Opinion: Sticking up for the entrepreneurs of the future

I spoke at a Global Entrepreneurship Week event at the University of Exeter last night, and I was asked to define the qualities of an entrepreneur.

It was an event for more than a hundred or so eager undergraduates who have already decided that the corporate world is not the life for them, and who were trying to gather as much information as they possibly could, to help them start their own entrepreneurial journeys, post-graduation.

University entrepreneurship isn’t limited to Exeter, universities all over the country have growing entrepreneurship societies and NACUE (National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs) have done fantastic work promoting them.

Whilst entrepreneurship societies thrive on campus, Lib Dem University societies struggle having taking much of the frontline flack for the tuition fee compromise.  In a previous post for LDV, I drew comparisons between the values of an entrepreneur and Lib Dem members. I think we’ve got even more to say to entrepreneurial students who are making their own way in life.

But how do we say it?

If I think back to my own graduation, I felt that all the world was filled with opportunity and after leaving university campus for the final time, I just wanted to get going in the world of work. The graduates of 2015 will be no different but unlike me in 2005, they are carrying thousands of pounds of tuition fees debt on their back.

As Lib Dems and coalition partners who made tuition fees happen we owe it to these students to create a thriving entrepreneurial economy that helps them get on and start their businesses. And that means for me, changing our position on some of our left wing policies that are so popular at our conferences but harm our appeal as economic liberals.

Policies like saying no to an extra runway which will damage our competitiveness as a country now and in the future or introducing a mansion tax which is both unworkable and unfair to those who already made contributions to our economy throughout their life time. I think these policies tell students and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, that we are afraid of profit, and people doing well.

There are positive entrepreneurial policy positions we can take like sorting out business rates. These rates are currently set at the pre-crash levels of 2007 and in cities like Cardiff, rates can be twice as expensive as rent. No one needs an MBA to work out the problem there.

As I told the audience last night, there is no secret sauce to being an entrepreneur. Thousands of people every year decide that they can be ‘the boss’, but rather than creating the next Facebook, they simply innovate in the industry they are in, take a client or two with them, install a desk at their home and their new business is born.

We can be the party of the entrepreneur and tell students of today that we will help them with their businesses tomorrow, but we have to be consistent. If it was fair to let them share the burden of austerity, we must create them an entrepreneurial environment they can thrive in.

* Alain Desmier is Chairman of the Islington Lib Dems. You can contact him at [email protected]

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69 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '14 - 3:44pm

    Alain Desmier

    And that means for me, changing our position on some of our left wing policies that are so popular at our conferences but harm our appeal as economic liberals.

    Oh, here we go again, yet another right-winger trying to push our party to destruction.

    Look, Mr Desmier, people in this country ALREADY think we have gone down the road of becoming the sort of economic right-wingers you say has “appeal” and it is the MAIN reason our poll support has crashed.

    But if you want to encourage entrepreneurship, the biggest ting you could do is end the way people’s money gets eaten up by housing costs. So re-introduce council housing. Have high taxes on land and inheritance, to enable the reduction of income tax, and to discourage holding on to unnecessary housing.

    See, there are also left-wing policies which fit in with what you say you want. But people like you never mention that sort of thing. That’s because what you REALLY want is to protect the rich. You start with that aim, and then look for policies and made up reasons to justify it.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Nov '14 - 4:29pm

    The Lib Dems need to be more pro self-employed. Tim Farron wrote an article on this in the Huffington Post and I think it is really important.

    I am a self-employed low earner, but the Lib Dems have been hitting my industry hard with no exemptions for the self-employed.

    The Conservatives are not necessarily pro business, I like to think that a lot of real business people can see that big cuts are not what the economy needs.

    Thanks for the article. I broadly agree Lib Dems need to be more pro business, but I don’t want to sound pro big cuts or pro unregulated markets.

  • “….As I told the audience last night, there is no secret sauce to being an entrepreneur”

    I am glad to hear that.
    But you seem to think that there is a secret sauce for the Liberal Democrats. Although you do not provide any evidence for your assertion that ditching “left-wing” policies would bring the party success.

    So far the evidence is that an increasingly right-wing stance for the Liberal Democrats has forced down our opinion poll ratings from somewhere above twenty percent to today’s five percent.
    The evidence from council, assembly and European Parliament elections as well as parliamentary by-elections is that an increasingly right-wing stance for the Liberal Democrats has been about as successful as snowball in Saudi.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Nov '14 - 5:17pm

    Alain, your two articles have given me much to think about. Thank you. I am fascinated how it comes that people like you have come to join the Liberal Democrats and you are the first to have set out very clearly your reasons. May I quote them for those who may not have looked back to your piece of a month ago.

    I deliberately choose a smaller organisation
    I choose to engage in an environment where I could be heard, not drowned out
    I am able to make do with a few resources against competitors with plenty
    I want to work with the best and most committed, not the richest or loudest
    I work to change things, to remake better services for everyone
    I work harder, faster and more effectively than my opponents because I want to win
    I believe in a joined up global world without borders

    You probably won’t be surprised to know that, apart from the last one, these were not reasons I joined or were not obvious to me, though your list makes me think very carefully.

    Nor am I convinced that these are the attributes of an entrepreneur. They seem to be the attributes of a developer of a small business and one that has a better chance than most of growing.

    But an entrepreneur is a determined and serial maker of monopolies and an exploiter of monopoly power. Behind the entrepreneur come the copy cats – not nearly as risk taking. Faced with competition and the reduction of her monopoly power the entrepreneur endeavours to innovate so as to create a new or refined monopoly and so the chase goes on.

    It provides quite a dilemma for Liberals who both wish to restrict the abuse of monopoly power and yet be part of a society in which people can freely benefit from the innovations tested out (with their own resources) by the entrepreneur.

    Here’s one tentative conclusion. All entreprenuers are risk takers, not all risk takers are entrepreneurs. It may be useful to distinguish the entrepreneur from the business person. William Hobhouse’s view on this will be very interesting.

    And another: on balance, faced by this dilemma, Liberal Democrats should lean into the wind, i.e. veer on the side of preventing the abuse of monopoly power because justice and freedom are more likely to be achieved more widely that way.

  • Ed Shepherd 20th Nov '14 - 5:17pm

    I tend to agree with the comments from Matthew and John. The best help to give to young people trying to start businesses is to make sure that they have access to low-cost housing, low utility bills, low levels of taxation on their low incomes and low levels of debt. This means that they can start businesses cheaply and they run lower risks if the business fails. Taxation on expensive houses and inheritances has almost no impact on young people.

  • One of the things our Government has done for small businesses is to eliminate or heavily reduce business rates at the bottom end. This has enabled my own business to rent the office we needed to expand. We pay no business rates at present. I don’t understand why this kind of initiative is not being shouted from the rooftops as it is not well known. We should have a policy to extend exemptions and discounts for small businesses and make it permanent. It is called Small Business Rate Relief and I am surprised Alain makes no mention of this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '14 - 12:13am

    William Hobhouse

    It takes confidence to be an entrepreneur. There’s no financial security. It needs a particular a state of mind, a restlessness and inventiveness that a job cannot fulfil.

    It also helps a lot to come from a wealthy background. It’s a heck of a lot easier to take the risk of being an entrepreneur if you have family wealth you can fall back on, a big family house that isn’t going to get lost, contacts with people who have money and influence to help you get going, not going to have your credit record ruined if it doesn’t work, and so on.

    If you come from a background where you’re always struggling to get by, it’s much harder to take that risk. If you know that if it goes wrong you will end up sleeping rough on the streets are you going to take that risk? I think much less likely than if you can just go back and live with mama and papa in their mansion.

    Sorry, but if one has come up from a background of poverty and insecurity, if the choice is a steady job and the risk of being wrecked for life, pushed back into poverty, the safe job is the option you’re going to choose.

    That is why if you wish more people to become entrepreneurs, what you need to do is provide a strong social safety net so that more people can feel they can take that risk without the fear of losing absolutely everything.

  • Alain Desmier 21st Nov '14 - 8:09am

    Thank you for the comments everyone.

    @EddieSammon – You hit the nail on the head. We can be the party of entrepreneurship, the party of freelancers and the self-employed with policies that help these people whilst also increasing the tax threshold for the poorest in society, ensuring our primary school age children have everything they need.

    @JohnTilley – The term ‘right wing’ has been applied to my views, it’s not a definition I recognise. I believe that the state doesn’t have a right to help itself to whatever private property and wealth it feels like. I believe passionately that we should be helping the poorest in our society to ‘get on’ and I believe passionately that one way to build a better society is to ensure primary school age children have the teachers and schools they need through pupil premium. I believe that immigration makes us all richer, economically and culturally. Do you still think this is right wing?

    @MatthewHuntbach – You’re view of the British entrepreneurial community is so fundamentally flawed, that I don’t think anything I say will really make a difference. You’ve decided that business = rich = privilege and that feeds you’re view that anyone ‘like me, (comprehensive, state school educated by the way)’ want to protect the rich. I believe in creating jobs vie entrepreneurship so the Government doesn’t need to pay people to sit out of work. I’d suggest to you that visit a shared working space or a start-up hub and actually talk to the entrepreneurs, risking their houses, possessions and sanity trying to start businesses and create jobs. Suggest to them they are all rich and if it fails they can go and live in their parents ‘mansion’. I think you might get a different perspective.

    @BillLeBetron – Thank you, you took a great deal of time and care to consider my points. I accept your challenge to my definitions of an entrepreneur. I actually dislike the word entrepreneur as it does conjure boom and bust imagery, where as you say I’m more interested in building a small business to feed my family and the families of my employees.

    @EdShepard – Starting a business isn’t something the Government can or should legislate, and actually you’re far more likely to start a business if you grew up in an environment where being self-employed was normal. I again contest the point that I don’t want to live in a society where the Government can help itself to whatever private property it feels like, whenever it wants. This doesn’t feel very liberal.

    @WilliamHobhouse – Thank you, you and I agree on most things it seems. I accept your challenge that airport capacity is odd here. I was searching for an example of a protectionist policy adopted by the Lib Dems. I do think that have a lack of airport capacity effects entrepreneurs and us all in the long term but I think that’s another article!

    @SteveRose – I didn’t mention this policy as I wasn’t fully aware of it. I am now and it’s fantastic. Thank you for bringing to my attention and I will include in future articles.

    Finally, I’m pulling together a network of Lib Dem entrepreneurs, self-employed and freelancers. I maintain that I think our party has the most to say about encouraging entrepreneurship and creating an entrepreneurial economy for the benefit of everyone. If this is of interest, please drop me an email [email protected] and I’ll add you to the list.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '14 - 9:11am

    Alain Desmier (in reply to me)

    I’d suggest to you that visit a shared working space or a start-up hub and actually talk to the entrepreneurs, risking their houses, possessions and sanity trying to start businesses and create jobs.

    Oh, you don’t have a clue, do you? As it happens I was meeting with Ben Evans (CEO of jClarity) just last week to discuss job opportunities for my students in Tech City.

    Why don’t you try LISTENING and THINKING?

  • Alain Desmier 21st Nov '14 - 9:38am

    @MatthewHuntbach, I don’t think we need to shout, I made my points without the need for capitals. You accused me of wanting to ‘protect the rich’ without any real basis and I corrected that. I am sorry this has upset you so much.

  • Alain Desmier
    Your original article included the following — “.. And that means for me, changing our position on some of our left wing policies that are so popular at our conferences but harm our appeal as economic liberals.”. Those are your words.

    You now say — “@JohnTilley – The term ‘right wing’ has been applied to my views, it’s not a definition I recognise”

    So you recognise and use the term “left wing” but you do not recognise “right wing” as a definition?

    In this connection you seem to have misread or simply missed something in my earlier comment.
    To save you looking back – here it is again —
    “…So far the evidence is that an increasingly right-wing stance for the Liberal Democrats has forced down our opinion poll ratings from somewhere above twenty percent to today’s five percent.”

    After last night’s result in Rochester I should perhaps amend that to read “today’s less than one percent”.

    You have not responded to this. What is your response to the evidence of marked unpopularity amongst the voters of an increasingly right-wing, or “economic liberal” stance for Liberal Democrats?

  • Paul in Wokingham 21st Nov '14 - 10:29am

    Matthew Huntbach – if you bump into Ben Evans again say “hello” from me (Paul Murray). I have met him a few times in a business capacity (most recently in a lift going to the JCP party at javaone!) and greatly admire his knowledge, passion and innovation.

    I agree with other commenters here: innovation and entrepreneurial spirit are not synonymous with any particular political affiliation nor is it reasonable to assume that innovators are motivated by the prospect of tax free gains in the future. As Liberals we should be providing the opportunity for innovation to thrive through tax breaks and incentives at the incubator and early development stages.

  • Alain Desmier 21st Nov '14 - 10:34am

    @JohnTilley, I certainly recognise the term right wing, sorry I wasn’t trying to be obstructive, I just don’t recognise it as a label for me.

    If people want to vote for a party that believes in demonising profit, raising stealthy taxes on private property and inserting itself into commercial markets like energy, there is already a party to vote for called the Labour party. Going toe to toe with Miliband with how much we can tax those disgusting people, the wealthy middle classes, will only leave us as losers. That’s why we’re losing, because we aren’t different enough.

    Janan Ganesh was far more articulate than I could ever hope to be on this subject (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9df77a68-4971-11e4-8d68-00144feab7de.html) but there is a middle ground between Labour and Tories + UKIP so overwhelmingly liberal, and ours for the taking.

    An unashamed, liberal, centrist party – would that be a bad thing?

    I know that Anthony Fairclough and Liberal reform are pulling together a London Liberal ideas piece which I’m looking forward to. London is an overwhelming liberal city but is anything but a Lib Dem city, why not?

  • Alain Desmier
    Your rhetorical flourish about “..demonising profit, raising stealthy taxes on private property and inserting itself into commercial markets like energy..” is a bit of a give away, is it not?

    If you resort to the language of a free-market ideologue you run the risk of people noticing that you are right wing, through and through.

    You have still not answered my point — What is your response to the evidence of marked unpopularity amongst the voters of an increasingly right-wing, or “economic liberal” stance for Liberal Democrats?

    At least I hope you were not suggesting that your up-coming meeting of right wingers to scratch your heads and wonder why nobody votes for us in London was not your answer.
    At your meeting about London you might want to ask yourselves thes questions —
    After May 2104 how many Labour Councillors are there in London?
    How many councils in London have a Labour majority on the council?
    Of those few Liberal Democrats who were successful in London in May 2014, how many of them would ally themselves with your right wing, free market, head in the clouds, don’t confuse us with the facts ideology?

  • Alain Desmier 21st Nov '14 - 11:10am

    @JohnTilley – A direct answer to your point:

    We are not as it currently stands carrying a manifesto of economically liberal policies for the electorate because we are trying to appease people like you. We’re trying to be everything to all people and it doesn’t work.

    There is nothing right wing about allowing the poorest people in society to keep more of the money they earn, there is nothing right wing about equal marriage and there is nothing right wing about targeting government funding to primary schools so that more and more children can develop and flourish in the UK.

    There is something inherently left wing about us deciding that because a house has an arbitrary value, we should have a piece of it. That is at it’s core, illiberal. We’re called the Liberal Democrats, surely that has to count for something?

    My argument is that we have no point differentiation and if we try and sing Labours tune, we lose. What’s your response to that?

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '14 - 1:11pm

    Alain Desmier

    There is something inherently left wing about us deciding that because a house has an arbitrary value, we should have a piece of it. That is at it’s core, illiberal.

    No, it is at the heart of what our party is about. It is there in that song, which is the anthem of the Liberal Party. Here are its words as used by the Liberal Party in the 1910 general election:

    Sound the blast for freedom, boys, and send it far and wide,
    March along to victory, for God is on our side,
    While the voice of nature thunders o’er the rising tide:
    “God made the land for the people”.

    Chorus

    The land, the land,
    ’twas God who made the land,
    The land, the land,
    The ground on which we stand,
    Why should we be beggars
    With the ballot in our hand?
    God gave the land to the people.
    Hark! The shout is swelling from the east and from the west!
    Why should we beg work and let the landlords take the best?
    Make them pay their taxes for the land, we’ll risk the rest!
    The land was meant for the people.

    Chorus

    The banner has been raised on high to face the battle din,
    The army now is marching on, the struggle to begin,
    We’ll never cease our efforts ’til the victory we win,
    And the land is free for the people.

    Chorus

    Clear the way for liberty, the land must all be free,
    Britons will not falter in the fight tho’ stern it be.
    ‘Til the flag we love so well shall wave from sea to sea,
    O’er the land that’s free for the people.

    Chorus

    THIS is what the historical Liberal Party was about, but you claim that at its core it is “illiberal”.

    As John Tilley has put it, the language you have chosen to use on these issues is propaganda language, not a neutral account of the policies we are talking about. It is as lacking in neutrality as the way various policies might be described on the other side, say by the Socialist Workers Party.

    I was trying to make the point that the conventional “cut taxes, cut state services” line of the economic right is perhaps not quite the only story if you want to promote entrepreneurialism, and that just perhaps you were using the guise of promoting entrepreneurialism as an excuse to push policies which are being supported for other reasons, or that you have been taken in by others doing that. Your reply to me, however, took in none of the points I was actually making, showed no sign that you had understood and thought through my position. I am not saying that I necessarily expected you to agree with me, but I was hoping that you would show you have a sense of liberalism and a willingness to listen and to and think through different ideas, so that any response you gave would be one which recognised my position and why I put it that way. You failed on all accounts.

    If I had wanted to join the Labour Party I could have very easily done so, and perhaps built a successful political career from it. But there are many aspects of the Labour Party I do not like, I have written about them many times in Liberal Democrat Voice. I spent six years as Leader of the Opposition in a Labour-run London Borough. Why would I have done that if there was no difference between my politics and Labour’s?

    As I have written many, many times in Liberal Democrat Voice, the line you are putting here: that a party which adopted extreme free market economics, even more extreme than anything offered by the other parties, would soar to power as it is filling a gap, is one that has been put many times in media outlets that usually support the Conservative Party. There was an article on that theme in the Spectator just a few months ago, Jeremy Browne has had media doors opened to him to push that line in various places, and I remember in the past that the Times and Telegraph fairly regularly put out such articles when they felt they had to mention the Liberal Party, or Liberal Democrats, perhaps at the party conference time. There is just nothing new or original in what you are saying, it is just repeating what has been said by other many times before.

    The reality is that most people who used to support us HAVE thought that our party has gone the way you say it should. We get attacks on us for that from people who come to Liberal Democrat Voice just to make them. But I hear it also from many people outside, it seems to be the general point of view: that the formation of the Coalition marked the point where the Liberal Democrats ceased being what they used to be, and instead became an ideological economic right-wing party, of the sort you say we should become. It hasn’t won us much new support has it? Any that it has (perhaps you are a bit of it) has been balanced any times over by old support leaving us.

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Nov '14 - 1:39pm

    @ Alain Desmier
    Once again, a representative of the party – with a bird logo by their name for good measure – comes out with some pretty right-wing fare on LDV:

    ‘ Policies like saying no to an extra runway which will damage our competitiveness as a country now and in the future or introducing a mansion tax which is both unworkable and unfair to those who already made contributions to our economy throughout their life time. I think these policies tell students and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, that we are afraid of profit, and people doing well.’

    I have been a party member for nearly thirty years but if this kind of rhetoric was meant to entice me as a student today into the party, it would never have worked. I would ask myself – what is the difference between the Liberal Democrats in 2014 and the kind of right-wing claptrap we hear from Boris Johnson?

    Students in my experience, care deeply about the environment and in trying to make our society more fair. They are not all out to make money and serve themselves.

    The kind of young people who used to join us were optimists – they believed in making the community a better place – more equal, more fair, greener. If your article is indicative of the kind of young person joining us now, this party is destined to turn into a Tory party mark two.

    However, in the aftermath of May 2015, I am confident we will get our party back, because we cannot go on like this.

  • Hey Alain,

    >There is something inherently left wing about us deciding that because a house
    >has an arbitrary value, we should have a piece of it. That is at it’s core, illiberal.

    What makes a mansion tax any more arbitrary than declaring “VAT is 20%”? I consider it significantly less arbitrary than that, because we can see the underlying principle of taxing the rich to give to the poor represented. Which is really why you and Jeremy don’t like it, because it’s not arbitrary – there’s a clear concept/reason behind it and you interpret that as a left wing concept.

    What you haven’t mentioned is where you intend to raise the tax to close the deficit. Without that, this discussion is merely NIMBYism.

  • Alain Desmier 21st Nov ’14 – 11:10am
    We are not as it currently stands carrying a manifesto of economically liberal policies for the electorate because we are “……trying to appease people like you. ”

    Alain Desmier,
    Once again your language betrays you. The phrase “people like you” addressed to me in person means what exactly?

    Despite all the evidence of total political failure for the ideas you are expressing you cling to the delusion that if only we were more right wing, if only the party was “..carrying a manifesto of economically liberal policies” everything would be wonderful.

    Have you not noticed that the language that you use is exactly the same language as is used by more extreme members of the Conservative Party?

  • Alain Desmier 21st Nov '14 - 2:49pm

    @MatthewHuntbach – I love a good constructive discussion and that’s why I wrote the piece in the first piece…
    But this:
    “I was trying to make the point that the conventional “cut taxes, cut state services” line of the economic right is perhaps not quite the only story if you want to promote entrepreneurialism”
    Is not this:
    “people like you never mention that sort of thing. That’s because what you REALLY want is to protect the rich. You start with that aim, and then look for policies and made up reasons to justify it.”

    Using class to defeat an argument belongs with the Labour party, not us Liberals. I respect both your position and your service to the party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '14 - 3:03pm

    Helen Tedcastle

    Once again, a representative of the party – with a bird logo by their name for good measure – comes out with some pretty right-wing fare on LDV:

    Yes, this is really so worrying. So often it seems that those who use this bird logo are those coming out with this sort of policy line, which as you say is SO FAR from the party we joined (thirty five years ago for me). These seem to be the only sort of person the party is attracting these days. They are standing for the sort of thing we in our day joined the party to oppose.

    I doubt if the teenage me were around now I would even consider the Liberal Democrats. I remain in the party in the hope it can be brought back to the sort of party I found so exciting and attractive back then. But with people like Alain Desmier joining it and taking it over, that looks less and less likely.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '14 - 3:10pm

    Alain Desmier

    Using class to defeat an argument

    Class exists. Inequality due to difference in wealth and income exists. And the divisions these cause are GROWING in this country. Saying we should never talk about them is like saying we should never talk about race, never do or say anything which might imply that racial discrimination exists.

    As I have said, if you do not consciously realise you are using a class argument by the sort of lines you use, you are a victim of those who do use those lines for that reason, you have been taken in by their shallow arguments, you lack the depth to be able to see beyond them.

    I don’t accept your claim that you respect me and my position. I see you as a class warrior for the rich trying to take over the party I helped build up and turn it into a party fighting for all I joined it to oppose. You are wrecking my lifetime’s work, and you gloat over doing so with this right-wing Tory language you are spouting and spouting.

  • Alain Desmier 21st Nov '14 - 3:16pm

    @Helen Tedcastle – I’d argue that there is more than one type of student just as there is more than one type of Liberal Democrat. I think we both believe in opportunities for young people, we just believe in different ways to get there.

    @ChrisB – I realise I’m in a minority in our party on this but I cannot see how this a policy of a progressive liberal party. We reform public services, we create jobs which increases tax income and we bring down an unsafe level of spending. For me at least we shouldn’t be undermining the social contract between citizen and state by engaging in the politics of envy. My back yard is unaffected in this discussion.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '14 - 3:29pm

    Alain Desmier

    For me at least we shouldn’t be undermining the social contract between citizen and state by engaging in the politics of envy.

    There we go, that is the language of a class warrior. If you were not a class warrior for the rich, you would not use language like that. If you were a liberal, you would accept that people arguing for higher taxes, or for a different way of raising taxes are NOT doing so out of “envy”. Rather they are doing so because they believe there are benefits for all in having a high standard of public service, and that means we need to find ways of raising money, which, yes, does mean those who have more should pay more.

    Yes, I do accept that if taxation is of a form which causes people to stop working or not do their best or so on, that is an argument against having it too high. Fine, if you had put it THAT way, I’d have accepted you had a valid point. But you lost your validity when you assumed that people who see the value and liberalism in good public services and call for the taxation needed to pay for it are not really thinking that way at all, but are just “envious” of the rich and so out to cause harm to them.

  • Alain Desmier 21st Nov '14 - 3:53pm

    @Matthew Huntbach, You’re now seeing class conflict where I assure there is none. The “politics of envy” is not that you are arguing for a position because you really want a two million house in Hampstead. The politics of envy (for me at least) is where you try to gain support for a position by targeting a section of society and exploiting commonly held prejudices.

    I don’t know how we’ve ended up with me being the manifestation of every problem you see with the Liberal Democrats but I assure we agree on more than you think. Lets move on.

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Nov '14 - 3:57pm

    Matthew Huntbach
    ‘ So often it seems that those who use this bird logo are those coming out with this sort of policy line, which as you say is SO FAR from the party we joined’

    Exactly. Those who routinely use the bird logo are not always writing what I would call liberalism and if they are being attracted to the party because they think we are an economically-dry/free-market style libertarian party, it is very worrying.

    Alain Desmier
    ‘ I think we both believe in opportunities for young people, we just believe in different ways to get there.’ But we have a different understanding of opportunity. I do not believe for a minute that the Liberal Democrats stand for a free-market, dog eat dog-keep the profits yourself kind of society. Opportunity for Lib Dems means giving people the tools to improve their lives in order to give something back – to help others.

    In the field of education, this used to mean access to a free education, so that by the fruits of education, one could in turn, work to help others. It did not mean – work hard so you can get up the corporate ladder and bask in your own wealth – without sharing the fruits with others. There is such a thing as society for Liberal Democrats and before that, the Liberals.

  • Stephen Campbell 21st Nov '14 - 5:13pm

    @Alain Desmier: ” For me at least we shouldn’t be undermining the social contract between citizen and state by engaging in the politics of envy.”

    Funny how those of us on the left who care about inequality and the fact that the markets and globalisation now rule our lives are always accused of “envy”. I don’t envy the rich at all. Some of the richest people I know have also been the most miserable people I’ve known: always looking for more money and more “stuff”. Enough is never enough with them. Right-wingers who use language such as yourself describe workers who go on strike, say for better pay, as “holding the nation to ransom”. So that type of aspiration is not to be welcomed, then, no? Believe it or not, we are all not guided by profit or how much money we can make. Not everyone is suited to run their own business or become an entrepreneur. Some of us just want decent jobs which will pay for all the basics and maybe a few small luxuries. Some of us are tired of having to compete on wages with the rest of the world, tired of our jobs being sent overseas by “entrepreneurs”. Nobody asked us if we wanted globalisation. Nobody asked us if we were fine with giving corporations (many of which are now more powerful than nation states) more and more power. Where’s the economic democracy in our society? There is none.

    You and people such as yourself in this party have been telling us since 2010 that if Lib Dems stay in the “centre” (and thus abandon millions centre left people who used to vote for them such as myself), you’ll attract a mythical “soft-Tory” vote. People would come running to the Lib Dems if you adopted Tory economic policy, but were slightly nicer on social issues. That hasn’t happened, has it? In fact, the opposite has happened. You are seen, rightly or wrongly, as pretty much the same as the Tories now. And why would we need yet another economically right-wing party when there’s already three centre-right free market parties (Tory, UKIP and a large part of Labour)? Look, the right pretty much rules the world now. Free markets are supreme throughout the West. And this is how extreme it has become: people who actually care about ever-rising inequality, corporate dominance and the fact that austerity has hit the poorest the hardest are accused of engaging in the politics of envy. Sorry, that to me isn’t the politics of envy. It is the politics of community, the politics of compassion and the politics of being a decent human being.

    ” The politics of envy (for me at least) is where you try to gain support for a position by targeting a section of society and exploiting commonly held prejudices. ”

    That’s what you and your Tory chums have done to people on benefits, the disabled, people in social housing, people who need the NHS, students, the unemployed, etc. Of course, it is funny how it’s only “class war” when the poor and disadvantaged fight back. For right-wingers such as yourself, it’s just called “business”.

  • Stevan Rose 21st Nov '14 - 5:49pm

    Welcome to the Marxist branch of the Lib Dems. Alain, you’re not in a minority in the party, just on this site. First time I’ve seen someone attacked for using the bird logo though. I first joined the Liberal Party 34 years ago and I recall it being in the centre, and it was the right of the Labour Party that peeled off the form the SDP side. It’s the Marxist wing of the Lib Dems that are in the wrong place. That Labour took a hammering in Rochester and the extreme right took 77% of the vote hardly proves there is a clamour for a hard left Lib Dem party. The problem is a weak leader who broke the No.1 election promise, not much else.

  • That post turned out to be more controversial than I expected (apart from the Heathrow bit which I know our luddite wing was going to react to). Reading the comments, our party almost comes across as the success-bashing group of crazies that most people in the startup world tend to think that we are.

    Obviously entrepreneurialism as a job creation and profit generation mechanism didn’t go down too well with most of you, but let me approach the topic from another direction. The Tories and Labour are both inherently corporatists and their policies are creating fewer and fewer giant companies with near sovereign-state level of power. Whilst there’s a certain amount public policy can do and a bit more international law can do, the third wheel is to make sure that there’s a healthy environment for small and growing companies to challenge them. Let’s call that entrepreneurialism and get behind it as opposed to sniping from the sidelines fora change. The Lib Dems are the natural party for those in startups, even if we sometimes forget that.

  • “Reading the comments, our party almost comes across as the success-bashing group of crazies that most people in the startup world tend to think that we are.”

    With good reason, because that’s what it is, with very few exceptions! Reading LDV comments is as entertaining as reading Telegraph comments these days, just from the opposite political spectrum! I left the Lib Dems a few years ago and joined the Conservatives (with a space for reflection between) and reading the comments on this piece, I’m still convinced I made the right choice. Leave the Lib Dems to be a talking shop for the wannabe left-of-Labourites/’why can’t we have a coalition with the Greens’ types, Alain, Peter, and you other sensible small-l liberals, and come join me in the party that is actually proud to stand up for small businesses, and that doesn’t think entrepreneurship is a Tea Party plot.

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Nov '14 - 7:00pm

    Stevan Rose
    ‘Welcome to the Marxist branch of the Lib Dems. Alain, you’re not in a minority in the party, just on this site.’

    It is not Marxist to believe in a fairer distribution of resources to pay for essential public services.

    I do have a problem with the kind of attitudes that regard tax as a form of theft and as a barrier to ‘success.’ After all, it’s always the well off who need more and more sums of cash as an incentive to work, while the poor have their benefits slashed. Of course by that logic, the only reason why Liberal Democrats want to redistribute wealth is out of envy and not in fulfillment of our desire for a fair and more equal society…

    I suggest some people go read the preamble and remind themselves what the party actual stands for.

    Any member can log in and use the bird logo but it is noticeable to a few of us that those most often ready to use it ( not all but many) are on the right (far right?) of the party. They do not represent even the mainstream of the Lib Dems.

  • Tsar Nicolas 21st Nov '14 - 7:29pm

    @Helen Tadcastle

    Actually, I find that being accused of ‘the politics of envy’ is a refreshing change from being labelled ‘misogynist’ when I condemn Myleene Klass for her attack on Milliband and the eminently sensible mansion tax.

  • Stephen Campbell 21st Nov '14 - 11:36pm

    Again, more proof of how far rightward the political centre has drifted over the past 30 years. For those who do not remember, the Liberal Democrat party was formed through the merger of the Social Democratic Party and Liberal Party. Believe it or not, social democratic positions such as those I still hold were once mainstream not only in this party, but in society in general. But now it seems social democratic positions are considered “Marxist”. So tell me: is it Marxist to want to protect the most vulnerable from austerity (which they did not cause), to keep profiteers away from the NHS, to expect our politicians to keep promises such as tuition fees? Is it a Marxist position to think the free market is great for things such as furniture and cars and mobile phones, but not at all when it comes to education, public transport, power and health? Is it truly Marxist to oppose the disproportionate and all too often anti-democratic power many global corporations now possess? My views have not changed; the party I supported for so long has changed. Sadly, I feel that many on the right of the Lib Dems have never read the preamble to the party constitution. And those on the right that have probably think it a bit Marxist.

    Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats are all now fully wedded to different shades of centrism and run by ad-men and PR wonks, fully signed up to even further globalisation. UKIP, who I do dislike with all my being, are at least willing to say what they truly think and challenge the current consensus. Many of those of us on the centre-left who feel voiceless and let down by our parties have moved to the Greens from Labour and Lib Dem. Laugh all you want, but the Greens are frequently outpolling the Liberal Democrats. And you cannot dismiss it as a simple protest vote as in the past. We are, like UKIP (and it pains me to say this), a genuine movement of people who are fed up of broken promises from the Westminster and corporate class; people are sick and tired of politics by focus group and public relations. Unlike UKIP however, the Greens don’t blame the weakest in society or immigrants for all of our problems. We blame the people who caused it: certain politicians and certain bankers on both sides of the Atlantic. The Liberal Democrats, pre-coalition, would have done the same: challenge these concentrations of power and do what their members and voters elected them to do.

    Your strategy of transforming yourselves into “nice Tories” isn’t working. You’ve successfully dissolved your electorate yet you are astonished you can’t seem to find a new one. You, on the right of this party, have abandoned once loyal Lib Dems such as myself. Calling me a Marxist when in fact I am a social democrat is one thing. I can take that. Your label of “Marxist” towards those who gave decades of their lives to this party only for their work to be destroyed in a few short years by the Cleggites in the party is downright offensive and I believe they are owed an apology.

  • “a fairer distribution of resources to pay for essential public services…. Fair and more equal…”

    The problem with this is that “fair” is the most subjective possible of all concepts. What is fair? Does it factor in risk, hours worked, productivity, innovation, intelligence, application of intelligence, experience, qualifications, skill. Who sets the balances between all the factors? You? Is it fair that Jill earns twice what Jack does because Jill does 2 jobs to pay her mortgage. And that Jill pays 10 times the amount of tax because Jack earns only slightly more than the threshold? What if Jack is disabled and Jill is a single mother. How does that change the fairness and equality balance? Is Jill rich because she has £50k equity in her house when Jack rents. What if Jack rents because he was an alcoholic and had his house repossessed. And his disability is effectively self-inflicted. Who decides what is fair? And to make things more equal is it fair to take money Jill has earned and give it to Jack? Does it make a difference that Jill votes Tory and Jack votes Labour? Or that Jack went to public school?

    This is why no-one is really qualified to judge what is fair and it is nonsense to try and work out a formula for equalising society. People are not equal, even if they all started off in life in exactly the same position. They will quickly diversify. Grafters and party lovers. Sporty and bookworms. Savers and spenders. Those who have 10 kids and those who have none. And those with an entrepreneurial spirit and those content to sit back while others to take the risks, work 60-70 hours a week, and create the jobs and wealth. I don’t judge any of them, diversity makes life interesting. I have a problem with those who put themselves on some kind of pedestal and think only their personal view of “fair” is valid, and it usually, but not always, means taking from those who have worked harder and longer than they have, taken more risks than they have, and are better off than they are. Sometimes they make silly and invalid generalisations based on a logo that automatically appears when you log into a website. Sometimes they try and belittle those who challenge their views by accusing them of being right wing Tories, the ultimate insult for a Lib Dem.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Nov '14 - 12:03am

    @Stevan Rose “The problem with this is that “fair” is the most subjective possible of all concepts. .. This is why no-one is really qualified to judge what is fair and it is nonsense to try and work out a formula for equalising society.”
    That pretty much skewers half of the party’s “Stronger Economy Fairer Society” line.

  • “protect the most vulnerable from austerity (which they did not cause), to keep profiteers away from the NHS, to expect our politicians to keep promises such as tuition fees? …the free market is great for things such as furniture and cars and mobile phones, but not at all when it comes to education, public transport, power and health? ”

    All noble and worthy objectives and not at all extreme, all things I totally agree with and why I rejoined, coming back from Labour. But this is not incompatible with a vibrant and creative pro-business stance that encourages entrepreneurs and wealth creation, especially if it gives preference to small to medium sized enterprises. But you know where most of the profits from the big corporates go these days – pensioners and small investor funds. So destroy them and make millions barely surviving on their under performing pension schemes struggle a bit more. Good move. You need effective and firm regulation especially of banks, a tax system that does not drive wealth away but ensures tax is accountable on all profits made here, and schemes that reward those willing to take risks and create jobs. You use some if the wealth created to fund health, education, and other essential services but you don’t cook the goose that lays the golden eggs.

    I don’t recall “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” being in the Constitution but that seems to be the theme of some comments here. It does, however, say we will encourage wealth creating processes.

  • “That pretty much skewers half of the party’s “Stronger Economy Fairer Society” line.”

    It’s a meaningless strap line that looks good on a podium backdrop. It’s those ad men. You have to look at the actual policies to decide if they coincide with your personal view of fairness. My idea of fairness is that everyone has a warm dry place to live and enough food in their belly, access to the best healthcare and education free at the point if use, and feels safe and secure as they go about their daily business. Beyond that and it starts getting complicated.

  • Helen Tedcastle 22nd Nov '14 - 1:22am

    Stevan Rose
    ‘ This is why no-one is really qualified to judge what is fair and it is nonsense to try and work out a formula for equalising society’

    I was following the preamble to our constitution where it states that we believe in a fair and more equal society. Fact. What is the point of having political parties with a programme of priorities and values if its members don’t hold similar values and aspire to their implementation?

    ‘ I have a problem with those who put themselves on some kind of pedestal and think only their personal view of “fair” is valid, and it usually, but not always, means taking from those who have worked harder and longer than they have, taken more risks than they have, and are better off than they are’

    Fairness does not mean taking from people who work harder and longer.Why assume that only the well off work hard? Afterall the working poor in this country work hard and some have two or three jobs. They still have to go to foodbanks because their wages are so low.

    How is this fair? Or should the poor be penalised to make them work even harder, while the rich have their taxes cut as an incentive to work?

  • I think I agree with Steven Rose, in the sense that small businesses are good. In the 19th century Liberals supported business against the vested interested of the landed-gentry. We have a tradition of supporting business and in today’s world we should continue that tradition in supporting medium and small business in free markets, against monopolies and cartels. As liberals we should believe those who wish to start their own business should be given some support and encouragement. However part of the liberal tradition was what those business people did once they had a successful business, for those in the liberal tradition lots became social reformers and wanted to help society and we Liberal Democrats should be proud of that and question anyone who believes they are a liberal but believe they have a right to maximise their profits, pay their staff as little as possible and not develop their staff to their full potential. To be a liberal one has to have a social conscious and to want to see everyone maximise their full potential.

    The government has to provide a safety net for people and I would argue that it is too low and those on that safety net have to struggle. That being there can adversely affect their health and the opportunities to reach their full potential. For the government to provide this safety net others have to pay taxes. The amount someone pays has to be in relation to what they can pay. If someone earns more they should pay more and their marginal rate should increase. If someone owns a company they should pay taxes on what they receive from that ownership. If they own an expensive house they should pay more tax than those who own a cheaper tax because their asset can fund that extra tax.

    I don’t understand how anyone can say that a 2% annual tax on a house worth more than £2 million pounds is an illiberal policy. This tax should be paid by the owner of the property and not the person renting it as with Council Tax. Would not the value of the house provide the asset needed to finance the tax?

    To Alain Desmier I say economic liberals are right-wingers. Economic liberals can make the case for better education and training but this doesn’t make them liberals in the British tradition. To believe that free markets and a small state are the answer is to accept the consequences with lots of people being disempowered. I would argue to be an economic liberal today is not to be a Liberal in the British tradition. The British liberal tradition is about controlling power and protecting people from it, not allowing it to have a free reign. The Liberal party was never a party of the centre and the Liberal Democrats should not try to be one. We have always been a progressive party.

  • Sorry “If they own an expensive house they should pay more tax than those who own a cheaper tax because their asset can fund that extra tax.” Should be “If they own an expensive house they should pay more tax than those who own a cheaper HOUSE because their asset can fund that extra tax.”
    Sorry “£2 million pounds” too many pounds.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Nov '14 - 2:59am

    Stevan Rose

    Welcome to the Marxist branch of the Lib Dems.

    Look again at the words of the Land Song, Stevan Rose, I put them in my posting of 1.11pm yesterday.

    You call me a “Marxist” for expressing opinions that were once CENTRAL to what our party was about, as can be seen from the words of that song, which was considered our party’s anthem.

  • The use of the term “Marxist” in some of the comments in this thread is childish and silly.

    I had intended to avoid any further comment but having just been reading about Germany where they have a political party  “Die Linke” which has some Marxist members I thought it might be worth making the connection.  They have just become part of the coalition government in Thuringia.  So far the sky has not fallen in and civilisation as the Germans know it has not been brought to an end.

    As the BBC man comments —
    The real significance of this new left-wing government is not a sign of a rise of the radical left. Overall support for Die Linke has not risen dramatically over the past few years. Rather, it is proof that the long-fragmented left is getting its act together, and is able to break taboos to co-operate.

    The BBC correspondent also reports that their “radical” election programme included —  
    “..a ban on fracking … and free kindergarten places for the first year..”

    Neither are particularly “Marxist” policies, I know that there are a good many traditional Conservative Party voters who would support both.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30124725

    Perhaps those who use the word “Marxist” as a general term of abuse for anyone they disagree with might like to do their homework more thoroughly.   I grew up at a time when more than half of Europe was run by real Marxists, and a pretty unpleasant bunch they were.   Not one of them would have had any truck with the words in The Preamble to the constitution of the Liberal Democrats.   But then again not many of the free-market ideologues who turn up in LDV seem to have even read The Preamble, or if they have it is a wonder that they ever joined this party.   

    In the comment from “Z” who has now joined The Conservative Party he says –“..
    Z 21st Nov ’14 – 6:58pm
    “Alain, Peter, …….come join me …”

    I would not wish membership of The Conservative Party on anyone but “Z” might just have a point about where Alain and Peter might be happier and feel more at home.

  • Alain Desmier 22nd Nov '14 - 9:28am

    It’s been a lively discussion, and I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments. Unlike so many of you it seems, I didn’t join in the 1970s (I was born in the 80s), I joined in 2007 after reading the Orange book (I know, I know, what a filthy right winger I am) and I don’t have a repertoire of Liberal Party songs that I can use to make my point for me.
    But, I put it to those of you that are determined I’m a Tory just to stop and think how powerful a party we could be if we found some shared rhetoric, some shared notion of what it means to be a modern Lib Dem. Helen Tadcastle made the point about a shared view of community in this thread, and I agree with her. Outside of my businesses I’m a school governor, I assure you won’t find a bigger evangilist for the pupil premium than me and no one needs to give me a lesson about the value of state services.

    Tax is the lifeblood that makes our country, our society work. I find tax avoidance or unfairly setting a tax system to benefit the rich, abhorrent. My comments have been very specifically about the role of Government in private property, many of you disagree as does the democratic party so I have to accept this. But at our heart, we’re the same liberals. We believe the individual rather than the state knows what’s best for our children, our hospitals and our communities.

    I beat the small business drum repeatedly because I believe these people largely ignore politics, preferring to build their businesses than listening to squabbling. But small business owners who need safe, vibrant communities to keep the doors open ultimately need consumers with money so they can feed their families.

    So let’s have the discussion on tax, and agree that if you make so much it’s right and fair that you pay proportionately more as you take home proportionally more. Let’s avoid the language of Labour party that makes anyone vaguely successful, pariahs and let’s win this middle, centre ground for ourselves.

    Putting my business hat on, recruiting businesses owners who have made money in their lifetimes wouldn’t be bad for donations, eh?

    Finally, to put this to rest once and for all. People “like me” aren’t Tories because we are liberal. It’s not the sort of Liberal that some of you want, I accept that, but we’re instinctively pro personal freedom and instinctively pro-immigration. We do share a view of community, of the world we all want to live in but liberals are never going to accept the tax and spend mentality of Labour. There is more than one way to deliver this shared view of community.

    So in the words of Matthew’s song “The army now is marching on, the struggle to begin,”

  • Alain

    Anyone who joined the party after they read the Orange Book is not necessarily right-wing. Indeed anyone who managed to get all the way through that book without falling asleep has my admiration.

    If you regard yourself as a Liberal and do not wish to follow the likes of “Z” and Jeremy Browne to pastures new that is hopefully a good thing for the party.

    But I would ask you (if you have not done so already) to read The Preamble to the constitution of the Liberal Democrats.
    It is much shorter than the Orange Book, much easier to read and in parts is inspiring.

    The Preamble was written with the intention of binding us together as a party and setting out our beliefs, whereas the Orange Book was compiled with the intention of subverting the aims of the party for the benefit and careers of a small clique.

    The Preamble does not draw a line between the individual and the state.
    The Liberal Democrats are fundamentally all about using the state to serve individuals in their communities.
    We are all about Liberty, Equality and Community.
    If you concentrate too much on Liberty and neglect Equality and Community you come unstuck.

  • Stevan Rose 22nd Nov '14 - 2:07pm

    Referring to people who seem to believe, from their posts, in “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” as Marxist isn’t at all silly. A lot less silly than insulting everyone who does not hold the same left wing views by calling them right wing Tories. And even less silly than the ridiculous generalisation about members who log onto the site that causes the bird logo to appear when they post.

    @Helen. Quoting the preamble and saying it is fact doesn’t make it any less meaningless and merely a soundbite. As I said, fairness means totally different things to different people. I believe in a fairer and less unequal society but it’s my concept of fair, not yours or John’s or Alain’s. You said fairness does not mean taking from people who work harder and longer but that’s what people who build businesses and create jobs and wealth do. They are often the working poor at times in that process. I’ve said what my idea of fair is, and it covers housing, food, energy, health and education. I agree with Stephen Campbell’s points too on what a fair society looks like. On liberty, on another thread, I totally agree with you and John. So Lib Dems have a common view about what the promised land looks like. A society where nobody goes cold or hungry and everyone gets first rate medical care on a needs basis, and an entitlement to the best education free of charge.

    Where we probably disagree is on the fair method of reaching the fair and less unequal society. I don’t have a problem with rich people as, unless they keep it under the mattress, virtually all of the money gets recycled back into the economy either by being spent or invested. They drive a new Jag or Rolls Royce, employing British workers who in turn pay tax, spend or invest. I drive a 12 year old jalopy that contributes nothing to the economy. They buy new kitchens and bathrooms keeping those trades in work. Tax them more they spend and invest less, and government spends the money on an American missile to launch in Iraq where it would have been spent on a team of joiners replacing a kitchen. I don’t think it is fair to borrow to fund spending today as that shifts the burden to repay onto the next generation. Would you build up masses of personal debt that your kids and grandkids would be legally obliged to repay? Of course not, so why is it fair to do that on a national level? Because if you agree with the need for public spending cuts you’re automatically an evil nasty Tory? What crap.

    What I take from this thread is that we have a party where the common ground is our vision of what a fair society looks like, and the belief in liberty, equality of opportunity, and community. It differs markedly on how to get there between those who would tax and borrow and those that would encourage and reward wealth creation to deliver the benefits to all in the end. Frankly I think the preamble supports the second approach.

  • Helen Tedcastle 22nd Nov '14 - 6:03pm

    Stevan Rose
    ‘ It differs markedly on how to get there between those who would tax and borrow and those that would encourage and reward wealth creation to deliver the benefits to all in the end’

    Then that is quite a fundamental difference. The latter part of your sentence above reminds me of another phrase ‘trickle-down.’ The idea is that if the wealthy do well, somehow we all do because they are the wealth-creators and they employ lots of workers etc… Well we have that now. Lots of workers are employed but on low wages so they can barely make ends meet, or they have to work part-time or on zero-hours contracts. All this suits the ‘wealth-creators.’ The latter need somewhere to store their wealth – property, tax-havens.

    Why shouldn’t they pay a bit more, especially if they are not paying high wages? They are part of our society and why shouldn’t they contribute according to their considerable means?

    This party has never been about the ones with the wealth over the little guys. It has always stood up for the powerless and brought the rich and powerful to account.

    As John Tilley says, the preamble is our statement of common and shared beliefs and values – it is not arbitrary or subjective.

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Nov '14 - 9:15pm

    JohnTilley 22nd Nov ’14 – 11:51am

    “The Preamble does not draw a line between the individual and the state.
    The Liberal Democrats are fundamentally all about using the state to serve individuals in their communities.
    We are all about Liberty, Equality and Community.
    If you concentrate too much on Liberty and neglect Equality and Community you come unstuck.”

    John – absolutely right – yes, yes … and you are no longer a mainstream Liberal Democrat

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Nov '14 - 9:34pm

    Sorry the last post left the Kindle prematurely!

    The post would have gone on also to agree with Helen Tedcastle’s, “the preamble is our statement of common and shared beliefs and values – it is not arbitrary or subjective.”

    As the machine is still playing up, I’m going to have to leave it there before it goes off on one again!

  • @ Stevan Rose

    I hate the ideal that people will decide policies based on a lie. In my lifetime it started with Margaret Thatcher, but I think Nick Clegg believes the lie as well as Steven. I believe Walpole was the first Prime Minister to consider policy based on this idea but he, I believe, in the end scraped his sinking fund to repay of the national debt. The reason people believe the lie is that they don’t understand economics.

    When someone invests into a business they don’t expect to get their money back just a dividend. When governments borrow they don’t need to pay the debt off just borrow the same amount to replay the first investor. The national debt will never be paid off. It will not be have to be paid off by our children or our grandchildren. The national debt started at £10,000 in 1692 and this has never been paid off! In 1815 it was £74,000 and Gladstone when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer didn’t get it back to this figure. In 1919 it was £7.41 million and this hasn’t been paid off! In 1946 it was £23.64 million and again this hasn’t been paid off. What is more important is not the size of the debt in pounds but how it relates to GDP and the size of the interest payments.

    Perhaps Stevan doesn’t understand Keynesian economics. The government could invest money into building things like houses and this boosts the economy by creating new jobs and those new people in work then go on to spend their wages.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Nov '14 - 9:50pm

    Alain Desmier

    Let’s avoid the language of Labour party that makes anyone vaguely successful, pariahs and let’s win this middle, centre ground for ourselves.

    The only one using such language is you. The claim that anyone calling for taxation to be redistributed so that it falls more on those who can more easily pay it is Tory nonsense used to close down the argument.

    If you REALLY supported entrepreneurialism, you would understand perfectly the argument for switching taxation from income to property. But, no, you use the old Tory line that people who are rich are better people than anyone else, more hardworking, and so on. It is nonsense. That was what the Land Song was all about – landlords are not making money because they are hardworking, they are making it because they own the land, and those who need it don’t.

    The old Liberal line was alway that wealth comes with responsibility. So those with it had a duty to use it productively, and so pay taxes that fall on it. But you say that is punishing enterprise. How many generations must we reward enterprise for? How many lazy people sitting doing nothing but earning money because they own land and property that others need must still be rewarded because some ancestor of their generations back did something to get wealthy?

    The point is that truly enterprising people get the wealth they make sucked away by having to pay it all for the necessities, such as somewhere to live, to those who have not worked to earn it. If people are enterprising, but poor, they will always enter the race to compete in the market with a ball and chain tied to their legs, whereas those who start off with wealth from family background enter it already sitting in a sports car. So without a more equal society, it most certainly ISN’T the most skilled and hardworking who rise to the top. At the base of your line is this false belief, if you really believe it you are just a victim of Tory propaganda.

    The old Liberal line of taxation of property was very much based on the idea of supporting private ownership and enterprise, because so long as you continued that enterprise, you kept your property. It was based on the idea of wealth fructifying in people’s pockets because they were free to have that wealth, and not have to pay it to the landlords. State support so that none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity was all part of making sure that skill and enterprise FOR ALL could be used productively, that no-one with the skills to succeed would be held back through being enslaved in these ways.

    The Liberals of the 19th century often had very rude and hostile things to say about the landed aristocracy and their entrenched power. You may say that was “class warfare”, but does that mean they were all “Marxists”?

  • Helen Tedcastle 22nd Nov ’14 – 6:03pm

    My reaction to Stevan Rose’s last comment was the same as yours — “trickle down”.

    The problem for those who believe in ‘trickle down’ is that they cannot point to any society in history where it has actually worked.
    Where or when in history have we ever seen the general populace benefitting from the elite getting richer?

    How for example is the UK population better off because the Duke of Westminster is fantastically rich and even richer than his ancestors who came over with the Norman Conquest?
    He inherited his wealth just like every generation of his family since 1066.
    Has his wealth trickled down to the benefit of the poor? Of course not.

  • Stephen Hesketh — thank you.
    – I think you and I, and Helen and Matthew, and Ed , Paul and Bill, along with others in this thread are still the mainstream Liberal Democrats.
    The Orange Gang were a temporary aberation on the fringes of the party, which captured the party for their own selfish ambition and have almost brought the party to destruction (as in Rochester).
    I think their time has passed and once the lucrative jobs and patronage that came with propping up a Conservative government have disappeared, they will disappear as well

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Nov '14 - 10:46pm

    Stevan Rose

    And those with an entrepreneurial spirit and those content to sit back while others to take the risks, work 60-70 hours a week, and create the jobs and wealth. I don’t judge any of them,

    But you just HAVE judged them – you have just made the judgement that anyone who is rich is hard-working, and that anyone who is poor is lazy. I know many people who work hugely long hours in low paid jobs, but you have made the judgement that they are worthless, because they work long hours just to pay the rent or the mortgage, they are “content to sit back”. Whereas those who have come from a background where they do not have to pay rent or mortgage, because there is family wealth to pay it, and so can afford to take more risks, can afford to spend time building up a business, and have better social links to further that business you judge are more hard-working and worthy people.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Nov '14 - 11:04pm

    Stevan Rose

    Would you build up masses of personal debt that your kids and grandkids would be legally obliged to repay? Of course not, so why is it fair to do that on a national level?

    No, it is not fair to do that on a national level. I accept there is the case for borrowing for investment, but I certainly don’t want to see us borrowing just to pay the daily bills.

    You say you want “A society where nobody goes cold or hungry and everyone gets first rate medical care on a needs basis, and an entitlement to the best education free of charge.” Well, that costs money. If everyone is going to get first rate medical care, it costs money to pay for doctors and nurses. If everyone is going to get an entitlement to the best education free of charge, it costs money to pay for lecturers to give it. If we are going to pay the costs, we have to raise money to pay for them, and that has to be raised from where the money is.

    The need for these things is going up. Advances in what can be done in medical care means people can be kept alive for many more years than in the past- at a cost. The greater complexity of society and technology means people need much more education than was the case in the past. There would have been little use for the rather abstruse stuff I teach at university decades ago, now there are thousands of jobs going which need it. Therefore if we accept your line that we must fully pay for these things, tax is going to have to rise, and we are going to have to look around to see where we can take it from which will cause the least pain. It is nothing to do with “envy”, as has been suggested, or regarding those who have the money that can pay for these things as “pariahs”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Nov '14 - 11:18pm

    Alain Desmier

    I don’t have a repertoire of Liberal Party songs that I can use to make my point for me.

    No, but you have a repertoire of articles in the right-wing press, and material which is pushed out by well-funded think-tanks making your points for you. That is what I am saying – it painfully obvious that your understanding of what is “liberalism” comes from very biased sources, because almost everything you are writing here uses the same old lines that they do. As I said, the old line that tries to argue that “authentic liberalism” means extreme right-wing economic policies can be found in many, many places, and most of all in outlets that support the Conservative Party 90% of the time, and in fact 100% of the time, because they pump out this stuff to try and push the other parties to become me-toos to the ideology of the Conservative Party.

    Whereas all I have is half-forgotten texts and arguments that no-one has a vested interest in pushing. The line you put can be read every day in the Times, Daily Telegraph, City AM, every week in the Sunday Times, Spectator and so on. Whereas where can the line I put ever be read? If you say Guardian and New Statesman, how come these Labour-supporting outlets consistently push the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats and ignore the left? There’s an open door to the likes of Jeremy Browne and Richard Reeves, in those places too, but the Liberal left get no coverage there either.

  • stuart moran 22nd Nov '14 - 11:45pm

    Can I say a big thank you to Matthew, Helen, Stephen, John and Almric for fighting back against this right-wing nonsense

    What a messed up place we all live in now…..and the writer of the original article seems to be living in his little bubble of nonsense

    Can I ask him what you actually do to make the world a better place with your ‘entrepreneurship’ – have you invented something really useful or, as many of your type, are you involved in selling snake-oil to gullible businessment under the guise of ‘consultant’?

    I have seen many people who think of themselves as entrepreneurs of this type coming into my company wearing big-knotted ties and cufflinks, extracting lots of money and providing nothing useful or sustainable.

    I think you should provide us of details of your own entrepreneurship as an example of what I, a mere salaried scientist, should be doing with my life – perhaps it will give me a bit of a laugh

  • “Thousands of people every year decide that they can be ‘the boss’, but rather than creating the next Facebook, they simply innovate in the industry they are in, take a client or two with them, install a desk at their home and their new business is born.”

    I’ve met a number of people who did just that in creating engineering/tech related companies around Burnley – but I can’t recall any of them mentioned extra runways or mansion tax as a big disincentive.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Nov '14 - 7:51am

    stuart moran

    Can I ask him what you actually do to make the world a better place with your ‘entrepreneurship’ – have you invented something really useful or, as many of your type, are you involved in selling snake-oil to gullible businessment under the guise of ‘consultant’?

    Indeed. If we are to take him seriously, we have to suppose there is a vast crowd of intelligent and creative people out there who think “Well, I have this really good idea, and I can easily put it into practice – but I won’t, because if I do and it works and I make enough money out of it to buy a big house, I’ll have to pay tax on it”. We have to suppose they greatly outnumber those who think “”Well, I have this really good idea, and I could perhaps put it into practice – but I won’t, because I have to pay a big rent/mortgage bill, and I can’t take the risk that it won’t work out”.

    In my experience, those who are truly intelligent and creative are motivated by their intelligence and creative nature. They want to do what they want to do because of that, not because they just want to get rich. So this idea that those who have something truly good to contribute won’t because of taxes on the rich is nonsense.

  • Stevan Rose 23rd Nov '14 - 1:04pm

    “But you just HAVE judged them – you have just made the judgement that anyone who is rich is hard-working, and that anyone who is poor is lazy. I know many people who work hugely long hours in low paid jobs, but you have made the judgement that they are worthless, because they work long hours just to pay the rent or the mortgage, they are “content to sit back”.”

    I said no such thing and made no such judgement. If you need to selectively misrepresent it doesn’t say a lot for your actual arguments. Since I have worked hugely long hours for next to no pay, just to pay the mortgage, going short on food and heat, it would not be my judgement that they are worthless. Quite the reverse, I admire those people greatly. Most are very proud of their achievements and don’t want you to redistribute someone else’s money to them.

    Forget rich individuals as a source of funding for everything. Every pound you raise is a pound they don’t spend or invest and go beyond a tipping point and they will relocate. There’s not enough of them anyway so it is simply an envy gesture. Amazon and Google and Atos and Fujitsu and many others want British business but take their profits elsewhere. Force them to pay tax where the profits are made. That would make a real difference.

    There are, by the way, two different types of consultant. Those with vast amounts of practical experience and knowledge who offer that to businesses who can’t develop the experience in-house on a freelance basis. And those who have read a book and gone on a training course, know the theory but have zero practical experience other than being a consultant. Their job is merely to generate more income for their big corporate employers. Solve the problem and the revenue stream comes to an abrupt end.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Nov '14 - 7:44pm

    Stevan Rose

    Quite the reverse, I admire those people greatly. Most are very proud of their achievements and don’t want you to redistribute someone else’s money to them.

    So people want to scrap the NHS, because they don’t want someone else’s money to be redistributed to them if they get sick? People are cheering on the raising of university tuition fees to the level that higher education actually costs because they don’t want someone else’s money to be redistributed to them to pay for their university education?

    Doesn’t look that way to me.

    All I am saying is that if people want these things – and actually contrary to your suggestion, mostly they do – they have to be prepared to have ways of paying for them. Contrary to what you are suggesting I am saying, I DON’T think this can all be done by taxes in some tiny number of super-rich people, so small in actual number that hardly anyone would notice these taxes.

    I would like to see a transfer of tax from income to property. For that I have been called a “Marxist” etc. But surely if one believes in reward for hard work, taxing it less and taxing money obtained just by owning things is supportive of that idea, isn’t it?

  • Stevan Rose 23rd Nov '14 - 9:43pm

    What posts are you reading and ascribing to me Matthew. I think you need to go to Specsavers. I’ve paid for my own NHS treatment via National Insurance. I’ve paid for my own education via income tax and council tax. So have the overwhelming majority of rich and poor. Of course people want these things and 99.9% of people want to pay their own way for these things via the tax system. It’s a bit condescending to suggest the less wealthy want subsidies from the more wealthy.

    My late grandmother, a self described Communist from inner London slums where they slept 4 to a bed, would have had your knackers for the mere suggestion that she did not pay her way. Mind you so would my other late grandmother, a working class Tory with an even more impoverished background.

    So here’s the difference between my Grandmothers. One worked into her late 60’s as a cleaning lady, didn’t own property and spent every penny she had so the Government couldn’t get their hands on it. The other one worked in a factory until she was 68 (lied about her age), probably earned the same overall, but saved and invested in a house in Lewisham. Some say that’s a trendy place now but not when I was a kid. They both paid about the same in income tax, which was fair.

    But you want to tax the Grandmother that saved and invested more than the Grandmother that blew all her money on extravagant Warners coach tours of Scotland. Hardly fair. So no, moving tax from income to property does not reward hard work, it just encourages the Commie Grandmothers to spend so they don’t get taxed on property. Extend my grandmothers to the population at large.

    But I didn’t refer to you as a Marxist for that. The Marxist label is for those who poured scorn and insults on Alain for having the temerity to suggest the party should encourage entrepreneurial wealth creation. Marxism is an honourable political stance to take though. It just doesn’t work in the real world. It is business that creates the wealth that ultimately funds the services we all want. Call it trickle down but every mighty river starts with a few trickles.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Nov '14 - 2:57pm

    Stevan Rose

    But you want to tax the Grandmother that saved and invested more than the Grandmother that blew all her money on extravagant Warners coach tours of Scotland. Hardly fair. So no, moving tax from income to property does not reward hard work, it just encourages the Commie Grandmothers to spend so they don’t get taxed on property.

    So why were our own political ancestors so keen on land value taxation that they wrote a song that became the party’s anthem, and why did we have support for it written into the Liberal Party’s constitution? Why do right-wing organisations such as the Institute of Economic Affairs also look on it favourably?

    Now, it COULD be argued that the Commie grandmothers are doing a great economic service, keeping people in jobs in Warners coaches, and the wages for those jobs pay income tax, and so on, much better for the economy than just hoarding it in property. But anyway, I know what house prices are like in Lewisham, having lived there and now living in the neighbouring borough. If it’s anything like the house I live in, she paid £3000 for it, and it would sell for £300,000. Sorry, but did SHE work to make that £297,000?

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Nov '14 - 3:35pm

    Stevan Rose

    The Marxist label is for those who poured scorn and insults on Alain for having the temerity to suggest the party should encourage entrepreneurial wealth creation.

    But I haven’t seen anyone do that. If that is what you are accusing me of doing, it just proves my point, you have no liberalism in you. You are unable even to give me the courtesy of accepting I may have a different view-point from you, and to consider what I am saying without necessarily agreeing with it. Instead, you jump to a conclusion which lazily accepts the propaganda poured out by people with vested interests, and condemns without consideration those who think differently.

    I did not pour scorn on Alain for suggesting the party should encourage entrepreneurial wealth creation. Rather, I questioned his assumptions as to whether they were the best policies to encourage entrepreneurial wealth creation. I believe the sort of policies I advocate would do MORE than the sort of policies he advocates to entrepreneurial wealth creation. The fact that instead of engaging with what I have actually said, you have instead ignored it in favour of painting me as saying something else indicates, well, any way round, something not that nice.

    As I have already said, the thing with Alain’s article is that it has very little new or original to say. The line that taxes should be cut and state services reduced all to promote “entrepreneurialism” is one that can be found pushed in so many places. It has been the dominant line of the Conservative Party since it came to power in 1979, and Labour under Tony Blair also was hardly unsympathetic to it. Most of our newspapers push this line a lot, there are well-funded think-tanks that also push it.

    So when someone comes along and puts out a rather naive article saying just the same thing here, as if it’s some exciting new discovery that no-one has ever thought of at all, well, to me, it’s rather like when some evangelical tries to sell Christianity to me with a simplistic fundamentalist message. Mostly it’s easier just to tell such a person to bog-off, rather than engage in a long theological discussion which would bring in my own reading and study and experience and lifetime’s thought on that issue.

  • Stevan Rose 24th Nov '14 - 6:32pm

    Well if you didn’t pour scorn Matthew then the label wasn’t directed at you was it, so I don’t know why you’re getting involved and assuming it was directed at you. As for working class Tory grandmother, that house in Lewisham was sold decades ago and she certainly did not make that kind of money on it. But she did work in factories making aircraft components from the ages of 14 to 68 whilst confined to a wheelchair for 20 of those years. I’m guessing most people would have said she was entitled to the small profit.

    Nice try at turning the tables by the way. But I would never have bothered to post at all had it not been for a small group ganging up and accusing those who disagree with them of being closet Tories, being taken in by propaganda, and making silly generalisations about the bird logo. It is interesting how you react when someone uses the same tactic back (still don’t get the bird logo nonsense though).

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Nov '14 - 10:51pm

    Stevan Rose

    But I would never have bothered to post at all had it not been for a small group ganging up and accusing those who disagree with them of being closet Tories, being taken in by propaganda, and making silly generalisations about the bird logo.

    Well, you may see it as “a small group ganging up”. I see it as trying to hold onto mainstream Liberal Democrat values against a continuous stream of people like Alain Desmier all saying the same sort of thing: promoting right-wing economics with lines which just repeat what is in the right-wing Tory-backing media. Believe me, I’d rather I didn’t have to do this. But I’m finding I’m having to do it time and time again, every time some different new recruit to the Liberal Democrats pushing these right-wing as if somehow it was a marvelous new inspiration rather than tired old stuff that’s been pushed out since the days of Thatcher, and I feel I have to put the other side for the sake of balance, for the sake of preserving what were once the core values of our party.

    I feel I’ve argued my case on policy lines, but got no response – just accusation that I am saying what I am out of “envy” or out of opposition to the idea of entrepreneurialism, when I have made clear how I believe what I am saying is in support of genuine entrepreneurialism.

    The point about the Liberal bird is that, with a few exceptions, it now seems to be a marker of those in the party who support these right-wing economic ideas. That is, there are plenty who post here who are long term Liberal Democrat activists, but who don’t use the bird logo, and they tend to those who stand for what was once centre policies in the Liberal, but now are somewhat to its left. I think this marks the way the public image of the Liberal Democrats has already shifted the way you and Alain Desmier want it, keen new recruits who want to put the Liberal Democrat bird logo by their name to show their keenness tend to be your sort politically, not mine.

    So, yes, I do see this as a long-term shift to the right, and unlike others posting here of this “small gang”, I’m not so optimistic it will be reversed. The public image of the party, the one that new recruits think it is about, is that of you and Alain Desmier, and the likes. All new recruits will be of that sort, the party will go your way and largely has.

    And the results in recent by-elections shows where that’s getting us. Congratulations on what you have done to our party – destroyed it.

  • >For me at least we shouldn’t be undermining the social
    >contract between citizen and state by engaging in the politics of envy.

    That’s a bizarre view; we have car tax – would you characterise that as the politics of envy for non-drivers? Obviously many types of tax discriminate based on what you have or don’t have – are you against all these forms of taxation? You’ve given no justification for this idea either and your ideas as to how to increase the tax take are simplistic to say the least – I don’t feel like you’ve approached a credible position regarding tax.

    Whilst I disagree in labelling your position Tory, I still think you need to ponder more upon the arbitrary nature of taxation as a whole. There are good reasons to tax things that only the very wealthy have – one angle that hasn’t been discussed is how much easier it is to avoid tax once you’re wealthy and self-employed (because you can afford really decent accountants (yay!) and tax becomes mostly optional). Also, London has been bought up by Russian oligarchs and the like over the past 20 years and we have very few ways of exerting tax on them, so they use a disproportionate percentage of services yet pay nothing for them. We need to address these sorts of problems; you and Myleene Klass aren’t helping much with that – if you can come up with a better alternative then you might have an argument but I’ve not seen that presented here.

    Thanks for bothering to have this debate, I understand it’s not easy as we’re mainly social Liberals that are a tad angry at the rise of the Orange Bookers. Also, there is secret sauce to being an entrepreneur.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Nov '14 - 11:42am

    Stevan Rose

    My late grandmother, a self described Communist from inner London slums where they slept 4 to a bed, would have had your knackers for the mere suggestion that she did not pay her way.

    I am not quite sure what it is I wrote that could be interpreted that way. Surely if I am being accused of being a “Marxist” my line would be that people like your grandmother and others most certainly DID pay their way, but it’s their bosses who make profit from what they do just on the basis of owning things who don’t pay their way.

    Once again, your attacks on me seem to be not on the basis of what I said but on something you have made up by yourself and then interpreted, without any justification, as what I said.

    The incredible thing is that we are in the same party. In the past, sure there were fellow party members who had different ideas from me, so we wouldn’t see everything in common. But now there seem to be people like you with whom I have nothing whatsoever in common with, we cannot even discuss politics together because your basic assumptions are so different from mine – and so much AGAINST what our party has historically stood for, as witness, for example, in the Land Song.

  • Stevan Rose 29th Nov '14 - 3:46pm

    Matthew, the majority of my views are to the centre-left, many on the centre, a few on the centre right. I don’t believe you can or should choose a side and blindly adopt every convention of that side. Whilst we doubtless have the same end vision for what a fairer and less unequal society looks like, there are clearly differences on the economics of how to get there. The only news publications I read are the free Standard when I’m in London, for the puzzles, and Private Eye. My politics come from a family background of abject poverty but one where wealth is a healthy aspiration provided it is achieved honestly and without exploitation, not to be despised and destroyed. You are right in one respect; it is impossible to debate politics when disagreement is followed by accusations of your opponent being a Tory, of being influenced by right wing media, and silly generalisations.

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