    @ Lorenzo. I like your exploration of the terms, Lorenzo, since they tend to be loosely used. You tie radicalism with an ability to change as circumstances demand, but that surely would have to have a caveat – change consistently with our principles and the policies created by the members. Perhaps radical moderate fits with that!

    I’m not sure myself that we are particularly radical, though I’ve paid lip-service to the idea throughout my Liberal life. (Personally I wish we could nationalise the public schools, but I guess that wouldn’t be Liberal!) Having doubts is why I am keen that in facing this tremendous issue of inequality we really are radical and work out appropriate policies.

    @ Peter Martin – pleased to have your support, Peter, no embarrassment at all!

  • @ Peter and Katharine,

    How would UBI create a class of unemployed people? Who do you know is happy living on £17k a year? The incentive to find a job would still be very high even with UBI/NIT (I’m more in favour of NIT (Negative Income Tax) to replace our current welfare state) since it’d be the bare minimum for people to live off. It’d give working-class people the freedom to do more with their lives as they wouldn’t be stuck with a job they’re probably not happy with just to put food on the table, creating a very effective safety net. I think it’d also have a massive impact on mental health, something that sorely needs sorting out in Britain. With it we could remove the national minimum wage so the free market could decide what job’s actually worth what rather than arbitrary floor provided by NMW. For me, it’s the most liberal policy out there and I don’t think we should be slow to adopt this policy. We’ve already taken our sweet time on LVT to the point where Labour’s now adopting it, we shouldn’t do the same with UBI/NIT.

    Everyone here is calling for radicalism but no one’s actually providing any policies/solutions, and I think the sad truth is we’re so hesitant on adopting any radical policies because of fear of losing our 7% share of the vote.

  • Katharine,

    I agree with your diagnosis – the problem the party has is a) agreeing on the policies it believes would remedy the situation, and b) expressing those policies in a popular way.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Oct '17 - 7:31pm

    It just seems to me so paternalistic and condescending, Zacmeister and as with food banks, so divisive. The rich in their castles and the poor at the gate, and be content with that! We do care about individual fulfilment, and as a counsellor I really contest your idea that UBI could improve mental health; self-worth tends to be associated with having a job, not with idling at home.

  • David Evershed 29th Oct '17 - 8:13pm

    The high proportion of private school pupils at Oxbridge is primarily due to the better perforance of private school pupils relative to state school pupils.

    The solution is to improve the performance of the state school pupils – one argument for re-introducing grammar schools or the equivalent and/or learning from private school techniques. Introducing robot teaching in state schools may well be part of the solution too.

  • James Baillie 29th Oct '17 - 8:38pm

    I prefer NIT to UBI as a system, but would vigorously dispute the claims made that either option would somehow cause a poverty trap – claims for which no evidence has been provided. Evidence from countries where this has been trialled suggests that such systems don’t decrease take-up of work, do tend to improve mental health by freeing people from the arbitrary uncertainties of a conditional benefits system, and most importantly free people to be able to take up risks and opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to use. From a guaranteed minimum income, people get the security they need to attempt to start businesses, retrain skills as adults, take time to work on community or public interest projects, and so on – it’s a profoundly liberating measure that can give people the mental and financial security they need to get on with their lives. The idea that it would cause anyone to be “idling at home” seems very strange indeed to me and completely alien to any of the evidence I’ve seen from pilots elsewhere or any indications I’ve got from personally talking to people who would need to make use of such a system.

    Measures like guaranteeing a minimum income have to, of course, go hand in hand with increased wealth taxation measures like land value tax. I absolutely agree with the writers’ assessment of the need for greater wealth taxes to reduce inequality – for me, that goal fits very closely hand in hand with the need to ensure people have a minimum level of income to ensure that they are freed from poverty and can make use of opportunities, rather than being in any way in opposition to it. For me, it is the twin goals of taking on rentier and vested wealth interests on the one hand and providing reliable freedom from poverty on the other that should guide liberal radicalism in the coming years – I feel like this post sets up a dichotomy between those where in fact there is none.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Oct '17 - 8:56pm

    David

    I agree with much of what you wrote , yet not the view of sticking labels , as that is something I was not doing.

    If you understand that I was in the Labour party and whether there or here , am in the centre of two wings , usually able to navigate my own way and path too, you can get the point , that I was and am of the Atlee sort , in that I can see different perspectives and work with them.

    Atlee was a democratic socialist, social democrats in the Labour tradition use that phrase regularly. He was , in that party , a moderate , compared to Laski, Bevan, and Cripps.

    Bevan was a pragmatist who, despite resigning over false teeth , had said , “we shall not fill their teeth with gold !” He allowed doctors to practice privately, he changed his mind on nuclear weapons, the tragedy of division and bickering about who was the real socialist , and who was thus radical, meant the Labour party was poorer for the demise of him and Gaitskell, who had after years of not , got along and agreed , too late !

    My point is what is radical, just as with the centre ground, changes.

    Atlee was considered a Liberal by some in his party because , like Beveridge, had a Toynbee Hall, background.

    We nee radicalism and moderation.

    Katharine understands where I am coming from with this and I value that.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Oct '17 - 12:02am

    James, what evidence is that? Please produce it. Were the trials successful enough to be followed up nationally? How long did they last? – you would expect different results in such a case from trials as opposed to a universal system. Where were they?

    I refer you to the party’s principle which I quoted, that we trust people to live their lives here ‘free from a controlling intrusive state and a stifling conformity’. Let’s have individualism, people seeking their own paths to fulfilment, not centrally imposed top-down policies which would better suit the Labour Party than my Lib Dems. Give people the security of a decent living wage, of reliable benefits if they can’t work, of a new grant to be used at any time of their lives for further education or retraining, and of eventual good pensions, and then let them be free. They might certainly be at home with happy self-chosen activities – but I have read of the uneasiness of some men who have become house-husbands, and it is true that engaging in work that suits you and is accepted by society is likely to contribute to your mental good health. You are right, though, that we are aiming for the same good ends, just with rather different approaches.

  • James Baillie 30th Oct '17 - 10:14am

    So, most trials worldwide so far haven’t been run by central governments, since in many states this would be a regional or state-level matter anyway, and sustaining political will from trial to rollout is hard in any programme of this scale – there was a very successful pilot in Canada in the 1970s, which found that job uptake was unaffected in most groups (marginally lowered in young men and mothers who were more likely to pursue education and childcare respectively), and noticeably that there were measurable health benefits to the system thanks to the better stability it provided for people. The pilot was scrapped when a Conservative government took power in the late 70s, though a new pilot scheme has just started in Ontario. Similar benefits to health and education-seeking have been reported from the current Finnish trials (though the value of those are being rather jeopardised by cutbacks from the centre-right Finnish government already as part of general welfare reductions taking place over there). There have been rather larger benefits reported from some experiments in India & sub-Saharan Africa, but of course the situations there are somewhat less applicable to the UK.

    I’m still confused by your idea that guaranteeing people an income is somehow more controlling than our current conditional system in which people are only guaranteed an income if they do exactly what the state tells them, when it tells them to, and seek whatever paid work they can get immediately. Guaranteeing a minimum income, for the first time ever, would actually signal us trusting people to know better how to use their time in work-seeking than the state does – a simple, streamlined system that achieves your stated goals of giving people retraining funds, reliable benefits if they can’t find work, and the assured stability needed to start a business and pursue their own goals. For me, that’s a profoundly individualist approach, as opposed to the punitive & regimented statism of requiring everyone to jump through hoops at job centres in order to find an employer to be subject to. A minimum income isn’t about people working less, it’s about giving them more freedom to retrain and to find jobs that are right for them – it’s about working *better*.

  • “The high proportion of private school pupils at Oxbridge is primarily due to the better performance of private school pupils relative to state school pupils.” David Evershed.

    I think your data is a little out of date. Cambridge intake no longer most privately educated

    Having recently attended an admissions presentation by admissions tutors from Cambridge and Oxford, you will discover their primary focus is selecting a particular type of self-motivated students who are passionate and have a super-curricula appreciation of their subject along with indications that they have what it takes to complete their university studies and that the biggest obstacle pupils from the state sector have is the application form: if you don’t apply you can’t be considered.

    I now understand how a relatively low performing local state school can regularly get students taking up places at Oxbridge. Obviously, if you want to study Medicine – the subject with the highest level of over-application, then you will need the highest grades.

  • James Baillie 30th Oct '17 - 11:22am

    Regarding Oxbridge admissions – private/public is a far less serious divide at this point than selective/non-selective. State grammar schools are massively over-represented at Oxbridge still, with comprehensive-educated pupils, aka the majority of the UK population, still decidedly a minority – comprehensives do produce fewer students with the relevant grades and are less likely to get students to apply. By the point of application time the problem is already set in, though – comprehensive schools often really struggle to keep programmes in place to help nurture gifted & talented students throughout their teenage years and encourage/allow them to pursue extracurricular or supercurricular interests in their subjects. If we want more social mobility toward top universities (and we should), then we do need better & more regular gifted and talented provision in comprehensives to help support that.

  • Peter Martin 30th Oct '17 - 11:37am

    @Zakmeister,

    You ask “How would UBI create a class of unemployed people?”. It possibly wouldn’t. It would depend on how generous the scheme was. We need to define what we are discussing. This is the first paragraph from its Wiki entry:

    “A basic income (also called basic income guarantee, Citizen’s Income, unconditional basic income, universal basic income (UBI), or universal demogrant) is a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country receive a regular, unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, independent of any other income. An unconditional income transfer that is considered insufficient to meet a person’s basic needs (or below the poverty line), is sometimes called a partial basic income, while one at or greater than that level is sometimes called a full basic income.”

    So we need to be careful to define what we are discussing. Is it a partial basic income or a full basic income? I’m all for guaranteeing a full basic income to everyone but it’s the unconditionality that I would object to. There’s plenty of things that need doing! We just need to organise our productive capacity to ensure that they get done.

    That’s what economics is really all about. It’s not primarily about money at all!

  • William Fowler 30th Oct '17 - 11:41am

    “Thatcher was a Conservative but not conservative. Se was a radical of the centre right, in the context of her time. Now she would be considered fairly mainstream until at least recently, on aspects f an agenda that has moved further to the right than once was so.”

    I see no signs of the Conservatives moving to the right in Cameron and May, nor any signs of radical thinking – it only seems that way because they had to clean up the mess left by Gordon Brown’s failed attempt to turn the country into a socialist paradise that all but bankrupted the country. What has happened under the current Conservative rule is they have allowed large corporations to rip people off to an astounding level, hence increased wealth disparity and hence Corbin getting away with talking his usual gibberish. The Liberal stance should surely be to get some of this money back by increasing taxes on large businesses, preferably in the form of turnover tax as that is almost impossible for accountants to fiddle. Talk about land tax etc just scares off normal individuals who may be better off or may just aspire to that status.

    About the only way the Lib Dem’s will break through to the electorate at large would be to phase out council tax and replace the income with turnover taxes on large companies, the real criminal enterprises like energy and money-lenders having to pay a much higher rate than, say, manufacturing companies. Worries about house price inflation can be dealt with by a sales tax, related to postcode, to balance things out.

    The only way citizen’s income is ever going to be feasible if it is set at a level that covers the very basics of survival, everyone who can expected to top it up with whatever work is going but it would then give them freedom to pursue whatever interests they have (say working for a month then taking a few months off for their own interests without having to fight through a complex benefits system)… incidentally, if linked to a minimum five year residence period before allowed then it would also stop low paid workers flooding the country (as the personal tax allowance would no longer exist).

  • @ William Fowler “They had to clean up the mess left by Gordon Brown’s failed attempt to turn the country into a socialist paradise that all but bankrupted the country”.

    Oh dear, here we go again, with the knee jerk parrot cry which believes Freddie Mac and Fanny May were members of the Labour Cabinet instead of being organs of the Bush administration in the US of A…………. and please, do at least get the Leader of the Opposition’s name right.

    As for Thatcher, she devastated the lives and communities of millions………….. or so the Liberal Party quite rightly used to say when she was in power.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Oct '17 - 3:04pm

    This is interesting, thanks chaps. @ James Baillie, I appreciate your information on the UBI trials, but note that no country has yet followed up with a national scheme. You ask, is this proposed system more controlling than the current conditional system where people are only guaranteed an income if they do exactly what the state tells them (and so on)? My answer us that in this country nobody is allowed to starve, that every citizen is guaranteed some income already, and that the Liberal Democrat way forward is to insist that the present systems should be conducted in a more humane and empathic way, as can be seen by the motions on welfare that we have passed. But this proposed policy to me smacks of the nanny state, of enforced conformity, conditionality (as Peter suggests) and different limitations on liberty.

    @ David Raw, October 29th, 7.24 pm. You are right, David, the party does need to agree on policies appropriate to the problem, but I have hopes that between the Economy Working Group (where are you, folks?) and Vince’s proposals, we may make progress on that. It’s an area where Vince could rightly give a lead.

    @ William Fowler. Phasing out council tax and replacing it with turnover tax is certainly radical, William, though I hope Joe Bourke may come in in defence of land value tax. I can’t judge berween these kinds of proposals, but I am concerned at the buying up of property in cities by the wealthy, foreigners or native, as the most lucrative investments available, and keeping them vacant or letting parts of them as flats at extortionate rates. I hope people will propose strong motions for Spring Conference.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Oct '17 - 4:25pm

    William
    Thatcher was to the right of ever , but she nor her colleagues , did not cut benefits , in fact they are criticised for not caring , because they let people remain on them. They never touched disability benefits, and the various schemes until the crash, from Thatcher through Blair, helped benefit claimants.This lot of Tories are conservative, no new ideas and they don’t care.

    David

    You are wrong to always blame the two banking organisations as much as you do, only, and especially to denigrate them as Bush folk ! Their reason for the mess was well motivated in part , they were a throw back to the FDR idea of everyone having a chance, in this case , to own a home. At their best they helped many on low incomes get a slice of the property that is at the centre of the modern society, American dream or anywhere. The trouble with those who preach that the banking crisis was not the government to blame at all, it was only the banks, they do not realise not all the banks had the same ethos in the States.The conclusion is not that fanny and freddy were heroes, but they were not only villains. Many Democrats , such as the left wing Barney Frank, were advocates for their lending.

  • James Baillie 30th Oct '17 - 6:17pm

    Katherine – In this country nobody is allowed to starve? I know a fair few friends personally who, having been forced to use food banks or rely on friends to donate basic essentials, would disagree. Even with the party’s proposed improvements to the current systems (which would be a very welcome change from the present system), the system will still be somewhat based on the principle of pressuring people financially into obtaining any old job as fast as possible, rather than on allowing people to act according to their own best interests and needs when between jobs or in need of retraining. You keep asserting that there is some element of conditionality and conformity in unconditional social security, and I’m still not sure how you envisage such a mechanism occurring given that removing conditionality is largely the point of the system!

    There are of course a multiplicity of possible schemes to guarantee people a minimum income – partial UBI, full UBI, NIT, unconditional tax credits, etc. My marginal preference is for systems that are based around NIT or unconditional tax credits, as these by definition target money more efficiently. My main concern is that we should move away from work-based conditionality for basic living-cost social security; it’s greatly reducing the freedom of those who lack other assets or financial cushions by bouncing them between jobs in a semi-enforced manner and not giving them the flexibility they need to make decisions about their own lives.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Oct '17 - 6:58pm

    James, a quick reply as I am going out. I do see where you are coming from, you regard UBI as liberating (so do some supporters of Brexit, but I won’t associate you with them), but I just foresee that if it were brought in, along with UBS perhaps, there would soon have to be rules and regulations and exceptions and difficulties (rather as with Brexit), but of course I could be wrong about that. I shouldn’t argue this here further, because there has already been a long thread about why the party should support UBI earlier on. I am more interested in what proposals and motions there can be, which will be truly radical, to address inequality, such as William’s suggestions. I wish we could also think of some radical ideas to deal with the excessively privileged position of privately or grammar-school educated pupils. And I want to explore further the idea of how our party is ‘different’ from the other main parties as well as trying to be radical in its attitudes, which was in the original title of this piece until Caron asked me to focus on radicalism.

  • @ Lorenzo “You are wrong to always blame the two banking organisations as much as you do, only, and especially to denigrate them as Bush folk !”.

    Quite right, Lorenzo. It was remiss of me not to include Lehman Brothers – contributors of three hundred million dollars to the 2004 Bush campaign. You’ll know of course that the filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, remains the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, with Lehman holding over US$600,000,000,000 in assets. I don’t see the name Lehman in Brown’s list of Cabinet Ministers.

    As for Mrs Thatcher, she was thwarted by a Cabinet revolt as your favourite Sky News spelled out on 25 November last year,

    “Margaret Thatcher secretly pursued plans to dismantle the welfare state even after ministers thought the politically explosive proposals had been killed off by a Cabinet revolt, according to newly-released official files. The proposals were among the most contentious and the most radical to be considered by Mrs Thatcher’s government during her 11 years in Downing Street from 1979-1990.

    They included scrapping free universal healthcare and requiring people to have private insurance, charging for education, ending the annual increase in benefits in line with inflation and sweeping defence cuts. The plans were drawn up by the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) – a Whitehall think tank.

    What she did manage to scrap was millions of jobs and communities…… and to ‘liberalise’ the FCA regulations.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Oct '17 - 11:15pm

    David

    I have not heard that and am greatly pleased you showed it, I spent that decade fighting her electorally and on marches and in meetings , as chairman and secretary of my local Labour party young socialists , and then as a student union president was the anti Tory candidate !

  • Katharine Pindar 31st Oct '17 - 11:03am

    ‘Challenging entrenched concentrations of market power, redefining growth targets, lifelong skills and training, empowering dynamic local people-led growth’ – just some of the radical aims of the 21st Century Economy Working Group, its member Iain Porter told us. I’ve been looking back at Iain’s excellent thread on how we must be the clear anti-poverty party, posted on October 9, and found there his summary of the ongoing focuses of the Group which I had forgotten. He says the work there is really about industrial strategy but is concerned with ‘the right kind of growth’, which must be inclusive across every region and every segment of the population.

    Two points occur to me now. Firstly, the motion arising from the group’s work won’t be debated till the September 2018 Conference ( itself just before the likely crucial debate on Brexit in Parliament), so can’t be party policy until then. Would it be acceptable to publicise the group’s intentions and ongoing work before then, as indicating part of our radical thinking?

    Secondly, that work is not (nor claimed to be so) directly linked to our fight against poverty. Our best claim to be ‘the clear anti-poverty party’ lies in our Manifesto, with its demand for reversal of welfare cuts and freeze, and proposals for allocating more than £9 billion to this, while the Labour Manifesto was only allocating £4 billion. With the worsening position of the poor as the cost of living rises making benefits even less sufficient, and with the government’s totally inadequate responses, for instance of loans to people unable to cope with a six weeks and longer for Universal Credit, we have to keep campaigning now on this issue. Perhaps with organised public protests? We have and will have good policies, but radical action may be needed now.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Oct '17 - 1:54pm

    Our language must be precise or we might be misunderstood. If a candidate is a Liberal Democrat and a “radical” and a muslim could s/he be represented by brief headlines?

  • Katharine Pindar 31st Oct '17 - 6:05pm

    Good point, Richard. We use the word ‘radical’ for various meanings agreeable to us, but it may have for the general public dark connotations as you infer, so we must clearly spell out what we want.

    We surely want new dynamic different thinking and proposals to deal with the terrible problems the country faces, including growing child poverty, the increasing debt burden of half the population, and the divisive, worsening stark inequality between the wealthy and the poorest – the income of bankers and heads of industry compared with the pay of their workers, the investment in property for gain contrasting with the lack of decent affordable housing for young people and families, and so on. There is plenty for us to spell out and campaign on, whether by social media, leaflets, parliamentary initiatives, press releases, speeches or direct action, and we need to be known for it so that we can gain power to make changes. A little step on the way will be if there are radical proposals for taxation change brought to our Spring Conference.

  • Ed Shepherd 31st Oct '17 - 6:47pm

    What demeans and traps people is our current combination of low-paid insecure prospectless work and a benefits system that seems to offer a choice between being forced by starvation back into low paid insecure work or being resigned to scraping by on benefits for a lifetime. Some kind of citizens income/UBI/NIT is an acheivable way of possibly moving away from this wasteful humiliating system. UBI/NIT would allow people more choices as to how to spend their time, allow more time tto consider study or retrianing, reduce the stigma of being labelled unemployed or a claimant and allow many people time at the beginnning or end of their working lives to start out or wind down. The nearest equivalent to UBI/NIT that we have in this country is the state pension and it’s related benefits. Does the existence of pensions mean that everyone claiming them is whiling away the days smoking a joint in front of their Playstation? No. It allows recipients to help friends and family, to take part in community activities, to develop hobbies or educate themselves. We should give such opportunities to everyone at various times in their lives just as an older generation had student grants and free tuition to develop theselves. If the Lib Dems do not seriously consider UBI/NIT then other parties eventually will.

  • @ Ed Shepherd “our current combination of low-paid insecure prospectless work and a benefits system that seems to offer a choice between being forced by starvation back into low paid insecure work or being resigned to scraping by on benefits for a lifetime.”

    Absolutely spot on.

    @ Katharine Thank you for introducing a very interesting debate. What’s needed now are the bold policies to put into practice the principles you have outlined.

  • David Evans 31st Oct '17 - 8:14pm

    Let’s be honest though David, the British financial institutions were as culpable in their own way as the American ones, playing their silly games with CDOs etc to pass the problem of unjustified lending to the gullible. Northern Rock, B&B etc were all dragged down when that source of finance was no longer available. I worked for the Alliance & Leicester in Internal Audit at the time and was astonished to find we had bought £1bn of the stuff to magic profits out of thin air. It was clear that those with responsibility had no idea what they had bought, indeed I remember one person telling me that it was justified “If the organisation wanted to participate in that market.” I think they got about £300 million back.

    I know it is comforting to believe that the UK, with its so called left of centre Labour government and its caring but competent chancellor, didn’t make the mistakes the Americans made. In reality however, Gordon Brown did everything he could over many years to continue to pour ever more money into the system, so that he could just go on supporting ever more generous, but badly designed and implemented support packages for those groups so beloved of Labour politicians.

    The UK was living and spending a dream for many years, from Thatcher onwards and Labour were in their way just as culpable as she was.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Nov '17 - 11:04am

    Well, all right, Antony, but the party is awash with statements of principle, values and vision already. What policies do you want to follow from such an admirable vision as this one? Indeed, what strategy should encompass it?

  • Peter Hirst 1st Nov '17 - 6:44pm

    With diversity must come tolerance of that diversity for it to work. The other issue is the ease by which someone by work and talent can rise at any stage of their life and reap the benefits. Also, a credible safety net for those who fall.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Nov '17 - 7:59pm

    We are supposed not only to tolerate diversity, Peter, but even to glory in it – ‘a free and open society that glories in diversity’ , as the 2020 Agenda paper has it. I like your idea of that encompassing pleasure rather than envy of those who rise through work and talent (if that is what you mean), so long as there is the credible safety net ‘for those who fall’.

    I think our society has the basic safety net, though I do sympathise with Ed Shepherd’s compassionate view of working life for many in Britain today (6.47 pm yesterday). What can be done? I shrink from the idea of an automatic basic income, as I have indicated; I want young people to be free to spread their wings and be enterprising and responsible for themselves, though I deplore the debt burden new graduates are now facing. But a life of thankless hopeless grind? Perhaps we should be thinking of a learning account, or even a handout to give 6 months of freedom, made available in mid-life, say at age 40, to give a little hope and perhaps restore a spirit of enterprise.

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