Our vision for the future must be sound

Extraordinary times can have extraordinary outcomes. And these are extraordinary times. Civil liberties are restricted, the global economy is shutdown, and emerging communications technology is proving its worth. It’s very easy to assume that the world will change.

People point to the outcomes from other extraordinary times, such as the post World War II Labour Government which built upon the liberal foundations of social care. Folk say, “surely now people see the need for change”.

There is surely much to change – from the need to ensure effective scrutiny of Government can continue, requiring significant reform of parliamentary procedures, through proper valuation of those we now class as key workers, to the need for financial and medical security for all.

The challenges our society is having to work through in very short order are immense. The potential repercussions on the way we used to do things are also huge. For example, how many people are now finding that technology is making routine use of their office questionable?

But people have short memories, and the next General Election is scheduled to be many years away. The current Government doesn’t seem that minded to change very much. The clue is in the name of the governing party.

The saying “oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them” almost always holds true. In 1945, the election most pointed to by left-leaning advocates of change, Churchill’s Conservatives were seen to have no viable plan for the post-war world, while Attlee’s Labour held out a positive vision for the future, rooting it in the horrors of the immediate past and explaining the clear benefits in a way which resonated.

We have a nearer catastrophe to point to. During and immediately after the 2008 financial crash, the airwaves and press were full of commentators presaging huge changes in the way our society would have to run. Yet, in the 11 years since, very little seems to have changed on the ground. Remember that, in 2010, the assumption was that any party which implemented austerity was extremely unlikely to be in power from 2015, nor regain power for a generation.

Austerity, only recently abandoned yet indicated as the most likely recovery strategy from the current economic crisis, seems to be the only long-lasting major effect – a policy which has clearly affected the stability of the services we are now relying on as well as impacting the financial security of almost every key worker. Indeed, stats seem to show that inequality has deepened, and those with money at the start have even more money now.

We need to keep our party and our principles relevant. We also need to ensure that our vision for the future is sound and, when the time comes (as it surely will), we need to be able to articulate it clearly. It’s vision and crystal clear messaging we need – not an endless stream of seemingly random policies.

People are receptive to change right now. But don’t underestimate the effort required to overcome the power of apathy.

* Helen Belcher joined the Lib Dems after David Cameron’s human rights speech in late May 2015. She stood for Chippenham in the 2017 and 2019 General Elections.

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  • Interesting, that as we close in on a tipping point for climate change, this virus turns up and closes down a huge chunk of the polluting economy, can this coincidental (one assumes!) lesson be extrapolated into a new policy rather than more of the same which will ultimately result in a repeat outcome of some unknown disease taking down even more of humanity.

    For people it means eat less, travel less and, er, work less!

  • Compared to either of the world wars the present situation will be nowhere near as much of a challenge as them. At the end of the last war entire armies of men had to be returned to civilian life, many houses had been destroyed, together with many dock installations, factories and so on. Parties had little time to campaign, but people wanted a change.
    We now have the spectacle of the system we have about to crumble because we decided not to bother with disaster emergency planning. We still do not have a plan to deal with the situation.
    My conclusion is that we did not plan for disasters, and after it all appears to be over we will start reconstructing an economy that there is no logical reason to record as damaged in any case. Disaster planning will receive lip service.
    In fact this virus is not the world’s greatest problem. The problems in the Middle East and Africa which generate huge numbers of deaths and huge numbers of refugees are larger and longer lasting. But this virus affects us, so we notice this.
    But we are ignoring the very real problems being created by our determination to poison the world we live in by every means possible. We have been been enthusiastically changing the environment we all share without thinking of the future.

  • Steve Trevethan 29th Mar '20 - 9:32am

    Where does the money spent on servicing debt go and where does it finally end up, if it does?

  • David Garlick 29th Mar '20 - 11:39am

    The Vision is essential for us to get right. If we don’t then we will stagnate.
    Positive and realistic with a prospect of a life which is appealing to the majority but which is grounded in protecting a sustainable planet whilst having ’emergency’ planning and resilience built in. No problems.

  • @Steve Trevethan “Where does the money spent on servicing debt go and where does it finally end up, if it does?”

    It depends on who buys the debt. If it’s foreigners, then the money goes outside the UK economy.

    If it’s UK Pension Funds, then the money is locked up before emerging later.

  • Steve Trevethan 29th Mar ’20 – 9:32am

    “Where does the money spent on servicing debt go and where does it finally end up, if it does?”

    Doesn’t it go to the lender, who will probably spend it? Being pretty safe, as lending goes, much of it I think goes into the coffers of Pension Funds, and from there, in due time, into the spending pockets of pensioners; and so keeps the wheels of trade turning.

    One of my grandfathers bought £400 worth of War Loan bonds, to help pay for running the Great War. The Bonds came to me; and until very recently I got two cheques a year amounting nowadays to two bottles of sherry’s worth of interest. A year or two ago HMG realised that they were now losing money on the deal, current interest rates being so very low, and repaid the old debt of £400, so that now I get no more cheques. I have almost spent the £400, alas.

  • Peter Hirst 29th Mar '20 - 6:20pm

    but as our liberty is denied, Helen whatever the reason the fight back will intensify even if irrational. Is it wrong for us a political party to take advantage of that? We can be sure that many freedoms will only be regained after a fight so let’s make it at the ballot box.

  • Steve Trevethan 29th Mar '20 - 6:39pm

    Why does the State borrow money when it can create it?
    Why do we pay foreigners for our own money?

  • @Steve Trevethan

    “Why does the State borrow money when it can create it?”

    Because creating money without increasing productivity creates inflation. If the stock of money is £100 and the stock of goods is £100, if you create more money, you’ve not created more goods, you just bid up the price of the existing goods.

    “Why do we pay foreigners for our own money?”

    We don’t. Foreigners lend us money for a return. As it’s not created, it’s not inflationary.

    There are also more complicated reasons around exchange which are beyond my grasp of economics.

  • The post WW2 Labour government was known for its austerity. The return of Labour to government in the 1960s was described as a return to austerity.

  • Steve Trevethan 30th Mar '20 - 10:12am

    Thanks again!
    But direct government money issuance has been used, and to good effect, as outlined in the attached article.
    Perhaps we might discuss this matter as a possible party policy?

  • Steve Trevethan 30th Mar '20 - 11:38am

    Is there a problem with my comment of earlier this morning on monetary policies?

  • Peter Martin 30th Mar '20 - 11:54am

    @ TCO,

    “….creating money without increasing productivity creates inflation. If the stock of money is £100 and the stock of goods is £100, if you create more money, you’ve not created more goods, you just bid up the price of the existing goods.”

    No. This isn’t right.

    You’re assuming that all the £100 is spent just once. It rarely is. If I sell something on eBay I’ll probably buy something else and the seller of that will buy something too. So if the £100 is spent more than one the £100 can still be inflationary. On the other hand if the money isn’t spent, say it’s put in piggy bank, or an actual bank, then it is deflationary.

    So it’s production and spending that matters. These need to be matched up to prevent inflation on the one hand or deflation and recession on the other. These are flows, rather than stocks, in economic jargon,

  • Peter Martin 30th Mar '20 - 12:07pm

    @ Manfarang,

    “The post WW2 Labour government was known for its austerity.”

    Austerity can be justified if there is a potential inflation problem. Inflation had been forcibly suppressed by rationing during the war years. At the same time many workers had been reasonably well paid in the munitions factories as they contributed to the war effort.

    So there was a lot of money in many workers possession but nothing much to spend it on. If the Labour Govt had removed rationing and increased Govt spending, before the economy had been given time to switch from wartime production, then there would have been a severe inflation problem.

    Germany solved this problem by scrapping its old currency the Reichsmark and introducing a new one. The Deutschmark. Maybe we should have done the same?

  • Peter Martin 30th Mar '20 - 12:38pm

    @ Martin,

    “Money spent on servicing debt is money that is not available for welfare.”

    The implication of this comment is that we should restrict what is termed Govt borrowing so we can have more money to spend on welfare. This isn’t really how the economy works on a macroeconomic scale. The government doesn’t really “borrow” its own IOUs – simply because it can’t. This makes no sense when you think about it.

    But even if we confine our thinking to the microeconomic level, we have to acknowledge that the Government has an inflation target, and not an upper limit, of 2%. At the same time its “borrowing” cost, which it has full control over, is much less than 1%.

    So who’s getting the better deal? “Borrower” or lender?

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