Our party can seize on the spirit of the times

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Liberalism’s answer to populism, I believe, is to give people what they really want, not what the forked tongues of populism tell them they want. Hopefully in the USA a majority has now chosen a President to give them what they really want.

But here in Britain we still have a populist Prime Minister with his inadequate government. There is still Lockdown, winter weather and seasonal colds and ‘flu yet to come – and the looming problems of Brexit, with or without a last-minute trade deal, before most of us can expect to share in a new vaccine.

There is some comfort in the government’s U-turn on providing vouchers for free school meals in each holiday, and in the continuation of the furlough scheme till March. We have been surprised at seeing a Tory government abandon their previous obsession with running down the Deficit, instead increasing it vastly, to save jobs and livelihoods and retain some spending power in the economy.

Yet this coming winter is likely to be a hard one, with many working-age people poorer if they have been on furlough, and especially if they have been made unemployed and are struggling to find a new job or restart their self-employment business. What will the government do then?

We know the Tory instinct will be to put up taxes – not to affect the wealthiest much, naturally, but to ask most people to contribute more. And among them, the millions of people now on welfare benefits will be expected to tighten their belts and ask no more than they can get now, inadequate as that is to prevent people falling into poverty.

However, the tide is turning. The British Social Attitudes Survey new annual report shows that the hardening of views on social security of the last few years has started to go into reverse. Their survey reveals attitudes have changed and this year more members of the public agree with the statement, ‘benefits are too low and cause hardship’ than last year. And fewer believe that ‘benefits are too high and discourage work’. This survey was conducted between July and October last year, so its findings are likely to be even more affirmed this year, when since March the number of people receiving Universal Credit has doubled to six million.

Next March, our party at our Spring Conference can seize the initiative. We will have the opportunity to demand that the government accepts the need for a continuing and increasing commitment of care for the people. A new post-Virus Social Contract is required, to compensate for this year of anxiety, real suffering, hardships and increasing poverty. Just as Liberal William Beveridge’s great reform plan of 1942 showed how to deal with the social evils of his time after the Second World War, so we can show how fitting it is for Lib Dems today to demand a Beveridge-2 Plan and set out the reforms that are so desperately needed.

Increased welfare benefits are certainly required, as a first step towards ending poverty, with flesh on the bones of our universal basic income project. But also, efforts should be made and plans laid for better paid and more secure jobs in a growing economy, because working in the gig economy keeps people poor. So does having to pay too much for a rented home. Training opportunities must be increased to help both young people and those nearing retirement to find work. Health and social care provision must be integrated and properly funded, and the run-down local authority back-up services replenished.

This should be our Beveridge 2 Plan, to be worked out and campaigned for. The International Monetary Fund urged our government at the end of October to increase public spending and forget about debt for the time being. Yes: this is what we should be demanding. Only once the economy is fully restored and those made unemployed because of Covid-19 are back in employment can we concern ourselves with reducing the National Debt as a proportion of GDP.



* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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  • Good article, Katharine. I’d add that Lib Dems need to be specific and targeted. Has Ed Davey, ‘the voice of carers’, picked up yet on a report in the Guardian yesterday ?

    “Almost three-quarters of frontline care workers in England are earning below the “real” living wage, which experts say is the bare minimum to allow families basics such as a second hand car and a week’s annual UK self-catering holiday, research has revealed.

    The proportion of care workers below the threshold is even higher in northern areas, where care homes have been hit hardest by Covid-19. In the north-east, 82% of care staff earned less than the England-wide real living wage of £9.50 per hour, while the proportion was 78% in the north-west. One care worker in Lancashire earning £8.72 per hour who recently had her pay cut told the Guardian some colleagues have been using food banks.

    The figures apply to more than 832,000 frontline care workers, more than 600,000 of whom are earning below the minimum thresholds.

    In Hillingdon, the borough that contains Boris Johnson’s constituency, more than 3,000 care workers earn so little that if they are the main breadwinner in a family of four with their partner on similar wages, they could not afford the £112 a week they require for food, according to analysis by Loughborough University that underpins real living wage calculation. When Johnson was London mayor he supported the London living wage campaign as “making economic sense”.

    The figures were calculated by the Living Wage Foundation and come amid growing calls for reform of the social care sector to create parity with the NHS, where all nurses earn above the threshold”. The Guardian 12/11/2020.

    Go hard for it Sir Edward. If Liberalism isn’t about social justice what is it about ?

  • There is no doubt about the inequality of wages in the caring professions compared to others in similar responsible vocations and for all our sakes there has to be a major shakeup in how we care for people in this country, after all we pride ourselves as being one of the richest and competent nations in the world.?

  • Peter Martin 13th Nov '20 - 12:21pm

    @ Katharine,

    “We have been surprised at seeing a Tory government abandon their previous obsession with running down the Deficit, instead increasing it vastly, to save jobs and livelihoods and retain some spending power in the economy…..”

    This is true. I have previously wondered if the Tories really didn’t understand how the economy works or if they were just pretending they didn’t. I think we now know it’s the latter, and at least the smarter of them, like Rishi Sunak, do know very well.

    “We know the Tory instinct will be to put up taxes – not to affect the wealthiest much, naturally, but to ask most people to contribute more….”

    Possibly. But this is at slight variance with your previous quote. You can’t really go from understanding something to not understanding it. Tories are usually smart enough to know that they won’t win elections if the economy isn’t performing. Even George Osborne knew enough to grasp that point.

    Having said that there is a lot of money out there waiting to be spent. The large deficit is simply the difference between what the Govt spends into the economy and what it gets back in taxes. That has to mean someone is doing OK!

    If that money does start to be spent too quickly then increased taxes will be the right course of action to prevent inflation.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '20 - 2:15pm

    David, thank you for that really helpful comment. I hadn’t caught up with the week’s papers, so am grateful for this fresh information on the rotten wages of care workers.
    Thank you for your assent, too, Barry. The party has to take this up.

    Peter, I hope you have taken in that the proposed greater welfare spending may not now be opposed by a majority of people in this country, contrary to your repeated assertion in thread after thread here on LDV. Yes, we CAN have popular assent for increased benefits!

  • Peter Martin 13th Nov '20 - 2:48pm

    @ Katharine,

    You are probably right at the moment re public attitudes to welfare benefits. That’s solely because of the Covid crisis. No-one can reasonably say that those who have lost their jobs don’t need any help. However I would question whether this will continue after, hopefully, we do see the end of the health emergency next year.

    This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see those who still don’t have any work afterwards not being helped. But, especially for young workers, social benefits aren’t the best way to provide that help. That’s where I’d start with the Job Guarantee. The Labour Party did have this in their 2015 manifesto. It wasn’t quite the same as the JG I would advocate but the proposal was on the right track. A step in the right direction which could be continued. It didn’t get that much public discussion which I do take to mean that there wasn’t much opposition to the concept.


  • David Evans 13th Nov '20 - 3:25pm

    I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of Conservative mentality when Katharine says “We know the Tory instinct will be to put up taxes …” It is quite simply wrong.

    If she had said “We know the Tory instinct will be to say they will put up taxes” that would be very true. If she had said “We know the Tory instinct will be to say they will put up taxes but actually cut them to buy votes,” that would be very, very true.

    If she had said “We know the Tory instinct will be to say they will put up taxes but actually cut them to buy votes or if they can’t do that, simply get some other naive party to willingly take all the blame for it,” that would be very, very, very true.

    For decades the sole Conservative financial policy has been to pour ever more money into the hands of their supporters – be it indirectly by almost interest free money to bankers to bail them out of the consequences of their incompetence; £10,000 or £25,000 to small business owners earlier this year to make sure they stayed sweet; Margaret Thatcher’s giving away cheap shares in nationalised industries or going further back into the Barber Boom in the early 1970s.

    I hope that all Liberals now understand that the standard Conservative philosophy is to look after their own while pretending they are doing something good – Boris and Brexit prove that and Trump simply is another example of it in USA.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Nov '20 - 3:50pm

    I like the attitude of Katharine, and stance, caring and very Liberal.

    However, to favour a so called social contract, to deal with poverty misses its iliberality, as does Peter with his jobs guarantee.

    Who decides on the quid pro quo of a contract? Or the nature of the job?!

    Only a basic income of say a hundred pounds to every permanent resident, does the first step, give people an ongoing certainty.

    then policies to target those in most need.

    And instead of contracts or guarantees, we could have easily available funds to invest, not bail out, self employed and small businesses, especially new and online or covid friendly, ideas.

    Example, I have an idea and can make it happen, within the creative sector. Can I find any funds? There are none. There is no such thing as govt backing for small businesses, unless able to spin through hoops, that the very same self employed cannot .

    As Liberals we ought to be in favour of definite state basic and secure ongoing help, that deals with the essentials. Then help for individuals to reveal their talents.

    When I say these things, even in this party, people switch off, hearing me refer to the arts.

    Ironically, our most successful industry actually cooperating and not complaining, like…hospitality!

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Nov '20 - 4:09pm

    Many thanks to K. P. for an important article! Let’s hope that H. Q. reads it and the informative comments!
    Might populism flourish when there is widespread economic misunderstanding and politics is too widely seen as a dull spectator/lack of involvement irrelevance?
    Might our party take advantage of its current situation to make economics and politics more widely understood and entertaining?
    Might we differentiate and make clear the several purposes of taxation?
    * to give the government powers which do not involve force (Provisioning?)
    * inflation management
    *behaviour management/modification (incentives and deterrence)
    *management of wealth distribution
    Can a society flourish if the government extracts as much or more money than it puts into its society?
    Does the current widespread use of “benefits” indicate that our economic/financial theories and practices are unacceptably inefficient and seriously lacking in resilience?
    And so on!

  • neil sandison 13th Nov '20 - 5:00pm

    good article Katherine agree we should be looking for a Beverage 2 but would caution that just being labour lite , We are ahead of Labour in policy terms on UBI to provide a social security safety net no citizen should fall below , we can through rent plus type models of housing and community led self /community build offer sustainable social housing and affordable housing at a level households can afford when they want to move forward in the homes they have invested rather than the blunt instrument of right to buy which has so depleted our social housing stock . flexable home working and hours to create a modern economy should be the lesson we learn from COVID 19 . Recognising every one deserves a clean and sustainable environment is a right that was recognised by the Victorians but lost by the bottom line profiteers of the 20th Century who have created our climate emergency which disproportionately affects those with the least income and the least choices . We should get back to what we are good at as a party enabling and empowering people to exercise reasonable and balanced options for themselves where it does not conflict with harming others.

  • Some Liberal Democrats argue for the fashionable notion of a universal basic income, and there are others who do not. I believe that both Katharine or I are not convinced by it, either in terms of fairness or of efficiency.

    Nevertheless there is a basic principle the Liberal Democrat Party has ignored to its peril when it was in government and in its present predicament. My first Party Leader, for whom I still feel great affection, expressed it well in his final speech in the House of Lords – a mere three days before his death. It’s worth pondering on Jo Grimond’s words now.

    “First, it is absolutely essential in this country to spread wealth. It is deplorable that the poor, as I understand it, are in real terms 14 per cent. poorer than they were, while in the meantime the rich have become richer. If we are to have a decent and satisfactory country, whatever our Party, it is essential that the gap between rich and poor should not grow”.

    Jo Grimond, House of Lords, Hansard 21 October, 1993.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '20 - 6:26pm

    Peter Martin / David Evans. True enough, chaps, I can’t really know what Tory instincts are, since their instincts are alien to both of us! But you, David, do claim to understand their mentality – that the only object of their financial policy, you say, is to pour ever more money into the hands of their supporters. I suppose you could say that Mrs Thatcher’s making available cheap shares in nationalised industries was to win voters to supporting capitalism rather than socialism. But as to the current Chancellor giving handouts to small business owners ‘to make sure they stayed sweet’, I guess Lorenzo Cherin would disagree with you – he wants ‘easily available funds to invest (in) self-employed and small businesses’, so doesn’t think they are sufficient as yet, and I guess our party tends to the same opinion.

    Lorenzo, thank you for your kind opening remark, but not for the phrase ‘so-called social contract’. It was the UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights who mentioned the social contract of the post-war years, which he said was obviously broken, and suggested that wasn’t right in our comparatively rich country. The social contract wasn’t written down, it was understood. And what I and Michael BG are proposing, have been advocating all this year, is that the country needs a new social contract: that is, a government commitment to care for everyone, and help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable most of all, as our governments have conspicuously not done in the past decade. We believe our party needs to campaign for this ideal, and work out the Beveridge-2 type Plan of measures to fulfil it, and the Covid 19 epidemic which has caused so much extra deprivation means that the need is greater than ever this winter.

  • Phil Wainewright 13th Nov '20 - 6:30pm

    Fine words Katherine, let’s hope we can find the right path to take action on this.

    Hopefully that will not include a jobs guarantee, which I find to be a most illiberal proposition. We should be empowering people to find the work that suits them best (which is why I believe UBI is an inherently Liberal concept) rather than shunting them into state-sponsored job schemes in order to show that Something is Being Done.

  • Barry Lofty 13th Nov '20 - 6:34pm

    David Raw: Thanks David for reminding us of Jo Grimond who was leader when I first joined the party and was an inspiration to me then, how we could do with him around now, no disrespect to the present leadership.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '20 - 6:46pm

    David (Raw) Thank you, David, for finding that inspiring quote. I heard Jo Grimond speak when I was a youngster, but I didn’t know that he said that later on. It’s sad that the gap between rich and poor HAS continued to worsen, and I think our party has indeed to balance the fundamental values of liberty and equality as our Preamble says. Aiming for greater equality, we don’t need to hide under the banner of fairness (though I like others have sometimes taken refuge there!) or fear to be called Labour-lite: let’s aim for it with all other progressives, whether they be Labour, SNP, Plaid or Green.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '20 - 9:39pm

    Steve Trevethan, Thanks for joining in, Steve, with one of your ever-thoughtful comments.
    I don’t think politics has been seen as a ‘dull spectator irrelevance’ in the last couple of days, at any rate: for the usual reason, revealed personality clashes, and the unusual reason, that the semi-Svengali of this present government has announced his departure! I suppose populism will tend to flourish when a charismatic leader without any commitment to democracy or the rule of law is granted power because sufficient people believe he will serve their own ends.

    Your questions on taxation I’ll leave to economists, but just one word on benefits. I was convinced by the arguments of another recent poster of an article here, that pay hasn’t risen enough generally to keep up with household spending, or I suppose expectations of spending. Then it seems the weakest go to the wall and we need to help them.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '20 - 9:58pm

    neil sandison. Thanks, neil, I like your various solutions for the problems of insufficient and unaffordable housing, and I hope the party will give a lot of attention to this really important area of Beveridge-type need. I have no expertise here, unlike I expect many of our councillors, but I have speculated on extra ways of providing social housing, such as making homes from the unavoidable empty commercial properties now appearing in towns and cities, and have wondered if with the flight from the cities that has been reported, hotels and guest houses where the owners have been obliged to give up business could be converted into communal homes or flats of shared ownership. But whatever is done, jobs need to be created, and climate-change necessities observed at the same time.

  • Thank you Katharine, I really do suggest to all Lib Dems that they study the tactics of our enemies. It really isn’t good enough to go into battle with them without doing that essential bit of preparation. Otherwise you just lose, because the one thing they will have done is looked at your strengths and weaknesses and have a very clear plan of how to exploit your weaknesses.

    I have lost count of the number of occasions I have asked someone with a great political idea a simple question like “How will the other parties try to undermine your idea and what will you do about it?” only to be told I was being negative or even worse that they were an optimist!

    Believe you me, a few months later, when they are sitting in the midst of the smouldering debris of their idea, shot to pieces by the other parties, the one thing they don’t like is to be told is that “I warned you.”

    The old saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail” is a very appropriate refrain in some Lib Dem circles. We all know it from the disaster for the future of Liberal Democracy that was coalition, when there was no plan whatsoever to ensure we weren’t totally outmanoeuvred and specially for the leading lights of Generation Clegg.

  • The British Social Attitudes Survey shows that attitudes to government spending and the level of benefits have been changing for a few years. Attitudes seem to have trends. They found that “By 1991, just after John Major became Prime Minister, the proportion who said they wanted more tax and spend was, at 65%, double the figure recorded eight years previously. For the most part, support remained at more or less that level not only during the remaining years of Conservative government (that ended in 1997), but also into the early years of the New Labour administration under Tony Blair, which initially kept to the trajectory on public spending that it had inherited from John Major. However, the new government eventually changed tack and embarked on a significant increase in public spending – to which the public gradually reacted by expressing gradually diminishing support for more taxation and spending, such that by 2007 (when Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister) those saying that taxes and spending should be kept at their current level once again outnumbered those who felt they should be increased.” This change in attitude is likely to last longer than just next year. It is likely that these changed attitudes will remain until the government has increased public spending and increased benefits. This is why the time is right for us to be pushing this agenda.

    As you say the Labour Party had a Job Guarantee in their 2015 manifesto, does this mean it wasn’t included in the 2017 and 2019 manifestos? Page 32 of the 2015 manifesto states, “We will introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, paid for by a bank bonus tax. It will provide a paid starter job for every young person unemployed for over a year, a job which they will have to take or lose benefits.” I am pleased to read that you don’t support such a compulsory scheme.

  • John Marriott 14th Nov '20 - 10:19am

    I shall probably be accused of cynicism; but, having read through all the comments, ably orchestrated by Katharine Pindar, whose sincerity I have never doubted, I come away with the impression of a load of middle class, equally sincere, people engaging in mutual hand wringing.

    I grew up on a council estate. Most of my former mates went to Secondary Moderns. Thanks to my dad’s encouragement I ended up at grammar school and eventually university. Most, as far as I know, went on to lead the kind of lives you might expect for our ‘class’, at a time when there were plenty of jobs of all kinds for a predominantly white population. I saw a bit more of the world, saw where I thought we were going wrong here and rather idealistically thought I could change all that when I came home. I guess I was a little overambitious.

    So, what am I getting at? Well, it probably sounds cruel; but, like many of the contributors, I thought that, because I had been relatively successful, that was how everybody else should behave. However, years of door knocking has made realise that my views, as a so called liberal, are simply not shared by the majority of people, no matter which class they may identify with. I. Learned many years ago that, for whatever reason, I was just different from most people. My long suffering wife puts it down to slight autism. Who am I to say she is wrong?

    Just as the French Revolution of 1789 was very much a product of the middle classes, so was the Russian Revolution of 1917. Many of the architects of post WW1 Labour Manifesto, while of humble birth, rapidly moved upwards in terms of status and intellect. They, like me, thought that they knew what was best for their fellow men and women. I suppose that this was the thinking behind the ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’.

    I could write much more; but, if I do, I was undoubtedly fall foul of the LDV ‘length’ diktat. I am sure that some may wish to respond and many may just ignore my comments.

  • George Thomas 14th Nov '20 - 10:34am

    Question about UBI: It’s taken 7 years to get UC up to this point and it’s not yet complete, both in that the Harrowgate pilot for managed migration has been delayed and that there are still some issues to be fixed. Would it take another 7 years to get a new benefits system up to this point of semi-completeness with risk of new government in 5 years and change to welfare benefits direction again? At the same time, through a number of court challenges and otherwise, UC has been improved and is not the same benefit it was 7 years ago. Is it worth replacing fully or can you more quickly fix the remaining issues thus allowing more time to spend on life changing policy elsewhere such as environment or housing?

  • John Marriott: No not cynical John but perhaps a reflection on what might have been? I did go to secondary school after failing the dreaded 11plus but maybe a year out of school after contracting infantile paralysis, Polio, didn’t help but who knows, anyhow I have naively hoped that good honest politicians, is there such a breed, would rise above the normal and take us into the promised land, needless to say my optimism recedes with every passing year. The politics of recent years have shown how far my hopes have been failed by reality.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Nov '20 - 10:59am

    Phil Wainewright. I hope on the jobs front there is a lot of thinking, discussion and planning going on in the party about how the unemployment crisis can be tackled, nationally and locally. Nationally, I should have thought there is a need for a back-up jobs guarantee scheme, Phil, to offer work to people who have been trying for months to re-enter the fields where they have experience, without any compulsion.

    I suppose it will be needing most in the sectors where unemployment is found to be most prevalent this autumn, for instance I guess in the creative industries: could Lib Dems foster co-operatives and demand government support for them? Shop workers – could the unions help with stimulating organisation of on-line buying and selling, which I gather is going on at a great rate by individuals on Facebook? Travel industry – what I personally long for is escorted personal tours abroad, but what would families find useful in organising holidays? Well, it’s a time for initiatives, which I guess our excellent councillors will be on to already.

    David Evans: the need for studying the tactics of our enemies, David, is mitigated by the fact of the inevitable divisions among them. Who knew that there was a power struggle going on in No. 10, and who can predict the next erratic decisions to emerge, or say how far personal ambitions will determine them?

  • Can’t find much to disagree with apart from more emphasis on green jobs. The tourism industry needs reasons to visit so enhancing our national parks is important. There needs to be a contract between government and the people so we all play a part in our success as an economy while everyone enjoys a high quality of life.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Nov '20 - 12:10pm

    John Marriott. Great post, John, thank you. Yes, we are different, we committed political activists – different from ‘ordinary’ people in our involvement. And yes, of course revolutions had to be led by educated middle-class people and I suppose always will be. But committed liberal political activists can’t give up and retire at a time when authoritarianism, and its more seemingly acceptable front, populism, is rampant world-wide, and is denying millions of people secure, free and fulfilled independent lives.

    We can be hopeful, Liberal Democrats in Britain, it seems to me, because what we want is surely what most people want. Not, in the abstract, to be led by unprincipled men who will trample over human rights and freedoms to keep power and wealth for themselves and their kith and kin. Not, in daily life, to be prevented from earning enough income or provided with it, so we don’t have to scrape and scrounge and live in constant anxiety for ourselves, our families and friends. Not, in this current crisis, to be prevented by arbitrary regulations from close and constant contact with family members or people important to us but not living with us. Not, now and in future prospects, to lack a decent affordable home, an acceptable job if sought for, and education and training for young people to equip them for living in the digital age and in the continuing crisis of climate change. And not only continuing NHS care but all the social care and local authority services that eased life and have been so badly cut back.

    I am saying that we liberal-minded middle-class well-educated Liberal Democrat politicians do have to strive to see that everyone is provided with these basics in our country, and also that everyone is given the chance to have a say in and share power with us. And that we are not swimming against the tide – we can really do it.

  • Not sure where being the son of a weaver and a housemaid, and the grandson of Yorkshire and Durham coal miners leaves me, John, but the older I get the more radical I get. Whether that makes me ‘middle class’ I’m not so sure, but I’m certain that the ‘New Liberal’ reforms of 1906-12 and Labour’s 1945-50 gave me opportunities they never had and which Lib Dems in 2010-15 helped to undermine.

    What I can’t stand is a bunch of privileged so and so’s running the Tory Party all out for number one, adding creativity to their version of the truth and ignoring the plight of increasing numbers of hungry kids and insecure adults.

  • John Marriott 14th Nov '20 - 1:01pm

    Wow, and there was I thinking that my remarks would bring down an avalanche of bile from the chattering classes! Am I actually on the right track for a change?

    Some of you may remember my fondness for the researches of the late US behavioural psychologist, Dr Frederick Herzberg and his ‘hygiene factors’, whom I discovered when studying for a Diploma in Education Management at Trent Poly back in the early 1980s (attempting unsuccessfully in my case to combine a political career with promotion to top management). I admit that the ‘theory’ does apply to the workplace; but what struck me was how , according to Herzberg, most people were satisfied to do a good job, look after themselves and their families by providing a roof over their heads, food on the table (with the odd night out and two weeks in the sun each summer) while a few were motivated by a desire to improve their lot and take risks to do it. Not every teacher can be a Headteacher (as I know), not every Police Constable can become a Chief Constable, not every MP can become PM, not every party member can become Party Leader etc. etc. “So”, say the superficial appeasers, “just give ‘em ‘bread and circuses’ “ as the Roman poet Juvenal described it., “while we get on with making loads of money”. After all, isn’t that what Trump has been promising his fellow Americans for the past four years and what Farage and his backers are likely to get out of a no deal Brexit, let alone the scandal of contracts being awarded without competitive tendering to ‘mates’ during the present COVID crisis?

    Like David Raw, what I CANNOT stand is some denizen of the privileged to get away with it. I saw enough of that as a working class grammar school boy at Cambridge in the 1960s. At least they did it with a condescending smile, a bit like the one on the face of Douglas Hogg in the Sports Hall at Sleaford, following the count after the 1997 General Election, when I was the Lib Dem Candidate, when he announced to his blue rosetted bunch of farmers, small business men and their mature blue rinsed wives that; “Tories always win in the end”.

  • Barry Lofty 14th Nov '20 - 2:33pm

    Just to make the point that here is a former small businessman along with my father and grandfather who never voted Tory, and my wife never had a blue rinse, perish the thought.

  • David Evans 14th Nov '20 - 3:43pm

    Actually Katharine the need to study our enemies, is strengthened not mitigated by the fact of the inevitable divisions among them. When you say “Who knew that there was a power struggle going on in No. 10?” I can only presume that you haven’t studied Conservative behaviour in a crisis, otherwise you would see that getting rid of the lame duck(s) once they have done the dirty work for “the team” is a classic Conservative trait.

    Whether it was Harold Mcmillan’s ‘Night of the long knives;’ dumping Margaret Thatcher once she became a liability; Anthony Eden after Suez; or Michael Howard, Theresa May, Alec Douglas Holme or Winston Churchill (after each lost an election); or even Neville Chamberlain (due to massive internal fighting after the outbreak of war.

    Ultimately, while understanding your view that it is all rather complicated, which it is, that is still not an excuse from thinking out what can go wrong both due to internal factors and external ones and deciding what can be done to overcome them. Otherwise we just end up in the same situation as we have done so many times before, standing by the wreckage, looking bemused because it is all a bit too nasty and complex to face up to the fact that when we deliberately decided not to even think about these things, all we were doing was making sure we had no idea of what to do when the going got tough.

    I refer back to coalition.

  • David Evans 14th Nov '20 - 3:46pm

    P.S. As the son of a very lower middle class liberal family, who also was lucky enough to get to grammar school, I agree with David and John, because like them both, I have been there.

  • John Marriott 14th Nov '20 - 4:05pm

    @Barry Lofty
    Sorry, Barry, especially as you have been kind enough to agree with me occasionally. Let’s say it was a case of hyperbole getting the better of me. Actually I have known some very nice small businessmen in my time. Unfortunately, although they never actually admitted it, most probably voted Conservative! As for the ‘blue rinse’, again it is probably a case of my believing my own propaganda.

  • Steve Trevethan 14th Nov '20 - 4:07pm

    Thanks to K. P. for her comment!
    Perhaps the part on the recent political personality headlines, which is certainly relevant, might lead us to differentiate between types of audience and entertainment?
    Perhaps there are three relevant categories?
    1) The audience is entertained by the experiences
    2) It is able to see the structures of the performances
    3) It is able to grasp the patterns and “laws” managing performances
    If this is so, might we work to move ourselves, and fellow citizens, from stage 0 (Indifference) and stage 1on to stages 2 and 3?
    Might our current economic problems, cruelties and injustices be related to too many of us being at stages 0 and 1 concerning economics?
    (from C. S. Peirce)
    If so, this is not chance but part of Neo-Liberal economic policy, which is to obstruct as many as possible from approaching and getting to grips with current “economics”, which is deliberately made as obscure and distant as possible.
    Economics is too important to be left to self-designated experts. Look at the crisis of 2008 and the subsequent depressing austerity.
    If someone can contribute an interesting piece to L. D.V., is there any real reason why they cannot explore economics?
    The “Introducing” books offer a great start!

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Nov '20 - 4:19pm

    Well done all along, then, Barry!
    John, I don’t think the privileged will be getting many plaudits from farmers and business people small or with large supply chains, after the transition period ends in a few days’ time and the country comes to the realities of Brexit. I wonder if the defenestration of Cummings and co. is now because of a few hints from the US President-elect, such as his “I am Irish!” aside to the BBC? Sad that wrong policies and wrong people last so long to do so much harm that we have to fight for the country’s sake.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Nov '20 - 12:53pm

    ” The basic material needs of people need to be met to provide the economic foundation for active citizenship.” This is a quotation from an important forthcoming report, but it reminded me of a comment from the Tory participant in Friday evening’s Any Questions session on BBC Radio 4, which basically meant, she saw a lot of people being unemployed as bad for the economic recovery the country needs.

    The important point to me is that the basic material needs of people need to be met,
    not to provide a basis for the country’s economic recovery, but because everyone deserves to have their basic needs met. And once they are, people have a chance to be
    active citizens. Hungry people only care about getting food, and haven’t energy or time to spare for public participation. Yet as Liberal Democrats we want to empower everyone, give everyone some power to live life freely and as they wish, to have the chance to have a fulfilled life.

    The change of attitude referred to in the OpEd here is important, because it reduces the ‘Them’ and ‘Us’ thinking that there has been: ‘Them’ supposed to be people who can’t stand on their own two feet to provide for themselves, and ‘Us’ who can. The effect of the Covid crisis in making most people poorer may be having the beneficial side-effect of more people realising we are all in the same boat. But our party will have just as much need to campaign to ensure that everybody is properly provided for as the country recovers from the Virus – the hungry fed, the homeless housed, the jobless found jobs, and nobody existing in the enslavement of poverty. Only then can we hope to ensure people realise that indeed there isn’t Them and Us, that we are all equal citizens of this country, and work to give everyone an opportunity to make their voice heard in solving the problems of the country.

  • Barry Lofty 15th Nov '20 - 5:37pm

    Katherine [email protected] A very apt summary of all the posts regarding your article, and may I say how impressed I am with your very inclusive replies to the various views expressed.

  • Barry Lofty 15th Nov '20 - 5:54pm

    Apologies for the perishing name check changing the a, to e, thought I had corrected it!!!

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Nov '20 - 9:55pm

    Barry, thank you for your kind thoughts! But as no-one else seems moved to continue the discussion here, Michael and I are now beginning to draft a paper proposing A Second Beveridge Social Contract, pulling together quite a number of other ideas and proposals on this theme, both from within and outside our party. We will hope to progress that within the party this autumn.

    Thanks to everyone for your comments, which I find really helpful in developing my own thoughts. Best wishes for surviving well this (hopefully temporary) lockdown.

  • Peter Martin 16th Nov '20 - 2:47am

    @ Katharine,

    Just one suggestion before you wind it up:

    If you are going to continue to use the name “Beveridge”, albeit as Beveridge 2.0 or whatever, you will need to at least bring the original up to date and get rid of the sexist language.

    I suspect you might want to do more than that. There is a lot in Beveridge that many Lib Dems will find “illiberal”. In which case, you’ll need to think of a new title and write a new report witb a new name.

    The Beveridge report worked because he actually explained in detail how the five evils of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness could be eradicated. You aren’t too bothered about the last one so the first step has to be to write a new report.

  • Peter Martin 16th Nov '20 - 3:31am

    This article attempts, maybe not totally successfully, to get to the nub of the problem but is still worth a read:

    “Whatever its (the Lib Dem policy) merits, such an approach plainly conflicts with Beveridge’s insistence that rights must flow from contributions. Those who think Beveridge was in favour of insurance payments to anyone on low incomes are under a significant, albeit common, misapprehension.”


  • Katharine Pindar 16th Nov '20 - 2:24pm

    Thanks for the reference, Peter, but the article was blocked with advertising. It doesn’t matter because I was aware of Johnson’s mention, and also of the limitations of the Beveridge vision. The salient fact is, the Beveridge 2 idea is here to stay, and it is a good one, used by half-a-dozen other sources that we will quote. It is relevant to fighting the social injustices that have grown in the past decade and are worsening now, and timely because it is proposed as a post-Covid set of actions, just as Beveridge proposed the remedial actions to follow the Second World War.

    Above all, we believe it is urgently needed because in the reconstruction that must accompany the revival of next spring, this government is unlikely to consider first the needs of the poorest, the most disadvantaged, and the most vulnerable people in our society, or to realise and remedy the sweeping needs that have arisen from extended social injustices allowed by them.

    By the way, we have not discarded Beveridge’s evil of idleness, far from it. Our leader Ed Davey said on Any Questions last week that he thinks unemployment will be the
    most significant word around in 2021, so hopefully we can bring him round to leading the Beveridge 2 Plan, which indeed sees unemployment and underemployment as one of the five great modern social injustices.

  • Peter Martin 16th Nov '20 - 3:28pm

    @ Katharine,

    But what is Beveridge 2? Where can I read it? Does it include a UBI? Does it retain the previous commitment to full employment?

    One of the justifications of a UBI, which I know you might have reservations about, but looks like it will be in your next manifesto, is that it is supposedly not possible to guarantee full employment any longer. This would indicate that a measure of “idleness” is can now be tolerated.

    Beveridge did get it right with his emphasis on the importance of full employment, or as near to it as might be possible. I don’t think the Independent article mentioned that at all which was disappointing.

    Incidentally I think you should be able to read it free of charge just by registering. You’re allowed 5 free articles per month.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Nov '20 - 7:17pm

    @ Peter. Thank you for asking for details of Beveridge-2 , which is still however in the making. Michael BG and I are just completing our introductory statement for the party’s Social Liberal Forum, to be submitted to a meeting later this week of a working group of their Council. We are asking the SLF Council to be prepared to campaign this winter for a new Beveridge-2 Plan, within the proposed renewed national Social Contract.

    Our own version is in the motion that we submitted, with my local party’s approval, to the virtual Lib Dem Federal Conference in September, explaining the modern social injustices that equate to the five giant evils that Beveridge depicted, and asking for appropriate party action to be taken. This was not accepted for debate at that time, and we will revise and try again. However, in our new introductory statement for SLF we list seven instances of other political action being sought under the heading Beveridge-2, three from outside our own party, the others from within (including from Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats).

    So this is a timely concept not yet fully worked out, and we should be exploring and explaining the concept as well as campaigning for it. (You could perhaps join in, Peter, by joining the Social Liberal Forum, which I believe is not restricted to Liberal Democrats!) Meantime the party is committed to UBI, and I think still to full employment as a desirable objective. They do not conflict I believe with the Beveridge-2 various party plans, which focus on righting social injustices.

  • Peter Martin 16th Nov '20 - 10:35pm

    It’s quite a big ask to replicate the success of original Beveridge plan. It was written by a Liberal and idea was implemented, albeit with modifications, by the postwar Labour Government. However, and as the Independent article points out:

    “Its reputation as a blueprint for the modern welfare state is overblown, given there’s little about health and almost nothing about housing or education in there. This was a report about what that rather flat title specified: social insurance. It described (in a nutshell) a compulsory, nationalised and centralised system for workers to pool their resources to partially cover a worker’s income when he lost his job or retired.”

    The only point of possible controversy was that it was compulsory, nationalised and centralised. This doesn’t sit well with present day Lib thought, although I don’t have any problem. It didn’t really address any of the “five evils” directly, except for those who were able to work and make the contributions in the first place. For those who couldn’t it was was just too bad.

    Any modern day report would have to be much more than about social insurance. It would have to be much more political than the original Beveridge. This will mean lots of arguments just like we’ve seen over the UBI. I’m not sure why you even want to keep the Beveridge name. As the article also says:

    “we do not live in a Beveridgean world when it comes to welfare”

    and I’m sure you and other LibDems wouldn’t want us to.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Nov '20 - 11:36am

    Peter. did you bother to look up the YouTube recording of Sir William Beveridge introducing his Report? I think you misrepresent his intention, which it is clear from his words was to ensure that everybody in the country should have perpetual financial security for a small weekly contribution: peace of mind with responsibility. Then his commitment to ending the five great evils as he saw them – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness – led to the great post-war reforms, most striking of which was the creation of the National Health Service. The Independent article appears to give a distorted idea of Beveridge, which you should not follow. House-building, full employment, good education for all as well as welfare benefits and health care were all part of the Liberal intentions then (and Beveridge became briefly a Liberal MP) as they are today for Liberal Democrats.

    Beveridge was writing his report for the wartime Coalition Government. I hope we shall see again the co-operation of progressive forces in British politics, especially Lib Dem and Labour, to achieve gradually the reforms now needed for social justice, post-Covid, just as they were achieved after the Second World War. It is a pity that some mean-minded attitudes are held by certain Labour supporters, trying to claim all righteousness on their side, but fortunately there are other Labour members, MPs and academics among them, who take the broader view and are working alongside us.

  • @ Katharine “It is a pity that some mean-minded attitudes are held by certain Labour supporters, trying to claim all righteousness on their side, but fortunately there are other Labour members, MPs and academics among them, who take the broader view and are working alongside us”.

    And I’m sure, as I know you to be a very fair minded person, Katharine, that there are mirror image attitudes held by certain Liberal Democrat supporters……. some of which is a left over residue from 2010-15.

    Earlier today, I heard Professor Ian Boyd of St Andrews University – the former Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – give a reminder that one of the outcomes of the 2008 Financial Crisis was that the rich were helped to recover, but the poor were ignored and left to pick up the tab.

    This seems to be continuing in the Covid emergency. It would be interesting to know if and how many Moderna shares are in Rishi Sunack’s ‘Blind Trust’ :

    “Rishi Sunak refuses to say if he will profit from Moderna Covid vaccine
    Chancellor’s former hedge fund invested heavily in Moderna, which had 94.5% trial success….. ” The Guardian today.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Nov '20 - 7:07pm

    David. your last point on this thread is as apposite as your first: thank you. But it is the first, your out-of-Guardian report on the wages of care workers, which I must continue to recall. There is so much that needs to be done to relieve the growing poverty post-Covid, and at least in this country we should try to insist that it is done.

  • Peter Martin 18th Nov '20 - 6:05am

    @ Katharine,

    With all due respect to the memory of William Beveridge you can’t place too much emphasis on what he might have said in a Pathe news clip in 1942 to spruik his report. You do need to read what was actually in it. It probably wasn’t what many might like to have been in it or what they have later assumed was in it.

    As I previously said, the Independent article by Ben Chu wasn’t totally successful in getting to the bub of the problem. Beveridge wrote his report but the implementation of that report, but still in the name of Beveridge, increasing deviated from it. ‘Beveridge’ became a sort of generic term to describe the first three decades of the post war welfare state – which I presume is why you want to hang on to it.

    But, what we ended up with, even before the Tories started to dismantle it, wasn’t, as Chu says, what Beveridge advocated. The post war period was successful because it was the condition of full employment which took many workers out of poverty. It wasn’t the welfare state either as advocated by Beveridge or as implemented by postwar Labour and Tory governments. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have had the NHS, a much improved education system, and welfare benefits for those who were actually unemployed but all these were only made possible by having a growing economy and living wage jobs for almost everyone who wanted them.

    Beveridge acknowledged that full employment was essential, ( I don’t think Ben Chu included that point) but his report wasn’t about how to achieve it. Take away full employment and nothing works. This such is why the UBI, which has as its raison d’etre that we can’t guarantee full employment, is such a dangerous concept.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Nov '20 - 1:07pm

    Having just heard the Prime Minister in PMQs make the outrageous claim that his government is lifting families out of poverty, it is clear that the need for a Beveridge-2 Plan is urgent, not to mention appropriate statements and press releases from our leader and welfare spokesperson, which I hope many of us will seek.

    You are pursuing a fruitless and time-wasting argument here, Peter (as you tend to do, no doubt to try as ever to diminish the Liberal Democrats, though we as we should do freely grant you the space). The fact is that Sir William Beveridge as a government servant in the Second World War produced a seminal report, in which he identified five great evils that must be tackled, and which were tackled in the years after the war. And the country suffers today from the equivalent great evils, poverty, inadequacies of health and social care, not good enough education and training, lack of sufficient affordable homes, and lack of stable and sufficiently-paid jobs. All of which deficits we need urgently to campaign to remedy – deficits which really do matter now.

  • Peter Martin 18th Nov '20 - 3:38pm

    @ Katharine,

    “…we need urgently to campaign to remedy – deficits (on povert etc) which really do matter now.”

    Look. I agree. I’m on your side. Or should be. So why don’t you start with campaigning for full employment for all on living wages as Beveridge himself advocated? Who can argue against that? Even Tories will accept the principle of a fair day’s pay etc.

    If you are “Beveridgites”, so to speak, don’t just pick out the bits you like and ignore the rest.


  • Daniel Walker 18th Nov '20 - 4:05pm

    @Peter Martin “If you are “Beveridgites”, so to speak, don’t just pick out the bits you like and ignore the rest.

    I rather think, Peter, that we absolutely can do that. This is a ludicrous thing to say. We are under no obligation to agree 100% with anyone at all.

  • Peter Martin 18th Nov '20 - 4:26pm

    @ Daniel,

    Of course, you are free to disagree with anyone as much as you like. But, why then call your plan “Beveridge 2”?

  • Daniel Walker 18th Nov '20 - 4:54pm

    @Peter Martin “But, why then call your plan “Beveridge 2”?

    I cannot speak for Katharine, but because it has similar aims and is similar in scope would be my first guess! Sequels are not always the same as the first one. Alien is a haunted house horror film in space, Aliens is a military action film (in space:) ) but they’re both about Lt. Ripley fighting dangerous monsters with acid for blood, if you’ll excuse the silly analogy.

  • neil sandison 18th Nov '20 - 5:26pm

    The real question who is going to be our champion regarding Beverage 2 ,Its got to be someone who is sufficiently dynamic to grab the publics attention . (Sorry Ed, your not in the running . ) Who can reflect the legacy of social justice , and our core values of enablement and empowerment who stands up for our rights to access a home , get an education and to be able to feed your family with dignity and not a begging bowl at the foodbank.

  • James Fowler 18th Nov '20 - 9:26pm

    The spirit of the times is not with us I’m afraid – I wish it were. The population is poorer, older and more insecure than it was twenty years ago. Brexit and Lockdown accentuate those trends, which at heart are about security rather than openness. In the background, a culture war magnetises identity on both sides in a way that is inimical to liberal tolerance and rational debate. One day, when Britain is more comfortable both materially and with itself it’ll be ready to listen to liberalism again. In the meantime our job is surviving.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Nov '20 - 10:39pm

    Daniel Walker. Thanks for your useful comments, Daniel! As to the Beveridge-2 label, it is being picked up by a number of groups, outside and inside our party, and I want our party to take it up and make the most of it (campaigning on all the five areas of injustice), since it is appropriate for our party and certainly timely and needed by the country. I am hoping the Social Liberal Forum, to which Michael and I belong, will further the campaign.

    Neil Sandison. Thanks for joining in, Neil. You are right, I suppose, that there is a bit of a lack of charismatic men and women who could lead the fight for social justice. But do you know what, I don’t care? I’ve had enough of charismatic types who get away with authoritarianism and populism, and just want the collective wisdom of progressive politicians to prevail. It will need to be collective, frankly, considering the mess we Lib Dems made of last winter’s GE, but that’s all right too because I think our party’s principles and values are sufficiently strong to lead the rest. So let us collectively ask our leadership to show the way, and say ‘We’re with you.’

    James Fowler. Take comfort, James, it’s not as bad here as in the USA! But I disagree with you, I think there is more perception in British people now of the need to care for each other, everybody having been affected by sad stories of deprivation and loss during the Virus even if not suffering themselves. So that I think that people generally will be inclined to wish a better time to come for everyone – better pay, jobs, homes, social care, opportunities for young people, whatever – people will have their favourite good causes, but I think, be a bit more tolerant.

  • Peter Martin 19th Nov '20 - 4:41am

    If the Beveridge label is to be preserved because “it is being picked up by a number of groups” too, (so that presumably makes it OK) then it must be fair enough to keep referring back to what he actually said. Such as:

    “Benefit in return for contributions, rather than free allowances from the State, is what the people of Britain desire.”

    It is often claimed that the benefit system has lost public support because of the perception that it gives people ‘something for nothing. But many people see the NI system the other way around. It is actually ‘nothing for something’. In other words they pay in but get nothing out during their working lives.

    So maybe a review of the contributory system is in order? Why have income tax and National Insurance running side by side? Why the separation? The more successful of the European welfare systems do have a strong contributory element. So perhaps a way to help restore public confidence would be a move back towards this?

  • Peter Martin 19th Nov '20 - 12:57pm

    @ Daniel,

    “……. if you’ll excuse the silly analogy.”

    Well I don’t know about that. At least the Aliens were still alive in “Aliens” !

    Look, Beveridge died in 1964 when he was in his 80’s. His notion was that the men went out to work and the women stopped at home to look after the children. I doubt that anyone would get an article accepted for LDV in the 21st, were they to express these sentiments. I’m not sure it’s fair to criticise him posthumously. He’s a product of a different era. Just let him occupy his place in history and leave it at that.

    “The attitude of the housewife to gainful employment outside the home is not and should not be the same as that of the single woman. She has other duties …In the next thirty years housewives as Mothers have vital work to do in ensuring the adequate continuance of the British Race and of British ideals in the world.”

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Nov '20 - 1:59am

    It is quite irrelevant to pick out sentences which Beveridge may have written to criticise, Peter Martin, as Daniel Walker pointed out.

    There was such good substance in Beveridge’s great Report of 1942 that it became the basis of the post-WW2 reforms by government to fully establish the welfare state and the NHS, while his concerns over housing and employment were eased by sufficient provision of both in due course. There was such good substance in his great Report that many political groups today in Britain are considering that a Beveridge-2 Plan is required, to deal with the social injustices that spread plague-like in the years of austerity and have worsened in this time of Covid. A post-Covid plan is needed now, just as a post-War plan was needed then, to restore the social contract that the UN Rapporteur Philip Alston saw clearly had broken down.

    More and more politically aware people and politicians are realising this. But our Tory government which was indifferent to the mounting suffering of the austerity years cannot be expected to recognise or care about the extent of social injustice which they allowed. They have certainly poured resources into trying to save jobs and livelihoods, but their thoughts are always with preventing public outcry and loss of votes, not with the public good, and with preserving the rights of their kind to remain prosperous, not with prosperity for all.

    Now that the people of Britain may be realising these facts, now is the time for the Liberal Democrats to step forward as the heirs of Beveridge and demand restoration of the lost social contract, with a Beveridge-2 Plan to bring back social justice. It should be a Plan to give all our citizens the right to sufficient money to live on, better health and social care, universal good education and training for the challenges of our time, homes of their own and work suited to their wishes and talents. A Liberal Plan to give everyone a chance whatever their circumstances to live free and fulfilled lives with their families, friends and chosen communities, and to have a share in power.

  • Peter Martin 20th Nov '20 - 8:41am

    @ Katharine,

    But our Tory government which was indifferent to the mounting suffering of the austerity years ……..They have certainly poured resources into trying to save jobs and livelihoods, but their thoughts are always with preventing public outcry and loss of votes, not with the public good, and with preserving the rights of their kind to remain prosperous, not with prosperity for all.

    Absolutely. You know there’s no disagreement there.

    The problem is we live in country which tends to vote Tory. Many politicians in other parties, including in the Lib Dems and Labour Parties, go along with the economic austerity nonsense. Your last sentence in the OP isn’t

  • Peter Martin 20th Nov '20 - 8:59am

    Sorry that last shot off somehow before I was ready!

    Your last sentence in the OP isn’t quite right. But many do think the Debt ratio is much more important than anything else. What happened to Joe Bourke? We’ve not heard from him recently. Those who run the EU are incidentally much worse than even our own Tories on economic austerity. They’ve hardwired this into EU Treaties with their so called Stability and Growth Pact.

    Yes, we need better houses and flats etc but they won’t build themselves. If we just increase the demand by handing out extra money we won’t solve the problem. All we’ll do is push up the prices. So a demand for full employment, ie creating those jobs, should be as important for Beveridge 2 (if that’s what you really want to call it) as it was in Beveridge 1. This doesn’t come across at all.

    The lib Dems need to spend a bit less time (or a lot less!) on talking about UBI and increased welfare benefits, which probably won’t win votes, and more time on the importance of decent jobs for all which probably will. Once you have only a couple of % of the workforce, or so, depending on welfare the problem is much more manageable both politically and economically.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Nov '20 - 10:25pm

    ” Revisiting Beveridge is especially appropriate” wrote the historian Professor Pat Thane of Birkbeck College, London, in a letter to me recently. She explained that the extent of poverty now is actually comparable with that of about 1900, allowing for changes in living standards, and wrote that “then, as now, independent-minded researchers found that the major cause of poverty was/is low pay and insecure work in an under-regulated labour market – what we now call the ‘gig economy’ and Beveridge and others then called ‘underemployment ‘. Beveridge, who worked in the Ministry of Labour in the First World War and had a life-long interest in the labour market, was, Professor Thane explains, convinced that full employment with decent pay was “the key to abolishing ‘want’ and creating a more cohesive, stable society.”

    She points out that nowadays our government has argued that before this year they claim they achieved full employment, for the first time since the mid-1970s, and this was one of their arguments for ignoring the Alston report on poverty. But, she argues, “Technically this is true, but so much employment is underpaid – below the ‘living wage’ – insecure on ‘zero-hours contracts’, or fake self-employment imposed by employers to avoid paying sickness benefits, national insurance contributions, holiday pay as they must to employees, full-and-part-time.” Explaining her ideas of what “a comprehensive, Beveridge-style Plan” should include, from social services to housing reform, she says that ” Regulation of the labour market must be integrated into the plan, including enforcement of a, hopefully improved, ‘living wage’, and rendering illegal zero hours contracts and fake self-employment. Initially, at least, this would raise unemployment, so it must be accompanied by improved benefits accompanied by constructive advice and training for secure employment – of the kind incorporated in the Blair government’s New Deal programme which successfully reduced unemployment.”

    Dr Thane, a Labour Party member, has been invited to give a talk followed by a discussion, which we hope may be arranged for the early spring of next year. Meanwhile, I think we may agree with her that even ‘full employment’ without decent secure work is not a good enough solution.

  • Peter Martin 21st Nov '20 - 5:47pm

    @ Katharine,

    It’s good to not be in disagreement for once. Pat Thane is quite right about the Gig economy. In-work poverty is a growing problem and it’s clearly not good enough to adopt an over technical definition of what full employment actually means. Jobs have to pay a living wage with all the usual extra benefits of sick pay, holiday pay and pension contributions to qualify.

    You might remember that Joe Bourke and I were often in disagreement on this point. His argument was that the official unemployment figures were reliable because they met the I.L.O. standard. There are Lib Dems making the full employment argument too. However using what must be a more reliable ‘common sense standard’, it’s nonsense to class someone a fully employed if they can’t earn a sufficient amount to be above the poverty line.

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