On Farron’s lurch to the left…

If you read some commentators, you’d think that in less than a week of leadership, Tim Farron had virtually turned us all into revolutionary socialists.

Matt Dahan wrote a story for the Independent which suggested that Nick Clegg would be “shaking his head” in “uncomfortable dismay” at Tim Farron’s bid to “form a Lib/Lab pact” to oppose welfare cuts.

The former deputy prime minister has been left sitting on the backbenches in the House of Commons, where he is forced to choose between toeing the party line or causing what would be a major rebellion in a party of just eight MPs.

It seems Mr Farron is leading the Lib Dems further to the left than Labour, even sending a letter to interim Labour leader Harriet Harman telling her to form a Lib-Lab alliance to fight the Government’s spending cuts.

Except Tim’s stance on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill is entirely consistent with the stance Nick Clegg took in Government. He stopped all this nonsense about taking Housing Benefit off young people and limiting tax credits to two children and further reducing the benefits cap. If Tim had supported them, it would have been a massive story.

And the reason we really know that this isn’t a massive left wing lurch is that Simon McGrath, of Liberal Reform, is backing Tim’s stance enthusiastically, creating a petition asking Labour to oppose the Bill. 

The only hope that the opposition in Parliament will ever have of defeating the Government is to all work together. That’s what happened when Labour were in power and David Cameron followed Nick Clegg’s lead over the Ghurkas and inflicted a defeat on then Home Office Minister Phil Woolas. The idea of working together with other parties is hardly a radical notion. We’re doing it in the Lords all the time and have already joined with Labour to inflict 10 defeats on the Government in 2 months. Paddy Ashdown is one of Nick Clegg’s closest allies and was enthusiastically saying on his Reddit Q and A the other day that:

I  don’t believe in electoral pacts – they deny voters choice. But I do believe that we on the progressive wing of British politics (and those outside politics) now need to get together in a series of conversations about the things we agree on. I can see what they re. Internationalism, the Green agenda, Civil liberties and Human Rights, how to build a strong economy AND a fair society, Europe, the need to create a state based on the powerful citizen not the strong state. All those things that are now being threatened by what is beginning to look to me like the most dangerous and damaging Government of our time.

If we start quietly with conversations who knows where it will lead.

This sort of talk certainly isn’t new from Paddy  as anyone who lived through the time of his Joint Statement with Blair in 1998 will remember. The phrase “astonished their parties” is a mighty fine example of the art of the understatement.

At the weekend, Jane Merrick wrote in the Independent that:

But now that Tim Farron has defeated Norman Lamb, the candidate who came closest to The Orange Book mission, is it all over for this classical liberal wing of the Lib Dems? In his victory speech, Farron said he wanted to bring the “millions” of liberals in Britain into the Lib Dems but his politics are closer to the old SDP element of the party. To put Farron’s victory into some context: this is the first time the centre-right, establishment-backed candidate (Lamb was supported by Paddy Ashdown and Menzies Campbell) has lost a leadership election in the Lib Dems, or the former Liberal and SDP parties.

This is not the SDP/Liberal dynamic I remember, for a start. To me the pro NATO, pro nuclear power SDP was by far the right of the Liberals who angered David Steel so much by voting against a nuclear deterrent in 1986. The Liberals were definitely the lefties. I was a member of the SDP, but that was mostly because the average age of the SDP in Caithness was around 50, the Liberals a good bit more. My heart was definitely Liberal. The dynamics within this party are too complex to distil down into an SDP/Liberal binary though. It’s also worth pointing out that although Charles Kennedy may well have been the establishment’s pick in 1999, he could never have been described as “centre right.”

I suspect that there will be an emphasis on using the power of the state to reduce inequality. That is not an idea that the classical liberals within our party are averse to – remember Nick Clegg investing billions to help disadvantaged kids in school, anyone?

The left/right discussion is tiresome and inaccurate and one of our jobs over the next wee while is to wow people with the pure radicalism and boldness of our ideas to get this country back on track. We’ve done it before and must do so again.

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

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  • I suspect the “right/left” discourse fits lazy journalism. My sense is that what has really happened is that we are now well left of the Government because they have lurched right. Tim’s speech seems evidence of that…

    But maybe both right and left are illiberal in their ways of control, so we will never fit that well on their scale.

  • Jamie Stewart 22nd Jul '15 - 4:44pm

    Good points! It’s way too easy to get preoccupied with the left-right political spectrum when ideology/pragmatism, or Benn’s/Blacks’s signpost-weathervane analogy is probably just as important in many cases. A healthy dose of each is important, as any individuals personal views may turn out not to be good signposts in any given situation, but it is a tricky balance.

    Whilst I think that Nick Clegg and Tim Farron appear to hold very similar political views, Clegg was a bit too much of a weathervane, or at least appeared to be too much of a weathervane in his desire to demonstrate that coalitions can work. Hopefully Tim will come across a bit more solid in his views, and his decisiveness over the the welfare bill certainly bodes well. I hope Tim sticks to his guns, but it will definitely get a bit more messy when we get onto immigration…

  • “Let’s do the Timewarp again … “

  • John Tilley 22nd Jul '15 - 6:02pm

    Well said, Caron.
    Your recollection of the politics of the 1980s is correct. I was aid to Viv Bingham who chaired our conference debate which resulted in the removal of NATO from the Preamble to the Constitution of the Liberal Democrats. If you wanted to use that as a barometer of left/right within the party then it was absolutely clear that the enthusiasts for nukes and NATO were manly from the old SDP.

    None of that will seem very relevant to the mass of our party members today, very many wll not have been born at the time that the SDP merged with The Liberals. It was a very long time ago. However the issue of nuclear weapons is even more relevant in 2015.

    The need (both financially and in terms of defence priorities) to ditch the Trident replacement is probably greater now than it has ever been.

    I have always argued that the natural position of any party calling itself Liberal has to be on The Left of politics. However, in 2015 getting rid of Trident is no longer restricted to those of us on The Left. It is a view shared with such prominent Conservatives as Michael Portillo along with many of the Top Brass in the UK military who recognise that Trident is a wildly expensive distraction from the proper defence needs of the UK.

    Will submarines with nuclear warheads based in Scotland keep us safe from Daesh terrorism running wild in Syria, Iraq and sweeping across North Africa? Of course not.
    It is time for our party to campaign all out for an end to Trident along with allies from Left and Right.

  • It has always concerned me that many journalists without so much as leaving their desk have the ability to judge everything and know everything..they have never understood the Liberals or Lib Dems, for them they were an annoyance and got in the way of simplistic politics. More power to Tims elbow.

  • (Matt Bristol) 22nd Jul '15 - 6:33pm

    TCO – you can only really start singing that if in the next year Corbyn wins the Labour election and then David Miliband returns to the UK to launch a new centre-left party, splitting Labour and flirting with the idea of an alliance with the Lib Dems…

    But Mark Argent is right – Cameron is making everything an us-and-them game, behaving as if he gets to define where the political centre is, and the media and Harman are going along with it.

    Opposing the Welfare Bill is not the act of insane Trotskyite mavericks. You could argue it’s defending the Coalition’s legacy.

  • Simon McGrath 22nd Jul '15 - 7:37pm

    Thanks Caron!
    On the issue of the SDP/Liberals I agree it is much more nuanced that left/right. One of the big differences was that the SDP were much more likely to believe that state control and intervention was usually good thing – and their influence in that can be seen in a whole range of LD positions. On free schools for example I suspect the Liberal Party would have been far more likely to be supportive.
    I voted against the merger for that reason.

  • I have posted a comment on the Indy website in reply to that Matt Dahan piece.

    Come on Lib Dems! lets not just discuss distortions of the facts on here! Let other people know!

  • paul barker 22nd Jul '15 - 7:54pm

    Enemies of Liberalism need to decide which angle to attack from. Is Farron a crazed, religious fundamentalist who hears voices or is he a Crypto-Communist ? He cant be both surely ?

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jul '15 - 8:30pm

    Farron needs to reach out to the centre and the left. A platform of just targeting the left is basically a regional strategy in the modern United Kingdom. Worryingly, I have heard suggestions that he is fine with this by saying “we need to be part of a movement that seeks to remove the Conservatives from power and Labour can’t win in areas such as parts of the north west and the south west”.

    This is basically saying “we’ll leave the cities to Labour and we’ll go for the middle class leafy areas”. But a manifesto further left than 2015 will struggle greatly in the more affluent parts, especially if the alternative to the Tories is quite worrying for people.

    He needs to do a bit of a restart. I’m not bothered about his religious views, but going too far left can set panic into people and a lot of people who aren’t rich too.

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Jul '15 - 9:03pm

    John Tilley 22nd Jul ’15 – 6:02pm
    YES … and about time all of us referred to them as Daesh!

    paul barker 22nd Jul ’15 – 7:54pm … when in fact he is neither!

    Eddie Sammon 22nd Jul ’15 – 8:30pm
    Eddie, you must know a different Tim Farron than the one that Lib Dem members have just elected. Much as I believe, the Lib Dem Tim Farron to be a great communicator, I’m not sure he won his seat in Cumbria from the Tories by ‘just targeting the left’.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Jul '15 - 9:24pm

    Eddie, when I was phoning for the local elections on Tim’s patch, even the Tories actually really liked him.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jul '15 - 9:31pm

    Thanks Caron. I see. A good article anyway.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jul '15 - 10:07pm

    Tim Farron has not lurched to the left. He has nailed his trousers to the mast.
    What has changed is that we have had a general election, gone into opposition and elected a new leader.
    Labour has had a general election, gone into opposition and not yet elected a new leader.
    Therefore we have a short term opportunity while they decide what they want to do.

  • David Pollard 22nd Jul '15 - 10:41pm

    Seems to me, Tim’s stance is completely in line with the ‘fairer Society’ part of our election slogan. We are so committed to the ‘Strong economy’ bit, it nearly resulted in the destruction of the party. We have NOTHING to prove on that score. The two are not incompatible, but at some point Tim is going to have to face up the fact that it is not possible to have US levels of taxation with Nordic standards of public services.

  • Kevin Manley 22nd Jul '15 - 11:30pm

    Interesting article, although whilst in one part you say the left / right analysis isnt relevant, in other parts you use it to describe the differences between the SDP and the Liberals. I think in reality it is relevant and we do all know what you mean when you say X is to the left of Y and Y is to the right of Z. It does translate into attitudes to policy the role of the state. I am a new member having re-joined on the night Charles Kennedy died, and think a “lurch to the left” – to be more like the party he used to lead, adopting distinctly liberal but also fundamentally social democratic positions – is just what is needed if there is any chance of the party even surviving as anything more than a fringe party. People forget that it was under Kennedy, and being to the left of labour on some issues, that the party achieved its most successful result of the modern era with 62 seats. Those voters built up by Ashdown and Kennedy have completely deserted the party since 2010 and there are no right-of-centre economic liberals, or “orange bookers” to use the parlance (although I’ve never read the orange book and am not sure what an orange booker is!), taking their place. Tim is off to a flying start in my view, and good luck to him.

  • Conor McGovern 22nd Jul '15 - 11:47pm

    David Pollard, I’m not sure we have either US levels of taxation or Nordic levels of public services. If we clamped down on corporate tax evasion and taxed land and unearned wealth, we could potentially improve public services and cut down the deficit without raising the tax burden on income, particularly the incomes of people at the bottom of the scale, or slashing welfare.

  • Why is it that people are always said to be “lurching” in either direction? Is it impossible to have a smooth and gentle leftward trajectory?

  • Adam Robertson 23rd Jul '15 - 2:17am

    I read the article by, Caron, I must admit with some trepidation and disdain. I would be classed as a classical liberal/Orange Booker liberal – I get the impression, that we are no longer wanted within the party, or at the very least, we should be seen but not heard.

    As a classical liberal, of course, I am not averse to the idea of the pupil premium. I think this was an excellent idea by Paul Marshall and David Laws, which deserves a lot of credit. However, we need to target the right areas, not just become a statist party, as I fear Tim Farron, might take us on the projectory – I fear. I think his performance on the Welfare Bill, was admirable, but I think looking to the state for welfare, makes individuals becoming reliant on the welfare state. I think there needs to be a constructive, effective opposition – not this ‘blanket’ approach, he is taking.

    I am also concerned, about Tim’s stance on nuclear deterrent. He says he is in favour of the nuclear deterrent – but not Trident. What does he suggest instead of Trident? My fear is that we might have a sizable minority, taking the party, towards positions – which could only be defended with democratic socialists and those who believe in unilateral disarmament. His words, have suggested to those who believe in unilateral disarmament, that he is also towards that viewpoint – or certainly giving credence to those views. At the very point, we could potential fill a gap in the political market of the Conservatives, lurching to the right, and Labour – going to the left and possibly splitting – we have opportunistic politics, instead of reasonable and constructive policies.

    With the Conservatives, possibly splitting over Europe and the Labour Party, taking a leftward turn – Tim Farron, may never be more needed in the next couple of years, to infuse a liberalist, centrist movement, which could do very well in local and county elections, after the EU Referendum, if not sooner. The face of British Politics, may change – to a more consensual, than adversarial style of politics. I believe Tim, could be the forefront of this, but he needs to show that he is credible and constructive to take those votes and potential political partners from both Labour and the Conservatives.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Jul '15 - 7:41am

    Not a bad thing for the Independent’s ‘readership’ to be told ‘authoritatively that ‘things have changed’.

    No need to discourage this kind of message.

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jul '15 - 7:57am

    Conor McGovern22nd Jul ’15 – 11:47pm – well said. There is a lot of inaccurate narrative baggage about. Good to question it!

  • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: John Stuart Mill self-described as a socialist and agitated for all sorts of identity politics and lefty government interventions. These people who call themselves classical liberals because they find the word libertarian distasteful are wrong to do so.

  • @John Tilley “Will submarines with nuclear warheads based in Scotland keep us safe from Daesh terrorism running wild in Syria, Iraq and sweeping across North Africa? Of course not.”

    What if ISIS get so strong they acquire nukes by taking over a nuclear state (eg Pakistan)? You can’t think in the short term with this. Who knows what the World will look like in 5 years, let alone 10, 15, 20 or 30.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Jul '15 - 9:46am

    Jennie, there was quite a bit of socialism in the New Liberalism of Hobhouse, Hobson et al.

    Chris Dillow has recently identified and called for a diagnosis of five problems. We need to address these too. You will find their description here: http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2015/07/labours-economic-narrative.html

  • John Roffey 23rd Jul '15 - 9:54am

    Conor McGovern 22nd Jul ’15 – 11:47pm

    “If we clamped down on corporate tax evasion”

    In truth, it is nigh impossible to oblige multinationals to pay their full share of Corporation Tax – there are so many ways available to them to reduce the amount of profit earned in the UK. Also it is an expensive business trying.

    I still favour a transaction tax [collected in the same way that VAT is collected] instead of CT for any business that operates outside of the UK. This is very simple to collect and much more difficult to evade.

  • Neil Sandison 23rd Jul '15 - 10:05am

    The SDP leadership under Dr David Owen was more pro nuclear but that did not apply to all its members .it was pro multilateral nuclear disarmament rather than unilateral .and given the politics of then and what appears to be now a proliferation of nuclear weapons and rearmament by the super powers still a valid stance to take.
    Social justice and fighting inequality are still just causes for the Liberal Democrats to take up and champion but that does not mean we should blindly accept the Status Quo .Fresh ways of tackling such problems should be considered Lets be honest Brown and Milliband who imported the tax credit system from the US ended up enslaving many low income households into dependency but equally we should not swallow the Tory mantra which we know will impoverish many households and is a smoke screen for hiding ruthless cuts to in work benefits. We should be confident as a party to challenge injustice or unfairness but have the conviction to offer a better vision to the electorate.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 10:11am

    “US levels of taxation ” vary from state to state with the USA.
    There is a federal income tax, some states have a state income tax,.
    Sales taxes, the equivalent of VAT, vary from state to state.

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jul '15 - 10:24am

    John Roffey23rd Jul ’15 – 9:54am

    John, a transaction tax does indeed sound appealing from what you say. Any good links? Anything simplifying tax requirements and its efficient collection has got to be good for ordinary citizens.

  • There is a debate to be had about Tim Farron and direction. The way to blow that debate completely off course is to relate it to that old irrelevant chestnut, SDP versus Liberal. Was that the intention?

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 10:32am

    Who would like to be in a two-some with David Owen?
    He came second out of two in the leadership election in the SDP.
    After the 1983 general election he became the second leader of the SDP, unopposed.
    He competed for media attention in the Alliance with Liberal leader David Steel, who had more MPs.
    After the 1987 general election he resisted merger and tried to lead a “Continuing SDP” known as SDP2, while the third SDP leader supported merger.
    Both of David Owen’s supporters lost their seats in 1992.
    He was “awarded” an historic accolade of having split 2 parties, the second person to do so, the other being Joseph Chamberlain.

    After this twosome reel, the important number is 1989, when a Hungarian minister took wire cutters to the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall fell. The Cold War ended, governments cut defence spending and multilateral cuts in nuclear weapons were achieved, although more progress has been made by US President Obama.

  • Stephen Howse 23rd Jul '15 - 10:41am

    Lurching to the left by voting along the lines laid out in our manifesto. Righty ho then!

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jul ’15 – 10:24am

    Stephen – as you can imagine – this is a complex issue that would require expert consideration. An increase in VAT might be an even simpler approach – certainly in the short-term. An additional 5% would theoretically bring in an extra £20bn – which would remove the need for any further austerity measures. A 5% turnover transaction tax would bring in more – if there were no exemptions.

    Also – if you take a look at the various VAT rates charged – some changes might be in order.

    There are various arguments against VAT or any transaction tax – in so far as they hit rich and poor alike. However, I far as I am concerned, it is better to raise taxes in this way [ensuring you get the richest] and having got a sizeable sum into the Exchequer – provide allowances to the poorest from the amount accumulated.

    VAT is cover quite well by Wikipedia:


  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 11:49am

    “pro nuclear power SDP ” This was a constituency interest of the third leader of the SDP, Bob Maclennan, now a peer.
    There is a beautiful golden beach on the north coast of Scotland with few tourists.
    The seawater is suitable for cooling a nuclear power station.

  • @ John Roffey
    “There are various arguments against VAT or any transaction tax…”

    VAT is not a ‘transaction tax’ in the sense used by economists because it does not tax intermediate inputs (eg business to business sales) but only the final point of consumption. This is in contrast to the sales taxes used in most US states or the old Purchase Tax in the UK pre-VAT.

    There are indeed various arguments against transaction taxes. The main one is that it makes no sense to tax goods, services or assets more just because they change hands more often. Stamp duty on share deals and property is a transaction tax which has just this perverse characteristic and makes no economic sense.

  • TCO: “What if ISIS get so strong they acquire nukes by taking over a nuclear state (eg Pakistan)?”

    I can think of impossible scenarios too, like “What if children learned basic geography in school?”

  • IainBB 23rd Jul ’15 – 11:46am
    “… employee ownership. It is a radical policy of redistribution as well central to creating and maintaining long term economic success. ”

    It is also a brilliant example of allowing people to take power over their own lives and their own enterprise, rather than being employed by and under the thumb of some nameless, unaccountable corporation based in Denver or Shanghai.

  • (Matt Bristol) 23rd Jul '15 - 12:53pm

    We do need to be careful and not say we are opposing all cuts – but clearly that we are opposing THESE cuts (although I have to admit I am sceptical myself about many more cuts, without there being an option for local authorities in particular to raise their taxes as they see fit to compensate, in a democratically accountable way, without being penalised for it by central government).

    What I don’t get is what crisis the Tories think they are solving by putting their foot on the accelerator like this? It’s the same as why did we have an ’emergency’ budget?

    If the economic recovery was happening under the Coalition where is the crisis?

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jul '15 - 12:55pm

    Alex Sabine23rd Jul ’15 – 12:11pm

    Hello Alex – without a word of a lie, this morning, on this very thread, I thought to myself, “where is Alex Sabine when you need him?”

    Alex, given that we may wish to find a way to ensure that multi-Nationals pay a fair and proportionate amount of tax on earnings in the UK, what would be the most fair and efficient way for this to be achieved in your opinion?

  • Phyllis,

    You should realise by now that according to the Press, all progressive people are engaged on a slow and sometimes arduous climb towards the sunlit uplands of Economic Liberalism (aka Cameronism), but occasionally we (because after all we are “all in it together”, aren’t we?) have to suffer a “lurch” (or perhaps “backslide”) to the left…..

    Still I don’t think Farron is lurching anywhere, to be honest!

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jul '15 - 1:06pm

    Needless to say, having worked as a private and corporate industry wage slave all my working life, I am all in favour of employee (co)ownership and meaningful industrial democracy as raised by IainBB and John Tilley.

    I have long suspected that working people would take more sensible decisions regarding renumeration for ALL employees and concerning long term matters such as investment if they had reasonable influence within an enterprise.

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jul '15 - 1:10pm

    John Roffey23rd Jul ’15 – 10:50am

    Thanks John … will read up!

  • Matt Bristol

    The “emergency” is at least fourfold:
    1) they have been held back by those nasty Lib Dems all these years – have you ever seen a flock of sheep let out of a truck or ferry?
    2) The majority is small – make hay while the sun shines!
    3) Labour are in the middle of a leadership contest – bring forward as many policies as possible, and mix good and bad policies up in packages so the interim leadership can’t decide what to do! (Boy! Has that one worked!)
    4)Put any nasty stuff in the first year of a Parliament and then give some of the money back in the last year (this is even on record!)

    The coalition did much the same thing, bringing forward policies at a breakneck pace, including things like tuition fees which were not an emergency in national debt terms (they made it worse) even though accountancy said they improved the deficit. Meanwhile the 12 months up to May 2015 was a initiative desert

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Jul '15 - 1:35pm

    To those who are motivated by things such as “employee ownership”, I ask what it is that you offer the self-employed?

    Crumbs is usually the answer. Jeremy Corbyn talks about a more “collectivist society” and immediately a lot of the self-employed, even poor people, switch off.

    Owen Jones has finally come around to the idea of championing the self-employed and I know Farron does too, but why is he encouraging the statists from Labour to move to the party? Party membership should not be sold like chocolate bars and when people see a party championing state takeover of the economy a lot of people switch off.

    The 2010 manifesto offered the self-employed tax cuts, but the benefits of this were taken away by all the new regulations and even some new taxes announced.

    A lot of poor people are also not naive and when people say “Labour lost because it wasn’t left wing enough” it fails to connect with the masses on an emotional level.

  • Alex Sabine,

    Don’t you think that a Tobin tax on currency trading (as suggested by the EU, and rejected by Cameron amongst others) might be a good idea simply to discourage speculative trading (which makes up 80% of the whole). Of course even the States that supported a transaction tax argued their way out of the spot currency part of it, and the transaction tax itself is delayed until 2016…

    The same goes for stamp duty on shares. When shares are traded backwards and forwards simply to make profit, it is entirely appropriate to tax that (at a low rate) simply to discourage unnecessary transactions, in my opinion… In the true capitalist model shares are supposed to represent an investment in an enterprise, the rewards being in a share of the profits – but we have got into a position where the biggest profits come from breaking up companies, selling off the best bits, and dumping people unemployed onto the state from the bits that only make a small profit.

    I have long thought that much of the activity in the City of London is actually inimical to capitalist endeavour, and almost certainly a direct cause of inflation. Getting rid of some of this activity would of course mean short-term pain for the Treasury and many City folk, but perhaps longer term gain?

    Of course I realise there are big practical difficulties because trade simply moves elsewhere in the world, but I think we should have supported the EU on this

  • John Roffey 23rd Jul '15 - 2:24pm

    Alex Sabine 23rd Jul ’15 – 12:11pm

    “There are indeed various arguments against transaction taxes. The main one is that it makes no sense to tax goods, services or assets more just because they change hands more often. Stamp duty on share deals and property is a transaction tax which has just this perverse characteristic and makes no economic sense.”

    I have never been a fan of VAT, however, Osborne’s repeated claim that the deficit needs to be reduced to a surplus asap so that the national debt can start to be tackled does make sense to many voters – and it is, and will be, his continuing claim during any debates on the subject. Whereas TF’s argument that there is no need for further austerity measures is true – it would be useful to have a counter argument when Osborne asserts his deficit ambition.

    A rise in VAT of 5% should bring in all the extra revenue he say he needs – leaving a surplus to protect the most vulnerable impacted by the rise – with no need for additional austerity.

    Given the EU’s influence – VAT seems the easiest way to offer an alternative way of meeting Osborne’s claimed, but in truth – ideological, ambition to reduce the deficit.

  • Eddie,

    I would see the self-employed as the ultimate in “employee ownership”. I don’t see why we cannot support employee ownership of enterprises of various sizes and also the self-employed.

    Personally I am suspicious of “Big Government” and even more suspicious of “Big Business”. At least Government has the benefit of being elected now and again, whereas I see no motive of Big Business to act in my personal interests unless they happen to coincide with their own (making money for shareholders). Big Business employs people and is therefore desirable in general, but it needs regulating.

    Small business and the self-employed need some regulation too, but our aim should be to level the playing field between them and big business. Sometimes that is difficult without increasing bureaucracy for small business though, and that is the challenge…

    I am also strongly in favour of employee ownership, but it is best if it happens organically (as is actually the case in many many SME’s)

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Jul '15 - 3:17pm

    Thanks Andrew. I also think from time to time the differences between “employee ownership” and “employee trust ownership” need to be spelt out. Employee trust ownership can happen on a big scale, but the problem with outright employee ownership is that when employees leave or sell their shares it is no longer “employee ownership” but just “stranger ownership”.

    Best regards

  • Eddie,

    Yes, I agree, turnover of employees is a problem, although no more than the “hostile shareholders” we have seen in many conventional businesses.

    Personally I think somehow we have to get away from the idea that ever-increasing turnover and profits are the only measure of success. Any business that employs people (including a 1 person, part-time microbusiness) and consistently does not make a loss (ie they can return all profits as salary, that is ok) is successful for me…

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Jul '15 - 4:45pm

    Hi Andrew. Not making a profit is fine if the owner can pay themselves a salary, but “silent” investors, including many pension funds, need to be rewarded via profit.

    I agree that “ever increasing profit” is not a good thing. It is better to look at profit through Return on Investment, rather than simple figures such as X billions. Making 5-9% ROI per year is fine.

    I agree that if a big company is making 15% ROI then it needs to be looked at to see if this is fair. It is fine the occasional year, but if it happened year on year it would suggest some sort of monopoly or cartel.

    Before I got into politics I had a finance background, which I still do a bit of work in, hence the technical talk. 🙂

  • David Evershed 23rd Jul '15 - 7:26pm

    Employee ownership is risky for people with limited wealth.

    If employees have a significant share ownership built up in one company and the company gets into trouble then the value built up in the shares diminishes or lost entirely eg Nothern Rock.

    People with limited wealth are better advised to reduce the risk by investing in a fund which spreads their investment across many shares.

    People with substantial wealth will have investments elsewhere and may be more able to afford to lose the value of their employee shares.

  • David Allen 23rd Jul '15 - 7:31pm

    “Why is it that people are always said to be “lurching” in either direction? Is it impossible to have a smooth and gentle leftward trajectory?”

    Naturally the Lib Dems’ opponents will want to call the change from Clegg to Farron a lurch, or an abandonment of principles, or a cynical ploy, or a muddle. Naturally Lib Dem supporters will want to provide a favourable spin instead!

    What should that favourable spin be? Some might prefer “Move along, nothing to see here, we have not really changed significantly, all that has happened is that instead of knocking the worst corners off right-wing conservatism in coalition, we are now able to propose our own policies. Anyway, we’ll rein Tim back if he goes too far.” Others might prefer “At last we have reclaimed our party, of course things have changed, but what Tim stands for are the true principles of the Liberal Democrats, so move along, nothing to see here!”

    I would suggest that if we want to climb that mountain we need to climb in order to get believed again on anything at all, we need to avoid both those extremes of spin. We do need to argue that we had to bite our tongues in Coalition and that in order to be allowed a moderating influence on the Tories, we had to go along quietly with things we did not like. But we also need to admit that this is not the full story, and that we have chosen our leader in the full knowledge that this means a change in our direction – Not a huge lurch, but a significant change nonetheless. Only both these explanations together will be credible.

    We do have a distressing tendency to insist that you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between different people in our party. The Tories don’t try to pretend that Cameron and Johnson have identical views. Labour don’t try to pretend that Kendall and Corbyn have identical views! We should act grown up and accept that Clegg, Lamb and Farron also do not have identical views, and that Tim now has the responsibility to lead the party the way he wants it to go.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 8:14pm

    David, that assumes that people have a choice of where to invest money. Others have a choice of being an employee or having employee ownership. Much depends on whether thye need to put in money. John Lewis owned the business that he donated to his employees, now including Waitrose, a successful model for employees. Customers should check prices.

  • Eddie,

    I am just making an appeal for stability! what do you think of this?

    I found it an interesting read having picked it up randomly before a flight to the USA!

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Jul '15 - 9:02pm

    Hi Andrew, the book could be decent. It will probably bust the idea of libertarian free market economics, which I am fine with.

    I was sympathetic towards libertarianism (although but not the extreme stuff) for a few years, mainly until I began to think Bill Gates getting richer and richer is just obscene and someone needs to stop it lol.

    Anyway we are going off topic, have a good evening!

  • Eddie

    True enough! someone will ask to wind up the thread 🙂 Take a look at the book if you get the chance.. Takes a look at the world view, analyses the trickle down theory, compares German family companies favourably with public listing, among many other things, as I recall!

  • Iain Brodie Browne 23rd Jul '15 - 10:22pm

    David Evershed
    take a look at the achievements of the Mondragon co ops which so impressed Jo Grimond. They were formed by workers who in the teeth of high unemployment poolled their savings, established a mutual savings bank and funded a employee owned network of co-ops which now employees over 100 000 people. The bank has been called the most successful entrepreneur support system. Grimond reasoned that the sum workers needed to get to join a co op was about what they needed to buy a car- so why not own your job. Do not underestimate what people can achieved when they take and use power!

  • Employee Co-Ops got a bad press in the 1970s when they were used after companies had failed, but Iain makes a very good point about Mondragon. There are other examples where enterprises were given to their workers, like Scott Bader, and of course employee owned Tower Colliery had several years of success until the productive seams became worked out.

    When I joined this party we used to talk a lot abpout Co-partnership at work, and to paraphrase I thinik it is an idea whose time came a few years ago, but this was largely unrecognised by Liberals. About 25 years ago Martin Jacques and others were talking about a ‘post-Fordist’ economy. That has largely come to pass, but unfortunatekly instead of wealth and power being spread in a democratic transition, we’ve seen both the gap between rich and poor and the gap between the governing class and the governed widen.

    Jo Grimond was ahead of his time in praising Mondargon, and also when he talked about the need for Liberals to be a ‘party of the governed.’ As we come away from the disastrous experiment with ‘Orange book’ ideas, perhaps we should revist the intellectual heritage that Lloyd George, Keynes and Beverage us in the 1920s-1940s and Jo Grimond continued in the 1960s. I believe this is highly relevant to today’s fractured politics.

  • @Steve Comer I believe Lloyd George liked the odd Beverage or two, but not as many as Churchill.

    Beveridge, OTOH, set out a number of principles in his Report that did not make it into the Welfare State as enacted by Labour. These were:

    – the Contributory Principle: benefits received should be related to contributions made. This was abandoned, notably for the State Pension where benefit payments were made immediately from current tax payers, a policy that has led to significant problems as the population has got older.
    – the Safety Net Principle: this was that benefits should offer only a safety net with work always being a better option

  • TCO – thanks for pointing out the error with the Beridge name!…….sometimes I think itc a case of “damned if you use a spellchecker – damned if you don’t!”

  • TCO. I think the contributory principle pre-dated Beveridge, I would date it to the National Insurance Act passed by the 1906+ Liberal Government.
    I think this shows how the ‘left-right’ definition of politics are simplistic and outdated. Winston Churchill would always be regarded as being on ‘the right’ (despite defecting from Conservative to Liberal and back) supported the contributory principle. He also supported wages councils in a number of industries, on the basis that if you didn’t regulate bad employers would undercut good ones, and the state would pick up the welfare bill. The same argument that is being played out over Tax Credits over 100 years after.

    Similarly Marxists always opposed the sort of co-partnership that Grimond and the Liberal promoted, and even opposed worker directors on the German model as they believed they undermined the class struggle. In this they found common cause with right wing businessmen.

    Increasingly many people are starting to see the real divide in politics as between the forces of authority and liberty.
    The Coalition blurred that for a while as Lib Dems Ministers were able to block or modify the Tories authoritarian instincts. On a whole range of Civil Liberty issues the Labour and Tory Parties are on one side of the argument and Liberal Democrats are on the other (ID cards, snoopers charter, control of the intelligence seervices etc.).

    More journalists need to be pointed towards this website to clarify their undertsanding of basic politics: http://www.politicalcompass.org/

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '15 - 6:04pm

    Paddy said
    “It is our task, as Liberal Democrats, to set our sails to the new winds which will blow through the nineties; to establish the new frontier between individual choice and collective responsibility; to draw up the practical means to change our economic system in order to respond to the environmental challenge; to liberate the political power of the individual within a practical system of government; to build a powerfully competitive economy, based on individual enterprise and founded on a flexible labour market; to create a taxation system whose purpose is not just to redistribute wealth, but also and perhaps chiefly, to redistribute opportunity; to extend ownership as a means of spreading wealth and diffusing economic power; to establish a network of individual rights which will fill the gap left by the death of collectivism; to rediscover pride in being English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish within a Britain that is big enough to allow different cultures and diffused government to flourish; to respond to the decline of the nation state in Europe without recreating the nation state on a European scale; to find practical means to strengthen global institutions so as to increase our capacity to act to preserve world peace and respond to global catastrophe.”

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '15 - 6:06pm

    Objectives should be SMARTER
    Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bounded, E valuated, Reviewed.

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