Opinion: The need for a radical manifesto

In 2015, as we approach the general election, it will be exactly 70 years since the 1945 general election. When we draw up our 2015 manifesto, we need to remember the lessons of 1945.

That election saw the Labour party, after several years in a coalition government for reasons of the national interest, cast aside the memories of the wartime government to win a landslide majority based on a radical, optimistic manifesto that laid out a glowing vision of the future. Say what you like about the Labour party of old, at least they could not be accused of lack of vision.

I believe that we need to see the parallels between 1945 and 2015. In 2015 we will be coming out of a government that is hardly universally popular but which is, grudgingly, accepted by the majority of people to be in the national interest to deal with an economic situation that very few would deny the truth of. People will be tired of cuts. Regardless of our achievements in government, people will remember the first half of this decade as a time of cuts and hardship.

We cannot afford to enter 2015 with a manifesto based mainly around our achievements in government. Yes, we have and will have achieved much, but, at the end of the day, people who liked the coalition will probably vote Conservative, those who don’t like it will probably vote Labour. If we don’t want to be squeezed by both of those parties then we need to be radical. We need to change the rules of the game and look to the future, instead of the past.

Labour and the Conservatives will be gearing up to have a fight on the coalition’s record on the economy. From the Conservative side we will hear claims of having brought a new age of prosperity and a smaller state, with promises of tax cuts and warnings about letting Labour loose with the economy again. From Labour we will hear cries of wrecked public services, unemployment and ideological cuts, with promises of increased public spending and warnings about the tories cutting taxes for the rich and ignoring the poor.

In order to not just hold on to the seats we have, but do well, we need something different. We need to change the entire context of the debate. And that’s where 1945 comes in. We need a manifesto in 2015 as radical as, if different from, the Labour manifesto of 1945.

At the moment we have the problem that only about 11% of people are core vote Lib Dems – this figure being approximately the share of the public that always vote for us. The rest of our votes come from people who identify with us on particular policies but are not core voters. And the reason for this is a lack of vision. Not within the party, but in the public’s perception. We are not perceived to have a clear vision for the future and we find it difficult to explain our principles and vision in a clear manner. Instead, we find ourselves adopting the language of our rivals, which immediately gives them the upper hand and puts the debate on their terms. 1945 shows that you don’t win elections by fighting on your opponents’ terms – you win by changing the terms of the debate itself.

Tomorrow, George outlines his suggested themes for a radical manifesto.

George W. Potter is a party member and stood as a candidate in the Guildford borough council elections this May. He blogs on politics and engineering at thepotterblogger.blogspot.com

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50 Comments

  • ‘The rest of our votes come from people who identify with us on particular policies but are not core voters. And the reason for this is a lack of vision. Not within the party, but in the public’s perception.’

    Hmmm, so it is the electorate’s fault in not sharing the vision of the Liberal Democratic Leadership who have shifted the party rightwards to a neo liberal free market economic policy that is virtually indistinguishable to the Conservatives. There is nothing wrong with the electorates vision or general understanding of the role that the Liberal Democratic Coalition agreement is playing in making the Liberal Democrats as enablers to ideolgocial Conservative policy.

    Did you not learn anything from the election results ? Apart from one or two small areas, the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed and would have collapsed further if there was anybody else to vote for in some areas where support was maintained.

    If the Liberal Democrats do not heed the message of the electorate, the LDs will be fortunate to get 11% and barely double figure MPs at the next election. That 11% will only hold up due to the fact that there is no one else to vote for. It is really not that people do not have vision or have misunderstood the Liberal Democrat message and shift to the right all too well. The message is not getting through arguments are fallacious.

    Experience in government is great but only if mistakes are learned from and different actions are taken. There is no shame in listening to the electorate, it is the foundation of the democratic values of our country.

  • Polittiscribe

    Libdems need to be fighting the top-down, centralizing sclerotic socialism of Labour that got us into this position just as much as the laissez-faire nihilism of the right.
    ——————-
    But the reality is that the the Liberal Democrats have adopted the ‘laissez-faire nihilism of the right’ (great writing by the way).
    ————————-
    Polittiscribe
    This Coalition is delivering – through bottom-up, democratic localism – the agenda people have wanted for years.
    ——————
    No. A sizeable chunk of people who voted for the LDs at the general election want the platform they voted for not the Coalition agreement, which they didn’t. Thats why the LD vote is hovering about 10% in the opinion polls and the LD vote collapsed across a vast swathe of Britain in the local elections.
    ————-
    Polittiscribe
    We are the centre of British politics and must fight for that position. Our policies on education, welfare, constitutional reform and yes, the NHS, are progressive in a way that put Labour to shame.
    —————
    The LDs were the centre of British Politics. The Leadership shifted the party to the right, and managed to smuggle through a whole host of neo liberal free market policies in the Coalition agreement that are closer to the Conservatives than the membership. The massive changes to the fabric of this country decidely does not have the support of the electorate and have not been tested at a general election.

    The current LD direction is heading for a wipe out, have you really forgotten the local election results so soon ?

    I think you write well there Pollitiscribe but I can’t agree with it as seems to contradict reality and ignoring that is no good for the Liberal Democrats and survival as any meaningful force in British Politics. I really don’t want to see that happen as a strong third force is necessary to balance the LDs and Conservatives.

    —————————————

  • @Jack Timms

    The vision of the liberal democrats is generally one of social liberalism not neo-liberalism (as that’s what New Labour stands for). I’m not going to argue with you but I’d ask you to read the second part of this which will appear on LDV tomorrow.

    Ok, Thanks George for the response, I will read the second part with interest tomorrow.

  • The one huge problem for the LibDems re. the next General Election, and one that either the party doesn’t see or one that it refuses to face. That is that the Liberal Democrats are just not trusted now by a big section of the electorate, and so whatever you promise in 2015 many many voters will simply not believe it. It is worth reminding ourselves that In days after the last general election the LibDem leadership enthusiastically embraced crucial parts of the Conservative manifesto; “rapid” reduction of the deficit, increasing student fees, marketisation in the NHS, Trident, VAT increase, cuts in the education budget, curtailing of workers’ employment rights, and so on. The LIbDems suddenly became, under Mr Clegg, the Tory party Mark II. It is this huge about-turn that will be remembered by voters in 2015, irrespective of what you promise.

  • Brian Wright 30th May '11 - 8:35pm

    Can I take this in a slightly different direction? Reading the Guardian today there is an article by the Research Director of the Fabian Society attacking Localism and calling for national standards in various services. On the other hand Jackie Ashley has written a feature on why Ed Milliband should co-operate with Nick Clegg on NHS reform. She says that regional and local variations are inevitable. I think that various aspects of Localism should be a key Lib Dem policy but certainly not the current model which both seems to box in local government and starve the whole idea of cash.

    We desperately need to start Lib Dem thinking- however wacky- which is why I applaud Jack Timms’ call for a radical resurgence. We do need better methods for debating and initating new Lib Dem thinking.

  • comparing this coalition with the wartime one is ridiculous. fighting hitler was a little different to the supposed “national interest” this government tells us its working in

  • Radical Liberal

    I find it very worrying that you think that 6 to 8% and possibly a handful of MPs in the South West is a reasonable result at the next election.

    On the major issues, such as front loaded fast deficit reduction, student tutition fees, enabling a Conservative attack on the public sector with a view to privatise everything including the NHS and allowing the Conservatives to carry out their aggressive ideological assault, the Liberals have enabled a Thatcherite government. When voting for the LDs it was definitely not vote for dismantling of the public sector.

    ‘Do you really think its appropriate to describe Liberal Democratic economic policy as ‘laissez faire nihilism of the right’ and putting through ‘a whole host of neo liberal free market policies’ ? ‘ That unfortunately seems to be the main effect of this Coalition agreement. (laissez faire nihilism was a borrowed phrase from Polittiscribe).

    The electorate in delivering a hung parliament wanted the Liberal Democrats to moderate both the Conservative right of bring back hunting and corporal punishment, anti EC and discriminatory wing and the Thatcherite free market wing. That’s not what happened. There was not a need to sign a Coalition agreement that allows the Conservatives to treat the Liberal Democrats of a wing of their party. A coalition agreement that allowed for major changes of policies then ones that people voted for.

    The Conservative only got around 37% of the vote, and their vote is stuck there. The Conservatives are in power due to Liberal Democrat support on policies that were largely undeclared and unstated in the election.

    I am an independent voter, who has never endorsed Blair, I want to see a strong third party because I believe it is important for the democratic process in this country. I am not a troll and I am sorry if you don’t like my opinion or the verdict of the electorate in the recent local elections. The Liberal Democrats can continue on the path they are following, and haemorrhage support, next years local elections will deliver an equally severe message as well proceeding elections. I really don’t want to say that I told you so, because it is not what I want to see happen.

    One thing, I understand about coalitions everywhere else is that smaller parties don’t give up their identity or support policies that are contrary to their election platforms. There was a hard fought opportunity for Coalition Politics to work and be proved to the electorate that it did not mean throwing away principles. I fear that this and the hard work of many activists over many many years has been lost.

    It worries me that some commentators on here seem to think that all is peachy and will somehow work out just fine.

  • “‘ A sizeable chunk of people who voted for the LDs at the general election want the platform they voted for not the Coalition agreement, which they didn’t.’

    Do you honestly think politics and public opinion is as simple as this?”

    Frankly, yes, everybody knows that it is!

    In 2009 I stood as a Lib Dem candidate in a council byelection and gained a 19% swing, though it wasn’t quite enough. In 2011 I stood again, this time as an Independent opposed to what the Lib Dems had done in entering coalition, and I increased my vote. I re-canvassed the whole ward. I did find two people who said I should have stuck with the Lib Dems and that the coalition was a good thing. I lost count of the number of people who took the opposite view and were delighted that I had taken the stand I did.

    George Potter, I’ll be interested in your radical manifesto for 2015. But the image which comes to mind is of the convict in leg irons on Death Row, planning his way to world domination…

  • @Radical Liberal
    “You also think we are heading for a wipeout, we are at around 10%, in one of the worst possible situations for the party in the worst part of this coalition government for us. ”

    I’m not sure this is the worst part of the coalition. I think that will come this later this year and through 2012 as the cuts really start to bite.

  • I shall never vote libdem again. I shall campaign tirelessly against you.

    How on earth can I believe anything you ever put in a manifesto again, after seeing you team up with the Tories despite campaigning on a progressive manifesto in 2010?

    Your only hope to even slightly redeem yourself is to dump Nick Clegg and blame this entire fiasco on him personally.

    Otherwise nobody is ever, ever going to trust you. We will all otherwise think your leader can take you in directions that are diametrically opposed to the issues and opinions you offer before forming a coalition.

  • Radicalibral 31st May '11 - 8:31am

    Radical Liberal
    I also perceive myself as a Radical Liberal but I think in the comments you make whilst I agree with the broad brush of what you say I think whether we like it or not emphasis is important for Liberals. I think it is that emphasis that probably does distinguish us from Libertarians. Can I ask whether you belong to The Orange Book Group?
    For me the Free Market does provide the most efficient method of distributing goods and services. The emphasis for Liberals which I think does distinguish us from Tories is as a method of securing Individual Freedom and Liberty an end in itself. This where I believe the emphasis placed on this question is important and what make it so difficult being a Liberal. It means we do have the luxury, and the misfortunes to have to look at issues of policy against this backdrop.
    Lets take the issue you raise the NHS. In terms of your emphasis I think you are suggesting the involvement of the Free Market in the NHS is not a bad thing. In principle I agree but fundamentally and particularly with regards to the NHS it is about outcomes. I am not as a Liberal in favour of competition for competition’s sake. I think for the reason of achieving Lower Taxes as well as a more efficient NHS i think some Tories are. We know the NHS is a bottomless pit for money. That’s another issue for another day on how we should tackle this especially reagrding the drugs budget for it. We also have to accept the current economic mess we are in. However whether the deficit should be cleared in 5 or 6 years “irrespective” of the blood sucking Credit Reference Agency leaches that inhabit the “Free Market” in this area is another issue for another time. Ideologically for me I would spend every tax paying penny that needed to be spent to keep the concept of the NHS going because for me as a individual it is one of the most important things that represents everything that is good about this country.
    As a Liberal value for Money is important but equally is the imagination, and entrepreneurship that made this country a great economic force, and which through philanthropy and ideologly put the need to make those whos lives were worse than those with money at the centre of political thinking. I think in 1979 when we lost a lot of baggage we also lost this. This is the challenge for this country in this century to win back.

  • Chris Riley 31st May '11 - 1:13pm

    Could all of the people saying ‘yes, 70% of our manifesto is being implemented’ please stop saying that?

    The figure is irrelevant if, as is happening, the majority of the ‘70%’ is mix of political wonkery of no interest to the average voter, things that the Tories have no problem with anyway, and minor political victories, and the 30% that has not been implemented includes the economic strategy that the voters actually voted for, the HE strategy that the voters actually voted for and not wrecking the NHS.

    Citing it makes you sound like a husband complaining that his wife doesn’t understand him – after all, he remembers her birthday, takes a full share of all domestic duties, gives her breakfast in bed on her days off, so why is she so hacked off about him sleeping with her best friend? It’s only one thing set against all the other stuff he does.

  • Radicalibral 31st May '11 - 3:58pm

    @Dane Clouston
    Does your idea on Inheritance Tax find favour with The Orange Book Lib Dems? The reason I ask is that as one of those nasty former SDP’s my Liberal political outlook on life is now in a state of flux. I wonder for Liberalism and Liberals, and even those who used to support the SDP and who would not necessarily have any problems with your Inheritance proposals are we at a crossroads. Whereas on the journey of Liberalism some of us are going to take one path which might bring reconciliation with the Liberal Party, and others who wish to go in a different direction which could include junking Electoral Reform? Food for thought?

  • libertarian 31st May '11 - 8:02pm

    @Dane Clouston

    Sorry what part of “free” market don’t you understand? This constant angst about inherited money is tedious. Please learn that money has NO VALUE unless you spend it and as soon as you spend it, it is redistributed, it requires NO intervention to make that happen.

    Please please please can we have a Liberal Party back and not this half hearted fence sitting socialism

  • Radicalibral 1st Jun '11 - 12:50am

    Radical Liberal
    There is one issue that I must take you to task about. I have heard this term “the monopoly state” glibly and carelessly used even by some senior Lib Dems. This term implies a proactive attempt by the state to achieve monopoly power. The true definition of a monopoly in economic terms denotes a deliberate attempt “within a market” to become the sole provider of goods and services. Historically the state has achieved a dominant position within “mixed economies” but with the active support and help of politicians, not by actively achieving that position for the purpose of being the dominant force in a market. It is very important that economic terminology is not used or misused.
    I am happy in terms of using the correct language to talk about “rolling back the state”. But again the term “the state” needs to be carefully defined,, and not misused.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jun '11 - 11:20am

    “Libertarian”

    Please please please can we have a Liberal Party back and not this half hearted fence sitting socialism

    Please, please go and read some history and see what Liberal politicians ACTUALLY campaigned for in the past. Death duties were introduced by the Liberal Chancellor, Sir William Harcourt in 1894. You might also note the Liberal Mayor of Birmingham, Joseph Chamberlain, forcible taking control of the city’s gas and water supply from private companies and putting it under municipal control. And much else that is at odds with what is now called “libertarianism”.

    So, what is this Liberal Party you want to go “back” to? It does not seem to be the REAL Liberal Party of the 19th century. Rather it seems to be a fiction you and people like you have invented in order to pursue your own fantasies. As in George Orwell’s nightmare visions, you and your type are actually trying to re-write history and make out it was something that was different than it really was, to suit your ideology. “Libertarian” pfaah – you are just pursuing the current ideology which the modern day aristocrats – the big business fat cats – are trying to push on us because it favours them. Like the Leninists of old you decorate it with a superficially attractive image, while ignoring the reality that when it is tried it works in a way very different from what you claim, ultimately leading to slavery, not freedom, to rigid differences in wealth and opportunity, not equality, to the glorification of the few who maintain their power by putting out ever more ridiculous fiction, using the language of the old political battles as if they are rebels when they are really very much the establishment.

  • This mostly for Radical Liberal and to those of you who seem to think the free market provides the solutions, you should consider the shocking abuse at the private care home for Adult and Learning Disabilities at Winterbourne. Take a look, the abuse is disgusting, a woman is forced to lie on the floor, visibly shivering as they spray her with cold water, people are kicked and beaten, it is really upsetting. The whistle blower, a person who worked there, was shocked and wrote to the Care Quality Commission who did NOTHING. The reason the CQC does nothing as it is an underfunded organisation as the Labour and Conservative governments do not want it exposed how poor quality care homes are.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/01/panorama-care-home-investigation-undercover-journalism

    The company Castlebeck received £180,000 of tax payers money for each person they ‘looked’ after.
    Private care homes are found to be much poorer quality, with poorer training, higher staff turnover and lower pay than charity run care homes.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/elderhealth/8546864/One-in-seven-care-homes-rated-badly-by-watchdog-amid-industry-crisis.html

    Add in the Southern Cross fiasco where 30,000 older people face losing their place to live, guess who is going to pick up the bill for that ?

    Many People in private care homes live unstimulated lives where only basic needs are met.

    Private provision does not provide all the answers. There was an insistence on private provision and the closing of decent council run institutions.

    There is a mantra pushed by the Conservatives that the private provider must be pushed in all areas of our lives. The Liberal Democrats may not entirely agree with this but is the result.

    Where is the evidence that this has worked with the railways, electricity and gas ? Poorer quality service, uneven pricing and increased costs with no particular rise in quality.

    Look at the US system of private health care. Organisations such as the NHS can be improved but opening it out to private providers without very careful consideration which leads to fragmentation of the NHS is just not right.

    The free market has a role to play but the conservative mantra that is holding sway should stop. This is not what people voted for. Remember Castlebeck, watch the video and tell me that the Private sector holds all the solutions.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jun '11 - 11:35am

    Dane Clouston

    As a general rule private enterprise is likely to be more efficient than public enterprise, because there is, in general – however regrettably for those concerned – less security of tenure of jobs in private enterprise.

    Are we just to accept this as a fact, or are we permitted to question it?

    My experience – and I hear just the same from almost everyone I know who works in the public sector, and most particularly those towards the end of their careers or now retired – is that the greater insecurity that has been introduced there over the past few decades in the name of “efficiency” has had the opposite result. The way to make people work hard is to give them pride in what they are doing. Everything that has happened in the public sector in the past three decades pushed on us by trendies who are obsessed with free market dogma has worked to destroy the pride that used to exist amongst public sector workers. When people are scared of losing their jobs, they do not work harder. They just drop everything that doesn’t fit in with what the bosses tell them to do, they drop anything which requires using initiative, they keep their heads down and do what they are told, however ridiculous, because that’s job safety for you. People whose very moment is filled with fear that they will lose their job are just NOT good workers. Why can’t the establishment see this? Answer, because they all come from rich backgrounds, they make their way effortlessly in life through their contacts, they have plenty of wealth to fall back on if they should suffer a temporary set-back, so dog-eat-dog competition is fun for them because they are never really going to suffer.

  • I totally disgree Dane Clouston that privatised industries are more efficient than the public sector. The service is worse, and more expensive with any efficiencies or profits taken out by the share holders.

    The disgusting assaults launched at Winterbourne House are not just down to better supervision. The nature of private organisations is to drive down costs, security and training for their staff and extract profit. You have to ask yourself why the CQC is not a stronger organisation and did not act.

    Why ? Because the government (I include Labour and Conservative) do not want exposed the number of poor private care homes in our country. It is a national scandal.

    I disagree that poorer pay and conditions go down for the workers involved means greater effeciency. Private care homes for example have greater staff turnover and poorer condition homes, is that what you mean by effeciency. A committed, secure and properly renumerated staff leads can lead to greater effeciency.

    Private care or private companies and the market are not the answer to the ills of this country. It is a perfect example of why the NHS should not be fragmented, broken up and privatised.

    That should be in George Potters radical manifesto.

  • Kevin Colwill 3rd Jun '11 - 9:00pm

    Bit of non-scientific personal narrative.

    I’ve worked in the public sector and in one of the supposedly most competitive sections of the private sector- retail.

    Public sector managers almost to a man/woman went the extra mile. Even at a relatively low level they worked well past their paid hours, showed real concern for their customers, weren’t afraid to make decisions and gave true leadership. The retail managers, at least regional level, were mechanistically following orders from above, had little or no imagination and were completely driven by an overriding fear of making mistakes rather than any desire to serve their customers.

    In fact the exact opposite of the stereotypical view of public/private.

  • Radicalibral 3rd Jun '11 - 9:01pm

    @Dane Clouston @Matthew Huntbach
    Can I possibly offer a third way to both of you though Dane might feel my suggestion does not go far enough. I believe strongly that with the right resources the Voluntary and /or the Not for Profit Sector may provide an answer to the Service Delivery problems whilst at the same time deal with the issue of the Profit Motive getting in the way of providing a “quality “service.
    I work for an RSL. In my organisation’s work they daily weigh up the delicate balance between economic efficiency of resources as a business whilst striving to put the customer, and the service delivery they provide at the centre of what they do. Irrespective of the Social, and Legal responsibilities of the individuals involved in the Winterbourne case if on a similar basis you say you employ staff purely on the basis of cost (Minimum Wage) with inadequate training or prospects for personal development using people who may be doing the kind of work merely as a way of making sure they are off the JSA statistics then you may well get a similar scenario to the Winterbourne example. Working for a RSL with its ethos, but without the necessity to pay staff minimum wage does yield in the main, a quality service which makes the most efficient use of the resources it has to work with.
    Food for thought?

  • Dane, I don’t think the forests should be sold off, I think that the Royal Mail should not be privatised. The Dutch experiment shows what an utter shambles that has become.

    Did I speak about Nationalisation ? No.

    I am pleased to see that you include health, care and education as areas that should not be privatised. The Private Care Homes, Southern Cross and Winterbourne

    ‘CQC’s budget is 30% less than the regulators it replaced. In the past year it cut its inspections by 70%, taking a minimum of 120 days to register new homes. Its 900 inspectors are expected to cover more than 8,000 GP practices as well as 400 NHS trusts, 9,000 dental practices and 18,000 care homes.’

    I direct you to an excellent article by the Wonderful Polly Toynbee in the Guardian and some really good comments in the comment section.

    Private provision is not the answer to all the country’s ills. I never thought that this was political belief of the LD party.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/03/southern-cross-winterbourne-view-care-homes

  • Radicalibral 4th Jun '11 - 9:57am

    Dane Clouston

    Dane Clouston says she has become disillusioned with the EU since the fall of the iron Curtain and is in favour of a Referendum on the issue. Why? I think for Liberals have we reached a point where we have become disillusioned with the ideals and principles of the EU? I think there are arguments on both sides.
    For Liberals who believe in the Free Enterprise agenda of the EU surely surely there is a lot to say in favour of the EU. The agenda on Free Trade has definitely come to the forefront in recent years perhaps at the expense of Social Policy Legislation which marked out the EU in its early days and which is still reviled by people who support Free Enterprise. No where has this more been on show than with the current Health scare over Vegetables. Was it the Health Commission at the forefront of the publicity on this issue. No it was the Trade Commission. Surely with a major health scare the issue is one of controlling the Health implications to EU citizens first, then worrying about the damage to Free Trade by tit for tat action by EU members.
    On the other side we still have Social Policies on subjects such s a Parental Rights being produced by the EU. Perhaps the level of debate and reform by each Individual member’s parliament on such weighty issues in terms of timescales for implementation needs to be reviewed. But the merits of the introduction of such legislation in the first place really only upsets purist Free Enterprisers who would would probably wish our Social Policies were conducted along the lines of the US or even worse China. However Social Policies should present a real dilemma to Tories rather than any other political party in Europe. The Tory Party talks the talk on the role of the Family. But when push comes to shove it clearly puts that objective second to not seeking to restrict the operation of Free Enterprise. I think it is time that the Tory party were asked to come to the table to explain “how” they square that circle. I would hope for Liberals that really would be less of an issue?

  • Jack Timms, you’re wrong – we’ve delivered on stopping the anti-EU, ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ wing of the Tories from taking over. It was in the Tories’ manifesto to re-negotiate the Lisbon Treaty and retreat from the EU. That promise has been abandoned. On law and order, it was in the Tories’ manifesto to build new mega prisons and rip up the Human Rights Act. That hasn’t happened. If that’s not moderation, I don’t know what is.

    And, everybody else, there’s far too much obsessing here about whether or not the state is good or bad or the market is good or bad. We get both terrible state failure and terrible market failure. We need to get over obsessing about which is to blame. Everyone likes a ‘good versus evil narrative’. But as fun as this is, this isn’t an episode of Dr Who but is actually much more complex.

    We are neither venture capitalists nor union bosses fighting for our vested interests, so we don’t need to defend one or the other but can take a dispassionate look. The failure of the banks was an example of both market and state failure.

    The market can be a force for good, as we’ve seen in rising living standards. But it does need regulating otherwise it will either lead to oligopolic cartels or chaos – so, yes, we need structural reform of the banks. It’s just so obviously more complex than either ‘state good, markets bad; markets good, state bad’.

    We all love a cartoon villian. But it’s wrong to even characterise the Tories as always being slavishly trusting of the market – yesterday Cameron was backing state intervention in what clothes are sold to children, for example. And of course Labour, now trying to portray itself as defender of the state, in Government demonstrated blind faith in the market when it said ‘private hospitals are better than NHS ones’ by paying the former more than the latter for doing the same operation.

    We need to be in favour of additional provision from the private sector, as long as that does not worsen the state provision. So the NHS reforms can correct the Labour Government’s love of the market by making sure that the private hospitals don’t get paid a penny more for doing the same work, for example.

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