Opinion: It’s not about left or right

About an hour after Nick Clegg resigned I received a long letter by email on behalf of SLF essentially blaming the ‘Orangebookers’ for the poor Lib Dem results.

I would like to suggest that all sections of the party consider the possibility that it was not an issue of left or right. Maybe neither the left or right of the party were to blame, but that, with benefit of hindsight, there were other factors. My top 5. Other views ?

1. Obviously being in Coalition was difficult especially with our more anti-Tory supporters and Labour-facing seats…Tory ‘bedroom tax’ and ‘work-ready’ interviews for the disabled are among the most tricky on the doorstep. LD left & right had failed to counter the obvious opprobrium arising from these & other Tory policies – both in policy adjustment/veto AND in campaigning.

2. The ‘in between the two’ strategy was too negative …”vote for us because we will stop others doing stuff”, rather than what WE wanted to do post-May 2015. This was a hard sell to make pithy. ‘Stopping extremes’ was weak, since most did not see Tory or Labour as extreme.

3. We countered ‘stop Labour/SNP’ with ‘stop Tory/UKIP’ in Tory-facing seats. No-one believed however that UKIP could be coalition partners with one or two seats, on the doorstep. This strategy was a dud and left us vulnerable, and without a more credible response.

4. Excessive overconfidence. All big organisations can get collectively overconfident if there are insufficient systems to correct this. It seems there was no check on excess optimism around the leadership. (This is not  to detract from all the hard slog above and beyond the call of duty, over many months & years).  It wasn’t just Paddy Ashdown’s denial in his ‘eat my hat’ comment, a line was being taken more generally, for months, that the big surprise on May 8th would be the Lib Dem’s surprise success, defying opinion polls. Such beliefs tend to dampen the ability of folk to cast a critical eye over our strategies, so as to make sure they are effective.

5. Too many of our 2010-2015 and 2015+ policies were small-picture, not big-picture measures, and the public struggled to grasp sufficiently clearly what priorities problems we were attempting to address. It was kind of ‘great idea Libdems, but what problem exactly is this solution supposed to address, remind me ‘. This was closely linked to a related problem. Designing manifesto policies to make them more coalition-negotiation-friendly distracted us from our ‘bigger-picture mission’. It also looked foolishly presumptuous….wielding a weapon we did not yet, and may not at all, possess.

We have to consider also the possibility that the Cabinet Secretary’s 2010 policy of sharing each ministry (outside foreign/defence) as opposed to the normal European practice of parties taking control of whole ministries, was designed to ensnare and distract MPs. Did no-one notice that the Tories, and seemingly the civil servants, were strangely keen to the maximise the number of LibDems in junior government jobs ? Knowing they survived on local campaigning, keeping them busy was a smart strategy.

We should look at all these types of issues more than just left/right blame, at the very least to help avoid internecine factional conflict, dragging us down further.

 

* Paul Reynolds works with multilateral organisations as an independent adviser on international relations, economics, and senior governance. He is an elected member of FIRC and an Executive member of Liberal International (British Group).

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43 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 10th May '15 - 5:14pm

    Some excellent points . Totally agree on the 112 page manifesto which seemed deigned to shoe horn every policy Conference had aver passed at 9.30 on a Sunday morning in. No theme at all.

  • One of the most rational analyses I’ve read – much to agree with here. I’d expand point 5 to say that the 2010 manifesto was ‘change the system’ and 2015 was ‘keep the system’ with “Stability” being a final week value. Fatally misunderstanding what drove people to support us previously.

  • Conor McGovern-Paul 10th May '15 - 5:29pm

    On the left/right issue, we’d do best going for the most liberal, ambitious and popular policy ideas from all wings of the party, e.g. tax cuts for low earners and small businesses (‘right’ of the party) funded by a land value tax (‘left’ of the party).

  • Alexander Hegenbarth 10th May '15 - 5:35pm

    The main issue that became evident when speaking to members of the public was that the ‘giving the Tories a heart and Labour a brain’ message did not give the Liberal Democrats a distinct identity. Many voters felt that they had no reason to vote for us when they could vote for Labour or the Conservatives.

  • Top post Paul, best post-election analysis so far for me. Apart from missing out the breaking of pledges and talking too much, listening too little, it covers much of what I think went wrong. That said I think the left/right divide was a factor, it did feel for much of the last 5 years that the left wing of the party were minimised and the right brought to the fore. Come election day the difference between voting Lib Dem or Tory never felt like such an ambiguous choice to me, on many levels from manifesto to presentation. 10 years ago those positions seemed nearly diametrically opposed.

    In the south west the left of centre vote split, so we saw big increases in Labour and Green vote share, which seemed to come directly from the Lib Dems. This was true in many battlegrounds, so I can’t accept that this has nothing to do with left or right policies, certainly centre left voters have deserted the party in droves and a recovery without appeal to this demographic seems unlikely. However, to put it down to this alone is to simplify the problem to absurdity and I think many other factors, including the ones you’ve mentioned, contributed to the result.

  • tony dawson 10th May '15 - 5:39pm

    It is wrong to blame the Orange Bookers. Nick Clegg was clearly irrecoverably-tainted by 2012 and the entire Parliamentary Party and Federal Executive must take the responsibility (call it ‘blame’ if you like) for not recognising this and doing something about it rather than wishfully-thinking the UK Lib Dems were going to extract themselves from this pickle in a manner that no other political party anywhere has ever done.. The manifesto might as well have contained Christmas pudding recipes for all the relevance it had to the electors of this country in their voting decisions.

  • What about a caretaker style leader who can bridge the gap between Orange bookers and members who tend to the left. Joe Otten fits that bill and when not if Clegg resigns his seat Mr Otten is a shoe in to replace him. Time to think brave.

  • Jenny Barnes 10th May '15 - 5:46pm
  • Disclosure: a member of the Labour Party.

    One thing that Lib Dems still don’t seem to grasp is that things like the bedroom tax were not just “Tory policies”, they were Lib Dem policies too: approved by your ministers and voted for by your MPs.

    I haven’t come to gloat – after all my party is in deep trouble also. But the basic reason you lost trust is not hard to fathom: from the moment Charles Kennedy became leader you ran to Labour’s left and then in government were hand maidens to some pretty right wing policies. I used to think this was venality, but actually I think it was mainly naivety – you really did think you cut taxes, have free university tuition and social care all at once.

    When you rebuild you will have a choice: to take the knowledge from government and build a party that has realistic goals or opt for populism. Take note that Labour opted for quite a lot of populism and got beaten.

  • Bill le Breton 10th May '15 - 6:00pm

    “3. We countered ‘stop Labour/SNP’ with ‘stop Tory/UKIP’ in Tory-facing seats. No-one believed however that UKIP could be coalition partners with one or two seats, on the doorstep. This strategy was a dud and left us vulnerable, and without a more credible response.”

    Did you make your views known about this to the election team?

    Blukip was worse than a dud because it actually encouraged LD/UKIP deciders to come down on the UKIP side and LD/Tory deciders to flock to the Tories . Also it acted as a displacement activity within the High Command who really believed it was a counter to the Lab/SNP scare.

  • Jane Ann Liston 10th May '15 - 6:03pm

    @Conor McGovern-Paul ‘… a land value tax (‘left’ of the party).’

    Consideration of LVT as a replacement for business rates was passed at the Scottish Conference in 2011 or 12. Haven’t heard much about its progress, though.

  • Beware the BIG idea strategy, such as the tuition fee pledge. Big ideas need to be generalities such as democratic reforms, individual liberties, restraints on powerful institutions. Some have criticised the mental health campaign as ‘worthy but so what?’, but I would not be so dismissive: that it is a Cinderella issue is partly the point; it is also an iceberg issue in that though it is huge so much is out of sight. My prediction is that it will be important to return to at the next election.

    As a matter of interest, did the ‘bedroom tax’ and ‘work ready’ interviews really feature so much on the doorstep? I didn’t see these things as recurrent issues.. One problem which may be related to these issues is that we suffered long term demonisation and I do not know how we might have better responded. For all I know the Tory dirty tricks people may have been piling in with the ‘right-on’ lefties. The trouble is that it eventually seeped through. Over the next five years much of the online noise will be aimed at the Tories; in which case, being less evident could eventually help us.

  • Much of what is written is valid but please do not kid yourselves. A great number of people who voted for us in 2010 decided not to vote for us this time in 2010! and the numbers increased when we did not stand by the pledge, add in the bedroom tax and we were done for. Who can honestly say they did not watch the coalition negotiations in 2010 and not feel a sense of dread at our future ?

  • Bill le Breton 10th May '15 - 6:30pm

    William writes, “A great number of people who voted for us in 2010 decided not to vote for us this time ,”

    The figure you are looking for is 4.5 million. Yes 4.5 million.

  • William Townsend 10th May '15 - 6:35pm

    And i genuinely believe that the majority of that 4.5 million were lost in 2010

  • WildColonialBoy 10th May '15 - 6:48pm

    The party’s performance in many Conservative seats is not just a function of the centre-right voters deserting it, given there did not seem to be that much of a difference between the two parties in practice.

    It was also a function of centre-left voters deciding that they were’t willing to give a tactical vote to the Lib Dems any more. For example, in St Ives a friend voted Labour after deciding that the Lib Dems campaign and manifesto (emphasising “continuity” and “stability” and the status quo) meant they were suffering Stockholm Syndrome and had ceased to understand why so many in the southwest voted LD in the first place.

    Adding up the Lab+Green vote share increase since the last election in St Ives, the 2700 or so votes added to their total seems to have come from the Lib Dem column, and threw the election to the conservatives

  • Excellent analysis Paul. And following on from 5) about small picture policies, it’s clear where the responsibility for that lies and it’s the wholly unwieldy policy-making structure. This needs to be swept away.

    We have OMOV to elect our leadership – so let’s elect them and let germ formulate policy on the basis of their leadership election manifesto. By all means put it to the vote on an OMOV basis before the election.

    The overly detailed and “so what?” nature of policy is symptomatic of an overcomplicated system of policy development and approval which seems to be more to serve the personal hobby horses of the various representatives than in making relevant policies.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th May '15 - 7:11pm

    Both the Labour Party and our party have to reform and return to first principles. Just as the Labour Party is actually a broad coalition of working class and middle class with groups of radicals and moderates our party is a broad alliance of liberal left and orange book centre. Allowing one wing all the power creates a narrow offering which neither fires up activists or core voters nor convinces Middle England. We need a balanced approach from both wings which is broad radical and moderate in scope. Most important of all values over opportunism. What are Liberal values – democracy – fair votes , fairness – ie free higher education , scrapping HS2 which a waste of money, illiberal and undemocratic.

  • An additional problem to face up to is a recognition of how many of the lost 4.5 million voters supported us as a matter of protest rather than issues that we stand for. Our vote consisted of a core Lib Dem vote, a soft Lib Dem vote, including tactical votes and a super soft vote. Involvement in government immediately loses the super soft and half the tactical vote, this is unavoidable, but we would be mistaken to kid ourselves about the reality.

    What may be hard to acknowledge is the small size of our core vote.

  • It’s not about left or right the author says, well, for many people it was about left or right, for or against, black or white, however you want to say it.Many of the people I know saw you as fence sitters, not knowing where you stood, a party that has snuggled up to the tories in government for 5 years, agreeing with many of their policies whilst in government and then criticising them at election time.This was seen as hypocrisy I’m afraid to say.Coalition was not your friend
    People like a simple choice when voting for a government , but I think you presented confusion to the electorate.Why have Libdems when you can have the real thing ? Tories or Labour, I’m sure this is how many saw the situation.However, I wish the party well for the future, you will be missed in the HoC by many including myself, who saw the Libdems as a sort of reins to steady the roaring animal.

  • I think the Libdem’s are the only people in the country who didn’t realise from 2010 that this would happen.
    The Tories turning on you 6 weeks ago just made the numbers worse. People weren’t pretending to be angry.

  • Paul Reynolds 10th May '15 - 7:43pm

    Thanks for comments. Appreciated. Some responses to points directed in my general direction. 1. Yes the trimming the extremes of both parties doesn’t really give people something to vote for, but even this strategy was a dud with Lab/LibDem undecideds and Labour/Green tactical voters, because they saw us a FAILING to trim Tory extremes, rightly or wrongly (bedroom tax et al) … My word Labour were adept at exploiting this … to the detriment also of Labour tactical voting for Libdem in our Tory-facing seats. 2. Did I make my views known to election team ? Ha ha. Has anyone tried to make a point suggesting ‘strategic refinement’ to the folk in charge recently ? Exactly. I rest my case on that one. It was all transmit and no receive ha ha. 3. Policymaking processes. I had a point on policymaking processes, which I have been bashing on about your years, which was accidentally edited out of this article (see below). 4. I have a mild criticism of some of the comments above. I believe we should stop trying to be ‘more left’ or ‘more right’ or ‘more in the centre’. All this is fatal. We should be more liberal and more democratic. The longer term aim should be getting all the other parties scrambling themselves to be more liberal and more democratic to emulate our success. 5. Critical analysis is one thing. How we implement better strategy is another… (See my slightly geeky website http://www.THEfuture.london ) 6. The absolutely central underlying strategy principle we have missed is to emphasise those things that our principles lead us to say, which our competitors will never, and can’t copy, due to history/personnel, ideology, financial backing or whatever reason. This should be the criterion for national manifesto inclusion, but by jove it is an uncomfortable thing …to do the things necessary to enjoy the future comforts of success. But I won’t elaborate on this for fear of giving stuff away to our competitors !!!!!!!!!

  • I posted this on another page, but the people over there seem tied up in negative name calling of the who’s fault was it variety, maybe there’s more positivity here. Apologies if it is repeating old rhetoric but I’m a new member and it feels fresh to me.

    The reason why Farage has done so well is because he made a political party look different to the other mainstream political parties. The reason the liberals have taken a hammering is because they looked like a mainstream political party. This is compounded because their followers have traditionally been of an alternative perasuasion . It is clear that the public have an appetite for politics that seems different to the style they’ve known all their lives. Trying to worry about finding a place in the left right spectrum is absurd, because it is aiming for the politics the general public is rejecting in droves. Offering a political approach unlike anything they’ve seen before is the way to go. Why not call a referendum on PR? By saying the establishment will never give a vote on this, so we will make it our one election pledge for 2020 to introduce PR and then call a snap election. That is a referendum. Agree to instantly call a by-election in all seats gained if we fail to get a majority. This is the kind of politics the people are crying out for. The simplicity of a one party, one policy, one election moment is what has driven support for the SNP and UKIP.

  • Paul Reynolds 10th May '15 - 7:47pm

    MY OMITTED TEXT ON POLICYMAKING.

    Finally, finally, finally our policy development processes (the expert rather than representative part of processes) need professionalisation and improvement. Expert vs representative relationships in policy development need more clarity. This is years and years overdue.

  • What do the liberal democrats stand for if not liberating democracy? This was the most biased election in history, and people on the right, the left, and in the centre were negatively affected by it. There are 3.8 million UKIP allies on this issue, in a demographic the liberals have never had access to. This could be a once in a generation opportunity to find unity on a permanent thorn.

  • UKIP are not a slick outfit and that’s partly why they are getting votes.

  • Paul Reynolds 10th May '15 - 7:54pm

    Good point ‘Caractacus’. When I said ‘bedroom tax et al’, I mean to include tuition fees and all the rest of the perceived ‘failure to trim others’ polices’.

  • It’s ironic – it seems all that was needed to help the Lib Dems keep a few more seats was a big dollop of common sense when it came to strategy.

  • I so agree with Conor who commented right at the beginning. I believe we should be brain storming ideas rather than seeking to pin them into left or right corners. We can’t tackle the problems of the 21st century using 19th and20th century analysis any more. Our society is continuing the polarisation started by Margaret Thatcher. The super rich are the new aristocracy and the rest of us are on the way to becoming the peasants of a post industrialised country. The solutions to these problems may be lie in the minds of our members or in a university department or somewhere else entirely so we must engage with all these people. The Tories will not be looking for solutions to these problems because they do not see them as problems and Labour are still stuck in the Trades Union movement and defending the Health Service. Now we have no share in power we have the time to look at the structural changes that are happening to our society and to others and to consult with members and other experts to try to prevent the inequalities that result and which may lead to war or revolution in our children’s’ and grand children’s time. It’s time for a new welfare state.

  • Christine Headley 10th May '15 - 9:12pm

    I said from the start that it would end in tears. However, when the Cabinet Secretary says you have to form a coalition or the pound will plummet, who were we to argue? I have also said from the start that we will bounce back in 2020. I didn’t expect the trough to be so low, but the arrival of 5000 new members suggests that the bounce might be bouncier than we thought.
    It grieves me that the 21 LibDem MPs who voted against the tuition fee increase reaped so little reward, and all were tarred by the brush of the big names included in the 28 who voted for it, despite having signed the NUS pledged not to do so. Furthermore, these Bolsheviks have rewritten history remarkably successfully so far, as they claim that the ‘pledge’ was one contained in the manifesto – to get rid of tuition fees altogether – rather than the one they seem to have forgotten personally signing for the NUS, not to increase them. I wasn’t surprised that Vince Cable lost his seat, as we lost so many council seats in Richmond last year, but because of his unprincipled lead on this topic, I am not sorry. Mike Crockart and Jenny Willott, who stood down as PPSs in order to vote against the government, deserve our particular thanks.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th May '15 - 10:19pm

    Adrian

    One thing that Lib Dems still don’t seem to grasp is that things like the bedroom tax were not just “Tory policies”, they were Lib Dem policies too: approved by your ministers and voted for by your MPs.

    So Adrian, why do you think that denying a family a house that they need in order that someone who doesn’t need that house is “Tory policy”? That actually is what the so-called “bedroom tax” is about: there is a huge shortage of council housing, many people in hugely overcrowded circumstances don’t stand a chance of getting an allocation. So why under those circumstances should someone living in a council house too big for their needs be subsidised to stay there, so denying it to a family that does need it?

    The “bedroom tax” was put forward by lazy leftists as done just out of Tory nastiness, yet it is actually a proper Socialist policy: it was about sharing out public property according to needs.

    Of course the issue was that forcing people out of where they live by denying subsidy without offering alternative suitable accommodation was wrong. But I don’t think the principle behind the “bedroom tax” was wrong.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th May '15 - 10:44pm

    Ian M

    The reason why Farage has done so well is because he made a political party look different to the other mainstream political parties. The reason the liberals have taken a hammering is because they looked like a mainstream political party.

    Well, for many years there has been an argument put by many in our party, and outside commentators, that the problem with it was that it was made up out of weird “beards and sandals” activists who dominated its image, and it needed to look more like a “proper” mainstream political party, then people would take it seriously and more people would vote for it. This was a big theme in Clegg’s speeches for quite a while after the coalition was formed, that by leading it into being this conventional mainstream “party of government” he was putting in a position where many more votes would come its way. Although this is not conventional left-right, it tended to be those of the conventional right in the party who pushed this line.

    Clegg and those surrounding him have very much pushed the idea of our party as being all about the Leader, which is now the conventional view of what a political party is. When did we ever run a party political broadcast that wasn’t about the Leader? Clegg turned the Liberal Democrats into the Nick Clegg Fan Club. The old idea of a political party was that it was a federation of communities of activists, who got together to nominate and support some of their number getting into political office, and this was how the entrenched power of the aristocracy could be challenged. How many people in our country now think of political parties in those terms? So why not try re-inventing and promoting that old model of political party as what we are about?

    Charles Kennedy proved an effective leader because he didn’t try to dominate the party and turn it into the Charles Kennedy Fan Club. That enabled it to be seen in wider terms, and for other leading members to gain some of the limelight. Of course we know now that Charles Kennedy had problems that led to him stepping back like this, but I think even if it wasn’t planned, it worked well.

    With Farage, of course he has the great benefit that he doesn’t have to say anything logically coherent, and there were big sections of the press promoting him and his party’s main policy in an uncritical way, whereas with us it’s almost always the other way round: most of the press almost always paints us and our policies in a bad way, looks round for anything it can find in our party that it can take out of context and twist and make us look bad. THE Sun and the Daily Mail always treated us like this – about the only time our party even got mentioned by them was when they could find an amusing story which could be exaggerated and twisted to help the forward the image of our party as full of bad people with dangerous and unpopular ideas.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th May '15 - 11:13pm

    Martin – the lost 4.5 millions are not super soft just real lib dem voters disgusted at cast aside by a coalitionist Clegg grouping prepared to do exactly what they said they wouldn’t – ie austerity, tuition fees et al. Time to forget Clegg continental coalitionist politics. It will never happen again it has been rejected. We need to fight for 100% Liberal democratic policies as advocated for the last 30 years. No more Tory lite. We do need to reach out to Middle Britain but not sellout in the process.

  • The problem was you went into government with the Tories and trusted them. Rather like a sheep hanging out with wolves, it’s only ever going to end one way. What is really surprising is intelligent people through it could end any other way, perhaps they are not as bright as they think they are.

  • Bill le Breton 11th May '15 - 10:19am

    @ William Townsend wrote: “And i genuinely believe that the majority of that 4.5 million were lost in 2010”.

    And he is right. Lord Ashcroft did field work in late 2010 and wrote an excellent report published in December 2010 identifying which elements of our vote had gone. From memory his total was circa 4.5 million. And it was not one single category of supporter.

    The Report was entitled What Future for the Liberal Democrats. There is a link to a pdf on line, but I have found it difficult to down load. Someone else might have more success.

    I tried to share this analysis at the time – by understanding report this it was possible to direct our campaigning to accordingly. Of course we needed substantial change including a change at the top if we were ever to get any of these people back.

    I waited silently until the May 2011 elections had passed and then called for a change in leader.

    @ Paul R – sorry, but saying ‘have you ever tried getting through to the strategy team or whatever’ is frankly feeble. Each of us has a duty to speak truth to power …. over and over again, if necessary. And yes I have contacted them.

    Perhaps I was the only one, but it might have helped if there had been others. Olly Grender is one the most accessible people I know. She doesn’t agree with me on these issues but I get through and I get answers. Secondly, Paddy relies on her to do this and to pass things on in brief to Paddy.

  • tony123 10th May ’15 – 11:57pm
    ” The problem was you went into government with the Tories and trusted them. Rather like a sheep hanging out with wolves, it’s only ever going to end one way. ”

    Quite so!

    We need to remember to be wary of the wolves in the future. A valuable point to remember if we are not to be lambs to the slaughter at the next General Election.

  • Julian Tisi 11th May '15 - 1:40pm

    An excellent article Paul – thank you.

    I’m rather worried by the wings of the party trying to pull the party left or right. I will do all I can to prevent the party becoming another party of the centre left. I hope we don’t leave our liberal values and become some Labour-lite nothing. Radical liberalism is surely the way.

    The key thing to me is distinctiveness. It’s not just about having distinctive policies, it’s having a distinctive brand, where people can see the policies and understand them in the light of that brand. For example, one thing that strikes me as different about the Lib Dems is that we’re a party of hope and inclusiveness, rather than one of fear and division. Liberalism is another unique identifier. The other parties in the UK at the moment are stoking up fears, grievance and division – whether it’s over national identity, immigrants, the EU, the idle rich, the idle poor. So many of our policies can be traced back to our unique identity, but I think we’ve been reluctant to exploit this.

  • James Sandbach 11th May '15 - 2:08pm

    I disagree Paul – as “insiders” we may all know that the Party’s policy and direction debate was far more nuanced than left versus right or econ. v social liberalism, but as far as the public are concerned what they saw was a Party than moved from the left spectrum to the right spectrum with no intervening time at all (at least Labour’s transition from ‘Old’ to ‘New’ Labour was cleverly managed and looked transparent from the outside) and reeking of inconsistency, u-turns and grubby power-grabbing deals with right wing Tories. However, it wasn’t the only factor – the output from the campaigns Dept and the chronic inability and incapacity of local parties to do what they used to do so brilliantly, running effective ground campaigns, engaging supporters and getting all your voters out to the polls, also had something to do with it.

  • No-one is thinking about how technology, trade and possible regional in the Middle East is likely to impact on Britain, the EU and The World. Britain has unusually good contacts with countries outside of the EU but the left is so guilt ridden over empire we are not benefiting from them. India still maintains contact with Harrow School because of Nehru.

    The collapse in UK manufacturing was in large part unions, civil servants and directors were ignorant of what was happening in the rest of the World. E Bevin said the The British Empire did nothing for the working man and he was a docker! Only Owell realised that withdrawal from Empire would cause economic hardship , especially for the Lancashire cotton and associated industries( dyes, mechanical plant, etc )

    The EU is falling behind much of the the World. Much of the German miracle of 1948-1963 was because German industry applied the efficient manufacturing systems developed by Speer in WW2. Japan’s rise to power was because it produced because the motorbikes and the small and cheap cars the people of Asia could afford and then developed the use of transistors to make radios: all this was ignored by Britain. Japan modernised the ship building in the 1960s and when the Suez Canal closed for 8 years post 1967 and ships increased from 50, 000T to 500,000 T they, not Britain built them . Toyoda of Toyota visited Ford at Dearborn and realised they could makes cars with less faults using far less land, materials and people.

    If Britain becomes the centre of excellence in manufacturing , R and D , science , fashion, music, painting, sculpture, furniture , tourism, intelligence gathering, defence training we could produce the World’s highest per capita income and be the country which connects the EU, Anglosphere, The Commonwealth and the Rest of the World.

    The Chinese have an eye for quality and respect for our traditional culture. We need to be the country where they buy luxury goods from, send their children to be educated and come as tourists in order to enjoy all that which makes Britain attractive .

    The LDs appear more concerned about navel gazing than attempting to understand Britain’s part in the World over the next 50 years.

  • Charle,
    The collapse of British industry was because we did not modernise enough post WWII. Germany had too and it drew in trade unions into the rebuilds. Japan had too, because it was bombed flat. In others words vast amounts of public money was spent rebuilding and funding development. The same by the way was true in America and the same is true of China today. Britain is currently ranked 159th out of 170 something nations for investment. Low investment and an aversion to risk is what did the damage.

  • Glenn
    Independence for India started the decline of the Lancashire Cotton Industry and only Owell realised this. Dismantling the Empire meant markets were lost. Even in the 1970s numbers 70% of the Unions were un and semi-skilled and they resisted new technology which reduced numbers employed. Germany and Japan overcame labour shortages by investing in more advanced equipment employing less un and semi-skilled labour which was supported by the unions., In the 1980s, a draftsmen I knew was called a scab because he learnt to use a computer when he worked in the submarine yards of Barrow. The unand semiskilled unions resisted new technology: caused overmanning of un and semi-skilled labour and strikes which pushed up costs: reduced productivity : reduced quality and increased delivery times

    One example of the unions unwillingness to accept modern technology was the TGWU striking over the introduction of containers. Prescott led a seaman’s trike in 1966 just befor the closure of the Suez Canal in 1967 for 8 years which led to the increase in size of tankers from 50, 000T to 500,000T and bulk ore carriers increasing to 250,000T . In 1966 British and Commonwealth had one of the the largest fleets in the World: by 1987 they had sold up. There were also extensive strikes in the shipbuilding yards in the 1960s. While Prescott was leading strikes, members of my family were in Japan watching the creation of the modern ship building industry.

    Red Robbo’s strikes at BL cost the company £200M and quality was so poor that friends who bought jaguars cars in the USA had to have their electric windows replaces. From 1945 , vast numbers of highly educated and skilled people have left the UK and worked overseas: Benn toured the USA and asked people to return home. Many left the UK because they were fed up with the unions running organisations. The only union which trained it’s staff to keep with evolving technology was the EETPU. Of the union leaders only Laird, Jordon, Chapple, Hammond and Lyons understood the need to move from un to skilled labour.

    Vast percentage of the political classes refuse to understand how technology and trade is affecting employment and therefore Britain’s role in the World. The people who will be most adversely affected will be the uneducated and unskilled, not those charted engineers or those with doctorates in numerical subjects who can speak foreign languages, who may have played sorts to a high level as well who will be sought after by international companies.

  • Matthew Huntbach,
    “So Adrian, why do you think that denying a family a house that they need in order that someone who doesn’t need that house is “Tory policy”? That actually is what the so-called “bedroom tax” is about: ”

    The solution to a shortage of housing is to build more housing. It is staggering that just about the one built object in modern society which has not got cheaper because of technology and innovation is housing. The root cause of this is a refusal to allocate land upon which to build housing, but government’s refusal to intervene in the market and at least take advantage of its position to acquire cheap land, grant itself planning permission, and thereby create a stock of social housing is equally to blame. The recently deceased government managed to legislate a bedroom tax, pay subsidies which encourage price rises of the existing stock ( in the name of helping buyers), but was incapable of actually providing any extra housing . This was just making things worse, not better. A tax designed to remove people from houses because they are judged to be ‘too big’ for those people, is simply buying into the idea that there is a need to ration housing, which is only the case because of a wilful refusal to build more. Our local council, covering a large rural area, created an area plan for housing which essentially said no building anywhere except where it had chosen to do some modest expansion next to the main town. Not unusual. They were obliged to get a report on the impact of this on the countryside, which rather said the countryside was being starved of development, because no one was allowed to live there. Time was, many people lived and worked in the countryside, but now forget it. All those workers cottages are now very expensive country homes for the rich. The whole system supposed to protect the countryside has been turned upside down so as to turn it into country house parkland for the rich. Not only, is there plenty of land for more high density development, but the countryside itself desperately needs more dwellings scattered within it. Thats how we used to live.

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