Paul Scriven writes… Be very clear about who we are

From the off let’s be clear, the UK has a centre left party called the Labour Party and a centre right party too; the Conservative Party.

If this is the case then why are some in the Liberal Democrats talking about a move to the left and some a move to the right? I personally don’t get that debate.

Recent history shows that moving left is to build our party on the fickle quick sand of shifting political fashion. We tried to be a “left wing party” when Labour wasn’t popular and looked what happened. People didn’t come to us because we are progressive Liberals, they came to us because they thought we were a left wing alternative to Labour. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

What the party must now avoid is the temptation to be a populist lobby group, as this will provide only a fleeting boost and no durable appeal. We need to be very clear about who we are, what our values are and what we stand for. We need to be bold in making the case for Liberalism in the 21st century.

So if our cause is Liberalism, then what is it that defines us? What makes us different from the others? What makes us part of, and brings others into, the Liberal Democrat family? These are the key questions we as Liberals should be asking, and working out the answers together. This is not about the flavour of the month, it’s not about political fashion and it’s not about expediency. Liberal values are ours and we should be proud to shout them out, clearly and passionately, bringing people to our clear and unashamed Liberal cause.

I will try to show what I think Liberalism means for us and what I think will provide a distinctive identity and message. Yes, some other party’s toy with some elements of Liberalism and even try to take some of them as their own. But unlike us, these Liberal ideas are not in their DNA. They do not form part of a clear, complete, coherent Liberal package.

We must start with our Economic Liberalism that government should not try to control prices, rents, and, or wages but instead let open competition and demand and supply create an equilibrium between them that benefits the vast majority of citizens. Coupled with our strong belief of government intervention to control creation and spread of monopolies and in distribution of public good. We of course favour redistribution of income through taxes and welfare payments.

The bedrock of Civil Liberties – To be Liberal is to hold as a given, the rights of the citizen over the state. We must not only articulate a clear policy i.e. against the “snoopers Charter”, but explain the bedrock principle of Liberal democracy why citizens have the right to be free to live as they wish and not be subject to unreasonable state control or interference.

Trust people with power – As I Liberal I came into politics to give people power, not to hoard it for myself. We must proclaim the truth, that people know the best solutions for problems in their own communities and neighbourhoods. Supporting citizens in delivering their own solutions, sharing and spreading power to people so they become the architects of their own solutions. This means a state that empowers individuals rather than a state that does things to them.

Championing Difference & Diversity – In the preamble to our constitution I love the statement “no one shall be enslaved by conformity”. True to our Liberal values (within the principle of no harm), people should not only be free to be who they are but be protected and supported to do so. Our bringing into law equal marriage whilst in Government is testament to that.

Federal Governance – I want to see power not just handed to individuals but communities and the Counties of the UK. Our view must be that people have the right to govern themselves as close as possible to home, neighbourhood, community, county and region. Central government should keep only powers that are vital to strategically govern the UK. Liberal Democracy is about liberating town and city halls as well as assemblies and Parliaments to make local decisions. All around the world this approach works best and also reinvigorates local democracy and public participation, a core Liberal objective.

Social Justice that is a way of life – I want to make sure the ladder of opportunity is firmly planted in our country so everyone has the chance to climb and reach their full potential. Our pupil premium policy in Government was a classic example of this. Handing money and power down so that local people can make decisions about how best to ensure each young child can be supported to reach their potential. We should ensure that those in greatest need are given the opportunities to flourish and achieve. Our Liberalism in pursuing social justice must also make sure we are anti-establishment and not become too cosy with the institutions of power. That is why I want to abolish the institution I sit in the House of Lords. We must always be representatives of the community in institutions, not representatives of institutions in the community.

Internationalists and outward looking – Our vision must not be just a narrow nationalistic one. Instead, our vision is open to the world and one that wishes us to play our part within a family of nations. We must look at how we share power, sometimes not only for the National good, but also for international improvement. That is why I support playing a stronger role in a reformed Europe and why I also support the 0.7% International aid goal. Immigration and human differences should not be seen as a bad thing, but if well managed, a force for social and economic good and innovation.

This must be all placed within our passion and zeal for a sustainable future. Making sure that we work to protect not just our environment but future generations as well. A theme that should underline all we do.

It will be vital that our new Leader addresses these issues. If we are confident in answering who we are, what we believe and make this relevant for a modern UK and to our place in the world, then we will be building a strong set of Liberal foundations. Foundations like this will not crumble, whatever the force of shifting political storms. People will then stick with us. They will join and support us for what we are and our fundamental liberal beliefs, and not for a vague and changing notion of what they would like us to be.

* Paul Scriven is a member of the House of Lords. He is a former Liberal Democrat Councillor and Leader of Sheffield City Council.

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179 Comments

  • As to be expected at this time there is a lot going on with people recalling our values. My only issue with Paul’s view is that it doesn’t, for me, have enough about “sustainability”, ie our “green” credentials. Without a sustainable future there is no opportunity for future generations, and, yes, we must have growth the benefits of which can be used to help build social justice. Yet this growth must not be at the cost of those opportunities which we must make sure are available to our future generations.

  • Glenn Andrews 19th May '15 - 12:30pm

    From the off let’s be clear, the UK has a centre left party called the Labour Party and a centre right party too; the Conservative Party….
    It was very tempting to stop reading at this point, as its clear to me that Labour is a centre right party and the tories are just unhinged, so to that end talk of left and right is a nonsense I’d agree…. what is clear to me is that they are both illiberal, centralising, authoritarian reactionaries and therefore we should fight all our battles on the ground of freedom and tolerance – oh and I hope it’s not considred too left wing of me to suggest a plan for replacing the million or so missing council houses wouldn’t go amiss.

  • Whilst sharing much of what Paul says, I am struck that as Liberalism should protect the individual from the state, should it not also protect them from dodgy landlords ,poor paying employers etc. We cannot allow free market philosophy blind us to the effect upon individuals of a laissez faire liberalism.

  • Labour can only look “centre left” to someone who believes that, “We must start with our Economic Liberalism …. “.

    If the Coalition has taught Liberals anything, it is that there is no centre ground and that to rebuild we must start by putting our Economic Liberalism on the back burner until someone who still thinks that works comes up with a way of promoting it that doesn’t make us look like Tory Party Mark 2. If you doubt me, take a good long look at what happened to the German FDP in recent years. They started with their Economic Liberalism, soon it was all they had left, then the electorate wiped them out. Not reduced to a 8 MPs, wiped out.

    No, we need to rediscover local communities and our tradition of working to help them thrive and grow. We need to rediscover that social justice isn’t just about the “ladder of opportunity”. Most of all that Liberalism should be about stronger communities and a fairer economy.

    It is vital that our new leader finds their own Liberal way of doing things and politely declines the siren voices calling for “Brand Clegg Mk2 – Into Oblivion.”

  • Jamie Stewart 19th May '15 - 12:56pm

    Not sure we should define ourselves in the middle relative to the other parties, particularly when neither seem to know what they are exactly, but they both know they want the “centre ground”! I’m not new to the Liberal Democrats, but I have been in the wilderness for around 10 years, and I don’t remember economic liberalism being a reason why I joined the Lib Dems… nor why anyone would support them.

  • Tristan Ward 19th May '15 - 12:56pm

    All pretty good stuff.

    For me I would be a bit more cautious about “of course [we] favour redistribution of income through taxes and welfare payments”. Teh langauge here is wrong in my opinion.

    Free enjoyment of one’s private possessions is for me a core tenent of Liberalism – it’s stated in the party’s constitution – and that applies to money as much as anything else. Individuals need to be protected against excessive convescation of their possessions by the state, andth elanagage used here (“of course”) seems to be uncritical of possible abuse of the power of the state in this respect.

    Further, a very good way of limiting government’s power as against the individual is to deprive it (the government) of money.

  • Sir Norfolk Passmore 19th May '15 - 1:08pm

    I strongly agree with this well argued piece, and strongly disagree with those saying we should effectively ditch the economic liberalism piece.

    Without economic liberalism, you undermine the other principles set out by Paul. Freedom of exchange is one important freedom, and state limits on freedom of exchange is a form of interference which can often be unreasonable. Trusting people with power is partly about trusting them to make economic choices for themselves. There’s a huge danger of appearing (and being) incoherent if we talk about freedom and trusting people with decisions… but somehow ring-fencing freedom of exchange.

    That isn’t to say we shouldn’t intervene in ex ante in poorly functioning markets to make them perform better, or ex post in markets which lead to highly unequal outcomes. But that doesn’t require us to abandon the idea that individuals making choices in a well functioning market isn’t merely a neutral thing – it’s one of the important freedoms which we exist to defend.

  • How about promoting the idea of a state that is there to provide an umbrella of laws which allow the greatest number of individuals (everyone) to live in a just, fair and equitable society with decisions devolved to the lowest sensible (possible) level of social organization in the country as a start.
    I don’t think that laissez faire economic policy is really the place to start or really desirable. Part of enabling everyone to live an a just and fair society could include policies that turn housing back into a utility rather than a ponzi scheme for home owners in some parts of the country. I am one of the new 13,000 members .

  • Sardo_Numpsa 19th May '15 - 1:19pm

    What sort of economics should the Liberal Democrats espouse if not economic liberalism?

  • Trevor Stables 19th May '15 - 1:31pm

    One thing is clear why would we continue with Orange Bookism? We lost two thirds of our voters! We need to regain our campaigning Liberalism that aims to change the Status Quo. We should put aside any talk of coalitions until and unless fair voting is achieved.

  • tony dawson 19th May '15 - 1:36pm

    “People didn’t come to us because we are progressive Liberals, they came to us because they thought we were a left wing alternative to Labour”

    This is not at all correct.

    For a start, all being ‘left wing’ really means is supporting change. If you are not a Conservative (opposing change) then you cannot help but be ‘left wing’ in the broadest sense even though you might not wish to use the terminology due to it being hijacked by the Unions or demonised by the Tory press, But what does that matter? The supporters which we gained from Labour running up to 2005 would largely never have either used or understood or adopted the ‘left wing’ label.So they did NOT come to us because of any ‘left wing’ Label and they did not desert us because of any failure to live up to that label. They deserted us for the same reasons as members of my immediate family deserted us, including good long-standing members of the Party – because they did not trust our parliamentary leadership one little bit.

    I am afraid this ‘not left’ phraseology appears to be a code used by those who do not wish responsibility for the appalling decline in our Party’s electoral fortunes to be dropped at the door of those who were indeed responsible not in a one-off way but consistently through their repeated actions over the past seven years. Which is a great shme, since there is much else in what Paul writes with which I would hope most Liberals could agree. It will not help, however, if instant re-writes of recent political history are used to stop this party from going forward. By the way, there is very little ‘centre’ in the ‘centre-right’ of the present conservative party.

  • Julian Tisi 19th May '15 - 1:45pm

    An excellent article and I thoroughly agree.

    @ bobsayers “Whilst sharing much of what Paul says, I am struck that as Liberalism should protect the individual from the state, should it not also protect them from dodgy landlords ,poor paying employers etc. We cannot allow free market philosophy blind us to the effect upon individuals of a laissez faire liberalism.”
    A fair point. I do believe there are limits to what markets on their own can achieve and that – as people who call themselves social liberals argue – there is a role for government in all of this, helping to make people free who the market alone would leave behind.

  • Sustainability means doing more with less: less land, less energy , less materials and less toxic materials.
    1. Build on brownfield and contaminated sites , not greenfield.
    2. Design buildings to last and use less energy.
    3. Remove materials from the industrial processes which cannot be recycled, especially plastic.
    4. Use less toxic substances .
    5. Recycle sewage to produce methane and fertiliser and hence less chemical fertilisers made from oil.
    6. Reduce food wastage, especially EU rules, best before rules and supermarket buying policies which means food goes to landfill. Pre-1960s most domestic waste was ash from coal fires which did not cause water pollution. The disposal of food and nappies post mid 1960s meant landfills became major sources of pollution.
    7. Reduce packaging which cannot be recycled.
    8. The use of plastic in clothes and footwear, especially trainers reduces recycling.
    9. Develop good quality high density housing . In continental Europe good quality flats with underground parking and large balconies are built which provide homes for middle class people. In the UK poor quality flats are the homes of the poor and the young.
    10. Increase cycling and walking.

    The ladder of opportunity requires people to have have the education, technical skills and confidence to enter skilled and well paid employment, which is what the largely Non-conformist craftsmen and farmers had who created the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions -see J Burke the Day the Universe Changed . Those who have created the computer age such as Gates and Allen largely came from a well educated middle to upper middle class background.
    Germany has moved out of low and medium value into high value manufacturing because it has enough skilled people. Britain needs educate and train the un and semiskilled so they can move into high value employment . The UK satellite business is worth £10B and is largely based around Surrey: someone who is poorly educated and skilled will not be able to find employment within it. Someone who is well paid does not have to live in property owned by slum landlords or stay with a bad employer, they can leave.

    The idea that any person or community can thrive without the education, skills and confidence to enter well paid employment is absurd. Those people who created and benefited the most from the Industrial revolution were the literate and numerate craftsmen, such as the blacksmiths, iron masters, skilled metal workers,mine surveyors , shipwrights , furniture makers and potters who created the factories, mines, steelworks , built ships , canals, railways , not the illiterate farm labourer who often ended up in unskilled factory work. The libraries, schools, baths, parks and hospitals built by donations only occurred because those who had made money during the Industrial Revolution gave back to their communities: they were not built by the donations from farm labourers. The grammar school which educated Shakespeare was paid for by the merchants of Stratford.

    The New Establishment are left wing Oxbridge graduates running the BBC, The Guardian/Observer , NGOs, Welfare State , lawyers and journalists. The Old Establishment were landowners, The Guards, Rifles and Cavalry,merchant banking, stockbroking, some parts of the law, top public schools ,Whites, Brooks, Christhurch, Balliol and New Colleges Oxford and Trinity College , Cambridge- Northcote Parkinson described it very well.

    An public school educated landowner often works with everyone bare knuckle boxing gypsies( wallling, hedging and security) , vets, building companies, agricultural contractors, land surveyors to other landowners: a far wider range of society , than most members of the New Establishment.

  • Phil Rimmer 19th May '15 - 2:28pm

    @Adrian Sanders – pleased to see you have kept your sense of humour old friend! Let’s see if it survives Tranmere visiting Torquay next season!

  • “government should not try to control prices, rents, and, or wages but instead let open competition and demand and supply create an equilibrium between them that benefits the vast majority of citizens”

    So I assume he wants to bin the minimum wage then and stop moves towards a living wage. Both are wage controls to protect individuals from the “market” especially at times of job insecurity. Provision of social housing is a defacto control of rent as it’s availability (or lack of) partially dictates private rental levels and the cost of housing. EU subsidies in farming etc skew the market…

  • Phil Rimmer 19th May '15 - 2:46pm

    @ Simon Shaw:

    1) from my perspective as a Radical Liberal, by it’s behaviour in government during my lifetime, on civil liberties, peace, the environment and a whole raft of other issues, the Labour Party is a reactionary party of the centre right. Only it’s approach to collectivism marks it out as centre left any longer.

    2) The problem with Paul’s comments after I cut off his quote is that is not a definition of Economic Liberalism but a random set of policies set out simply to differentiate his position from Labour. Economic policy is more than simply a choice between what Paul writes and the 2015 Labour Party manifesto.

    To be clear, I said Economic Liberalism should be put on the back burner. It, and the deal negotiating errors it led Clegg, Laws and Alexander to got us in this mess.

    I have been active in Liberal politics since 1979 and I do not recall another period in my lifetime when Economic Liberalism so dominated UK Liberalism. The result was a disaster. I suspect that it will be a long time before many Radical or Social Liberals (let alone Social Democrat friends and colleagues) again give that level of trust to Economic Liberals. We need to avoid factional infighting but Economic Liberals need to take a long look at the policies they endorse and their entire approach to what a liberal party should be about.

  • Sardo_Numpsa 19th May '15 - 2:54pm

    @ Phil:

    As a Radical Liberal and somebody who has been active in Liberal politics since 1979, which Liberal thinkers would you say most represent your views on econmics policy?

  • George Potter 19th May '15 - 2:58pm

    “Economic Liberalism” means that the government should not try to control or define things like wages?

    If you think there’ll be a large number of voters willing to support the abolition of the national minimum wage you are very sadly, and thankfully, mistaken .

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '15 - 3:02pm

    I think this is nearly right, which is probably why when push comes to shove I back people like Clegg and Lamb. This is not small state libertarianism – it is committed to using the government to help the poorest and provide opportunity.

    However I have the following problems with it:

    1. No clear position on foreign affairs. I have seen “war hawks” and “war doves” both champion economic liberalism.
    2. The focus on internationalism can lead to people becoming too idealistic about institutions such as the EU.
    3. The focus on internationalism can also lead to people ignoring concerns about immigration until the last minute.
    4. Economic liberalism can also lead to people selling state assets on the cheap, including to overseas investors.
    5. Liberalism can sometimes be “positively anti” reasonable domestic security measures.
    6. Liberalism is not suitable for every country and can create problems if trying to push our own views onto others too readily. I am mainly talking about socially conservative countries here.

    For these reasons I prefer centrism. But for me centrism is not just pandering to the public or moderation, but about pragmatism, innovation, balance and proportion (plus a load of other things).

    Best wishes

  • Neil Sandison 19th May '15 - 3:04pm

    Agree with Charlie but not in so many words without sustainability and better resource management all the other ideals are short lived and we just end up going into armed conflicts fighting over ever increasingly short raw materials and productive arable land. Liberal Democracy must recognise we have limited resources on just one planet we all share.

  • jedibeeftrix 19th May '15 - 3:05pm

    @ Glenn – “It was very tempting to stop reading at this point, as its clear to me that Labour is a centre right party and the tories are just unhinged”

    And yet your view while perfectly fine as an individual is thoroughly dangerous as a loadstone for future policy making.
    That you do not perceive labour as pure enough to meet your left wing ideals is quite irrelevant compared to the enormous weight of popular opinion that recognises the Tory s and labour as the poles that define right-left politics.

    To shout about how un-lefty labour is without first articulating vision of why you better represent the interest s of the electorate is shouting into the hurricane.

  • Samuel Griffiths 19th May '15 - 3:07pm

    Economic Liberalism is, presumably, free markets. That’s what it’s been historically, at least. I personally couldn’t vote for a party that supported non-interventionism and the free market, but it does certainly seem to be the direction that the party is heading. Regardless of which side in the debate you support, it’s fairly clear a decision needs to be made at some point about what the party really supports regarding economics.

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th May '15 - 3:13pm

    Could someone, anyone, from Sheffield reassure me that the city doesn’t have it’s own version of Liberal Democracy?

  • Phil Rimmer 19th May '15 - 3:26pm

    @Sardo-Numpsa – nothing personal but, as a result of a recent exchange with the site moderators, I have decided not to enter dialogue with posters I believe to be using pseudonyms.

  • Sir Norfolk Passmore 19th May '15 - 3:29pm

    The economic liberal viewpoint is often caricatured as untrammeled free markets – whether those markets work well or not. But the debate moved on from old skool “laissez faire though the sky may fall” more than a century ago.

    The issue became, where you see a market working poorly do you try to make it work better (e.g. transparency to inform choice, antitrust to prevent cheating, ex post measures to alleviate consequences) or do you seek to replace the market with another means of allocation. The latter is not only illiberal as freedom to sell, to buy and to negotiate terms are important freedoms, but it also works poorly as you get a range of unintended consequences (e.g. excessive price rises last winter to circumvent Ed Miliband’s threatened fuel freeze, falling standards and supply in response to stringent price caps in rents etc).

  • @George Potter setting a minimum threshold and seeking to define anything above that threshold are very different things.

  • It may be, Paul Scriven, that coming from Sheffield your perspective on politics in the UK is a bit skewed.
    South Yorkshire now has 13 Labour MPs and Nick Clegg, with a massively reduced and humiliating result in Hallam.

    If you look at a map of the election results, Paul, you will see that South Yorkshire is not in any way like rest of the UK.

    The Conservative Party has just won an overall majority for the first time I more than twenty years.

    The Liberal Democrats suffered a disaster because of the obsession with a bizarre andeccetric version of ‘economic liberalism’ which you seem to want to warm up and sere to he votersagain in 2020.

    As Phil Rimmer points out your suggestion of “more of the same” is not attractive unless you enjoy disasters.

    In Sheffield Central we went from 168 votes away from electing an MP to 4th place with a miserable number of votes.
    You will know that better than anyone
    Do you not draw any conclusions from the change in the number of voters supporting Liberal Democrats between 2010 amd 2015?
    How many fourth and fifth and even in some seats sixth places are prepared to tolerate repeating in 2020 to live out your dream of “more of the same”?

  • T H Green pioneered questioning of the traditional liberal antithesis between the state and the individual. and the transformation of English liberalism in a social liberal direction. His writings emphasised the “organic” society, and the value of community ethos. He stressed the individual being a part of society and addressed the obligations towards the community.

    Hos criticism of the burdens the inequities of the market system placed on the working class led to a demand for policies which would not only in word but de facto provide for equal opportunities and liberties. An expanded liberal paradigm and active political approach was, he argued, needed to improve working and living conditions. Green played an important role in changing liberal assumptions, by moving from a ‘negative’ conception of freedom, i.e. freedom from action of others, towards a more ‘positive’ one, including the freedom to act in a certain way.

    Other liberal thinkers such as David Ritchie, John Hobson and Leonard Hobhouse,built on his work moving liberal thought away from a strict laissez-faire approach to incorporating a role for the state in social welfare. His contribution lies in the attempt to reconcile a capitalist market society with liberalism in a democratic state..

    The new policies would be first implemented in Lloyd Georges peoples budget of 1909 creating state pensions and unemployment and sickness insurance. John Maynard Keynes revolutionised economic theory building on these same foundations of moral philosophy . William Beveridge would deliver the blueprint for the NHS and welfare state that Clement Attlee (himself strongly influenced by Liberal/ethical socialism) would deliver in the post-war Labour government that he led.

    The modern Liberal Democrat party combines these closely related philosophies of New Liberalism and social democracy or Liberal socialism in advocating a mixed economy within a largely free market based capitalist system

    Lord Scriven has made an important contribution to advancing the devolution of power in his advocacy of City Deals, the Regional Growth Fund and the two devolution deals in Manchester and Sheffield and in his lobbying for devolving of tax powers, to defined city economic areas..

  • @Joe Bourke “William Beveridge would deliver the blueprint for the NHS and welfare state that Clement Attlee (himself strongly influenced by Liberal/ethical socialism) would deliver in the post-war Labour government that he led.”

    But Atlee did not deliver Beveridge’s blueprint – because that required the introduction of the contributory principle. Beveridg’e blue print was that the state would provide a minimum safety net and then would provide other reliefs on the basis of the individual’s contribution into the system.

    Atlee broke the link, and arguably the contract, between the state and the individual right at the outset of the welfare state.

  • The simple answer is of course that we should be more Liberal than either Labour or Conservatives. This means we act to restrain centralising tendencies of any concentrations and monopolies of power either in government structures or financial institutions/ big business.

    Pragmatically the issue is more complex. Whilst the centralist message of the campaign was an embarrassment, irrespective of assumed tendencies in the leadership, it is not hard to understand the basis of the strategy. Our vote has historically consisted of committed Liberals, soft Liberals, a non-specific protest vote, tactical anti-Tory and tactical anti-Labour voters. An appeal to the last two groups does imply some sort of, at the very least tacit centralism, hence the flawed strategy. Basically the centralism needs to be more tacit, however, I do not think we are in the business of rejecting any votes.

    To Simon Shaw: if being Liberal becomes perceived as “to the left of Labour”, then so be it, but I agree that this can be an awkward perception that, in the past, has obviously been misunderstood. Our stance on detention without trial, state surveillance and the Iraq war are obvious examples. Few amongst Lib Dems would have wished to be to the right of Labour in these instances, yet none of these issues imply that we favour a complex system of state taxes and hand-outs that characterised the Last Labour administration.

    To Paul Rimmer: in practical terms “economic Liberalism” could be “put on the back burner” simply because in the general economy, there is no real argument: all the mainstream parties generally advocate an open, though admittedly mixed, economy. Labour’s energy price freeze and suggestion of rent controls were exceptions, but a look at the detail showed that their proposals were more limited than headlines suggested; no one is expecting Labour to advocate a command economy. Moreover, whatever you claim about “Clegg, Laws and Alexander” you would be hard pushed to find much that would distinguish them from anything that Labour under Alistair Darling would have done. Broadly, the coalition followed Labour’s economic targets. the tax threshold might not have gone up so much, the ‘bedroom tax’ might have been implemented more flexibly, but overall not so different. By the way, Social Democrats are predominantly liberal in economic terms, could you find one that is not?

  • Tony Greaves 19th May '15 - 4:26pm

    I don’t think we have to move anywhere. All we need to do is read the party constitution and consider where that puts us, and stay where we are. We are clearly a centre-left progressive Liberal party. By “centre-left I mean on the left of centre but not the far left.

    As for where Labour are going to be goodness knows. I had serious hopes that Miliband would put the Labour Party back on the centre-left and they would become a party we could seriously co-operate with. Now I have my doubts. All the leadership contenders seem to me to be right of centre and one of them clearly belongs in the Conservative Party.

    But I am trying to use the words left and right in an objective manner. If you define our position with reference to the positions of Labour and the Conservatives at any given time, (or even worse the pronouncements of the national press), you will never define a Liberal position with any objective meaning in our philosophy. constitution or even policies. As an exercise it is meaningless, as a political strategy it is doomed to failure.

    Tony Greaves

  • @Tony Greaves which one belongs in the Conservative Party in your opinion?

  • Hmmmm not sure about how loudly we want to trumpet the economic liberalism (laissez faire liberalism collapsed all over Europe in the interwar period to be superseded by social liberalism / social democracy) .

    I think that the state has a crucial role to play in protecting individuals from local tyrannies.

    Why shouldn’t we introduce rent controls if that works? Millions of public money goes on housing benefit for the working poor in London, all because of a distorted market.

    Why not be economically liberal when that works, and statist when it doesn’t?

    A moderate approach to politics is a good thing, but being civilised does not mean that we can’t be radical and innovative. How about a position which says that we believe the state should do as much or as little as is needed to make society more open and individuals freer?

  • ADWIlliams
    Rent control did much to undermine the supply of property in New York. Rents were kept low and landlords could not afford the repairs, resulting in slums . Some landlords found the cheapest option was to burn down a property and collect the insurance. Rent controls also meant wealthy people ended up living in cheap rent controlled appartments. Income from tax on property went down . I would suggest that New York by the late 70s looked a Third World country in the poorer areas .

    In the UK Housing in many Labour run councils became a political tool . Try getting repairs to one’s flat if one stood against a Labour councilor or criticised them publicly . Council officials sold keys to flats and the cost of evicting illegal tenants was greater than demolition; so blocks were demolished. There is also the risk of poor quality repairs done by the council and/or corruption with local contractors.

    I would suggest the Peabody Trust is probably one of the best examples of a charity running homes. There is too much corruption, slothe and incompetence in some councils to trust them with housing. A charity such as the Peabody Trust with strict controls on conduct by the tenants is probably the best way of running social housing.

  • Economic Liberalism” means that the government should not try to control or define things like wages?

    If you think there’ll be a large number of voters willing to support the abolition of the national minimum wage you are very sadly, and thankfully, mistaken .

    Well said… its a sign of how out of touch this article is that even the present government isn’t going to abolish the minimum wage yet in the name of purist Economic Liberalism it must truly be wrong.

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th May '15 - 6:33pm

    ‘why are some in the Liberal Democrats talking about a move to the left and some a move to the right? I personally don’t get that debate.’

    Left/right I find is a debate that belongs in the early 1980s. We simply don’t have left/right politics now, or at the very least the idea of a classic left/right divide on (basically) class lines is much, much weaker now. The phrase, ‘I’m working class,’ gets lobbed around the internet like confetti, but it’s largely prolier than thou hot air. My grandparents (coal miners/cotton workers) would recognise very little ‘working class’ nowadays. If you drive a car, pay a mortgage or own property or go on foreign holidays then you are not working class in any classic sense.

    Politics, for good or for ill, today is not marked by the debates and battles of the over-studied, over-interpreted Thatcher years. Today all too often we hear the call for, ‘change,’ albeit with little agreement on what that change should be. The divide, the question, for political parties to my mind now is about open or closed.

    For 30+ years under successive governments (LAB, CON and Coalition, I make no partisan point here) have looked to an open world view. In the Party of IN the LDP took open probably as far as anyone yet has. My view is that this openness is the consensus that people expressing a wish to, ‘change,’ are really referring to – not some 1980s style, ‘lurch to the…’

    I don’t know what the answer is from an LDP perspective. Ultimately however if we view liberalism as the open world-view then it looks like it’s going to be a mighty hard sell. How many in the party now would want to try to sell full-blown freedom of movement with Turkey, Ukraine and Albania in the upcoming EU referendum? Indeed, that referendum (and the rise of UKIP) is, to my mind, more to do with debates about open/closed than about left/right.

    It is hard to avoid noting that Ed M, for all his shortcomings, had four policies that were strong enough to register a broad support – opposition to war in Syria, energy reference pricing, some form of property tax and abolition of non-dom status. All of those could be interpreted as a more, ‘closed,’ view of how society should be managed.

    This is the debate now – the open world view and those that demur. Between those that think that open will float all boats and those that see it as the race to the bottom. I’d like to think that it is this debate that will be the backdrop to the EU referendum, although I suspect I’m going to be sorely disappointed.

    Can liberalism in 2015 reconcile to a more closed or insular (for want of a better term) view, or is it open or bust – that’s the debate now. And the clock on that EU referendum is ticking.

  • Charlie

    Thank you – I had no idea.
    Is there a role for government in helping such charities to set themselves up?

    So rent controls is an example of when state involvement would not work, but I don’t think that avoiding state intervention should become a principle in itself.

    I suppose that could be part of a definition of what liberalism is – Tories want to dismantle it, labour worship it and can’t think outside of its confines, we want to use the state pragmatically where it works.

  • Peebee: The minimum wage was introduced in 1998 by the Labour government, supported by Liberal Democrats and opposed by the Conservatives.

    Is there any suggestion that anyone in the Liberal Democrats have suggested a repeal of the minimum wage? In a mixed economy most people and probably all Liberal Democrats take economic liberalism to mean an economy that operates with a level playing field, rules for all rather than no rules at all.

    As I wrote earlier, there is little point in trumpeting about economic liberalism as it has become the accepted norm. Nonetheless, it is worth pointing out whenever rules become infested with exceptions and loopholes, that economic system has lost its way.

  • I have a few questions for the Economic Liberals:
    1) Do you think that the City of London where 80% of transactions are purely speculative actually benefits real economic activity, ie. making and selling things?
    2) Do you support the Tories in refusing to implement the financial transaction tax which everyone else in Europe wanted, which would have dampened this speculation, focused the money markets back onto economics, and provided funds to support financial institutions in future (but put a lot of traders on the dole)?
    3) Do you think the gap between rich and poor that we see today is good for social cohesion and economic well-being?
    4) Why is it that people who move money around and put successful (ie stable, profit-making) companies out of business in order to sell off their assets are paid so much more than scientists and engineers?

    To me these are obvious evils in our society that are promoted by laisser faire “economic liberalism”. For the vast majority of the last 115 years the Liberal Party and its descendants have NOT supported this philosophy. I do not have easy solutions to the obvious problems of capitalism (one obvious problem for me being that MY taxes are currently paying banker’s bonuses without my consent!) and I am sure that state socialism is not the answer, but i do think that when there are forms of economic activity going on which are actively harmful to the interests of the majority, the State should do something about it

  • TCO,

    “Atlee broke the link, and arguably the contract, between the state and the individual right at the outset of the welfare state.”

    The welfare state started with Lloyd George (and Churchill). The original concept was that old age pensions and the safety net would be funded by a Land Value Tax and a surcharge on higher incomes . (Few working men lived long past retirement age in those days) That proposition did not get past the Landed gentry in the Lords and LG’s budget only passed by introducing a national insurance scheme that would be paid for by workers themselves by deduction from their wages.

    The funds deducted from wage earners were never set aside in a National Insurance fund but used to pay current pensions and unemployment/sickness benefits. When the great depression hit, unemployment benefits were cut (notwithstanding earlier contributions) and the concept of a truly national insurance fund for hard times went with it.

    The Asquith government were on the right path. Henry George’s Land Value Tax and an unconditional non-contributory safety net based around CH Douglas’s social credit or a basic Citizens Income could go a long way to getting us back to where we need to be..

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '15 - 6:56pm

    Andrew, finance is a largely environmentally friendly industry, people shouldn’t knock it so much. Speculation is good for society because it creates more accurate prices by selling things that are too expensive and buying things that are too cheap. There’s no other way to do it – we can’t have everything priced by the state.

    A financial transaction tax would reduce speculation, but increase price distortion, so I don’t support it. We should tax rich people and big business, not transactions.

    The gap between the rich and the poor is too big, but we have to be careful about how we go about closing it.

    It is important that businesses are owned by responsible owners and that is why I support strong controls on takeovers, something similar to what Vince Cable was proposing, but probably not quite as tough as he wanted.

    I’m not a “laissez faire economic liberal”, but the radical alternative seems to be a kind of worker’s co-operative model (considering you have ruled out state socialism), but I don’t see how that will work because it will only allow for returns on labour and not on capital. However, a co-operative sort of model could probably work in a low tax environment.

  • @Martin
    “Is there any suggestion that anyone in the Liberal Democrats have suggested a repeal of the minimum wage?”

    There is in the above article if “government should not try to control prices, rents, and, or wages ” is taken at face value.

  • Bill le Breton 19th May '15 - 7:34pm

    Some people have just won a very very close election.

    Generally this is what they think:

    Blair, Brown (Ashdown and Kennedy) created a country of takers who mooch off the makers. They think that by transforming the country of Blair, Brown, Ashdown and Kennedy, they can build a utopia where the makers won’t any longer have to carry the takers on their backs and the takers will have to shape up–or if the takers don’t shape up, serve them right! The moochers will then have to wallow in their much deserved squalor and misery. And the makers will not have to, as they do now, suffer the pain of watching the moochers live tolerable lives.

    Frankly, you are either part of their team or you are against their team.

    If, like me you are against their team, you are up against it for a number of years. It could be many years. Last time it took 18 years and we are just 5 years in to that kind of period when the decisions are taken by those kinds of people who believe that kind of takers/makers/moochers thing. And we won’t defeat them unless and until we can manage to persuade a lot of people with huge amounts of power and a lot of voters with too little power – that this utopia won’t work, that it will cost much much more than they think in lost potential profits, lost life chances and lost opportunities.

    It is going to be tough persuading them of this in the near rather than in the distant future. It is going to take some really innovative ideas and the ideas are going to have to deliver for them some kind of bargain – yet get a lot of what we want by doing a lot of what we think is right.

    But that is our challenge. Phew!

    And if we find it, it is going to be a new Liberalism, one that isn’t explained in terms of economic or social liberalism.

    If you are an economic liberal or a social liberal, you are probably part of the problem NOT part of this new solution.

    And at this stage, if you think you know the solution, then, you are part of the problem.

    Get thinking.

    (This could not have been written without standing on the shoulders of Brad DeLong.)

    Mary – I hope you get it this time.

  • Eddie,

    Could you just tell me who benefits (other than the brokers, the bank shareholders etc) when someone in Barclays buys $15 billion, drives the price of the dollar a little higher, and then sells them again? Exactly what price is being made “more accurate”???

    And where does the money come from? Either it comes from the pockets of people who are at the mercy of the currency market (importers and exporters, especially SMEs), or it is pure inflation! Please tell me which!

    here it is explained: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/forex/06/sevenfxfaqs.asp
    “What are you really selling or buying in the currency market?
    The short answer is “nothing”. The retail FX market is purely a speculative market. No physical exchange of currencies ever takes place. All trades exist simply as computer entries and are netted out depending on market price. For dollar-denominated accounts, all profits or losses are calculated in dollars and recorded as such on the trader’s account.

    The primary reason the FX market exists is to facilitate the exchange of one currency into another for multinational corporations that need to trade currencies continually (for example, for payroll, payment for costs of goods and services from foreign vendors, and merger and acquisition activity). However, these day-to-day corporate needs comprise only about 20% of the market volume. Fully 80% of trades in the currency market are speculative in nature, put on by large financial institutions, multibillion dollar hedge funds and even individuals who want to express their opinions on the economic and geopolitical events of the day.

    Read more: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/forex/06/sevenfxfaqs.asp#ixzz3ac19CnNU
    Follow us: @Investopedia on Twitter

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '15 - 8:07pm

    Andrew, market manipulation such as the example you provided is illegal. However If we take for example “Black Wednesday” when George Soros “broke the Bank of England” basically through speculation it wasn’t actually his fault it lost a load of money – it was going to happen anyway – he just put pressure on them to cut their losses and change their plan sooner rather than later.

    Speculation like this can push central banks to abandon unsustainable policies if they think interest rates have to move up or down immediately, but the bank doesn’t agree. They basically bet against each other and the Bank of England lost.

    Of course we have to be careful about market rigging though. It is a fine line.

  • Steve Way:
    I doubt Paul Scriven was thinking at all about the minimum wage. I imagine he was thinking of micromanaging wages across the scale. However, mention of the minimum wage does raise the question of wages at the other end. Whilst reluctant to micromanage for Liberal reasons (state taking on unwarranted powers), there really is a problem, particularly a UK problem with some extraordinary high salaries and bonuses. The Liberal question is: in what sort of organisations does this happen and why does it happen? Are the enormous differences in pay at the top and the bottom a symptom that an organisation has become such an accumulation of power that it is outside the reach of any effective form of accountability?

    Perhaps this approach is described as social Liberalism, but we have already witnessed the economic consequences of financial organisations that have become too big and powerful for effective checks and balances to operate before a collapse becomes destructive throughout the wider society. It is worth recalling that Liberal Democrats were almost alone in warning of these dangers before the eventual economic implosion.

  • Andrew:
    I think you have fairly effectively explained why a single market really requires a single currency. It also indicates why we should be intensely sceptical of interests of those who oppose and seek to destabilise the single currency.

  • Philip Rolle 19th May '15 - 8:24pm

    How can it be that so many accuse the party of “economic liberalism” when the party’s manifesto implicitly contemplated so many things that were quite the opposite.

    On taxation policy, the Lib Dems advocated a dividend surcharge and taxation of capital gains at increased rates, apparently without consideration of inflation adjustment.

    I do not believe that the disenchantment of the electorate with Lib Dem candidates was due to a rejection of perceived economic liberalism. It was because they didn’t trust you any more. They did not believe your election pledges because you broke the main one last time.

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th May '15 - 8:31pm

    I have often wished for an edit button so as to correct my sloppy spelling or punctuation mistakes but seldom have I encountered the wholesale use of such a metaphorical button on the events of recent political history.

    I’m not quite sure what this post is about; I can only conclude it boils down to an attempt to shore up support for the demonstrably failed Laws/Browne/Marshall Orange Book tendency.

    You write, “Recent history shows that moving left is to build our party on the fickle quick sand of shifting political fashion. We tried to be a “left wing party” when Labour wasn’t popular and looked what happened. People didn’t come to us because we are progressive Liberals, they came to us because they thought we were a left wing alternative to Labour. Wrong, wrong, wrong.”

    Setting aside us actually being a non-socialist alternative to Labour, the strategy still appeared to be electorally somewhat more successful than the more recent, ‘let’s recast ourselves as a European-style economic Liberal party’.

    You also ask, “So if our cause is Liberalism, then what is it that defines us? What makes us different from the others? What makes us part of, and brings others into, the Liberal Democrat family?”

    The answer to this question is obvious, and it is not set out in your answer which gives undue emphasis to ‘economic’ liberalism, it is to be found in the mainstream Liberal Democracy we all sign up to as members of this party:

    “”The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.””

    This is not economic liberalism but something very much closer to social justice liberalism … Fair/Free/Open/Liberty/equality/community etc.

    But if we go searching for your economic liberal primacy we do not find anything like it, on the contrary, we actually find a clear recognition as to the weaknesses of the free market: ““…but that the market alone does not distribute wealth or income fairly. We support the widest possible distribution of wealth and promote the rights of all citizens to social provision and cultural activity. We seek to make public services responsive to the people they serve, to encourage variety and innovation within them and to make them available on equal terms to all.””

    This and our other aims such as our commitment to a green sustainable global economy point, not to yet another economic free market party, but to us being a radical reforming Liberal party of the economic centre left and never but never some insipid impoverished little party of the equidistant centre, stuck between two aliberal parties on a seemingly never ending journey rightwards.

    I am perfectly happy to be a social justice Liberal enabling and using the wealth-generating power of capitalism for the reasonable benefit of all but further empowering what passes as a free market in the belief that it is naturally beneficial to ordinary people stretches credibility a bit too far for me. I only have to recall aggressive tax avoidance and what the excesses of a free market banking sector visited on the global economy!

  • Eddie,

    I spent a certain amount of time watching currency markets at one point… There are various cycles on top of the bigger shifts, one with a period of a few minutes. I am pretty sure these cycles are driven by computerised buying and selling, and they are greater in amplitude than the cost of trading.. They may not be overt market manipulation but I guarantee that the big traders are making plenty of money on them. I tried a free trading account for a couple of weeks and reckon that by cautious trading I could easily make a decent living if I ever lose my much more interesting University job… If I can do that, then banks are coining it in… And to no-one’s benefit. A 0.1% tax on currency transactions would kill this dead…

  • Stephen,

    Quite right! The Preamble is what we are supposed to be signing up to when we join the Party… And while it can mean somewhat different things to different people, it is hard to shoehorn economic liberalism into it.

    Of course the Preamble was written in the days after the Alliance, so had a lot of SDP influence, and was in many ways a reaction to Thatcherism… I get the impression Tim Farron is quite keen on it!

  • Andrew
    Pre 1987 The Big Bang, speculative finance was undertaken by merchant bankers, stock brokers and jobbers which were partnerships. If the company went bust , the partners lost money. Once speculative finance became part of PLCs, there were no partners risking their capital. Building societies used to loan 90% of their deposits. The development of CDOs enabled buildings to loan multiple times their deposits. Brown separated supervision from the B of E and set up the FSA but they lacked the expertise.

    What needs to be done is that the top level of any company involved in speculative finance need to put all their wealth at risk in the same way that partners did pre Big Bang.

    Brown basically took tax from the financial and construction industries and increased public sector employment in the regions.

    The board of directors of Northern Rock, RBS, B of Scotland, Bradford and Bingley and NHS Chiefs at trust such as Midd Staffs avoided responsibility. I would suggest that a major problem is that people want rank and reward but not responsibility . I suggest it is time that those who run organisations should be treated like ships captains who are held responsible for any mistakes made by themselves or even their crew , even if they are not on the ship. The execution of Admiral Byng did wonders for the competence of the RN.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '15 - 8:53pm

    Hi Andrew, a friend and I have tried private currency “trading” too and it was actually so difficult I gave it up. It is easy on the “demo accounts”, but once you move to a real account then when there is a clear risk of market volatility, such as before interest rate announcements, job figures or other economic data then the broker’s increase the transaction costs, so in effect the broker does what you are wanting the tax system to do.

    Of course money is made from currency trading, but money is also lost on it and I would only recommend the professional enter this market. My friend and I both were both finance professionals and it was even too difficult for us.

    I have to go now anyway, I don’t deny there are problems in the industry, but we don’t need to get rid of it entirely.

    Thanks for chatting

  • The notion that left Liberalism is an imitation of Labour is ahistorical. The Liberal Democrats and their Liberal and Whig antecedents going back to the 17th century have been a party of revolt, a party of dissent, a party of reform, a party championing the radical idea of transferring power from entrenched elites to the generality of the people. It is true that from time to time the Party (in any of its incarnations) has sometimes become comfortable in power and forgotten its reason for existing. But there has never been lacking a generation capable of seeing the corruption, selfishness, and greed of the powerful classes and willing to steer the Party back to its true path.

    The question is whether the Party, in this hour of its need, still has such a generation. If the answer is no, then it is destined for the dustpile. If yes then it has a chance to rise again.

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th May '15 - 8:57pm

    Andrew 19th May ’15 – 6:38pm
    Likewise. Excellent questions/comments.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '15 - 8:59pm

    By the way, we also arguably need more regulation on some brokers. I used to deal with one who was quite well known and when they were going to lose money they were slow to fill in my orders and when they were going to win money they were quick to fill them in. These markets can move very quick, so small delays are a way for them to game the system.

  • Stephen
    While we are here do you agree that paying the private sector to run prisons and old people’s homes out of taxation makes no sense at all? We could save so much by giving decent incentives to public sector managers to do the same job.. Private enterprise should be exactly that, and massively subsidising it out of taxation is a complete distortion of the market. We keep seeing massive, expensive failures by organisations like Group-4, yet somehow a blind eye is turned to them while any public sector body that is inefficient gets hammered. Emperor’s new clothes syndrome…

    I have to say that 90% of economics looks like half-baked hunches rather than anything grounded in evidence…

  • @Stephen Hesketh 19th May ’15 – 8:31pm
    “I’m not quite sure what this post is about; I can only conclude it boils down to an attempt to shore up support for the demonstrably failed Laws/Browne/Marshall Orange Book tendency.”

    Is it my imagination or is there rather an outbreak of articles that start with a phrase describing how important it is that the Lib Dems ensure they veer neither to the left or to the right but retain their distinct liberal quality, and then go on to explain how paramount economic liberalism is? Now clearly anyone who thinks economic liberalism is of paramount importance is on the right of the party – but a member of the party, nonetheless.

    So why don’t they just be honest and say, as someone on the right of the party, I believe that that is the right course for the future of the Lib Dems, and we should stick with it? Do they honestly think that readers on the left of the party, who might favour social liberalism as paramount, are somehow unable to tell that this is an argument presented by someone on the right?

    Personally, I’ve far more time for the opinions of those who openly admit where they stand, like Simon Shaw; I find his honesty less insulting to my intelligence.

  • BTW Eddie, my plan was to avoid trading in periods of volatility. But of course if the transaction charges on the demo site were misleading, then my plans for easy wealth could be stymied!

    I will just have to go back to plan B, which is online poker just after the pubs close! I know a couple of geophysics PhD students who did very well out of that – if you know the odds and your opponents don’t you have a big advantage!

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th May '15 - 9:21pm

    David-1 19th May ’15 – 8:54pm

    Perhaps I can’t bear to think otherwise but I do believe we will – With the right leader, a distinctive clear mainstream Lib Dem message and widely held common ground liberal values based on present and future fairness, freedom and democracy will find a wide resonance with the electorate. We should not underestimate the British people’s love of fairness. That, along with trust, is the main thing we have lost in recent decades. This is what I believe our party under the leadership of Tim Farron with endeavour to deliver.

  • Charlie,

    I agree completely… If people want a bonus culture then they should accept negative bonuses if they lose money for their organisation! but somehow that never happens because bonuses are really backdoor salary…

    The Icelanders had the right idea with the bankers who destroyed their economy – put them in jail! 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '15 - 9:28pm

    Lol, Andrew, yes, trust me, my friend tried nearly every retail broker for a period of a few years and all the ones offering very low transaction costs were poor at filling in trades on time and some of it was clearly manipulated.

    It is all relevant to the discussion of financial markets and what to do with them. Relying on reputation isn’t enough, we need effective regulation. As in markets in general.

  • Andrew
    An ex Barings banker and an underwriter at Lloyds told me how the City worked pre Big Bang . The Governor of the B of E would invite MDs of companies to explain their position and question unacceptable risk. The B of E had ears throughout the City. Also if someone undertook something unacceptable not only were they sacked but blackballed with regard to employment and also socially. The prospect of wives being shunned and not invited to social events had a deterrent effect on husbands.

    When it comes to regulation, too often the regulators are rather dim as shown by the FSA. What we need is a wise and powerful Governor of the B of E and a demand that all directors , including non-execs put their wealth on the line which would be confiscated if losses occur. As Bonnington said ” There are old climbers , bold climbers but no old and bold climbers”. In the days of sailing vessels bad captains died as vessels sank. Often fraud cases are, so long and complicated that the guilty escape justice.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th May '15 - 2:29am

    Little Jackie Paper

    Left/right I find is a debate that belongs in the early 1980s. We simply don’t have left/right politics now, or at the very least the idea of a classic left/right divide on (basically) class lines is much, much weaker now.

    And yet inequality in both wealth and opportunity have grow since those times. Analysts suggest our country was most equal in 1977, and has become more and more unequal since then. So isn’t what you say about “class” nonsense? Because divisions have grown, not shrunk since then. So doesn’t that mean there is more need for a politics that is about “left/right”, not less?

    Of course, it depends what you mean by “left/right”, but the meaning I would give it is the long-standing one that “right” means a belief that the people who have power and wealth are the right people to have it and it would be dangerous and counter-productive to try and shift it, while “left” means a belief that power and wealth should be spread more widely. Note, this is not the same as the meaning it has tended to have that “left” means a belief in state-control and “right” means a belief in free markets. That idea came about because state control was seen as a way to spread wealth and power, arising from the state becoming democratic.

    The rise in support for free market economics came from a belief that state control was not effective, it reduced freedom and put too much power in the hands of a political elite. One of the tasks, perhaps the main one, of the Liberal Party in the 1970s was to re-establish democracy by considering new ways in which people could participate, decentralisation, an end to the idea that politics was about a passive choice between two alternatives. But we were pragmatic about the state control v, free market issue. It is only in recent years that there has been this movement trying to push the idea that a strong belief in free markets and antipathy to any form of state intervention in somehow the core of liberalism. Those pushing this theme sometimes call themselves “classical” or even “19th century” liberals in an attempt to suggest they represent historical continuity, but a glance at what real 19th century liberals were about suggests a much more pragmatic approach then.

  • Lauren Salerno 20th May '15 - 7:54am

    The best written piece I’ve seen on here and one that broadly describes liberalism for me. The party described by Paul is the party I joined not the Social Democrats or some other party of protest with ideals but no sense of reality

    Have we lost some Social Democrats from the party, yes. Have we lost some who just want to cry foul about the world but not change it, yes. Will a move to suit their policies lose us members yes and more it will lose us votes.

    If all people want is to be political outsiders fine if not be true liberals as Paul described

  • Bill le Breton 20th May '15 - 8:24am

    This is such an important debate, and I was just thinking ‘are we going to get this matter aired in the Leadership debate where both candidates appear to be moderating their stances to gain votes?’

    Then along comes Lauren’s invaluable contribution. At last! Lauren crystalizes much of the debate, but actually he adopts a cliche of the Social Democrat in the Liberal Democrats. Does he know that there are three, yes three, former Social Democrats in Cameron’s cabinet?

    David 1, as usual is much more accurate when he describes an approach as Left Liberalism. Sure, we have lost a lot of Left Liberals and he may have his wish about the continuing direction of the Liberal Democrats.

    But we all deserve a Leadership election that focuses on these issues openly and frankly.

    The policies of the former leadership over the last 7 years owed much to Thatcher’s version of conservatism. I think that was acknowledged by Clegg. If you want that, then, you want Paul and Lauren’s vision.

  • @ Andrew

    Very few retails traders make any money from the market, the commonly cited stat is 90% lose money, so only a very elite group (if any) can be making a living out of it.

    Most professional fund managers don’t even consistanty beat the market averages, most money is made in fees. Don’t give up your day job.

    I am not sure exactly where I stand on the market Liberal/Social Liberal spectrum, but you seem to suggest market liberals are in favour of the speculative and monopoly aspects of Capitalism to the exlusion of “making and selling things”, surely this is an oversimplication?

    The finance industry is in big trouble, not from the state or regulators, but from Silicon Valley. The are lots of tech startups run by very smart people who are looking at the tidy profits of the banks and financial services institutions and thinking “we can do that better and cheaper”, and they will, and the banks bricking it:

    http://uk.businessinsider.com/jamie-dimon-shareholder-letter-and-silicon-valley-2015-4

    That is the “free” market it action, and I would like to think that most market liberals will be excited by this, I know I am. The only thing that can stop this process of creative destruction, ironically, is government regulations which favour monopolies.

  • I’m new to the political debate game. Trying to figure out which party to align myself with (to support actively and to vote for).

    The definition of economic liberalism in the article made me think. I believe in free markets, but that there is definitely a place for government to ensure that business supports the people of the country, not the other way round. I think we should look at our aims, and then think about the best policies to achieve those aims. Policies which, as somebody said, minimise the risk of unintended consequences.

    Personally , I think that “redistribution of income through taxes and welfare payments” has gone too far. It is incredibly complicated, with books on tax legislation getting thicker every year, and people resorting to online calculators to figure out if they will be worse off in work. Yes, we want to close the gap between rich and poor, but, in my opinion, we should be looking for the most simple solution possible, and thinking of innovative, different policies, as we don’t want more of the same meaningless ‘tweaks’.

    Ideas that spring to mind are actually increasing the minimum wage, which would reduce dependency on tax credits and also bring some tax revenue back on shore, (as UK employees would pay more income tax and require less working benefits).

    Another idea is citizens income – my favorite policy in the Green manifesto this year. Clever income tax and benefit adjustments could see it introduced with little cost, and as slow or fast as people want it to be. immediately, there’s a sense of fairness, and it would buck the scary trend of vilifying benefits claimants and act as a redistribution mechanism without feeling like a Robin Hood tax. Over time, with citizens income set at the right level, it might even remove the need for multiple, (poverty avoiding), welfare payments, taxes could be flattened, and wages would need less control. Simple, yet effective.

  • @ Andrew – I wrote a longer post but it vanished, here’s a shorter version.

    Firstly, nobody makes money in retail trading, majority of professional fund managers don’t consistantly beat the market averages so don’t give up the day job.

    Secondly, you seem to suggest market liberals are only interested in the speculative aspect of capitalism and not “making and selling things”, is this not a oversimplification?

    Thirdly, what finally puts the finance sector in it’s place is not going to be regulation, but the actions of the “free” market itself. New lean tech startups are already starting to eat into the banks profits and this will accelerate. True market liberals will celebrate this creative destruction.

    That is not to say I don’t think we need more regulation.

    @ AlisonZ – I very much agree with yout post and especially your thoughts on a citizens income.

  • See Jamie Dimons comments on the threat of tech startups to JP Morgans profits:

    http://uk.businessinsider.com/jamie-dimon-shareholder-letter-and-silicon-valley-2015-4

  • Bill le Breton 20th May ’15 – 8:24am
    “…Does he know that there are three, yes three, former Social Democrats in Cameron’s cabinet?
    David 1, as usual is much more accurate when he describes an approach as Left Liberalism.

    The policies of the former leadership over the last 7 years owed much to Thatcher’s version of conservatism. I think that was acknowledged by Clegg. ”

    Bill raises the level of the discussion and calls for an open and honest discussion in the leadership debate.
    The title of Paul Scriven’s article is ‘Be very clear about who we are…”.
    But Paul seems to be wrapping his right wing continuity message in obfuscation. Not necessarily a deliberate attempt by him to obfuscate but his article is a a wrapper inside a wrapper, like the children’s game of pass the parcel the actual content is not too clear at the beginning of the game.
    If people really believe that what went on at the top of the party for the last the years was such a good idea how do they justify the disastrous consequences.

    One point where I diverge from Bill’s points only slightly is the I licences on Clegg’s approach. I think he was possibly more influenced by the leadership style of Blair that Thatcher herself. Say one thing whilst really believing the opposite. I am still not sure what “triangulation” means in a UK political context, but it was much talked about in the Blair era. Whatever else it meant it did not mean being open and honest and clear about who you are.

    If Paul Scriven wants us to be clear about who we are, he should set a personal example about who he is. If he is for continuity and a continuing drift to the Thatcherite/Blairite end of the spectrum he should should say so.

  • Google Jamie Dimon’s recent shareholder letter where he talks about the threat Silicon Valley poses to JP Morgans profits.

  • @ Lauren Salerno, “If all people want is to be political outsiders fine if not be true liberals as Paul described.”

    “… true liberals …” this is a debate about who we are and the direction of the party, not and exercise in religious purity. As a Radical Liberal, Paul’s vision of Economic Liberalism holds very little truth for me, yet we are both Liberals.

    The history of Liberalism and it’s philosophical development since the Enlightenment are far too complicated for it to be contextualised as ‘true’ and ‘untrue’. Frankly, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!

  • Apologies, my keyboard seems to have been taken over by a Blairite virus. That paragraph should have said —

    “….One point where I diverge from Bill’s (but only slightly) is the influences on Clegg’s approach.
    I think Clegg was possibly more influenced by the leadership style of Blair than Thatcher herself.
    Say one thing whilst really believing the opposite.
    I am still not sure what “triangulation” means in a UK political context, but it was much talked about in the Blair era. Whatever else it meant — it did not mean being open and honest and clear about who you are.”

  • Adrian,
    I think the problem is that “economic liberalism” covers a wide range of ideas, and certainly includes a totally free market for some people. It is certainly what most Tories believe in these days, and I think if we have learned nothing else from the last few weeks it is surely that Tory voters do not reward you for agreeing with them – they prefer the real thing…

    I was just highlighting the currency market as an example which (in my opinion) actively hurts normal economic activity, and therefore should be firmly (but simply) regulated. A transaction tax is a simple way to dampen that. There are many other ways in which markets have evolved to spend most of their effort moving money from one place to another for no purpose other than to make money. I will call this “speculation”. True capitalism is investing in companies that employ people, generate commodities that people need and provide essential services. I believe strongly that we should support this type of activity and not “speculation”, but the actions of both Labour and Tory governments since 1980 have been exactly the opposite. But simplifying regulations is also a must.

    If anyone wants an example of regulation that should be simplified, look in the import codes book.. Importers spend enormous amounts of energy in describing what they import in the way that avoids tax… We should have a 1 page set of import duty rates, not a 1000 page one as at present

  • Adrian,

    And if no-one is making money out of currency trading, why are 80% of currency transactions speculative???

  • Andrew,

    I didn’t say nobody is making money, I said retail traders don’t make money.

    That being said if you look at any professional fund managers results over the long term you would be inclined to think they do not fare much better. Most of them make their money from fees.

  • Andrew,

    I am new here and get confused by some of the anti-market economy talk on LDV and was starting to wonder when Liberalism and Marxism became synonymous, but on reading your previous post we are very much in agreement (although I have my doubts that the transaction tax will have the result you hope for).

  • paul barker 20th May '15 - 1:18pm

    I dont disagree with any of the specific points except the first, The Libdems are also a centre-left Party & we dont accept that Labours place is permanent. Our stategic aim must always be to relace Labour as the main centre-left Party in the UK, as well as the only Liberal one.

  • As a member in the now Liberal Parliamentary desert of the South West, I am reminded of the Liberal M.P David Penhaligon. I am re-reading his Biography at the moment. perhaps everyone in the party should read this book, if they have not done so. David Penhaligon was perhaps the finest example of a real Liberal politician in our recent past.A man with vision and great unrealised potential. If he was alive today what would he be saying in this debate? What would he see as the way forward? The party needs to adapt and embrace new challenges and change. Not an easy task. However, what we now need are committed, hard working and inspirational individuals who will direct the party to future success. we need now more than ever, a David Penhaligon-one in each seat would be ideal!

  • @Paul Barker “The Libdems are also a centre-left Party & we dont [sic] accept that Labours place is permanent. Our strategic [sic] aim must always be to relace [sic] Labour as the main centre-left Party in the UK, as well as the only Liberal one.”

    There are a lot of activists, members and, most importantly, Lib Dem voters who would disagree fundamentally with everything you’ve written here.

  • I suggest that the British people are basically practical; they want practical and value for money solutions to improve the quality of their lives. If the British people want discussions on theory they would have voted for Milliband. Most British people dislike spiteful and un-lady/gentlemanly conduct. They want politicians to have a sense of decorum, a degree of mental and physical toughness, practical common sense, confidence and an ability to laugh at oneself goes a long way.
    A party which can identify the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to Britain and propose practical common sense methods of improving the quality of life of Britons in an atmosphere of resolute , indomitable optimism, will obtain support .

    The Commando Spirit is well worth examining
    Cheerful in the face of adversity
    Approach the near impossible with grit and inner belief
    Determination
    Unselfishness
    Professional standards
    Courage
    Adaptability

    When it comes to freedom some words from Americans during War of Independence
    ” Timid men prefer the sea of tranquility to the tempestuous sea of liberty”
    ” If we love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude, better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not of your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you”.

  • Mmm… I am neither left not right. I favour the individual over the state, but not in every circumstance; and there I think is the crux of my ‘Weltanschauung’, I take decisions on my actions, as far as I am reasonably able, based on judgement not affiliation.

    I agree with some tenets of Economic Liberalism, but become wary when it moves towards reinforcing inequalities; ultimately the state must be able to protect the liberties, social and economic, of those individuals with the least power. A true reading of Mr A Smith will show that he too believed that the guiding hand of the market is not enough in and of itself to remedy the worst excesses of greed and avarice. He was also writing in a much simpler time, and was unable to conceive of not just one, but many hundreds of multinational companies, and of their combined ability to undermine entire economic systems.

    I agree with social liberalism too, but am also aware of the traps that lie ahead for those who espouse rights without responsibilities, rewards without efforts. That said, the poor are usually poor for reasons beyond their control, and in our multipolar world, often as a consequence of actions made by powers far away, and often unreachable or untouchable by them or those who would seek to champion them.

    So, going forward I will seek to champion freedom, liberty, and knowledge, and condemn those who seek to take or entrench unaccountable power, deny others the rights to live and improve their lives, and risk the destruction of our shared home for the sake of aggrandising themselves and their cronies.

    In practical terms that means fighting for the HRA, against our withdrawal from the EU, against the overweening powers of the state as made manifest in the snoopers charter and other likely JHA proposals from the Tories, and in favour of a the UK, however configured, taking a morally just role in the international community, one that ethically opposes the forces of darkness that are ISIL/DAESH/ISIS, and works constructively on the global stage to prevent the catastrophic loss of life now taking place in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.

    We may have been bested in this most recent fight, but my hope is that we have not been beaten, and that over the months and years ahead we will be able prove to the electorates across our nation that it is possible to be conservative in nature whilst also being Liberal in spirit, and action.

  • Sadie Smith 20th May '15 - 3:53pm

    David Yeld
    I love the idea.

    maybe we need to emulate Penhaligon in other ways: he won because they didn’t believe it was impossible,. He had an interesting background and never forgot the poorer workers.
    Meanwhile our Parly party looks abit short of economists I think can be trusted not to get it wrong.

  • SIMON BANKS 20th May '15 - 4:00pm

    Good questions, Paul.

    But are you trying to get other Liberals to agree to the proposition that we oppose the minimum wage as fundamentally illiberal? Or does “controlling” prices include influencing them through tax policies, for example driving up the cost of tobacco? Is that fundamentally illiberal to you? You seem to be putting an absence of state intervention ahead of individual liberty.

    Social justice is not the same as unlimited opportunity to climb. That could lead to a profoundly unequal society with extremes of wealth and poverty and contempt for “losers” who had the opportunity and failed. That would not be in the historic Liberal tradition and it would be an ineffective, divided society. Equality of opportunity is fine but vague: precisely what are we trying to level, so everyone gets a fair chance – education, OK, and discriminatory attitudes (against), but what about parental influences, good or bad luck or even someone’s genes, which they had no chance of influencing?

    As for right and left, I too get frustrated – but by people discussing them without clarifying what they mean. Right and left are concepts useful in analysing where people stand on issues of inequality; so those who oppose progressive taxation or inheritance tax are clearly on the right on those issues, while extending the vote to those excluded from it, a classic 19th century Liberal cause, is essentially left. Right and left tell us nothing either about “open versus shut” issues such as civil liberties versus the “snoopers’ charter” or about environmental issues. A society without poverty would be more Liberal than one with extremes of wealth and poverty because poverty radically restricts people’s liberty, while 10% off the wealth of someone very rich does not have a corresponding effect on their life choices. So on that measure I believe Liberals must be of the left. But when we look at what can be done to create a more equal society, there we find Liberal opposition to an over-powerful centralised state and a searching for more democratic, free and participative solutions. Along with the commitment to civil liberties and diversity, that marks us out plenty from Labour.

    Finally, there is one key word you’ve left out. The preamble to our constitution says our basic values are liberty, equality and community. To some economic Liberals – I’ve questioned Jeremy Browne on this – community means nothing much. Their focus is purely on untrammelled individuals, ignoring Jo Grimond’s point that humans are social animals who achieve realisation with others. Free co-operation to achieve things in common is part of the historic DNA of British Liberalism and from this flows devolution and other commitments.

  • Tristan Ward 20th May '15 - 4:05pm

    @ John Tilley and others
    “The Liberal Democrats suffered a disaster because of the obsession with a bizarre andeccetric version of ‘economic liberalism’ which you seem to want to warm up and sere to he votersagain in 2020.”

    This is one way of presenting the election results.

    Another is: in every election since 1979 (Thatcher x3, Major, Blair x3, Tory/Lib Dem coalition, Cameron) parties offering econmonic liberalism of one form or another have formed the resulting government.

    You may draw your own conclusions.

  • Katerina Porter 20th May '15 - 5:53pm

    What risks actually happening with Economic Liberalism and Free Markets? Multinationals are now more powerful than many governments and can be a threat to our freedoms. Taking the NHS as an example of introducing markets and lately extremes of the act of 2012 (which included removing the duty of the minister to ensure that everyone in the country had access to health provision) meant that administrative costs have risen from 3/4% of the health budget to 30/40%. Another freedom – freeing pension pots, presumably an attempt to deal with the greed of our financial services -where someone Dutch and someone British putting in the same amount ended with the Dutch having 50% more capital than the British. Already there is a plethora of advertisements on our screens, most people do not have financial skills, there will be costs in getting honest advice and there will be a field day for scams. In the nineteenth century the authoritarian continental governments made British people very wary of state control, but the huge fortunes spent by the Peabodies, Carnegies and the Lady Burdet Coutts on housing, hospitals, churches and libraries were never going to be enough. The liberal Social Democracy of the post Second World War world in the West led to enormous progress in well-being of the population and also led to 30 years of huge economic growth even with high taxation – a marginal rate in the US% of 90% We need a lot of thought now and should not discard consulting the experience we have available. Surely it is rather strange that apparently Nick Clegg only met David Steel once, and after all Charles Kennedy was our most successful and popular leader since the twenties.

  • The problem as I see it is that a policy of economic liberalism as practised by all three parties since Thatcher came to power has resulted in the sort of society which all Liberal Democrats deplore. One in which a tiny minority are much wealthier than the “bottom” 40% of our country and in which that tiny minority have increased their wealth through recession, while the most vulnerable have paid the price of severe cuts in public spending .
    So if those who favour these economic ideas carry on with policies that reflect that position we are most likely to end up with a post industrial aristocracy in which the majority of us are living in poverty in relation to the top 1 or 2 per cent. Yes some wealth will have trickled down ,for example to high end estate agents, jewellers and other providers of luxury goods but most of us will live in relative poverty and too many of us in actual poverty where we cannot afford to eat.
    Combine this with the effects of climate change on the world and my children and grandchildren will be living a much less secure life and probably a much more violent life than those of us who are trying to determine just who we are as Liberals.
    It’s time for a new liberal economic stance, a way of stopping the most vulnerable having to pay the cost of economic recessions when they inevitably occur and a way of targeting benefits to those who really need them instead of blasting fuel allowances and bus passes at rich pensioners who can afford two or three foreign holidays a year whilst permitting them to escape paying their taxes.
    In other words we need a new Keynes and a new Beveridge for the existing system is creaking badly and needs another Liberal overhaul. This is far more important than accusing each other of being right or left or centrist when these are mere nuances of politics.

  • Simon McGrath 20th May '15 - 6:15pm

    @Katerina: “What risks actually happening with Economic Liberalism and Free Markets? Multinationals are now more powerful than many governments and can be a threat to our freedoms. Taking the NHS as an example of introducing markets and lately extremes of the act of 2012 (which included removing the duty of the minister to ensure that everyone in the country had access to health provision) meant that administrative costs have risen from 3/4% of the health budget to 30/40%”

    Can we have some evidence for this (absurd) claims please ?

  • Katerina Porter 20th May '15 - 6:33pm

    My information on NHS is taken from Professor Allyson Pollock, whose subject this is. If you look her up you will get hall her academic posts and expertise

  • Katerina Porter 20th May '15 - 6:47pm

    PS This was a TEDtalk on YOUTUBE
    https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz5di9fhj7o if I’ve got it right

  • Simon McGrath 20th May '15 - 6:51pm

    Katerina

    can you point to a link please ?

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th May '15 - 6:57pm

    Tristan Ward 20th May ’15 – 4:05pm
    [[@ John Tilley and others, “The Liberal Democrats suffered a disaster because of the obsession with a bizarre and eccentric version of ‘economic liberalism’ which you seem to want to warm up and serve to the voters again in 2020.”]]

    TW”This is one way of presenting the election results. Another is: in every election since 1979 (Thatcher x3, Major, Blair x3, Tory/Lib Dem coalition, Cameron) parties offering econmonic liberalism of one form or another have formed the resulting government. You may draw your own conclusions.”

    Quite right Tristan.

    From what you say about its proponents, my own conclusion would have to be that much economic liberalism is not actually intrinsically Liberal.

    Economic Liberals should do more to show they are not just personally and societally Liberal free-marketeers.

  • Katerina Porter 20th May '15 - 8:39pm

    Simon :
    have checked site again. Made two mistakes : omitted a colon and had an i instead of an l
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz5dl9fhj7o

    If that fails send me email [email protected] and I will forward to you

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th May ’15 – 6:57pm
    Tristan Ward seems to be saying that there is effectively no difference between self- styled “economic liberals” who frequently make comments in LDV and all the governments since 1979.

    It would be interesting to know what the senior Board Members of ‘Libreral Reform’ say about that.
    Or indeed what Paul Scriven thinks; after all Paul wrote the original article which said we should be very clear who we in the Liberal Democrats are.

    Tristan cannot tell the difference between Paul Scriven’s view on economics and the policies of the Blair/Brown Government. I would have thought thatt deserves a response. 🙂

  • Bill le Breton 21st May '15 - 8:49am

    John Tilley and Stephen Hesketh are right to draw our attention to Tristan Ward’s observation 4.05 pm 20th May that we have been in the grip of economic policies dictated by economic liberalism since 1979.

    And I would ask you to consider the points made by Katerina Porter at 5,53 pm 20th May which are in similar vein.

    The agents of this strangle hold are the right wing press and the funding of politics by wealthy business people.

    We should not be blind to the fact that Blair’s governments were a moderation of this position, but recognize that he gained the ‘permission’ of that element of the press and many of those funders for those modifications. He was never free from their threats to remove their patronage.

    How did Blair with the help of Mandelson and the pollster/tactician Gould achieve this? We need to examine that. We should not forget that Ashdown was active in this process and therefore our party was involved.

    The recession of the eaqrly 90s, the economic incompetence of Major and Lamont’s flirtation with the ERM, the obvious delapidation of public services and the mounting arrogance and corruption that tends to accompany one party government all played their part.

    But Blair was also sealing a bargain with big business and the right wing press.

    We are now firmly in the grip of the economic liberals again, or I would call them the RIGHT neoliberals, in their grip for next few years and perhaps if they can navigate the Euro referendum for the next very many years.

    There seems no point in capitulating to this force. Or seeking to trim its edges. That might have been useful in the 2010/2015 coalition, but it would have no effect now. That way lies the sterilisation of the Liberal Democrats as a political force – actually the continuing sterilization that began I regret under Clegg’s leadership.

    So do we seek to define the new bargain that eventually persuades the influencers to give a chance to a more Liberal Social Democracy – a C21st century ordoliberalism, dare I say it a 21st Century version of the original neoliberalism of the 1930s (before the word was appropriated by the precursors of Thatcher and Reagan) ?

    Is either Leadership candidate able to put such a bargain together, to formulate it, to express it, to campaign it into existence? I don’t see it. Norman is fully signed up to the economic liberalism formulated by Paul Scriven in this piece. He COULD do so, he has all the qualifications. And so too COULD Tim Farron, he could facilitate it. He sure could campaign it. But there is just the suspicion that in seeking unity he will moderate himself away from this alternative. The old guard must be challenged. Paukl Scriven must be challenged.

    One advantage we have is that Labour doesn’t yet seem to be thinking this way either and so the field is open.

    It is great to hear people talking of fighting back – and it would be good to have some campaigning collateral to explout this energy, but actually, we need this time to do some very deep thinking. To think without prejudice. Other wise Tristan and Katerina’s warnings of the continuing tyranny of economic liberalism will be a nightmare visited upon everyone but a small and self-excluding elite.

    One things for sure, we should be clear we are not part of that ‘tribe’. We are not economic liberals. That is what Tories are for.

  • Bill le Breton 21st May '15 - 10:41am

    Wrote a comment above. It got held up so won’t have appeared in the side bar of recent comments, please consider having a look.

  • Phil Rimmer

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/paul-scriven-writes-be-very-clear-about-who-we-are-46027.html#comment-357230

    “there is no centre ground”

    Spot on! And a much more crucial point than most people realise. Bill le Breton 8.49 this morning explains it well too.

    Thatcher, Blair and Cameron are all economic liberal kleptocrats, varying only in degree. Either you accept kleptocracy, or you fight it. There is no middle way.

    Sure, if you are a member of the Natural Law Party and you sincerely believe that nothing matters except yogic flying, you can believe there is a middle way, you can duck the decision as to whether you accept kleptocracy or fight it. But you won’t get many people to agree with you.

    Sure, if you are a fundamentalist liberal, and you sincerely believe that nothing matters except the concept of individual freedom, you can believe there is a middle way, you can duck the decision as to whether you accept kleptocracy or fight it. But you still won’t get many people to agree with you. You might manage to outpoll the Natural Law party, but the vast majority of people will think you are a political irrelevance.

    There is no centre ground. There is no future for a Liberal Democrat “centrist” party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd May '15 - 10:22am

    Adrian

    I am new here and get confused by some of the anti-market economy talk on LDV and was starting to wonder when Liberalism and Marxism became synonymous

    Well, you are easily confused then. Do you really believe there are only two positions in politics – one being that everything should be put out to a cash market and the other being “Marxism”? Because you seem to be saying that anyone who is even mildly critical of some aspects of the way free market politics work in practice and wants something other than the simplistic gung-ho acceptance of it that the Conservatives and others push is a “Marxist”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd May '15 - 10:29am

    SIMON BANKS

    Their focus is purely on untrammelled individuals, ignoring Jo Grimond’s point that humans are social animals who achieve realisation with others.

    It’s not just that. The line in our constitution, which comes from the Liberal Party constitution, about “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” is surely making it clear that we believe there are other barriers to freedom apart from state laws and taxation. So-called “economic liberals” often seem to be suggesting that the only possible thing that could restrict freedom is the state. This is clearly a ludicrous standpoint, though I think one that is easier to get misled into if you have led a privileged or sheltered life.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “So-called “economic liberals” often seem to be suggesting that the only possible thing that could restrict freedom is the state. This is clearly a ludicrous standpoint, though I think one that is easier to get misled into if you have led a privileged or sheltered life.”

    This simply isn’t true, but yet another example of someone trying to equate economic liberalism with libertarianism.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd May '15 - 11:05am

    A big part of the issue is that most ordinary people don’t think of politics in strong “left-right” terms. In part this is due to the success of the political right in pushing the line that all politicians are a privileged elite, therefore if you are of the left politically you should be against politics and politicians, therefore either you should not vote or you should support small-state parties i.e. the political right. They have managed to push poorer people who have enough life experience not to fall for the second of these positions to the first of them.

    However, in part also I think it is due to the complacency of the political left. They have often assumed their ideas are so naturally correct that they don’t have to actively campaign for them. Indeed, this is what we saw in the 2015 general election, all along as I predicted. Labour’s main tactic was to jeer “nah nah nah nah nah” at the Liberal Democrats in particular, assuming that would bring a big batch of LibDem voters to them, and that was enough to win. As I said would happen, its main effect was to help the Tories by destroying us in the place where we were challenging the Tories and Labour couldn’t.

    Most ordinary people seem to think they can have the best of the left and the best of the right combined, and think politicians are bad people for not providing it. This is what happened with the Coalition: people seemed to think it could combine Liberal Democrat policies of stronger support for state services and Conservative policies of low taxes, and were angry when that didn’t happen. As I kept saying, people thought we were bad because we did not stick to our “pledge” on tuition fees, but hardly anyone making that point even mentioned the issue of payment for state subsidy of universities. That was ridiculous, because that was the nub of the issue, the Conservatives would never have agreed to higher taxes to subsidise universities, so keeping to the pledge would have to have been done by having even bigger cuts in government expenditure than what we have seen, and people are angry at us for supporting what we did have.

    On both sides, the PR-people who run political campaign seem to think they must be like selling a product, so you say all the good things about it and none of the bad. This lead to the idea that you can have the best of both sides on all issues, and to a lack of proper understanding of the balancing factors. Again, it benefits the political right as we saw. If the left moan about “the cuts” but do not honestly admit that better public services will require higher taxation, the right can play the card that any call for higher taxation is just “politics of envy”, “attack on entrepreneurs” and so on.

    My belief is that the best way to support entrepreneurs is a strong welfare state so that people feel they can afford to take risks, controls on large organisations whose power of scale makes it almost impossible in many areas for small enterprises to break through, and a shift of taxation to the “idle rich”. That is, almost the exact opposite of the Tory line on this matter. Yet I saw hardly anyone challenging the dubious assumptions of the Tory line. Oh no, Labour was far to busy jeering “nah nah nah nah nah”, and the official Liberal Democrat position was far too much “us too” to that Tory line.

    I think we can see the results. Entrepreneurialism is restricted to a small elite class of people, those with wealthy enough a background that they can afford to take risks, and the elite contacts necessary to get established and make progress. The potential that is there in most of the people of this country who aren’t of that class is lost. In the uncertainty of the dog-eat-dog world the Tories are pushing, unless you are wealthy your best bet is to seek the security of a safe job, not to take risks and be an entrepreneur. But again, was anyone saying this?

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd May '15 - 11:18am

    In further response to Adrian, no, I am not a Marxist, because I do not believe in that crazy Marxist idea that somehow if some group takes power and says it is the representatives of the working class, somehow it actually will be forever and ever generation after generation. I do not believe in the further extension of this idea that there is always some divinely-ordained Party of the working class, always just one, and so that whatever it is, it must have monopoly of power, and if it does it will somehow “wither away” and everyone will be naturally free. Yet that is the basis even of the Labour Party, it is why they are content with the two-party system, why they feel they do not need to actively campaign to win people over to their views, why they so despise us and wanted to destroy us, even if, as it did, it gave back full power to the Tories.

    I strongly disagree with the Leninist model of political party, and I am very sorry to see that this model now seems to have been universally adopted. The Leninist model says a party must be a “strong” top-down organisation, dominated by its Leader, with the purpose of the party to devise long-term policy plans, seize power, and then just use the formal elected assembly as a token talking shop while real power and decision-making is in the hands of The Party and The Leader. The liberal democratic model of a political party as a network, as a mechanism for people to get together and promote some of their number as representatives in the democratic assembly, and for that assembly to be the place where policies are made in active consultation with the people, has been lost.

    Which of these models did the Liberal Democrats come across as being about in our election campaigning this election and last, and in what material was put out from the top? What is wrong with us? Why can’t we promote liberal democracy?

  • Katerina Porter 22nd May '15 - 12:29pm

    There was a book published in 2009 and 2010 – The Spirit Level – which using UN statistics found the more equal a society the more it was better on many counts, such as longevity even for the richer. When as leader David Cameron had mentioned this book I felt cheerful about the coalition. Alas, it was not much applied.

  • Paul Scriven, “We must start with our Economic Liberalism that government should not try to control prices, rents, and, or wages but instead let open competition and demand and supply create an equilibrium between them that benefits the vast majority of citizens.”

    So lets start at the start. It’s a grand idea, but does any party really espouse what you suggest? The conservatives plan to further limit the power of unions to call strikes. A glaring market intervention. There are laws forbidding the use of violence to destroy manufacturers property, when workers and management reach impasse. Equally, managers aren’t allowed to hire thugs to attack workers loved ones and blackmail them back to work, or chain them to their workbenches. Workers aren’t allowed to take what they think they are owed from managers homes. Massive squads of police and then soldiers are held in readiness to impose intervention on the free market.

    I make these comments very seriously, because just where do you stop if you believe in a truly free market? Historically all these interventions, laws, rules of behaviour, have been made for the good of all, but every one of them tramples on a free market. If you believe in a law against theft, then you have broken the free market and cannot pretend otherwise. It becomes a question of what background regulation you put in place to get the best result. Best for who?

    A few posters above mentioned housing, though most did not. On the one hand this is a simple thing completely free from intervention of international business. We absolutely control what we decide to build, the building industry cannot relocate abroad, houses remain where they were built. Yet on the other it is one of the most controlled and interfered with markets in the nation, which has massive consequence for every single one of us, has distorted world economics, and caused the 2008 recession. More boom and busts linked to the housing market are guaranteed unless it is reformed. Yet….nothing is done. Successive governments have connived at this intervention for reasons of short term political gain, and usually against national interest.

    Fundamentally there is plenty of land in the Uk, and a free market would suggest people be allowed to make up their own minds how to use it. Yet we forbid this. Having made the most glaring intervention possible by artificially restricting the availability of land for building, we then claim it is evil to interfere in the housing market with other, lesser measures to restrict cost. On the contrary, if we choose to artificially restrict supply then we must also introduce rationing of one sort or another, but not by ability to pay. The free market solution says the greatest good is found by not intervening. I can see how there would be massive increases in disposable wealth and standard of living of the great majority of UK citizens if we were allowed to build homes for ourselves. Just imagine, spend half as much in your lifetime on housing.

    If you still insist on intervening in this market, then ensure the cost to the many is financed from the benefits to the few. My mortgage is twice what it might have been? who got that money? housing is a key issue of our times, and every party is quite deliberately ignoring it for fear of key interest groups which might swing a block of votes.

    If going on about this truly basic need for society isn’t enough, somewhere affordable to live, lets try another issue. Education. Clue is there to be seen…just where were those politicians educated? And in those 70’s when wealth was more equal, wasn’t that the foundation of the era of grammar school prime ministers? It happens I have seen a little of the inner workings of state schools these days. Its all about budgets, nothing about pupil education. There are performance targets, for which you get cash incentives, maybe the difference between your school being abolished and personally out of a job if you are perceived to fail. Drive up standards? not a bit. Drive up cheating! It isnt a question of helping pupils to learn, but virtually writing their answers for them. Get those certificates with the right grades on them and everyone is happy. Parents, schools, government. Doesnt matter if they didnt deserves to pass. If they get the piece of paper, needn’t hire expensive good teachers, needn’t teach anything. Ofsted? they need to show they are being tough and driving up standards….more passes…. Government wants good results, no difficult questions asked. It’ll be the problem of a new parliament before any long term studies can spot a trend.

    Several local schools are bust and frankly awful. Take them collectively and miraculously they are ‘average’. If everyone is awful, then everyone is also average. Result!

    This is a national disaster we have sleepwalked into for decades. Immigrants needed to meet skills shortages? More housing demand. The British approach to education has been a mix of central control of the institutions themselves, but a complete lack of control on what is being taught and to what real effect. Easy subject, media studies? That’s great. Don’t worry about trying to do science, let the Indians do it, or the Germans. Never mind, the elite can always fall back on private education. Save the cost of an effective state system, or the challenge it might produce to that elite if it really delivered the goods.

    I could go on with a very long list. it might be thought all these failings by government suggest that intervention does not work. On the contrary, we live in an era of half hearted intervention, a balance between necessity of providing education and housing and health care, and a reluctance to commit to doing it properly. Something of a contrast to the era when the state did providecheap housing, did provide schools to rival the private ones, and did create the NHS from scratch.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '15 - 8:01am

    TCO

    @Matthew Huntbach “So-called “economic liberals” often seem to be suggesting that the only possible thing that could restrict freedom is the state. This is clearly a ludicrous standpoint, though I think one that is easier to get misled into if you have led a privileged or sheltered life.”

    This simply isn’t true, but yet another example of someone trying to equate economic liberalism with libertarianism.

    I said “often seem to be suggesting”, meaning it can come across as that. I did not write “often suggest”.

  • @Danny

    “in those 70’s when wealth was more equal, wasn’t that the foundation of the era of grammar school prime ministers?”
    “Save the cost of an effective state system, or the challenge it might produce to that elite if it really delivered the goods. ”
    “Something of a contrast to the era when the state … did provide schools to rival the private ones”

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s admissions to private schools were falling and were at around 4%. Since the 1980s admissions to private schools have grown to 7% and are still rising even at a time when fee inflation far outstrips wages.

    Why is that? Its simple – the abolition of Grammar Schools.

    Grammar Schools provided a state education to rival the best of the private schools; indeed the Direct Grant schools in the main went back to being private schools when selective education was abolished.

    The Grammar School system was destroyed by a combination of three forces:

    – left wing egalitarians (exemplified by Williams and Crosland – both privately-educated let’s not forget)
    – supporters of private education worried it was being eclipsed by the state system
    – middle class parents worried their children would lose out to bright children from poorer backgrounds

    At present (unless you live in Kent or Buckinghamshire) the state system offers you every choice except academic selection. Those parents who want it, and have the wherewithal (an increasingly small number as private education in this country becomes the preserve of the international rich) go private.

    If we really want a state system that everyone buys into then we have to reintroduce academically selective schools (in concert with well funded schools with other specialisms, including technical schools).

    In the 1960s and 1970s parents didn’t spend money on fees when they had a grammar school. That is still the case today, except most grammar schools are “super-grammars”, such as the one in Reading, which has 700 applicants for 120 places. Why not create 700 places?

  • @Matthew Huntbach “I said “often seem to be suggesting”, meaning it can come across as that. I did not write “often suggest”.”

    Economic Liberals are not responsible for the erroneous interpretations placed on their position by others, often for the purposes of tainting by association. I don’t include you in this number but there are plenty of posters here who do this.

  • Richard Underhill 24th May '15 - 4:14pm

    If David Penhaligon. were alive today he would probably be leader, a leadership candidate or an ex-leader.

    Thinking in left-right terms is as two dimensional as a swingometer and as obsolete as the National Assembly at the time of the French Revolution.

    David Marquand used to politely ask us
    “Where does it make room for the enviroment, or for femininsim? …?”
    He returned to the Labour Party and academia.

  • “….In the 1960s and 1970s parents didn’t spend money on fees when they had a grammar school.”

    Which is of course why public schools and all other fee-paying schools went out of existence in the 1970s.

    That was why David Cameron attended a state secondary modern school when he failed his eleven-plus exam.

    TCO — just because you write something does not make it a fact. You might like to check the percentage of children who attended fee-paying schools in 1979 with the percentage who attend fee-paying schools today and see if that justifies your assertion.

  • @Tristan Ward “Another is: in every election since 1979 (Thatcher x3, Major, Blair x3, Tory/Lib Dem coalition, Cameron) parties offering econmonic liberalism of one form or another have formed the resulting government.

    You may draw your own conclusions.”

    Quite.

    And I believe social attitude surveys indicate that “Generation Y” are far more Liberal (in all senses) than the generation above them (Boomers).

  • @John Tilley “Which is of course why public schools and all other fee-paying schools went out of existence in the 1970s.

    That was why David Cameron attended a state secondary modern school when he failed his eleven-plus exam.

    TCO — just because you write something does not make it a fact. You might like to check the percentage of children who attended fee-paying schools in 1979 with the percentage who attend fee-paying schools today and see if that justifies your assertion.”

    John you may like to check your facts. By 1979 Grammar Schools were all but abolished – I should know, my father taught in one and it went Comprehensive in 1979. Hence David Cameron. who is 2 years older than me, would have been unable to go to a state grammar school, because unless he was growing up in Kent, Buckinghamshire or Lincolnshire they would have been comprehensive schools.

    Public and other fee-paying schools were able to recover in the 1970s because grammar schools were being closed.

    in the 1960s there had been a decline in numbers of pupils at independent schools probably down to bedrock. Most parents by then realised they could get a similar quality of education at a grammar school and only paid if there was some other driver (family tradition, for example, or a desire for their children to board).

    “The number of state grammar schools peaked at almost 1,300 in the mid-1960s when around one-quarter of all pupils in state secondaries attended grammars. Their number started falling soon after. The fastest period of decline was the 1970s; between 1971 and 1978 650 grammar schools closed. The proportion of pupils in grammars fell to below 20% in the early 1970s, below 10% in the mid-1970s and has been 5% or less from the late 1970s onwards.”

    http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01398/SN01398.pdf

    “•There are now record numbers of pupils at 1,267 ISC member schools – 517,113 pupils, the highest level since records began in 1974.”

    http://www.isc.co.uk/research

    In 1978 the number of pupils in private education was below 5%; it then rose steadily to around 7% as seen today

    http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn106.pdf

    Just because you write something does not make it fact.

  • @John Tilley did you attend a grammar school?

  • Heres a story. I was in school, must have been a chemistry lesson. It was the day after the general election. A cheer went up from the prep room, where they had been listening to the news, that Shirley Williams had lost her seat. Architect of the demise of the grammar school, which is where we sat. My grammar was abolished by Thatcher, amusingly enough, who did it by abolishing the county borough, which had resisted all labour blandishments to go comprehensive. The conservative county council then proceeded to dispose of the grammar it inherited, and the councillors who came to a public meeting to announce this nearly got lynched. Democracy in action, eh?

    There was a lot of high flown rhetoric at the time about extending the advantages enjoyed by grammar pupils to all. It may be the case the grammar pupils enjoyed unfair advantages, and an arbitrary decision consigned one child to a decent education, and the next to a bad one. I dont know if Shirley Williams has commented on what she expected might happen next, as compared to what did.

    As I see it, there was a readjustment of resources, but the aim in mind was equality, not excellence. As a result, we now have the era of average performance and schools measure success by reaching the average. I see many things wrong with the system, but this practically exemplifies what is wrong. If every school seeks to achieve the average, and no school seeks to be the best, then the only result possible is that the average must fall. And that is what we have seen and continue to see. There have been several critical steps along the way. The abolition of independently marked examinations, in favour of continuous assessment marked by the exact same staff who have a vested interest in passing their own pupils with the highest possible grades. Examination boards competing to write easier exams, so as to sell their services to schools needing passes. Schools being rewarded or punished directly on examination results statistics, which take little account of excellent results as compared to bare passes, and penalise them for pupils who attempt exams but fall short. Governments who want school inspection reports saying how well everything is going. Inspectors who bend over backwards and practically collude with schools in giving the highest possible assessment reports. No direction in the educational system to encourage pupils to take courses in subjects most needed by the country. The long delay between changes to the system and outcomes, which means no one responsible for a change is remotely likely to be in power when the results are seen.

    This is becoming a diversion from the topic of this thread onto one aspect, but I think it an important one. We are in danger of falling into anational spiral of collapse on the lines of ‘for want of a nail the shoe was lost’.

  • @Danny thank you that was most thought provoking. This is a subject which does deserve its own thread. Sadly I fear it will disappear from this one.

  • My first experience of political campaigning was delivering leaflets aged 10 in Ecclesall (Sheffield Hallam) against the abolition of grammar schools. My father, a life-long Liberal and Chairman of the Sheffield Liberals for a while, was a passionate supporter of grammar schools. He even voted Tory in 1968 because they promised to halt the abolition but then they got control of the council and carried on with the Labour policy. So he went back to the Liberals and stood in Ecclesall in a by-election shortly before he died in 1977. I was in the last year to take the 11+ in Sheffield.

    Interestingly, YouGov asked a question about Grammar schools last week and 44% of current Lib Dem voters would like to see more grammar schools, vs 22% who would like to see less
    https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/gxvihxoixc/SundayTimesResults_150515_Website.pdf

  • @Andrew what’s bizarre about that survey is that many more people are in favour of existing grammar schools expanding by opening new campuses than want new grammar schools. There’s a clear majority even amongst Labour voters. Why be in favour of expanding them when they’re an offshoot of an existing school but not if they’re a completely new school? it makes no sense to me.

    I am slightly surprised at the support in favour amongst Lib Dem voters, but perhaps I shouldn’t be, as I’ve long believed the vocal minority of commenters here are unrepresentative of the membership, let alone the party’s voters.

  • @TCO
    I think people are in favour of successful schools expanding… They see that the grammar schools are successful and wish they could get their kids into them. I think they would be in favour of successful comprehensives (generally ones that adopt streaming, I would say in my biased way!) expanding too…

    Personally I think the move to “child-centred education” in primary schools was the big mistake. Certainly University students that I teach have very poor powers of concentration, and I have always suspected the roots lie in primary education…

    Where I am about to move in Kirklees there is one state-funded grammar school (Heckmondwike), and there are two in Calderdale. There is also a very successful 6th form college in Huddersfield (Greenhead College), which has some of the best A-level results in the UK, and acts in many ways like a grammar school (their admissions policy for students from outside Huddersfield is a bit murky and is, I suspect, selective…). There has been no move in Kirklees or Calderdale to abolish these schools that I am aware of, and I am not sure how they survived

  • A Social LIberal 24th May '15 - 11:42pm

    Let me tell you about my local grammar schools, one for girls and one for boys. The only people who get into the school have a shed load of dosh because the selection process necessitates the use of tutors – so much for not being enslaved by poverty.

    Now, you might imagine this means that children from wealthy families in my town are flooding both schools, but not a bit of it. Only twenty eight percent of the cohort from both schools are selected from within the catchemnt area – TWENTY EIGHT PERCENT ! ! !

    So much for grammar schools being a step up for our brightest – they are an institution for the wealthy and privilaged.

  • I am afraid that the criticism of grammar schools on the basis of wealth and privileged applies in spades to comprehensive schools, and always has. In Leeds the same house costs up to 3 times as much in the catchment area of a “good school”. This is a much bigger investment than that required to hire a private tutor. And as TCO has pointed out the truly rich are paying enormous fees in private schools. Meanwhile the “bad schools” in the inner city and East Leeds have a tiny A-level participation rate.

    I am not sure what point you are trying to make about 28% from the catchment area.. The concept of a catchment area for a grammar school is a strange one.. But of course if the number of grammar school places is tiny in an area, then it becomes ridiculously hard to get in.

    Comprehensive schools have resulted in an educational apartheid in most British cities. In the days of grammar schools the educated middle class were much more dispersed (you can see that by the way the Tories used to win seats in Leeds like Hunslet and Beeston where they now get tiny votes). Now they all move into the popular school catchments as quickly as they can, making big financial sacrifices to afford the more expensive houses. Comprehensive schools have reinforced the divisions in British society, and driven house price inflation.

    When I went to grammar school significant numbers of kids from poor backgrounds did get into them, without hiring private tutors. Not enough, I will freely admit, but more children from really disadvantaged areas succeeded than do in the comprehensive system. It is a sad fact in this country that the key to success is often to get out of your peer group, whatever socialists may pretend. The mistake was the inflexibility of the system, with a single point of entry at age 11 based on a single way of measuring intelligence

  • TCO
    Child centred learning came in in the 1960’s in the wake of the Plowden report (which did many good things like nursery education as well). This was when times tables were dismissed as “rote learning”, grammar and spelling were abandoned and every child had his or her own curriculum. Chalk and talk and sitting in desks facing the front all disappeared. Strangely, streaming on the basis of aptitude (which always seemed child-centred to me!) was also abandoned in favour of mixed ability teaching, and many classrooms became dominated by a handful of disruptive children.

    The Nuffield Mathematics project was a classic example http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/nuffield-primary-mathematics-1964 If you read that, it is obvious why it would appeal to Liberals. Unfortunately it did not work. If you want to see what DOES work, look up the Khan Academy

    Much of this has been rolled back (generally in spite of opposition from teachers), but the ideas of experiential learning still hold sway. Well, actually, I think it can work well, but it requires exceptionally good teachers, and a lot of resource to cope with individual disruptive children. Unfortunately, exceptionally good teachers are unusual – most are just normal people like everyone else. In the best schools there is a mixture of discovery and learning. And I also think the National Curriculum is far too prescriptive in areas outside basic literacy and numeracy – but in those areas we cannot afford a free-for-all.

  • A Social LIberal 25th May '15 - 2:28am

    Strange that, Andrew. Of the two comprehensive schools in my area, one has a fantastic reputation. Check out where South Craven school is and look at the house prices in and around the school compared with prices in Skipton, Addingham or Ilkley.

    Yes, parents do try and use their wealth unjustly in getting their children into comprehensives, just another application of the ‘I’m alright Jack’ attitude of too many wealthy people – but they are nowhere near as inequitous as grammar schools.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 7:37am

    Trevor Stables 19th May ’15 – 1:31pm
    One thing is clear why would we continue with Orange Bookism? We lost two thirds of our voters! We need to regain our campaigning Liberalism that aims to change the Status Quo. We should put aside any talk of coalitions until and unless fair voting is achieved.

    Quite right Trevor. Orange bookism will be viewed by history as a misguided chapter in the long history of this party. A divisive and dead end detour away from the path of mainstream British Liberalism at a time when the Liberal Democrats would otherwise probably have been on the verge of a major breakthrough. Argh!

    A lesson for all reforming parties to ignore the siren voices of the economic right. Time to compost the Orange Book and its economic neo-Conservative aims.

  • @A Social Liberal “Let me tell you about my local grammar schools, one for girls and one for boys. The only people who get into the school have a shed load of dosh because the selection process necessitates the use of tutors – so much for not being enslaved by poverty.”

    And the reason for this is because you only have one grammar school – effectively a super grammar – serving a large reason. If you had grammar schools at the level they were pre-abolition (roughly 33%) the need for tutors would fall away as there would be sufficient places for those that needed them.

    “Now, you might imagine this means that children from wealthy families in my town are flooding both schools, but not a bit of it. Only twenty eight percent of the cohort from both schools are selected from within the catchemnt area – TWENTY EIGHT PERCENT ! ! ! ”

    Same reason as above. Wealthy people from outside catchment go there because its the only grammar school for miles around. Provide more grammars, one in every locality as pre 1979, and this falls away.

    “So much for grammar schools being a step up for our brightest – they are an institution for the wealthy and privileged [sic].”

    Again – provide grammars up to the level they were pre-1979 and this argument falls away.

  • @Stephen Hesketh “A lesson for all reforming parties to ignore the siren voices of the economic right. Time to compost the Orange Book and its economic neo-Conservative aims.”

    You don’t appear to have read the Orange Book because very few of its recommendations were made party policy.

    So, to paraphrase Ghandi, when we say what do we think of Orange Book policies, we should reply “it would be a good idea (to try them)”.

  • @Andrew I agree totally. The comprehensive school apologists in this country are often the ones who went to grammar schools and didn’t have to suffer them themselves, as I did.

    They also ignore the “selection by house-price” argument which, as you say, has driven huge social apartheid in our towns and cities over the last 35 years.

    The arguments levelled against grammar schools can be dealt with easily:

    – provision for 33% of the population
    – assessment/reassessment at interim stages not just at 11, and mobility both ways
    – investment in community, technical and specialist schools

    Grammar schools were a hugely liberal force, helping many not to be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity. They provided a life-changing opportunity for children from very poor backgrounds to develop their potential way beyond the life-journey that had been mapped out for them because of their background, and the example of the sorts of directions they could take their life that had no role models in the communities from which they came.

    Sadly most such children today have to suffer the low standards and expectations of the “comprehensive” schools in the areas that the wealthy have abandoned.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 8:47am

    Amongst the many excellent posts in this thread (all in opposition to the main proposition), I would especially commend that of Bill le Breton 21st May ’15 – 8:49am but the entire thread is worth a relaxed Public Holiday read.

    Paul Scriven writes “From the off let’s be clear, the UK has a centre left party called the Labour Party and a centre right party too; the Conservative Party. If this is the case then why are some in the Liberal Democrats talking about a move to the left and some a move to the right? I personally don’t get that debate.”

    In truth this is nothing more than an argument for us to accept both the imaginary post 1979 consensus and to fix the never constitutionally tested nor accepted conversion of this party to a continental style liberal party ala Clegg, Reeves, Laws, Browne, Marshall, Scriven etc.

    Like the infamous book and the closely associated Liberal Reform grouping, the idea of adding many of the tenets of neo-conservativism to ordinary Liberalism and naming it ‘Four Cornered Liberalism’ never found wider acceptance amongst the main body of the membership in the country.

    The entire experiment should now be humanely laid to rest.

    Not left, not right, not orange bookery, not four cornered liberalism – just mainstream Preamble Liberal Democracy.

  • @Andrew “This was when times tables were dismissed as “rote learning”, grammar and spelling were abandoned and every child had his or her own curriculum. Chalk and talk and sitting in desks facing the front all disappeared. Strangely, streaming on the basis of aptitude (which always seemed child-centred to me!) was also abandoned in favour of mixed ability teaching, and many classrooms became dominated by a handful of disruptive children.”

    You’ve just described my educational experience (1974-87) perfectly.

  • @Stephen Hesketh “Not left, not right, not orange bookery, not four cornered liberalism – just mainstream Preamble Liberal Democracy.”

    And how does adding economic liberalism to social, personal and political liberalism deviate from the tenets in the preamble, Stephen?

    There is nothing in the preamble which argues that every public service has to be provided by the state. There is a provision that states that markets should be free where possible and that regulation is required where necessary. Find me an economic liberal who doesn’t agree with any of that.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 9:28am

    Green Liberals – 5 cornered liberalism?
    LGBT Liberals – 6 cornered liberalism?
    Social Justice Liberals – 7 cornered liberalism?

    No, we don’t do it! We are all mainstream Liberals.

    Just as with ‘Reclaiming Liberalism’, four cornered liberalism was an attempt to fundamentally change the nature of this party. The lack of transparency and democratic agreement does much to shine a light on what was being attempted and the techniques being used to achieve it. But then again you know all that … … …

  • John Roffey 25th May '15 - 9:31am

    TCO 25th May ’15 – 8:55am

    “There is nothing in the preamble which argues that every public service has to be provided by the state. There is a provision that states that markets should be free where possible and that regulation is required where necessary. Find me an economic liberal who doesn’t agree with any of that.”

    Since, as Stephen says, there is likely to be more time for discussion today and it is the issue which has, and still is, dividing the Party. Do you accept that Health Care, Education and Welfare should be provided by the State – if not the State then by whom?

  • @John Roffey I believe that high quality health, education and welfare should be provided to all citizens and that it is free at the point of use.

  • @Stephen Hesketh “Just as with ‘Reclaiming Liberalism’, four cornered liberalism was an attempt to fundamentally change the nature of this party. The lack of transparency and democratic agreement does much to shine a light on what was being attempted and the techniques being used to achieve it. But then again you know all that … … …”

    Sorry, but I just don’t buy this conspiracy theory. Economic liberalism has been a tradition in this party for as long as this party has existed. The balance to which it has been in or out of favour has changed over time much as any other strand of opinion.

    This seems to have more to do with your desire to perpetuate a certain “pure” and mythical standpoint than it does with reality.

  • @John Roffey and I should add that these services should be funded by progressive taxation.

  • TCO. “…… By 1979 Grammar Schools were all but abolished –
    unless … in Kent, Buckinghamshire or Lincolnshire they would have been comprehensive schools.”

    TCO – In answer to your direct question – I went to a grammar school between 1963 and 1970.

    My children who are decades younger than you also went to local grammar schools even though we have never lived in Kent, Buckingamshire or Lincolnshire.

    Your original assertion was that —
    “….In the 1960s and 1970s parents didn’t spend money on fees when they had a grammar school.”

    Your later comment says that in 1978 a mere 5% of children attended fee-paying schools at the time when you say most grammar schools had already been abolished. The figure is still only 7% today — so no evidence of a major switch during the last 35 years.

    So there is clearly no significant link between the abolition of grammar schools before 1978 and the number of children whose parents pay for their education.

    It is one of those myths that some politicians throw around but it has little or no basis in fact. It is usually Conservative politicians that promote the myth although I notice that nowadays UKIP also share in this.

    In a thread that started with Paul Scriven urging Liberal Democrats to be “very clear about who we are” –
    you seem to be very clear about who you are on the subject of secondary education, you seem to be lined up with rightwing Conservatives and UKIP.

  • John Roffey 25th May '15 - 9:42am

    TCO 25th May ’15 – 9:34am
    ” I believe that high quality health, education and welfare should be provided to all citizens and that it is free at the point of use.”

    Housing?

  • @John Roffey “Housing?” I believe that the state has a duty to provide access to housing appropriate to a person’s needs as a safety net.

    But enough of my views – and I’ve been direct in answering them – what about yours?

  • John Roffey 25th May '15 - 9:58am

    TCO 25th May ’15 – 9:48am

    “But enough of my views – and I’ve been direct in answering them – what about yours?”

    I have agreed with your view on Health, Education and Welfare.

    On housing – I don’t disagree significantly. The next question is more tricky.

    How should free Healthcare, Education, Welfare and Social Housing be paid for?

  • TCO I am unsure whether you were around when the Constitution and its preamble were drafted and approved, but we were still under the direct shadow of Thatcher at the time, and there was absolutely no way that the Party, even though newly merged / formed would encompass any concepts related to thatcherism, such as what has been called economic liberalism. Certainly the emergence of the Liberals in the 19th Century from “Whigs Peelites and Radicals” contained the commitment to free trade, and the Liberal Party has rarely been very keen on protectionist policies. But right through from Gladstone, there has been a commitment to public service (s) and to regulation to ensure people are treated fairly especially those with no power or voice. The 1990s saw the growth of this so-called “economic liberalism”, which I think a lot of us more traditional Liberals / Lib Dems see as an accommodation with Thatcherite capitalism – not the same as mainstream postwar capitalism at all This was very similar, and mirrored, the move to nuLabour by that party. I fully agree with Stephen Hesketh’s implication that the Preamble did not envisage this “economic liberalism” as compatible with the aims of the Lib Dems. It would appear that the candidates for the Labour leadership have been once again seduced by siren calls of “aspiration” etc and will move away from the timid attempts by Miliband to define and discourage predatory capitalism, perhaps similar to what Ted Heath earlier described as “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. I was fascinated to hear a Tory – I can’t remember who – commenting on election night that “the electorate has firmly rejected a move back to the 70s”.

    We urgently need a reassessment of how things worked prior to 1975, in order to move on to a balanced globalisation, one that properly recognises the wrecking potential of climate change and other environmental threats, burgeoning global inequality etc. We already see some growing effects – the increase in conflict worldwide, and growing mass movements of people and the consequent anger of settled populations. As liberals, and Liberal Democrats, we are internationalists – we could never accept that we pull up drawbridges, pretend there aren’t problems out there, and that we, personally, may not have to make some sacrifices. That role will be taken by the Ukippers of this world. I agreed with Nick Clegg – we do need the debate with them, but it needs to be much wider than the limited economic ground he decided to fight with Farage.

  • @John Tilley “TCO – In answer to your direct question – I went to a grammar school between 1963 and 1970.

    My children who are decades younger than you also went to local grammar schools even though we have never lived in Kent, Buckingamshire or Lincolnshire. ”

    So both you and your children benefitted from a grammar school education, yet you want to deny that to others. There is a word for that, but I can’t use it on this forum.

    There are a few “super-grammars” outside of these fully-selective authorities but demand for them is so high that only a few get in. The one closest to me in Reading has roughly 700 applications for 150 places. c200 pass to get on the acceptance list and the 150 places are then allocated on the basis of closeness to the school.

    The reason that still only 7% of pupils are privately educated when demand is much higher is to do with the relative rates of fee inflation and wages – as you will see from the graphs in the information to which I linked.

    “you seem to be very clear about who you are on the subject of secondary education, you seem to be lined up with rightwing Conservatives and UKIP.”

    In which case Andrew and the all the other Liberal Democrats (more than half of our voters support retaining them or opening new ones) who also support grammar school education are there with me.

  • @John Roffey lets cut to the chase.

    We both agree that services should be free at the point of use and paid for by general progressive taxation.

    Our differences it would seem are that you believe that equates to state provision – ie state employees in state-run enterprises – in all cases and I don’t. I would argue my position is more Liberal given that it is more pluralistic and diverse than yours.

  • @Tim 13 “I fully agree with Stephen Hesketh’s implication that the Preamble did not envisage this “economic liberalism” as compatible with the aims of the Lib Dems”

    But there is nothing in the preamble that actually states that economic liberalism (which you equate to Thatcherism but which isn’t – that’s a straw man argument) is incompatible with it.

    What, in effect you are using is the humpty dumpty argument – “words mean what I say they mean”. The preamble is worded in a way that leaves much if not most of it open to interpretation – the example of free markets where possible and regulation where necessary is a good one. It all hinges on what’s deemed to be possible and what’s deemed to be necessary.

  • Tim13 25th May ’15 – 9:59am

    “in order to move on to a balanced globalisation”

    How can this be achieved when there is no global regulatory force governing global corporations?

  • “…more than half of our voters support retaining them or opening new ones…”

    Did you have to remind us of how few people actually vote Liberal Democrat since your lot captured the top of the party?

    Does it really help your case to say that around half of the 8% who voted Liberal Democrat in 2015, when the overall turnout was only 66%, agree with you?

    Are you bidding for the title of “Mr 4%” ?

  • @John Roffey I’m curious. I accept that you had no choice in the question of where you went to school, yet despite being against them you chose to send your children to grammar schools. Why was that?

  • Apologies – that should have been to John Tilley not John Roffey.

  • TCO I couldn’t agree more with your contention that the Preamble was worded in a way that allowed different interpretations! It was hotly contested at the time, but I do not remember “economic liberals” as now called, doing the contesting. Some of the main issues were whether we accept NATO as an organisation we should directly endorse, and, of course, the nuclear weapons and whether we endorse that. Personally, I have been very dubious of the movement in the Lib Dems over the last 15 years or so of “free markets where possible and regulation where necessary” and its concomitant argument about “market failure”. Markets are like the curate’s egg, they have good points and bad. My view would be that we have allowed markets (actually some very rich and powerful people, because let’s not pretend that markets are freely determined as things stand!) to swing too much, and democracy – people’s direct choices, if you like, too little in recent years.

    John Roffey There is the World Trade Organisation of course. I know it has a) not worked effectively / at all in recent years, and b) Does not overtly represent the overt views of people in democracies, let alone a global democracy.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 10:34am

    TCO 25th May ’15 – 9:36am
    “Economic liberalism has been a tradition in this party for as long as this party has existed. The balance to which it has been in or out of favour has changed over time much as any other strand of opinion.”

    No problem with that TCO (whoever or whatever you plan to be today) so in that case why seek to elevate it above what it has always been?

    You may wish to call it a ‘conspiracy theory’ but it was certainly a narrative the party was being led into by the inner circle. Not sure if it was you or Richard Reeves who suggested that all the traditional Liberal Radicals should go off and join Labour.

    Evolution is also only a theory!

  • TCO 25th May ’15 – 10:03am

    “We both agree that services should be free at the point of use and paid for by general progressive taxation.

    Our differences it would seem are that you believe that equates to state provision – ie state employees in state-run enterprises – in all cases and I don’t. I would argue my position is more Liberal given that it is more pluralistic and diverse than yours.”

    The tricky part is that the government is spending more each year than it receives to the tune of close to £100bn – without the additional costs we have agreed for Health, Education, Welfare and Housing. ‘Progressive tax’ sounds fine – but from where would you collect the additional tax?

    I do recognise the dangers of ‘state employees in state-run enterprises’ – my preference would be for state co-operatives which would help to keep employees on their toes.

  • @Tim13 the banking crash was a good example of regulatory failure. Similarly, much of the problems with increasing accumulation of wealth are to do with failure of regulation, not least company law.

    But coming back to the preamble, I think there are two issues here. The first is that people such as Stephen Hesketh believe the preamble defines an in group (of which he is a member) and an out group (of which I am not). Whereas in truth the preamble does not clearly define who’s in an who’s out.

    Secondly, as the world has moved on in the last 25 years how we might interpret that wording must also move on – much as most people don’t interpret the bible literally any more.

  • To me, as an un ashamed left-libertarian and economic liberal, that is certainly not a contradiction in terms. There’s a lot in here and I’m sorry I haven’t read through the entire thread on my phone – I got about half way down before RBourne mentioned LVT. Which is a concern.

    If liberalism is about setting limits on power, and countering unjust power and influence, then the one thing nobody has done for a hundred years is to address the “power in the land”. Throughout history, those who have controlled the land control the nation, both politically and economically. We may have damaged its political direct influence through universal suffrage and spreading ownership – in theory in this latter case at least if not in practice as we have just seen in the general election giveaways of Osborne and crew. But in a hundred years we have made so little progress on the economic power of the land we should be outraged. It is the fundamental power imbalance in our economy.

    Treated correctly we can have a free market, low or no taxes, no or much reduced need for interventions like wage fixing (because th problem is not so much low wages as high costs – especially of land/economic rent – the mistake Miliband made in misunderstanding “predistribution”). We can reduce the power of bankers through the market – if there is less land value to lend against they have less to play their casino capitalism with. We can reduce the villainy of rental landlords through the market – by recovering the rent they’ve never earned and so making them compete on quality rather than location.

    In fact, policies like minimum and living wages insofar as they actually increase the amount of money in people’s control are counterproductive. If, as David Ricardo showed in the early days of political liberalism, all taxes come out of rent eventually, and all surpluses end up in rent eventually, giving people more money (or rather forcing productive employers to squeeze margins between increasing rent and increasing wages) will eventually increase aggregate rents leaving those we tried to benefit in the same situation as ever but with higher rents and higher rates of dependency on assistance.

    We have tended to underestimate the potential of this, seeing “LVT” as just another tax in a portfolio of taxes. When in fact, collecting rent instead of taxing labour or capital, creates a very different economy. Depending on your view on state provision of goods and services (I’d prefer none and I suspect after LVT people would realise we just don’t need quite as much, if not quite getting to the “none” stage) there’s enough rent in the ecoomy to pay a citizens dividend of around £10k per year per man woman and child in the country. Or, say, if you really want to fund a state service sector about the size we have today a didivden of about half that each leaving £370 billion or so to spend on “projects”.

    It should be a liberal project. It should unite liberals. Even as far back as Locke for those who regard him as some kind of proto-liberal it is an issue, and by the end of the 19th century a pressing one, that last time we were unable to deliver.

    Now, it is not just an issue for the working class poor (it never was but a hundred years ago with 90% of people tenants it was seen much that way), but for all those constituencies that by the next time they elect an MP will be majority renters, paying twice so landowners can accumulate unearned incremement.

    We have a two speed society – people who pay their taxes on their labour or capital but don’t own land so see their taxes increasing their rents – making us pay twice, and people who also pay their taxes on their labour or capital and do own land so see their taxes at least negatied by paper wealth increases. That’s not, for the most part, their fault – as Churchill said in defence of Llod-George’s budget, it’s not the individuals but the system that is evil – and it remains evil today. And to be honest, there’s nothing we should be doing more important that that.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 10:49am

    Tim13 25th May ’15 – 9:59am
    “It would appear that the candidates for the Labour leadership have been once again seduced by siren calls of “aspiration” etc and will move away from the timid attempts by Miliband to define and discourage predatory capitalism, perhaps similar to what Ted Heath earlier described as “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. ”

    Absolutely Tim. Labour really has lost its political compass and are tugging their forelocks to middle class-style aspiration … as if more valid than any other form of aspiration.

    People often say that the US has two conservative parties, those who prefer to define themselves primarily as ‘economic liberals’ often appear as though they would like the UK to have three.

  • Well for a start were we not to have c£50bn of debt interest that could be better spent on other things.

    Ultimately it comes down to three things:

    – prioritisation
    – efficiency
    – practicallities

  • I don’t believe in “state co-operatives”. As a way of the state getting rid of its worst intrusions into the market, great, but a co-op is not a co-op if it’s “state”. 🙂

  • @Stephen Hesketh “Evolution is also only a theory!”

    Yes, but its a theory that can be tested by observation and disproved according to the scientific method. Slight difference.

  • IMO it’s not a political compass Labour lacks – they’ve always lacked that! It’s their political spine, roots, grounding, they’ve lost, unable to deal properly with a post-Fordist world.

  • @Jock your intervention is timely. I was going to respond to John Roffey that we need to move away from taxes on wealth creation to taxes on unearned wealth.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 11:05am

    Jock Coats 25th May ’15 – 10:44am

    Jock, thank you for an interesting post. It is refreshing to hear an ‘economic liberal’, albeit a left libertarian one, challenging the status quo!

    LVT is indeed something we should all be able to unite around!

  • Tim13 25th May ’15 – 10:31am

    “There is the World Trade Organisation of course. I know it has a) not worked effectively / at all in recent years, and b) Does not overtly represent the overt views of people in democracies, let alone a global democracy.”

    I press this issue because it seems to me that whatever concern you might have about the mistreatment of minorities, or indeed majorities – nearly always they come back to the actions of the unregulated of global corporations. They could be regulated to an acceptable degree if the US members of Congress chose to do so – but the vast majority of the members are funded by the global corporations and so laws are not passed to achieve this end.

    The power of these corporations is going to increase significantly in the next year or so through the TTIP & TPP which will ensure that the richest and most powerful will become even more rich and powerful and nearly everyone else poorer and weaker. It seems certain that very harsh times are ahead for the majority of the worlds population.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-tpp-and-the-ttip-how-congressional-republicans-lie-to-approve-obamas-trade-deals/5450662

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 11:25am

    John Roffey 25th May ’15 – 11:10am

    I share your concerns regarding the lack of any democratic control over huge global corporations. We know how they operate with respect to taxes, the environment, natural resources, pay and employee rights in the developing world.

    Free trade is one thing but empowering mega-Corps further via TTIP etc and in the absence of proper democratic control flies in the face of core Liberal values.

  • John, that is all part of rent 🙂

    Stephen, many practitioners are tryng again to get away from the phrase “Land Value Tax” for all sorts of reasons, because it seems to encourage people to think of it is “just another tax” that can be implemented as aprt of a portfolio of taxation mechansms. If Ricardo is right, and I don’t really see people arguing against the “law of rent”, collecting rental values is not really the same thing as a tax on all these other things – but collection of what people owe for the benefit of a location whose value depends on the collective effort of everyone else but the occupier! But whatever we call it, to me, it should be front and centre of liberalism. Even, perhaps, i nthese days of brand consciousness, somehow in the name.

    “land and liberty” 🙂

  • Jock Coats 25th May ’15 – 10:51am
    “I don’t believe in “state co-operatives”. As a way of the state getting rid of its worst intrusions into the market, great, but a co-op is not a co-op if it’s “state”. ”

    I cannot argue that by definition you are correct. However, the rate at which global wealth is being transferred into the hands of the very few because of the unregulated free global market – some way is needed to redistribute wealth – some new initiative is required where national governments wrestle control of these businesses away from private individuals.

    By funding competitors to these multinationals – which are run along the lines of co-operatives – the accumulation of wealth might be checked if not reversed.

    I do acknowledge the benefits that LVT might achieve – this would probably lead to land values being reduced and allow more people to buy their own property – however, the global industries that are the source of the greatest transfer of wealth to the very richest – banking, pharmaceuticals, oil, water do not generally require a great deal of surface land and therefore would be unlikely check the rapid transfer of global wealth to essentially less than 100 individuals.

  • @John Roffey you’re approaching this from the wrong end.

    The issue we have is that in this and many other countries, the primary duty of company directors is to shareholders. Most of the shareholders in large companies are pension funds.

    Individual shareholders do not have the voting power to challenge corporate policy or director remunerations. Many institutional shareholders fish in the same pond as the directors.

    Where we should start our journey is in making director remuneration far more tied to company performance. At present they are taking risks with shareholders’ money and have little personal risk if their gambles don’t pay off.

    Secondly we need to look at restructuring company law to favour the longer term and to balance the needs of all stakeholders better, and open up companies to far greater competition by removing barriers to entry (including regulation) from entrepreneurial start ups.

    Thirdly we need to examine parts of the state and market economies that would benefit from more diversity in models of ownership, and encourage (not force) this transition by providing appropriate regulation.

    The worry I have is that far too many in the party have no experience of working in the private sector and have little idea about how to frame business and corporate legislation. Vince is an honourable exception to this, as is David Laws.

  • @John Roffey “By funding competitors to these multinationals – which are run along the lines of co-operatives – the accumulation of wealth might be checked if not reversed.”

    Hmm.

    There is a danger with this that you spend vast sums of public money (that could be better spent on providing the things that government should be doing – defence, health, education, welfare etc) on setting up enterprises that do not and never can compete with these enterprises.

  • John Roffey 25th May '15 - 1:00pm

    TCO 25th May ’15 – 12:01pm
    “@John Roffey you’re approaching this from the wrong end.”

    I am afraid that virtually all of the arguments you put forward are destroyed by the fact that global corporations will operate from the nation with the most benign tax and corporate laws. Their capacity to do this will be greatly enhance with the introduction of TTIP & TTP – both of which will be in place within a couple of years.

  • John, “banking, pharmaceuticals, oil, water” are all major rent seeking indusries. Privileged by state action for that past centuries. What we ought to be doing is rigorously examining the source of these massive accumulations of wealth and trying t eradicate the rent/externalities involved. I don’t see how, once exposed, anyone could argue for rent-capturing and we would find support on those grounds, rather than the language of what I will call “envy” though that’s not quite what I mean.

    IN 1909 Chruchill defended rent taxes saying that for the first time the tax man was not just asking “how much have you got” but “how did you get it” and attacking the privilege rather than the industry.. And as Rognlie showed in his critique of Piketty, the main threat in capital accumulation is still land in its broadest sense.

    And whilst I am in no way “intensley relaxed” about accumulation, I do think we tend to overestimate the power of even the biggest corporation. As long as we can rigorously rootout rent and privilege these firms would be substantially disarmed.

    Oh, and I’m fine with co-ops in general – I was chair of Oxfordshire SOcial Enterprise Forum and director of Social Enterprise South East for a while. When my university employer wanted to restructure my IT department my counter-proposal was to free us up by letting us become our own cooperative firm. Colleagues (especially those near retirement age) disagreed! So yeah, as a way of divesting things that need not be state projects they seem to me a good idea.

  • John Roffey 25th May '15 - 1:18pm

    TCO 25th May ’15 – 12:04pm
    “By funding competitors to these multinationals – which are run along the lines of co-operatives – the accumulation of wealth might be checked if not reversed.”

    “There is a danger with this that you spend vast sums of public money (that could be better spent on providing the things that government should be doing – defence, health, education, welfare etc) on setting up enterprises that do not and never can compete with these enterprises.”

    I can honestly say that I do not know whether this would work, however, I am inclined to believe that it might be possible because of the huge sums that are earned by many of these corporations.

    The problem is that ever greater sums will be required to fund those activities you mention with less and less income streams [perhaps with the exception of LVT] because the, minimum tax paying, global corporation are expanding the areas of commence they dominate [facilitated by the growth of internet sales]. I am afraid the privatisation of the Royal Mail has blocked the development of the most obvious, high earning, state funded co-operative of our time.

  • @John Tilley
    Please don’t try and pigeon hole me with “you lot taking over the party”. If I am anywhere I believe in the post-war consensus, where we had a mixed economy, a belief that the State could do good, free education at all levels and also grammar schools… I happen to believe that there is evidence that grammar schools promote social mobility and that the comprehensive system has had a negative effect on education and on various other aspects of society. Don’t blame me if some people in UKIP and the Tory party happen to agree with me! I have held those views since before most of them were born!

    I recently had a Russian postdoc whose views on most things are pretty much communist – but she is also a passionate believer in selective education. Only in Britain and similar countries is comprehensive education a left-wing thing. And that poll showed that even Labour voters broke 45 to 39% in favour of at least retention of grammar schools where they exist, while Lib Dem voters were very close to the population as a whole (but with less don’t knows!). This issue is not in any way linked to our lack of popularity. Indeed our usual stance on this issue is one of the things that has probably prevented us ever breaking through to the 30% plus levels of popularity that we would need to form a government! But I do not expect that view to change

  • @Andrew “I recently had a Russian postdoc whose views on most things are pretty much communist – but she is also a passionate believer in selective education. Only in Britain and similar countries is comprehensive education a left-wing thing”

    In Germany they have the Gymnasia, selective secondary schools, and they are relatively uncontroversial. Germany, of course, noted for having a much worse economy than us.

  • Denis Mollison 26th May '15 - 8:56am

    Could we have more evidence on how wonderful grammar schools are in practice? What needs to be compared is the outcome for ALL students in a mixed grammar/secondary system with those in a comprehensive system. I can remember reading a comparative study for Northern Ireland some years ago that concluded that overall the comprehensive system did better.

    Perhaps it doesn’t look like that to some because the introduction of comprehensives roughly coincided with well-intentioned but bad educational experiments – for example dropping grammar from english and introducing a concept-based approach to maths that was fine for high-flyers but not for others.

    I think we are lucky in Scotland to have a wholly-comprehensive state system. Its problems are of resources – funding per pupil is a fraction of that in private schools – and of social background: however hard schools try, home background is still hugely influential in outcomes. I live in a well-off pocket in a largely poor catchment area, and it is always noticeable how many of the school prizes went to kids from the well-off pocket.

  • Denis Mollison 26th May '15 - 9:38am

    For “went” read “go”

  • @Dennis Mollison. Home background is a significant determinator of outcomes, probably the most significant determinator.

    The main problem with the comprehensive system nowadays is that you have selection by house price. In that talented but poor kids are now corralled into sink schools and their potential is extinguished. In the grammar school days they were given positive role models to develop their talent and negate the reinforcing effect of their surroundings.

  • Katerina Porter 30th May '15 - 9:42pm

    Finnish education has been at the top or near the top of OECD tables. The system does not segregate the way we always seem to hanker for. School starts at seven. Preschool education is very important and on froebel lines – learning through play and learning to play together, which means that children are ready for school at 7. Schools are comprehensive, with no outside testing, focused on the individual pupil, and teachers are highly respected. The final -public – exams at 18/19 are tough – vocational or academic. Asian schools are also at the top of the tables , Shanghai, Singapore, they teach by rote and are very intensive. This seems to produce a lack of creativity and a Japanese involved with education told me they are trying to change. I have seen something similar about S Korea. You cannot say that our schools don’t produce creativity! In the 70 s early 80s our children went to prep school, comprehensive, and the other primary, ex-Direct Grant. All these were good, but those state schools were outstanding. But I remember Kenneth Baker, Mrs Thatcher’s education minister, being interviewed later on TV. He was asked whether they had set out to undermine the comprehensives and he answered “of course we did”. I can’t remember now what they changed, but I remember it happening. I myself went to a grammar school and then a public school, but what about those who were labelled failures at eleven? In areas which still have grammar schools it is the comprehensives who pick up the pieces. And those who do go to Oxbridge from comprehensives often do better than those from public ones. After all our government members are often criticised for their private education and their foreign colleaugs have normally been to the ordinary lycee.

  • Katerina Porter 30th May '15 - 11:33pm

    Sorry my comment was written in a hurry and not very well…

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