Richard Grayson resigns from the party

richard graysonOr, as he explains in his lengthy article on Compass, Richard Grayson’s membership has lapsed and he is not renewing. Richard was the party’s Director of Policy prior to 2004, Vice Chair of the Federal Policy Committee, PPC in Hemel Hempstead in 2010 and a founder member of the Social Liberal Forum.

He writes:

… the sad conclusion I have come to is that I have more faith in Labour and the Greens, than I do in the Liberal Democrats to put forward a package of policies which former Liberal Democrat voters can support.  It is very much that – sad – to have reached the conclusions that I have about the Liberal Democrats.  I do feel that if people like me who have been involved in the Liberal Democrats at many different levels for 25 years, have come to such views, as many have already done, then there are some serious problems for the party.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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149 Comments

  • Oh, here we go: it is not me leaving the Party, it is the Party leaving me. The cry of the foot-stamper who isn’t as important as they used to be through the ages.

  • Simon McGrath 9th Jul '13 - 10:56am

    The Compass article is fascinating. Not least becuase he says that his disillusionment began in 2008:

    “Put simply, the debate was over whether or not, if savings could be found in public spending (and nobody doubted that they could be), then the money should be used for tax cuts (as the leadership wanted) or to fund alternative spending priorities (as the party had long argued). It was a fairly small issue, but for people like then MPs Paul Holmes and Evan Harris who proposed a challenge to the leadership, it was a crucial one about the direction of the party”

    It beggars belief that in 2008 he thought that it was better to spend even more money on public spending than take low paid people out of tax.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 9th Jul '13 - 11:05am

    I thought the piece on Compass was disappointingly poor. Look for example at the bit on deficit reduction: no attempt to discuss the complexities and nuances of the debate. Just a cliched restatement of views that could have come from one of Ed Balls’s Commons performances.

    It was good, though, to be reminded of the history of our policies on cutting taxes for the low paid and tuition fees. If only the leadership had got its way…

  • Peter Watson 9th Jul '13 - 11:06am

    @Simon McGrath
    In the piece you quote, Grayson seems to be arguing to spend the same (i.e. reallocate cuts in public spending) rather than wanting to “spend even more money on public spending”. And in 2008 wasn’t it Lib Dem (and Tory) policy to match Labour’s spending anyway?

  • Alex Harvey 9th Jul '13 - 11:11am

    He’s a wise man.

  • Simon McGrath 9th Jul '13 - 11:12am

    @Peter – not so. He wanted to take the savings everyone agreed could be made and spend on other things ie net increase in spending from what the position would otherwise be.

  • David Evans 9th Jul '13 - 11:39am

    Sad. Another hard worker for the party leaves (sadly under the illusion that Labour can be turned around) when it’s the Lib Dems who can and desperately need to be turned around from the edge of the abyss.

    Even more sad that the usual suspects choose to have a go, rather than acknowledge that it is their hero who is leading us ever closer to this disaster.

  • @Simon McGrath

    “take low paid people out of tax.”

    The coalition’s policies have done the exact opposite. An income tax threshold that benefits those on middle incomes the most has been funded by an increase in VAT which increases the tax burden on the lowest incomes the most. I therefore don’t see the relevance of your point, especially that the changes to the taxation system the coalition have introduced are the diametric opposite of the Lib Dem manifesto that promised to reduce the amount of tax the lowest paid pay.

    Furthermore, you are someone that argues from the starting position that the deficit is the primary cause of concern for the economy yet you appear to be advocating that the deficit should have been increased in 2008 by cutting taxes. Maybe the truth is that you think cutting taxes is more important than sorting out the deficit/economy?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '13 - 12:25pm

    I’ve argued fiercely with people in the party with whom I disagree on policy matters, and I’ve sometimes said quite rude things about them. But do you know what? I would be sorry to see any of them leave. The party needs a diversity of opinion, it needs a left and a right. Dan Falchikov et al – I disagree with a lot of your politics, but I would be sorry to see you leave. The party needs people who can put the market liberal case, just as it needs people who can put the case that this isn’t all liberalism is about and be critical about some of the way this ideology is being pushed by those with vested interests in it.

    Now I am seeing this narrow band of ideologues stamping and cheering as yet another long-term member of the party feels it is no longer worth bothering with. This is the sort of behaviour we used to see on the left. The insistence that you had to be a politically correct adherent to the party line, the delight at the expulsion of those critical of the dominant tendency, the belief that there is only one way “progress” can go, and that is the way those who lead the dominant tendency are pushing it. All of this is why, though my politics are to the left, I always felt more comfortable in the Liberals than in any socialist party, because I hated the “one true way” mentality of t hose who called themselves “socialists”. But now I find myself in a “one true way” party, and I don’t even have much sympathy with that one true way.

  • Geoffrey Payne 9th Jul '13 - 12:33pm

    @Tim Nichols – SLF membership is open to people who are no longer members of the Liberal Democrats. Our hope is that one day you will come back, or if you are in another party you can help us form progressive alliances in the future.
    I am sticking around in the Lib Dems until after the next general election, and hopefully longer than that. In the meantime I will campaign for Lib Dem candidates who support social liberalism, which is to say those who oppose the benefit cuts.
    I think Joe Otten has a point in that it is deeply disappointing that Labour are starting to agree with the government policies that are not currently working and are increasing poverty. Initially Ed Millibands leadership looked like an opportunity for Labour to dump Blairism, but that now seems to be making an unwelcome return. I think progressives need to contest the leadership of all the main political parties these days. I would rather do that than give up.

  • Paul Pettinger 9th Jul '13 - 12:48pm

    What great news – the Party, the size of the deficit and the health of the economy are doing *so much better* now that people like Richard Grayson are leaving.

    We seem to be slowly turning into the a UK version of Germany’s FDP (only smaller) day by day.

  • “the sad conclusion I have come to is that I have more faith in Labour and the Greens, than I do in the Liberal Democrats to put forward a package of policies which former Liberal Democrat voters can support.”

    The sad conclusion I have reached is that lots of Lib Dems like Richard Grayson were addicted to candyfloss politics and fail to realise that simply doling out even more borrowed state money might have short term appeal, but is not a feasible solution to Britain’s problems. We all love spending on lovely public things. The point is, with a deficit of 7% of GDP we can’t afford it.

    Simply jumping ship to parties that are offering false promises of lots of lovely state spending without saying how to finance it because that is the easiest option under the current situation in the opinion polls doesn’t seem much of a principled stand to me.

  • Simon, you are wrong to characterise Richard as advocating spending ‘even more money on public spending.’ He was merely disagreeing about where savings found should be spent, he was not actually saying that *more* money should be spent.

  • “I will campaign for Lib Dem candidates who support social liberalism, which is to say those who oppose the benefit cuts”

    Says it all really.Seriously, If you really think that Social Liberalism = no change in welfare benefits then you really don’t have a clue about Social Liberalism. Just like Richard Grayson.

  • Sad. I hate the Orange bookers but I refuse to leave. Just after the next election I suspect things will turn nasty – there will be a war for the party’s soul. What kind of party do we want to be? Its important that social liberals and radical liberals are still in the party to figure for our values. If not the orange bookers win. This is not their party. Sadly Clegg and Laws will still be around I suspect – given their huge majorities but they may not wish to play a role especially Clegg who will need to go after the defeat we are going to get. Browne and Alexander are more likely to go but still may hang on given the local situation. All true liberals must not campaign for them. Maybe the liberal party can put up candidates in their seats to draw some support away – a few hundred votes may be all that is in it.

  • @ Dave

    “there will be a war for the party’s soul.”

    No, I don’t think there will be. The party’s soul remains what it always was, that of a progressive, left of centre party. How that “soul” is expressed as part of a Coalition government where the economy and government finances have been left in a mess by Labour and we unfairly have a tiny minority of MPs and our partners (also unfairly) have nearly half of them, is another matter.

    I’m pretty sure that underneath it all, people like Richard Grayson are intelligent people and understand this but that they have decided it will be much more congenial to support a party that’s not in government at the moment (or in the Greens’ case, never will be) and doesn’t have to face up to hard realities and take the flak for them.

  • RC

    So when times are tough left of centre progressive policies just can’t be ‘expressed’? Why? Can’t it be argued that it is because Labour left the economy in a mess that we need left of centre policies NOT because they left it in a mess we need to sign up to slash and burn tory policies. Why do you opt for the latter and not the former? And just because we have less MP’s then the tories is no reason to go along with them. They failed to get a majority just like us. Coalition should not work on the basis of the big party gets its way for e most party and the small party gets a few scraps. Why do you seem to accept this way of doing coalition politics?

    What is the point of being a progressive party but then when it government transform into the opposite?
    You sound like a press statement with talk of ‘hard realities’. If there are ‘hard realities’ it is in no small part due to the orange bookers signing up to disastrous economic policies. Labour messed up and then the tories and orange bookers continued messing up.

  • Yet another one bites the dust. Whatever the rights or wrongs the party is just going in one direction, and that is down. Something has to give and change.
    PS I am a supporter of the coalition.

  • This is a sad day for the Lib Dems. The leadership may well be celebrating, but the rest of us should certainly not be. Good luck, Richard – hope that we can welcome you back at some stage, with a momentum in a more positive direction, although not optimistic.

    Incidentally, judging by what has happened so far, there may not be a battle for the soul of the party. People are just individually leaving. Next year, with Euros, plus London elections (which will be highlighted by the media) is possibly the last gasp for any serious battle.

  • Geoffrey Payne 9th Jul '13 - 4:43pm

    @ColinW – Social Liberalism is much more than the level of benefits, but policies that increase poverty are a red line that should not be crossed. MPs and candidates who understand that are worth supporting.

  • Our party is divided into two sorts of people. Those who want to achieve the best they can from given circumstances and are prepared to compromise to do so and those who still think you can have your cake and eat it when you are in a coalition with 56 MPs out of 360.

    They are what I would term the ‘No surrender’ faction, the people who believe that in a shared administration you can stop everything you don’t like and enact everything you ever promised.

    There are also a large number of people out there – and Grayson is one of them – who still don’t understand that those who pay taxes to support the unemployed, the sick and the poor are not at all tolerant of the (small) number of people who abuse the system and expect the world to owe them a living. Large numbers of working class families want the government to be tough on welfare, because they all know someone who isn’t working, has never worked and has no intention of working. I had my eyes well and truly opened to this in a by-election in a solidly working class council estate when I met some of these families for myself.

    There is a also the ‘hari kiri’ section of our party who believe we should oppose out of principle and if we destroy our party in the process, tough.

    What is more surprising is that some of the loudest voices against the government and our role in it actually have extensive experience of doing the same thing at a local government level with both the other parties.

    Finally, when will Lib Dem Voice correspondents stop aping the idiots in the press about the so-called orange bookers? Many of those who wrote in that publication also wrote in ‘Reinventing the State’. Many who wrote in ‘Reinventing the State’ are now government ministers or ministerial advisors! Have they abandoned their principles to do this? I don’t think so.

  • Came here to comment. Dave Page has already said what I wanted to say.

    *ponders saving that as a .txt file for copy/pasting purposes*

  • Tony Greaves 9th Jul '13 - 6:23pm

    Very sad and a minor disaster. I hope that Richard will resist the temptation to accept offers to write articles in hostile newspapers for ever and a day saying why he has left the party.

    I understand how he feels (and people like me with privileged positions in theLords have no right to be too severe on him) but I fear he is wandering into the political wilderness. If he is honest to himself there is no political party to go to that agrees with him. One day we will rescue this party.

    Tony Greaves

  • “That’s incorrect.”

    Not exactly a convincing argument. This one is: Those on the lowest incomes have not benefited from the rise in the income tax threshold since their income is below the threshold. They also now pay more in VAT thanks to the VAT increase that was used to pay for the income tax threshold rise. Furthermore, it is those in the middle of the income distribution that have benefited the most in proportion to their income (the definition of tax progressivity) whereas VAT is regressive across all income deciles according to the strict definition and the data from the ONS.

    Which part of the above do yo consider incorrect and what evidence do you have to back up your baseless opinion?

  • To paraphrase the late Malcolm Muggeridge, I fear we are witnessing the last harlequinade of the Liberal Democrats.

    We’ve lost half our members, half our activists, half our councillors. In 18 months, we’ll be losing half our MPs – or am I being unduly optimistic on that score? The leadership clique will accept alternative careers in the Tory Party, the City, media, etc, while remaining loyalists will fight among themselves and fizzle out.

    Tony Greaves wrote: “One day we will rescue this party.” Why not today, Tony? Why don’t you make a speech tomorrow denouncing the Party’s participation in the so-called “coalition”? That might start something. It might even lead to the Party’s rescue.

    Returning to Mr Muggeridge, he said we were witnessing the last harlequinade of Western civilisation. That was nearly 40 years ago, and Western civilisation is still alive and kicking. So maybe there’s hope for the Liberal Democrats. Provided that people like Lord Greaves stop wringing their hands and start wringing the “coalition’s” neck instead.

  • I have to confess that I am a bit baffled by how someone who was Director of Policy for the Liberal Democrats can be attracted to the Green Party. I don’t know Richard and I am sorry that he has left us, but to have served in the capacities he did he must have had a conception of the LibDems as being a serious political party with, at the very least, pretentions to becoming a party of government. If I am seized at some point with an irresistible desire to relive my wild political youth I might be tempted by the Green Party, but it would mean that I had given up having an interest in serious politics. The Labour Party is another matter: I can understand why voters have turned back towards them in desperation at the alternatives of a Conservative Party at war with itself and a deep disillusion with our apparent betrayal of our ideals, but the truth is that the Labour Party has nothing of substance to offer the electorate at the moment. Parties need more than three years to renew their energies and ideas after being defeated following a long period in power. Labour spokespeople today have been suggesting that opting in to pay the political levy will bring new life and activism into the party: if they seriously believe this rather than just trying to shore up Ed Miliband then they are frighteningly deluded.

  • David Evans 9th Jul '13 - 8:50pm

    Mickft

    Our party is divided into two sorts of people. Those who know it is badly led, and those who want to portray it as a party that is split. There are others. But I will ignore them in my desire to portray those who know we are badly led as the problem. {Irony}

    Those who want to portray it as split include the leader, who might just be expected to have a role in uniting a party, but he prefers to talk down to a non-existent faction to portray himself as a strong leader in control of his party, and avoid addressing the mess he has made of things

    Well, as a member of the faction Nick talks down to, I can say that I haven’t been leader of a party during a period where it has lost nearly half of its voters, a third of its councilors, over a quarter of its members and 10% of its MPs since I took over.

    Think about it.

  • Tony Greaves 9th Jul '13 - 10:07pm

    Sesenco writes above: Tony Greaves wrote: “One day we will rescue this party.” Why not today, Tony? Why don’t you make a speech tomorrow denouncing the Party’s participation in the so-called “coalition”? That might start something. It might even lead to the Party’s rescue.
    …………………………

    I am touched that you think that a speech by me would be a game changing event. We are where we are. The coalition is indeed a coalition, not a “so-called” coalition. I am very critical of some of the things in the coalition. But breaking it up now would not be constructive. If you really want to fracture this party apart (political fracking?) a major attempt now to breakthe coaliton would be a good way of doing it.

    There is no obvious and easy immediate solution to the parlous position we are in. It would however help if people stoped doing obviously unhelpful things.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves wrote:

    “I am touched that you think that a speech by me would be a game changing event.”

    It might or it might not. But given that the alternative is doing nothing and letting things fester, might it not be worth a shot?

    “The coalition is indeed a coalition, not a “so-called” coalition.”

    The reason I put “coalition” in quotes and preface the word with “so-called” is because it is entirely one-sided. The Tories go on being Tories. They ameliorate their rhetoric not one jot. The Liberal Democrats, by contrast, make every effort to appear like Tories (and some key ones don’t have to try too hard). What do the Liberal Democrats stand for? When did the leadership last tell us?

    “If you really want to fracture this party apart (political fracking?) a major attempt now to breakthe coaliton would be a good way of doing it.”

    This is a kind of “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” stance. The coalition is bad for the country and is the source of the party’s woes. I emphasise it is the coalition, not the irrelevant leadership, that is destroying our party. I believe it is so important to understand that. It doesn’t matter who sits on the throne, we’re still propping up a Tory government, and our former supporters don’t like that. The way to fracture the party is to waste one’s time attacking the leadership in the deluded belief that the coalition could somehow be made more palatable by a more competent leader. All you will achieve is a fist-fight with the “don’t be beastly to poor Nick” faction. Members will take sides and close ranks and we will be bitterly divided and enfeebled as opposed to just enfeebled. The coalition with the Tories, by contrast, is an impersonal entity. It doesn’t engender the same kind of loyalty as a leader. It is also an idea, and Liberal Democrats should never be afraid to attack ideas.

  • Duncan Brack 9th Jul '13 - 11:04pm

    Just for the record, Simon McGrath is completely wrong in his portrayal of Richard’s position in the conference debate in 2008. I spoke on the same side; we argued that any savings that the party might identify in public expenditure should not go in further tax cuts (i.e. further cuts, on top of the commitment to cut the basic rate of income tax by 4p) but should be allocated to improving public services, tackling climate change, and helping those too poor to pay any income tax and therefore unable to benefit from a tax cut. So Richard (and I) weren’t against tax cuts and we weren’t in favour of raising public spending beyond the level it was at then (just before the big bank bailout, as it happened).

    I’m sorry that Richard’s gone and I hope he comes back.

  • @Duncan Brack
    “and helping those too poor to pay any income tax”

    Well said. Those very same people that have received no benefit from the coalition’s increase in the income tax threshold but have been hit with the coalition’s increase in VAT – the poor.

  • “Just for the record, Simon McGrath is completely wrong ”

    Is THAT why Simon’s always completely wrong? Just for the record?

    Richard Grayson’s departure is a symptom of the malaise, not a great new bout of disease.

    The disease was caused by those who think they are leading but have destroyed what they purport to lead and probably hadn’t ever half a clue what it was there for anyway.

  • David Allen 9th Jul '13 - 11:52pm

    I doubt whether this party can be rescued now. I doubt whether the Greens can achieve anthing practical. I doubt whether Labour, especially after the great roll-back from Keynesianism and the wimp-out with the unions, can achieve much either.

    This is, of course, unconstructive nihilism. Welcome to the viewpoint now adopted by the majority of ordinary people in the UK!

  • Peter Chegwyn 10th Jul '13 - 12:11am
  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jul '13 - 12:23am

    I think the merger between the SDP and the Liberal Party was a bad idea. I don’t think Richard Grayson can be described as a liberal considering he has just joined a deeply authoritarian Labour Party. However he could be described as a social democrat and social democracy is part of our party’s heritage.

    I have nothing against social democrats and have even described myself as one at times, I’m just saying it’s hard to know what the party stands for, I think mainly because of the merger.

  • John Roffey 10th Jul '13 - 1:14am

    @David Allen

    I think your observations are extremely accurate – and I wonder if many Party members genuinely think any differently. However, just to plod to the end of the Coalition agreement with a heavy heart seems too defeatist – if the expected outcome is a heavy loss of seats and the Party disappearing virtually without trace once the GE is over – surely almost any action is better than none.

    Two changes of significant magnitude can be made. Firstly, the Party can change its leader – this would not break the Coalition – thereby heeding Tony Greaves’ warning. To my mind NC, because of his privileged background, has been promoted way beyond his capability – he might have been a passable leader if only calm waters were experienced during his tenure, but he is by nature, to use Farage’s infamous phrase – a bank clerk. An elegant bank clerk – but none the less a bank clerk. There is no hope of him coming up with a ‘visionary’ new future for the Party and the Nation – which is just about the only thing that might save the Party from its fate.

    Secondly, if that does not work, withdraw from the Coalition as far as is possible [e.g. most MPs give up their posts so that they are free to speak openly] after the EU elections – so that a sustained attack can be made during a long run in to the GE.

  • Simon McGrath 10th Jul '13 - 8:40am

    @DuncanBrack – you say I am wrong and then confirm what I say. Given an amount of money to allocate you wanted to increase public spending, not reduce taxes ie increase public spending.

    Do you think that in the Coalition we Lib Dems should have been arguing for spending more on public services ( ie less cuts) rather than the tax cut for the low paid ?

  • “you say I am wrong and then confirm what I say. Given an amount of money to allocate you wanted to increase public spending, not reduce taxes ie increase public spending.”

    This really isn’t a difficult concept, Simon McGrath. Re-allocating funds made available from savings in public spending to other areas of public spending is not a net increase in public spending. Nobody mentioned anything about increasing public spending.

  • “rather than the tax cut for the low paid ?”

    The lowest paid haven’t received a tax-cut, they have received an increase in tax under the coalition. Again, this is not a difficult concept to grasp.

  • Richard Grayson 10th Jul '13 - 10:09am

    @Simon McGrath
    If I spend £10 a month on chocolate, and £10 a month on beer, I spend a total of £20. If the next month, I decide that I want less beer, but would like to have some whiskey, and spend £5 on each of beer and whiskey, and again spend £10 on chocolate, then I have still spent a total of £20 that month. I have not ‘increased’ spending by £5 by spending money on whiskey. I have still spent a total of £20, if on different things.

    I boil it down to that, Simon, because you persistently misrepresent the basics of the 2008 spending debate. As other people have said, these should not be a difficult points to grasp. So I wonder why you do that?

    To expand on the points made by Duncan Brack, the party was already proposing to cut taxes for the poorest, as we supported that. The origional motion read:

    ‘Conference resolves that our policy priorities must be:
    1. Delivering big tax cuts for those who are struggling, an end to the unfair Council Tax, and extra investment in the poorest children from their first day at pre-school right through to university.’

    We added the words:

    ‘(funded, as in existing party policy, through a green tax switch and closing tax incentives and loopholes that disproportionately benefit the highest earners)’

    so that it read:

    ‘1. Delivering big tax cuts for those who are struggling (funded, as in existing party policy, through a green tax switch and closing tax incentives and loopholes that disproportionately benefit the highest earners), an end to the unfair Council Tax, and extra investment in the poorest children from their first day at pre-school right through to university.’

    What we (those who sought to amend the leadership motion) wanted to add was:
    ‘That whilst we have: fewer doctors, oncologists and radiographers, and larger class sizes than the Western European average; relatively inferior state support for childcare; one of the worst state pensions in Western Europe; and high student debt in further and higher education; that remedying these deficiencies should come ahead of tax cuts (other than those which are already party policy).’

    This was supported by these arguments which we sought to add in Conference notes:

    ‘c) There are key areas of public services which remain under-funded, or where unfair charges are made on individuals.
    d) UK taxation has only recently reached average Western European levels as has UK investment in health and education, and that it will take much longer than a few years of average investment in public services to undo the harm caused by previous decades of under-investment.’

    We did not seek to delete anything from the motion.

  • Simon Shaw: vat increases ALWAYS hit the lowest paid hardest. There are many studies showing this. Unless you think those of us too poor to be helped by the income tax threshold rise don’t deserve clothes, shoes, a phone, you are being disingenuous to list vat free items as though they are the only things poor people buy.

    I’d also point out that most of us to poor to be helped by the income tax threshold rise have been hit by reductions, sorry reforms, in in-work benefits. You may or may not agree with in-work benefits, but a reduction in them DOES change the people in receipt of them’s income for the lower.

    All the reputable studies I have seen have shown that it is the bottom 10% who have been hit hardest by the cumulative impact of the coalition’s fiscal reforms. As part of that bottom 10%, and feeling the pain myself, I resent hugely people who try to tell me this is not happening.

  • A Social Liberal 10th Jul '13 - 10:25am

    @Simon Shaw
    . . . . . said “what exactly is it that those on the lowest incomes pay VAT on”

    How about

    White goods
    Telephone service
    Broadband service
    Television licence
    Cleaning goods
    Bed linen
    Adult clothing

    I could go on and on but I think I have made my point.

  • Liberal Neil 10th Jul '13 - 10:35am

    I’m sorry Richard has decided to go. He was my predecessor as the party’s Youth & Student Officer and was hugely supportive when I took over and has given a huge amount to the party over the years.

    I disagree with him about Labour or the Greens being a better vehicle for social liberalism than our party but that’s his choice.

    Duncan and Richard are essentially right about the tax debate in 2008. In fact the party leadership pretty much acknowledged this when they later did an about turn and went for the policy of raising the basic threshold rather than reducing the basic rate.

    Like Duncan, I hope Richard will feel able to return at some point.

  • ““increases the tax burden on the lowest incomes the most” and that is simply untrue.”

    Those on the lowest incomes spend a greater proportion of their income on VAT. It is a regressive tax, as discussed and pointed out many times on LDV.

    “what exactly is it that those on the lowest incomes pay VAT on?”

    It doesn’t matter what they spend it on. The fact remains that those in the lowest income decile spend the greatest proportion of their income on VAT of all ten income decile groups. By increasing the rate of VAT those on the lowest incomes now pay more tax than before given they have received no benefit from the increase in the income tax threshold. The lowest paid have therefore seen their taxes increase under the coalition. By all means keep trying to twist your way out of accepting this fact, but it doesn’t alter the fact that the lowest paid now pay more in tax.

  • Liberal Neil 10th Jul '13 - 10:40am

    @Peter Chegwyn – is it true that he lost a leadership election or something at his Town Council shortly before he defected?

  • Steve Griffiths 10th Jul '13 - 12:13pm

    And so another important figure and former PPC departs and many of those commenting above continue to pour scorn as each one departs. Not even an acknowledgement or thanks for decades of hard work to put the party where it was in 2010. It is so sad and agonising to see the party decline in this way. As I have said before on LDV, Roy Jenkins was anxious to avoid what he referred to as a “right little tight little party” come out of the merger negotiations and wished to see a “broad-church” party appear. I think it is now fair to say that his fears have become manifest.

    On the 14th June LDV ran a thread praising Devon and Cornwall branches for recruitment of new members and including details of training courses in recruitment. It’s opening line was ” The most important thing the party needs to do is recruit new volunteers. We all know it, and everyone talks about it.” Well if there in anyone with an ounce of common sense left in the Lib Dems, they might like to reflect on the fact that the best way to retain members is not to loose them in the first place. Some consideration of the reasons for the unsustainable losses might be worthwhile thinking time by party managers.

    No doubt the usual politicians’ response of “we’re not getting our message across clearly enough” will be trotted out, when it really means people just don’t like your policies.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jul '13 - 12:33pm

    Dan Falchikov

    My issue with Grayson is that there is precious little evidence he’s ever been a liberal other than in defining himself as ‘not Tory’. It’s a necessary but not sufficient condition I’m afraid.

    Well, here we are, that so sums up all that concerns me about people like you. You are so up yourself, so convinced you are right and everyone else is wrong, that you are the true liberals and no-one who doesn’t 100% agree with you is, that you dismiss someone who has played a major part in our party and its development in this way. A true liberal is someone who accepts diversity, and wants to hear both sides of the case. You may disagree with the anti-austerity line, but it was the line we used in the 2010 general election campaign. If what you are is “true liberal” and what Richard Grayson is is not, then you should at least have the honesty to say you have taken over the Liberal Democrats and changed it into something that isn’t what it used to be.

    To me you sound like a Stalinist, wishing to expel anyone who does not agree with The Party Line even if The Party Line isn’t what it was a few years ago – and you expel them with shouts of condemnation that they are “capitalist running dogs” or whatever, who were never true friends of The Party.

  • Simon McGrath 10th Jul '13 - 1:01pm

    @Richard Grayson – I can see why it is so important to you ( and others still in the Party) to try to rewrite history on this point. It is extraordainary from today’s perspctive to realise that in 2008 some prominent Lib Dems thought it was more important to spend money on the state ( which had hugely increased over the previous 11 years ) than let people make their own decisions about their own money.
    But the Guardian account of the Confernce is pretty clear:
    “Evan Harris, the Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon who tabled the rebel amendment, said he won strong support.
    “The vote showed that up to 40% of the conference was prepared to make clear that the party needs to ensure that we meet our own spending priorities out of savings before offering any tax cuts even at the lower end. ”
    The last few words give the game away.

  • Richard Grayson 10th Jul '13 - 1:17pm

    @Simon McGrath
    It’s you who is rewriting history I’m afraid. I have offered plenty of evidence from the text of the amendment to show precisely what we proposed. You have taken a small extract from the Guardian, which happens to suit your particular spin on this debate. I doubt they even quoted everything that Evan said to them. If you want to believe everything you read in the Guardian, and take at face value the spin they put on things, then that’s your problem. But the FACT is, you have nothing to say which can alter what we proposed and spoke to in the debate, and your efforts at doing so are, frankly, shoddy. As for spending ‘on the state’ – honestly, do you really think the money would be spent ‘on the state’? You could have said spending ‘on education’ among other things and been more accurate, but that wouldn’t suit the rather cheap debating style you like to use. If you really believe that such spending is ‘on the state’ rather than tackling real problems and giving people better opportunities, then it shows how far you are guilty of tunnel vision when it comes to public goods.

  • Simon McGrath 10th Jul '13 - 1:17pm

    The Guardian had a detailed account of the debate:
    “3.25 PM: Richard Grayson, from Hemel Hempstead, comes on next. He defends the amendment, which, he says, doesn’t say don’t have tax cuts, but simply says don’t make it such a high priority.
    The idea that people will be more powerful with a few more pounds in their pockets doesn’t necessarily stack up. He argues instead for high spending in public services to achieve say, smaller class sizes in state schools, to match those in private education.
    “Money can be better spent in better ways than by introducing tax cuts.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2008/sep/15/libdemconference.liberaldemocrats2

  • Richard Grayson 10th Jul '13 - 1:48pm

    @SimonMcGrath
    “Richard Grayson, from Hemel Hempstead, comes on next. He defends the amendment, which, he says, doesn’t say don’t have tax cuts, but simply says don’t make it such a high priority.”

    Thank you – you have made my point for me by citing this. As I said, we weren’t opposed to cuts, but didn’t think they should be such a high priority – as in, we are already committed to some, why have yet more.

  • Richard Grayson 10th Jul '13 - 2:04pm

    @ Dan Falchikov
    “My other concern with Grayson et al is that they appear to have no level of public spending which is too high or no sense that the over centralised, vast and bureaucratic UK state may not be the most efficient user of public resource.”

    Even by your standards this is fast and lose. You can have no evidence that I think there is ‘no level of public spending which is too high’ because what I have done in the past is support carefully costed packages on public spending (and indeed was involved in formulating some of them). By definition, these have a limit. So your crude characterisation of me as someone who thinks that there are limits on spending just because I have not advocated slashing it is utterly without foundation.

    As for centralisation, well, where do I start? Do you think the party manifestos in 2001, 2005 and 2010 proposed doing nothing about centralisation? If so, then the whole party is in trouble. Meanwhile, just in case you happen to think that on that one issue I was not supportive of the party (which by the way would be incorrect), then you might want to consult the vast amount of material I have written over the years advocating decentralisation. Those include, for example, a chapter in ‘Reinventing the State’ on decentralising the NHS, and a related chapter in a publication on devolution published by the Lib Dem group on the LGA just before the last election.

    You really do need to inform yourself of what people have said before you start saying they have ‘no sense’. Or you can do the equivalent of, oh, I don’t know, blabbing on a mobile while on a train about something without foundation. Up to you.

  • Richard Grayson 10th Jul '13 - 2:21pm

    @Dan Falchikov
    “I note you ignore my point about the 2010 manifesto being explicit in calling for spending cuts. Does Liberal Left support the 2010 manifesto or just the bits Compass and Ed balls agree with?”

    Sorry for not tackling that. I thought the answer was obvious. I’m not aware of anyone in the party having sought to undo what we said about necessary cuts in the 2010 manifesto. I certainly am not. The issue is over scale and timing.

  • Richard Grayson 10th Jul '13 - 2:24pm

    @Dan Falchikov
    “I note you ignore my point about the 2010 manifesto being explicit in calling for spending cuts. Does Liberal Left support the 2010 manifesto or just the bits Compass and Ed balls agree with?”

    Oh, and I should add – while I have responded to your points, I note YOU ignore everything I have had to say in response to your misrepresentation of my position on spending and decentralisation and instead just get touchy when I don’t respond to one of your points. It’s of course up to you whether to reply or not, but I hope that at the very least you won’t misrepresent me again.

  • “The IFS really are a complete joke.”

    Yes, they are. They change their definition of tax progressivity across multiple publications (see the examples I gave for VAT, tuition fees, etc). That is the most basic of scientific errors and would be a bad error for a pupil at secondary level to make. I repeat – they are a joke.

  • “The increase in the Standard Rate of VAT was “mildly progressive”.”

    Just to repeat, as you don#t seem to be taking these basic points in:

    1. VAT itself is regressive (albeit it mildly) in absolute terms across all income deciles.
    2. The coalition’s fiscal changes have resulted in increased taxation to the lowest income decile as they now pay more in VAT but have not received any benefit from the increase in the income tax threshold.

    You have completely ignored the fact that there are many items which do have VAT imposed on them as pointed out to you by others on here and as evidenced by the ONS statistics. If, as you appear to claim, VAT is simply not paid by low earners, then why do those self same low earners contribute a higher percentage of their income to VAT than any other income group? I’d like to see your answer to that last point.

    Please engage with the debate, rather than ignoring inconvenient facts, cherry-picking your facts and laying claim to supposed authority by referring to an organisation that changes its definition of tax progressivity depending on how it sees fit.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jul '13 - 3:32pm

    Dan Falchikov

    Matthew – the only people attempting to rewrite the party line are those opposed to the coalition’s economic policy – like Liberal Left.

    The coalition is not the Liberal Democrats. It is a compromise between the Liberal Democrat position and the Conservative position, which is way to the Conservative side, naturally because there are many more Conservative MPs than Liberal Democrat MPs. I accept such compromises because that is what politics is about. However, simply because as a democrat I accept what the democratic process has given us as the way forward does not mean it becomes what is personally my preferred way forward. In just the same way, the coalition line is not the Liberal Democrat line, when it comes to Liberal Democrat policy rather than acceptance of the current coalition situation. If therefore, as you seem to be doing, you argue that the current coalition line is actual Liberal Democrat party policy, policy we would pursue regardless of whether or not there was a coalition, you most certainly ARE rewriting the party line.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jul '13 - 3:42pm

    Dan Falchikov

    My other concern with Grayson et al is that they appear to have no level of public spending which is too high or no sense that the over centralised, vast and bureaucratic UK state may not be the most efficient user of public resource.

    And the “finance industry”? Is that not too “over centralised, vast and bureaucratic”? Yet people like you continually want to turn yet more power over to them, as we are now seeing with the Royal Mail privatisation as another example.
    As Richard Grayson has said, your remarks are a crude simplification, which essentially boil down to “I am right, and everyone else is so wrong I won’t bother to consider what they say and make a measured response”. Typical socialist mentality.

  • Dan Falchikov – I am surprised, that as a long term member of the Liberal Party and Lib Dems that you don’t take more of a democratic view, ie that a mixed economy works best, because you have some competitive firms to keep the public sector on its toes, but you have the public sector keeping relative wages from getting out of kilter (ie unequal) and you have sufficient publicly controlled functions in life that people or their elected reps can have influence over. There are NO concentrations of public power in this country, except perhaps in the police and armed services. We all spent plenty of time and effort trying to roll back Thatcherism. We do not need Liberal Democrats trying to enhance the lady’s doings!

  • Paul Pettinger 10th Jul '13 - 4:54pm

    Matthew Huntbach wrote: ‘The coalition is not the Liberal Democrats. It is a compromise between the Liberal Democrat position and the Conservative position, which is way to the Conservative side, naturally because there are many more Conservative MPs than Liberal Democrat MPs. I accept such compromises because that is what politics is about.’

    Every Lib Dem Minister should affirm this ; instead our ‘leader’ says we should embrace everything the Govt does – bonkers. Would he say the same if in coalition with Labour? I hope not.

  • Agreed Alex – wouldn’t it be nice if people could put aside their trolliness and acknowledge that is a sad day when someone who has spent their whole adult life in the party chooses to leave it.

    Richard – as a Vice-Chair of Liberal Left I consider it an honour to be classed in the category of “Grayson et al” .

  • Peter Chegwyn 11th Jul '13 - 6:58am

    @LiberalNeil – Yes, Hampshire Councillor Adam Carew who has also quit our party this week had a bust-up with his colleagues on Whitehill Town Council before defecting to the Conservatives. He was the Lib Dem Spokesman on the Environment on Hampshire County Council where he frequently attacked the Conservatives on environmental issues. Now he’s jumped into bed with them. A strange alliance but as with Richard Grayson, our party has lost yet another activist.

    Some go to Labour. Some to the Tories. Some to the Greens. Some just go. The sad thing is that for a wide variety of different reasons they are all leaving the Liberal Democrats and our party is poorer for their departure.

  • Peter Chegwyn highlights an important point – that great people, activists, thinkers, and I can testify, good organisers, committee people, and simply people who sit at home and support have abandoned the party for a variety of other destinations. In many ways the party has lost its way, its USP, if you like, of telling it like it is, trying to prepare and help deliver policies on behalf of all, but particularly vulnerable people, aspects of the world we see suffering.

    We are being led in a way which has painted this tendency as “oppositionism” which will not help people. Any of us who have been in Liberal and Lib Dem politics any length of time can say that the party, even where it has NOT shared power locally, has effected positive change by its persistent campaigning. So many people have given up the fight, having been tarred with this unfair brush, at the same time as the Parliamentary party’s leadership have become involved in a type of politics often indistinguishable from the “old politics” we promised to move away from.

    I knew Adam Carew slightly, and I knew he was an effective and sincere politician.

  • Richard Grayson 11th Jul '13 - 9:12am

    @Ruth Bright
    Thank you!

  • Steve Griffiths 11th Jul '13 - 10:31am

    Peter Chegwyn

    “Some go to Labour. Some to the Tories. Some to the Greens. Some just go. The sad thing is that for a wide variety of different reasons they are all leaving the Liberal Democrats and our party is poorer for their departure.”

    Yes the ‘narrow-church’ party just keeps on getting narrower. I fear that all that will be left will be adherents of what we used to call ‘soggy centrism’, not so long ago. I think Shirley Williams had it right when she said of a centre party, that it would have “no heart, no roots, no philosophy”. With the activists numbers shrinking and leaving only those with a narrower viewpoint than the party once had, the Lib Dem leadership, the party managers, the parliamentarians and remaining membership must now ask themselves “is that what we really want for the future?” If the answer is no, then you need to be doing something bloody quickly!

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 10:32am

    Politics is a matter of compromise. If one wishes to be active politically, one must balance the effectiveness of the party one is a member of against closeness to personal views.Given a choice between Labour and the Conservatives, I personally would always opt for Labour as they are closer to my personal views than the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats, however, at least until recently, are much closer to my personal views. Joining and being active in the Liberal Democrats meant sacrificing the possibility of being more effective through being in one of the two large established parties in return for being a member of a party whose policies and attitudes I was happier with. But perhaps I could have made a much greater political career and been able to push my personal views further had I joined the Labour Party at the age of 17 and stayed in it since, rather than joined the Liberal Party. When the merger with the SDP took place I was unhappy with the results for several reasons (and Eddie Sammon, your comment at 12.23 on 10th July shows you are completely clueless about what the differences between the Liberal Party and the SDP were back then), but it seemed to me silly to join some sort of micro-party that might be closer to my views but would be ineffective due to its smallness.

    Those condemning Richard Grayson for contemplating joining the Labour Party or the Green Party need to think in these terms. Sure, there is much wrong with both these parties, if I were in either I would be spending a lot of time disagreeing with its policy lines, its leadership, the way it goes about doing things and so on. But then I do that in the Liberal Democrats. The problem comes when the Liberal Democrats get pulled so far from the party I first joined that the compromise involved in being an active member of it is no longer balanced by the effectiveness of it as a vehicle for pursuing at least some of what I personally want from politics.

    Right now I have no interest in joining either the Labour Party or the Green Party. If I was more of a careerist I might join the Labour Party, because it is closer to my views than the only other big party, and offers the chance of a political career. The Green Party is closer to my political views than Labour, but still a long way removed, and is far too small and disorganised to make the policy compromises in joining it worth balancing with the effectiveness.

    Up till now I have always pushed the view that people OUGHT to contribute to the democratic running of society by joining a political party, and ought therefore to seek out the one closest to their personal views, accepting the necessary compromise after all compromise is all part of democratic politics. I have persuaded many people into joining me in the Liberal Democrats, using the line that sure it isn’t perfect, but it gets the balance right, and offers opportunities to progress to those willing to put personal effort into it.

    I am now in a dilemma, because I see no other party I have any interest in, yet the Liberal Democrats are being pulled so far away from my own views that I am no longer happy giving any sort of active support to them. What I see in Liberal Democrat Voice sickens me – extreme right-wing economic views being pushed by people who seem to think they are “liberal”. That sort seems to be the only new recruits the party is getting, people who are closer to my views are dropping out daily. As I’ve already said, sure I don’t mind being reminded of the liberal aspects of free-market theory, I myself regard Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” as a good motivating liberal read. However, what disturbs me is the arrogance of those who have taken this aspect of liberalism, made out it is the only aspect that really matters, shown a lack of any sort of critical analysis on why the theories in practice have not worked out as truly freedom-enhancing as claimed, and most of all have gone along with the cynical misuse and misunderstanding of them by Conservatives to defend what Conservatives are always at the heart about defending – aristocratic rule and aristocratic theory. Oh, sure, it’s now a different sort of aristocrat, I don’t mean the historical titled aristocracy, but I see in the power and closed nature of big City finance all that our political ancestors were fighting against in the Liberal Party of the 19th century when we took on and defeated the power of aristocracy in this country and established true democracy.

    I see no party that is challenging that, and I see the Liberal Democrats, particularly keen new members writing in Liberal Democrat Voice, jumping to spout out the propaganda of the new aristocracy. It has gone too far, I no longer want to be part of a party which is just “me too” to the Conservatives, in fact in dropping some of the old-style “king and country” aspects of the Conservatives, with their paternalistic concern for the national good, is to some extent even nastier than the Conservative Party and further removed from my ideals.

    So, what to do? Perhaps Richard Grayson is just being practical in saying as he can no longer stand it he is considering the Labour Party. What am I to do? I would welcome suggestions, because it feels very uncomfortable to have to say “there is no party that I feel I want to be a member of”, it goes against all I have been saying all my adult life about the importance of being a volunteer for democracy.

  • Steve Griffiths 11th Jul '13 - 12:50pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    You have said it all for me too: I could not have put it better. I want to remain active in some way in politics, especially local politics which I miss having been a former Lib Dem councillor, but I have no home party that fits my views where once they were main-stream Liberal and then Lib Dem. It’s unlikely to be Labour (funded and encumbered by the Unions), because I have always believed in a society where “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance OR conformity”. Labour is well meaning, but tends to be authoritarian and illiberal. I was also pushing a green agenda before the Green Party existed. I am congenitally a conviction politician on the libertarian left of British politics, and have no party to join that represents my views.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 1:25pm

    Joe Otten

    Who in the party is pushing extreme right-wing economic views? Give me an example or two of such a view being pushed.

    People who say things like the UK state being vast and bloated and bureaucratic, suggesting that big cuts are easy-peasy to make. As evidence they raise increasing share of GDP on state expenditure, with the Daily Mail type implication that it’s all due to high wages for all these bureaucrats or “politically correct” frippery – which completely ignores the real reasons, the main one being the rapid growth in lifespan and consequent higher payment in pension and health care support.

    People who say things that imply anyone who is rich is a “wealth creator” and should be pampered – which completely ignores the extent to which so much income at the top comes from passive ownership and not at all from any sort of creative work.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jul '13 - 1:28pm

    Matthew Huntbach, I have said nothing to show that I have “no clue” about the state of the party before the merger – just because I think liberalism means something different to you doesn’t mean I’m ignorant to the party’s history.

    You mention that extreme right wing economic views you see posted by new keen members on LDV sicken you, I suppose you are talking about me again? I do have some extreme right wing economic views, but this doesn’t mean that when I was watching the tennis I wasn’t struggling to look David Cameron in the eye because of the benefit cuts and haven’t considered leaving the party because of them. So just because someone spouts the odd right wing view, it doesn’t mean they don’t have left wing views too.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 1:35pm

    Quotimg from David Boyle as referenced by Dan Falchikov

    He didn’t want to find a new political language. I don’t want to defend the design of the 1945 welfare state. I want an effective system that genuinely supports people to escape Beveridge’s Giants, which I don’t think the Spirit of ’45 provided, for reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere.

    Yes, and I don’t think the Spirit of ’79 provides it either, Mr Boyle.

    In the past, I’ve admired much of what you have written, but if you can’t see why the extreme free-market policies of the Conservative Party pushed since 1979 have run into the ground and are working no better than the idealistic state centralist policies of the Labour Party in 1945, so that all you can do is abuse people like Dr Grayson who express unhappiness about our party’s seeming uncritical conversion to them under Clegg’s leadership, then I despair.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jul '13 - 1:41pm

    On reading your last comment Matthew perhaps you weren’t talking about me, but I have to say I don’t think the party has a problem with far right economic “liberals” on LDV, I couldn’t think of any myself.

  • I don’t think David Boyle was supporting Thatcher – style policies, tbh, Matthew. He may have an over-idealistic attachment to cooperativism and mutualism (which I, I am sure you, and those from a late 60s and 70s Young Lib background tend to be very supportive of). In the end however, and Labour have now abandoned this stance, but ownership DOES matter. If anything the perceived failure of nationalised industry was in part due to the failure to ensure that top management and civil servants were supportive of the overall public nature of those enterprises.

    David is so right about the lack of distinctive economic policy within the Lib Dems – which is because we have always in my memory been split down the middle, or near enough. The Orange Bookers (and I make absolutely no apology for referring to the economic right in the party in this way) have taken a view that if they can encourage or force out those from the economic left, they will then be able to pursue what NC calls a “centrist” position.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 5:44pm

    Eddie Sammon

    Matthew Huntbach, I have said nothing to show that I have “no clue” about the state of the party before the merger – just because I think liberalism means something different to you doesn’t mean I’m ignorant to the party’s history.

    The comment I mentioned suggested you believe the main distinction between the Liberal Party and the SDP at the time the two parties merged in 1988 was that the Liberal Party was more in favour of free-market economics, the sort of economics which the Conservative Party is into, while the SDP was less inclined to that and more inclined to the sort of economic policies the Labour Party used to be about. That is how I interpret what you said about Richard Grayson not being a “liberal”, but being a “social democrat”, which you out in a comment which started with the sentence “I think the merger between the SDP and the Liberal Party was a bad idea”.

    Now, I was around in the party in 1988, and in fact fairly closely involved in the merger, as a member of the National Executive of the Young Liberals, whose Chair, the then Rachael Pitchford (married name Vasmer) was one of the members of the Liberal Party negotiating team on the merger, with Rachael regularly consulting with the National Executive on the proceedings.

    I can assure you that no-one at the time saw the main distinction between the Liberal Party and the SDP as the Liberal Party being more in favour of free market economics (which in those days was called “Thatcherism”) and the SDP less. In fact some of those on the Liberal side who were anti-merger took that position because they were worried about signs that the SDP seemed to be moving in a Thatcherite economic direction. These worries were shown to have some foundation when the SDP contribution to what became called the “Dead Parrot” document showed a strong free market tendency, so much that it caused huge ructions, made many Liberal Party members angry, and almost brought the merger to a halt, with the leader of the SDP publicly in tears over it.

    Comments like yours which assume it was the other way round are now commonly made, but that is part of the Orwellian re-writing of history we have seen which is trying to steal the word “liberal” and get it to mean a supporter of the sort of ideology that Ayn Rand was proposing.

  • @Joe Otten
    “How on earth can we sensibly debate policy as a party if every moderate (or radical) centrist view is interpreted as code for an ultra-right-wing one?”

    I can easily turn that on its head and ask how can there be a sensible debate when right wing views are interpreted by their proponents as moderate centrist views? What you call a moderate, centrist view to others may appear right-wing. I read many comments from people on here describing how viewpoints once considered centrist in this party a couple of decades ago are now considered well to the left of centre. Additionally, those in positions of power (such as Clegg, Laws, Alexander) are very much on the economic, neo-liberal side of things (Laws is more Tory than Tory). That is a position in very stark contrast to the Lib Dem election manifesto of just two elections ago, where the agenda was to the left of the other two parties. Although there may be many people in the party who don’t agree with the direction under Clegg et al., to the voting public it is the performance and presentation of the party in government that determines where they think the party lies on the political spectrum. As such, it has moved to the right – you may say from the centre-left towards the centre ground, other may say from the centre ground towards the centre-right (which to my mind is more accurate), but it has definitely shifted right.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 5:50pm

    tim13

    I don’t think David Boyle was supporting Thatcher – style policies, tbh, Matthew. He may have an over-idealistic attachment to cooperativism and mutualism (which I, I am sure you, and those from a late 60s and 70s Young Lib background tend to be very supportive of).

    Sure, but I was very disappointed by David Boyle’s attack on Richard Grayson in the article quoted, which seemed to show no appreciation of the concerns many of us on the left of the party have had about its direction in recent years. Unfortunately, the co-operative and mutual ideals which the Liberal Party has always supported, and which were one of the things that attracted me to it, now are often twisted and distorted and misinterpreted to support conventional right-wing economics.

  • Peter Watson 11th Jul '13 - 6:02pm

    @Simon Shaw “You said that the VAT increase “increases the tax burden on the lowest incomes the most” and that is simply untrue.”
    You are incorrect according to the IFS, an organisation for which you appear to have the utmost respect: “the percentage of net income paid as VAT varies relatively little across most of the income distribution, with the biggest exception being that the bottom decile group does pay a higher fraction of its net income on VAT than do other income groups.” (http://www.ifs.org.uk/budgets/gb2009/09chap10.pdf) It is only by redefining the cost of VAT in terms of the proportion of household expenditure (rather than income) that the IFS makes the claim that the VAT increase is progressive, but that is not what you are arguing here.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jul '13 - 6:06pm

    Ah Matthew, I see where the confusion has come from: when I was talking about the problems of the merger I was talking about the more present day definitions of liberalism and social democracy and the present and future problems that welding them together has caused.

    I used to think the Liberal Party were the more free market influence, but by the time I joined the party I realised they weren’t. I was researching the breakaway Liberal Party and read how they seen themselves on the radical left!

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 6:11pm

    David Boyle –

    Thanks for coming in here personally. I’m sorry, but what you wrote WAS being used by Dan Falchikov to support the notion that liberalism is mainly about the sort of economics we used to call “Thatcherism”. This in a thread which seems to me to be very much about trying to push that line, and trying to push out with “good riddance” any of us who is unhappy about the way the party is being pulled into that sort of politics, to the extent that people even believe the Liberal-SDP arguments in the 19080s were about that sort of things, when you and I know they were not.

    To me, the arguments that Thatcherite economics are a form of liberalism have become weaker and weaker as we have seen them pan out in practice. So I think a genuine liberal should be concerned about them and capable of a critical analysis of them, just as I would hope someone motivated by the ideals of socialism would not have been taken in by USSR-style Communism and its claims it was implementing their ideals. Yet our party seems to be getting taken over by just that sort of fellow-traveller with the enemy, people who seem to take on board the arguments it misuses and seem to lack any sort of critical ability, and express contempt for those who aren’t convinced. I see all this in the attacks made here on Richard Grayson,and the claims that he was not and is not a “liberal”.

    When we are seeing so much Squalor, Ignorance, Want, Idleness, and Disease resulting from THIS government’s policies, and that comes in part from all previous governments since 1979 pushing the “private sector magic fairy dust” line, I think anyone who wants to conquer the Five Giants should be shouting out STOP. That, it seemed to me, was what Richard Grayson was doing. I’ve already argued why someone who despairs of this “me too” from the Liberal Democrats to Thatcherism might end up saying they might as well work with Labour or the Greens. Myself, I’m just giving up – a line until recently I always strongly argued against.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 6:22pm

    Joe Otten

    How on earth can we sensibly debate policy as a party if every moderate (or radical) centrist view is interpreted as code for an ultra-right-wing one?

    Or if anyone who doesn’t think “put it out to the cash market” is a good solution is accused of being some sort of old-style communist, told they are not a liberal, and told they ought to leave the Liberal Democrats and join Labour? Which is the context we’re arguing about here.

    I know why I am not Labour, have never wanted to join Labour, have devoted so much energy to fighting the Labour Party. Yet more and more I feel I am being pushed into a corner because I don’t think the sort of market-oriented policies initiated under the Thatcher government are working, and I don’t like the way our party seems to be getting taken over by people who are uncritical supporters of them. When I read Liberal Democrat Voice now, I often find I don’t feel I’m amongst friends, I feel I’m amongst people whose politics are alien to me, because their economic assumptions are the assumptions that when I was young were what was found on the right-wing of the Conservative Party – not even the centre, the right. Then I find these people are trying to tell me I’m not a liberal because I don’t agree with them, are trying to push a version of history of our party which I know from my own personal experience is completely untrue.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jul '13 - 7:04pm

    Matthew I’m not trying to push a version of the party’s history that isn’t true. Please refer to my comment above that wasn’t there before but has now appeared. This often happens because I’m on automoderation.

  • Richard Grayson 11th Jul '13 - 11:03pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    @David Boyle

    Matthew – belated thanks for a number of comments earlier where you have got to grips with what I was trying to get across, and said it better in many ways, so many thanks for your support in that. We are basically in the same place on a number of issues.
    David – correct, I absolutely don’t think you were abusing me and fully recognise the tone as that in which we have debated things over many years in a friendly way, and people will see that from the comments I have posted on your page. Thank you again.
    Both – I think a problem here has arisen by the way in which Dan Falchikov deployed David to support his own arguments when, although there are some similarities, there are also polar opposites in some of what David and Dan say. I think the exchanges between the two of you in the later stages will have cleared up some of that, and it’s great that David is willing to come on here to discuss and clarify his position. Sadly, what we have seen from Dan above is stroppiness when I didn’t answer just one of his many points whcih he deemed to be crucial, yet a complete failure on his part to come back on any of my points which counter his.

  • My advice to a lot of people on this thread not knowing who to support now is to join Compass. They started out within Labour but grew beyond that. They were the Labour activists who in the 2001 to 2005 term found themselves agreeing with Lib Dems on the environment, on Iraq, on civil liberties and on electoral form. Get with the progressive alliance and game the system together to get the most progressive parliament possible. We don’t have to get hung up on parties any more. the game has changed. You’ll find a warm welcome in Compass and you’ll feel at home there.

  • “Matthew, you are quite right in your memories of the merger. In those days, it was the SDP which was regarded as too close to Conservatism.”

    Yes but. In 1981 I and many others joined an SDP fronted by Shirley Williams and led by Roy Jenkins, unjustly pilloried as right-wing because he knew something about finance and the limits of what was possible, unlike most current day politicians. The SDP more-or-less invented the term “centre-left” to distinguish themselves from the self-declared “centrist” Liberals. They did so because their origins showed their genuine commitment to reducing inequality, whereas Liberals tended to be more interested in civil liberties issues. The Liberals weren’t actually Orange Book enthusiasts for middle class enrichment in those days, but for many of them, the elimination of poverty wasn’t a big priority, either.

    Then things changed. Jenkins fought an election, won 26% of the vote and was sacked as a failure. (Nobody else has ever failed so successfully since!) Owen beat him to the SDP leadership by promising to be more “radical” and even more “socialist”. It gradually emerged that “radical” meant a keenness to adopt a form of Thatcherism-lite. The SDP lurched to the right. Many of its members were not happy. I certainly recall my own attitude gradually evolving from “we’ve got to work with these Liberals, but they’re a bit of an odd bunch at times” towards “thank heaven we’re in alliance with these Liberals, maybe they will help compensate for the Owen disaster”.

    So yes, by 1987 the SDP leadership had lurched to the right, but it hadn’t taken the bulk of the SDP with it. That’s why the SDP rank and file eventually (too late!) woke up, voted for merger, and drove out the right-wing cuckoo in its nest.

    I live in hope that we can react faster, this time, to a rather similar situation. Sadly, I don’t think we are on course to do that. Like Owen, Clegg will eventually slink off in ignominy, or else join the Tories. But only after losing an election, and wrecking the party’s chances for another generation.

  • “It beggars belief that in 2008 he thought that it was better to spend even more money on public spending than take low paid people out of tax.”

    As I’ve pointed out on another thread, what you’re forgetting is that in 2008 the party was proposing a cut of 4p in the basic rate of income tax, combined with further tax cuts specifically aimed at those on middle incomes. The wizard wheeze of dressing up middle-class tax cuts as a way of “[taking] low paid people out of tax” was still just a gleam in some spin-doctor’s eye.

  • Simon Shaw

    “You said that the VAT increase “increases the tax burden on the lowest incomes the most” and that is simply untrue.”

    No, Simon. No one (except you, apparently) denies that the lowest income decile pays a larger percentage of their income in VAT than any other decile. That, of course, is the standard measure of whether a tax is progressive or regressive. Look at Figure 10.1 in this IFS report, for example:
    http://www.ifs.org.uk/budgets/gb2009/09chap10.pdf

    What you are misremembering is that some people within the IFS have in the past put forward an alternative revisionist viewpoint, based on a rather peculiar analysis of the amount paid in VAT as a percentage of expenditure, with households classified by expenditure rather than income. In that classification the ‘poorest’ households had – if I remember correctly – on average an income three times higher than their expenditure. The strangest definition of poverty I have ever read.

    To the best of my knowledge the IFS dropped that method of analysis several years ago. (By all means correct me if I am wrong, by citing a current example.) Even when presenting the revisionist analysis in 2010, the IFS felt constrained to observe “it must be noted that the ONS analysis suggests VAT is regressive even as a percentage of spending”. In other words, even in terms of this peculiar non-standard analysis, the Office for National Statistics still found that VAT was regressive.
    http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/4813

  • Simon Shaw

    “Sorry, Steve, but I now note that you claim to be more expert that the IFS, as when you said:
    Steve 25th Nov ’10 – 2:02pm “The IFS really are a complete joke.””

    Sorry, but I can’t resist reminding you of what Nick Clegg said when the IFS published something he found awkward:
    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has launched a direct attack on a leading think tank over its analysis of the government’s spending review.
    The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said poorer families with children will be the “biggest losers” of the cuts.
    But Mr Clegg told the Guardian newspaper that the IFS’s definition of fairness was “complete nonsense”.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11603419

    Now you have a dilemma, don’t you? Are the IFS experts, or do they talk “complete nonsense”? Careful how you answer …

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '13 - 7:51am

    Eddie Sammon

    Ah Matthew, I see where the confusion has come from: when I was talking about the problems of the merger I was talking about the more present day definitions of liberalism and social democracy and the present and future problems that welding them together has caused.

    No you were not.Your opening words were “I think the merger between the SDP and the Liberal Party was a bad idea”. You were identifying the division between those who think free market policies are the central issue of “liberalism” and those who are sceptical about their delivery of freedom with the division between the Liberal Party and the SDP in the 1980s. As myself and others who were there at the time have said, this just was NOT the issue of contention at the time of the merger, the Liberal Party was NOT wedded to extreme free market policies and concern about the dangers of extreme free market policies was NOT exclusive to the SDP.

    So you ARE part of the Orwellian campaign undertaken by various people, whether knowingly or not, to rewrite history for political reasons, to get people to believe the opposite of what was actually the case happened, because it suits their politics to get people to believe that.

    Your use of the words “liberalism” and “social democracy” above show what these people are trying to do. You want “liberalism” to mean “a supporter of extreme free market economics” and “social democracy” to mean “free market economics with active state participation”. So you tell untruths about history because it makes this labelling more plausible if you can pretend the Liberal Party was all about extreme free market policies and the SDP was the force in the Liberal-SDP alliance wanting to modify them. The reason you are doing this is because it makes Ayn Rand type politics look more plausible and gives it more standing if it can get to be called “liberalism” and linked with that long historical tradition.

    I’m not saying you are consciously doing this, but if you really didn’t realise what actually were the issues between the Liberal Party and the SDP at the time of the merger and just wrote what you wrote because you thought they were what I hope you have now been persuaded to see they were not, you are a victim of these people who are trying to change history in the way George Orwell wrote about in “1984” to push their narrow ideology.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '13 - 8:30am

    David Allen

    So yes, by 1987 the SDP leadership had lurched to the right, but it hadn’t taken the bulk of the SDP with it. That’s why the SDP rank and file eventually (too late!) woke up, voted for merger, and drove out the right-wing cuckoo in its nest.

    My recollection was that it was more about the bulk of the SDP realising that the Liberal Party was more skilled and successful than they realised when they joined the SDP, and so accepting that the SDP wasn’t needed as a separate party because the Liberal Party was already doing what the SDP was set up to do.

    The point was that the Liberal Party then, as the Liberal Democrats now, was patchy, and received very little coverage in the media (in fact much less than the Liberal Democrats now) and most of what coverage it did get was negative. So if you were in a part of the country where the Liberal Party had not established a good campaigning existence, it was easy to believe what the media told you, that it was an obscure bunch of eccentrics existing mainly in the Celtic fringes. If you believed that, then the idea of a new party which would be a better opponent of Thatcherism than the Labour Party was being was obviously very sensible. Many good people whose politics then and now were very similar to mine joined the SDP when it was formed on that basis.

    At the time, and now, I didn’t believe there was a need for such a new party as I saw the Liberal Party doing what that new party said it was doing. I thought the Liberal Party was doing a good job identifying new decentralised ways of campaigning that were getting through to people who were already dropping out of any interest in politics on the grounds “they’re all the same, politics isn’t about the likes of us”. That was a matter of great concern to me, because the fewer people were involved in politics, the fewer people voted, the more it would get pushed to the right, because right-wing politics works by money paying for it while left-wing politics needs activists. All that I feared then has become much worse since. At the time I was living in Sussex, where this break of poorer people from any attachment to the politics of the left was more obvious, whereas in the north and urban areas there was still the strong attachment to Labour. But even in the north and inner London there were places where strong Liberal Party groups had established and were shaking up a complacent Labour Party, most obviously Liverpool and Tower Hamlets.

    Most people who joined the SDP didn’t realise what we “radical liberals” as we called ourselves were trying to do with our ideas on decentralist politics. So they tended to think politics ought to be as they saw it presented on the media, ought to be about a strong national image based around the leadership of the party and the policies its central organisation was developing. As a result, most of the arguments between Liberal Party activists and the SDP weren’t on policies at all, they were on presentation and campaigning tactics. In terms of policies, the spread in both parties was to the point that there were few significant differences and huge overlaps. On the Liberal side perhaps more who had policy ideas we now see more in the Green Party. When you say that for many Liberal Party members the elimination of poverty was not an important issue, I think you are very wrong. After all, it was the Liberal Party then which had as its central slogan the idea that it was building a society where “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. That is, it put the elimination of poverty FIRST.

    When you point out about the SDP leadership lurching to the right, you indicate the danger of the centralised leader-oriented constitution which the SDP had. That was a big concern for many of us Liberals, but most SDP members couldn’t see our point, and thought we were being obscurantist to make an issue about it, and thought that the centralism was all part of the SDP being a more efficient campaigning machine than the Liberal Party. When the merger happened, the constitution of the new party was largely based on the centralised SDP constitution – which is why half the Liberal Party negotiators walked out of the negotiations. But none of this was understood by people outside, because the media were reporting it all as the SDP being the main thing driving the Alliance, and the Liberal Party being an obscure bunch of eccentrics from the Celtic fringes.

    Well, now you see what those of us who opposed the merger because we didn’t like the centralised leader-oriented constitution were so worried about. That constitution has enabled the right-wing bunch leading us to mount their coup and take over the party, forcing out long-term members such as Richard Grayson. And this time, the way you got rid of your right-wing leadership in the SDP, by merging with the Liberal Party, is no longer open.

    I appreciate a lot of what either of us says about these tings depends on where we were and who we mixed with. During the time of the Liberal-SDP alliance, I was very mobile, spent some time in Sussex, some time in London (some of it in a wealthy borough, some of it in a poor borough), some time in Norwich, and a little time campaigning to get Michael Meadowcroft elected in Leeds West. So what I say is based on my experience with the two parties in a variety of places.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '13 - 9:06am

    In the general identification of liberalism with free-market policies, we need to recall that writers in the past were working in an era where private corporations would be largely city-wide, not even nation-wide. It was a much smaller scale, and the state was very obviously the dominant power in the land. Therefore pitching private business against the state could very easily be identified as a form of liberalism, particularly where that state was aristocratic rather than democratic.

    Those people writing in the past just did not anticipate a time when the economy would be dominated by global corporations, when it would be nation states kow-towing to corporations rather than vice-versa.

    That is why, in my opinion, those who are trying to steal the word “liberalism” to mean “supporter of extreme free market economics” and selectively cite 19th-century liberals to support their case are so wrong.

    The big corporations now rule because they dominate the necessities of life, we cannot exist without them. Progress within them depends on adherence to their ideology. Their scale is such that it is almost impossible for small scale enterprises to challenge them. As such, I would say the big corporations are like the landed aristocrats whose dominance the 19th century liberals opposed.

    To identify “liberalism” with extreme free market economics, citing past writers but paying little attention to how much things have changed due to the change in scale is to me as wrong as calling yourself a “socialist” and citing 19th century socialist writers, then identifying late 20th century Communism as just what you are about, failing to take into account any of how things had changed and of how it had become obvious that the 19th century ideas were just not working in the 20th century environment.

    Those who pitch the state as the big powerful enemy whom we are fighting are wrong. They are fighting old battles, they are living in the past. They are not the 19th century liberals they suppose themselves to be. They are the 19th century Tories, defending the aristocracy (the leaders of the big global corporations being the 21st century equivalent), saying they have a natural right to live luxurious lives because they are the ordained leaders, better people so much than the rest of us that they must live like that as their reward, and we must accept that as it is necessary for society’s existence for it to be like that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '13 - 9:10am

    And that is why people who say that Richard Grayson is not a liberal because he is disgusted by the policies of the current government are so wrong and so insultingly wrong to him and to all of us who have worked so hard to build up a party they can take over and wreck.

  • John Roffey 12th Jul '13 - 9:33am

    Yes, the leaders of the giant global corporations are the equivalent of those powerful landowners, created in medieval times, that the Tories once protected.

    We have now entered a new age – global feudalism – and the Tories are doing all they can to see that it succeeds.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '13 - 1:18pm

    Joe Otten

    The right of the party talks about markets, in the hope that the left of the party will one day understand what the right means by markets – broadly that people making their own choices in the economic sphere will generally make better choices than if those choices are made for them by somebody else.

    Well, according to what you’ve written, all the problems are with the left of the party, it’s the right of the party who are wise and intelligent, and the left are just silly billies who don’t understand.

    Do you realise how arrogant this comes across?

    I have myself acknowledged that I value input from the right. You have made no corresponding acknowledgement. I have acknowledged that conventional left-wing politics have not delivered what they promised. You have made no corresponding acknowledgement.

    You have just uttered conventional economic right-wing arguments without a hint of any sort of critical analysis that might be able to see why this sort of economics has not delivered the freedom in practice it promises in theory. Even though after years of this ideological line becoming the dominant one we are in a serious economic crisis, with many people, the poor in particular, suffering badly, you cannot even bring yourself to acknowledge that perhaps there are faults with this simplistic market ideology you continue spouting, that perhaps in practice it does not quite work as you say it does in theory.

    That is why you and your type come across to me as like the Trots whose simplistic spouting of old socialist lines so turned me off and led me to become a Liberal. They lacked critical ability, they could not see any faults in their theory, they lacked a human sense of why it did not always work. Despite the manifest failure of their ideology when it was put in practice in the USSR and China etc, they had no real story as to why it did not work there, always just excuses, often of the sort that all that was needed was for it to be implemented in an even more extreme form.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '13 - 1:27pm

    Joe Otten

    I think we are at cross purposes in this debate much of the time, because the left of the party talk about values thinking that the right of the party has different values

    No, I don’t think you have different values. As I’ve written above, I think you lack critical ability, and you have shown gullibility in being taken in by the right-wing arguments put across by today’s aristocracy to defend its privileges. I think you lack a sense of humanity, perhaps you don’t mix with many ordinary people who could have given you one, which would have helped you understand why yourg rand theories don’t work so well in practice, and understand why so many people, including many who I in the past persuaded to vote Liberal Democrat tell me “this government is the worst one I have ever experienced”.

    I would not have put it so harshly had you shown the slightest signs of being able to understand the concerns of the left that have led to so many of us withdrawing our activity from the Liberal Democrats. What drew me here was the abuse thrown at Richard Grayson, the stamping and cheering as yet another old-timer left the party so leaving the field clear for the ideological purists who think they are so perfect and wonderful that they are beyond criticism, and good riddance to anyone who leaves because they can’t stand that attitude any more.

  • Dan – I am sure your 1.30 post is demonstrably rubbish. Even I am not so blinkered as that, and you won’t find many Lib Dems more public sector orientated than me. Certainly Matthew and Richard are not. Actually, your use of the term “state” rather gives it away. Anyone who looks carefully at the public sector can distinguish between good and careful actions and the “actors” behind them, and wasteful careless actions, initiated by people who either couldn’t care, or haven’t got the nouse or the management to do better. The private sector is just the same. Sometimes you find people who produce superb goods or services, in good time, and at great price. Other times you get service which is cr*p.

    I happen to agree with David about small scale mutualism, too along with many old Liberals, but by deeming the public sector “incompetent state apparatus” you are using mirror image language to the sort the Leninists used to use.

  • “It’s often said, but where is the evidence?”

    The 2005 manifesto called for greater taxation and spending – i.e. a larger state. David Laws writes articles advocating that the state be reduced to 35% of GDP, etc.

    “The fine point of fiscal policy to do with the timing of austerity measures? (On which the opposition now appears to have conceded.)”

    Policy has changed from advocating a larger state to reducing its size – Laws wants to reduce it further.

    “Why on earth wouldn’t Clegg or Laws have joined the Tory party if that is what they believed in? How do you explain their support for the policies of the Liberal Democrats?”

    Clegg did, right at the height of Thatcherism: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2009/02/06/cuca_msp_list_amended.jpg
    The question is why did he then decide to join the Lib Dems? I’d guess it might have something to do with Europe, but on economic policy Clegg is more at home in the Tories. As for Laws, here’s what wikipedia says:

    ‘Around the time of the 2010 general election, it was alleged that Laws told a Conservative colleague that he would have become a Conservative politician had it not been for the Tory party’s general “illiberalism and Euroscepticism” and particularly the Thatcher government’s introduction of Section 28, which forbade local authorities from “promot[ing] homosexuality’

  • “Steve, and yet the size of the state by the end of the coalition will be larger than it was under Blair. (Left of Labour again)”

    And smaller than under Thatcher in 1983, so to the right of the Tories. I can cherry-pick as well.

  • Richard Grayson 12th Jul '13 - 3:47pm

    @ Dan Falchikov
    “The fundamental problem I have with Richard Grayson and Liberal Left if their refusal to see the state as anything other than benign.”

    Well, this is just nonsense considering the arguments that we have made, and the policies we have supported, over many years, on civil liberties.

  • John Roffey 12th Jul '13 - 3:59pm

    Although there seems to be a general scorn of UKIP here, surely it must be recognised, as Cameron has, that they are not going to disappear, particularly now they have the generally won the protest vote.

    With the austerity measures set to bite even deeper – which will push voters to the left – isn’t it going to get rather crowded on the right if the Party continues to follow NC & DL on that path?

    Labour, already predicted to win by a healthy majority, will have the left almost to themselves!

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jul '13 - 12:25pm

    Joe Otten

    I recognise none of those things in the economic liberals of the liberal democrats. Not a sausage. Unless you start interpreting what we actually say as code for something else.

    You think I’ve been taken in by a snake oil doctrine that actually serves illiberalism. That’s fine – we can discuss that. If that is the principle difference between us, then I certainly hope you stay in the party

    OK, I’m content to take that as reaching where we agree to disagree. Yes, I do believe you’ve been taken in by a snake oil doctrine that actually serves illiberalism.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jul '13 - 11:25pm

    Joe Otten

    Steve, and yet the size of the state by the end of the coalition will be larger than it was under Blair. (Left of Labour again)

    Yes, and as I KEEP saying, that’s largely down to the big growth in life expectancy that’s been taking place, resulting in more money being paid on state pension and on the health care needed for older people. Some of it is due to more people being unemployed and so more benefit payment. Quite a bit of it is due to council housing being run down, so people who would have been in council housing now in more expensive private rented housing, the rent paid by housing benefit.

    I don’t see more money being spent on the NHS because people are living longer as in any way a sign of a “bloated over-powerful state”. The money being spent on housing benefit is a direct consequence of the right-to-buy of council housing which was and still is put as a measure to reduce the power of the state.

    I’ve repeatedly made this point in response to people here claiming they are “economic liberals” and using the rise in state share of GDP as a sign of a bloated over-powerful state, of some sort of shift to the political left etc, and not once have I had a reply that acknowledged my point. The language these “economic liberals” are using is playing the Daily Mail game of giving the impression state money is being given to make life ever more luxurious to “scroungers”, or that cuts to state services can easily be made. That’s TORY talk, Joe, Tory talk.

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.If it walks like a Tory and quacks like a Tory, it’s a Tory. You seem to be saying that though you use exactly the same language as the Tories, and propose the same economic policies as the Tories, deep down there’s some difference that’s all in your mind, and I’m suppose to respect that. You say that Tories are all about standing for the better off and being contemptuous of the poor. Well, how come they are so keen on these economic liberal policies? How come there are right-wing think tanks pumping out these economic liberal ideas and paid for by the same people who pay for the Tories? If you were to question the Tories about their principles, they wouldn’t say “Oh, we’re all for keeping power to a small elite”. They would justify their policies in exactly the same way you justify economic liberalism, as it all being about choice and freedom.

    The more you deny there’s any sort of problem here, with your “not a sausage” talk, the worse you come across. If you were aware of the benefits of market economics, but also aware of the problems and how a simplistic use of these ideas actually works in the way you say the Tories are underneath, I’d respect you more. But you don’t. You don’t see any problems with the economic theories you share with the Tories, and even though large numbers of former supporters of the Liberal Democrats have dropped away in disgust at the effect of these policies, you talk as if it’s just incomprehensible that anyone who’s a liberal could have any concern over them at all. You act as if you just can’t see any of the problems that have caused people to leave our party in disgust. That makes it all worse, Joe. If, as you claim here, you really can’t see any of the problems when these theories have been tried in practice, then there’s something lacking in you, and that something is something that to me is pretty central to liberalism. It’s a sense of humanity and a sense of balance and an ability to see things as others see them.

    That is why I rank the economic liberals in our party as like the Trots who I used to engage with when I was younger. In both cases, they are locked in their own ideology, a simplistic one which seems to them to answer everything, and gives then a sense of superiority over those who take a more balanced view of politics. When one pointed out to them all those cases where in practice their theories have not achieved what they claim and in fact have turned our pretty nasty, instead of acknowledging that perhaps there are problems and maybe things are not as simplistic as they like, they just became angry, made excuses, and said the solution is even more extreme implementation of their theories. And so we have it here – in response to concern about the damage caused by the right-wing policies of this government and previous governments going back to 1979, all of whom have been very much influenced by the “market good, public sector bad” mentality, all that is said if “Oh, but look, the state is now even bigger”, implying we must cut, cut, cut even more. No acknowledgement that perhaps the cuts aren’t working, perhaps they’re just causing more problems that mean for every cut made in one place, there is more misery spending in another. No acknowledgement too of simple reality issues, like the lengthening lifespan one. Oh no, just more spouting of the theories, if the world doesn’t fit the theories, it must the be world that is wrong, not the theories.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '13 - 12:47am

    Joe Otten

    But we are left with the bare fact of a state slightly larger than in recent years and decades, and therefore however much explanation you try to give, the charge that this is a slash and burn government is an egg thrown against the rocks – it breaks apart making no dent in its target.

    That is nonsense. Leaders of local councils are talking of being at breaking point, of being unable to deliver even the services they are legally bound to deliver, let alone anything else. Talk to anyone in public service and they will tell you of the increased pressure due to reductions in the number of staff. Anyone in public service will tell you of how there was so much that was done in the past that can’t be done now due to “the cuts”.

    The state is vastly smaller in terms of its influence than it was when I was younger. Look at all the industries which in those days were nationalised. Look at the way council housing was then the dominant form of housing. Look at the way there were exchange controls and price controls and the like.

    But people then died on average at a much younger age, there are many more medical interventions now that can keep people alive (at a cost) who then would have died. I don’t myself think that because there is a much bigger proportion of the population which is elderly and so receiving a state pension means the state has become “larger”. Nor do I think the fact that private landlords are making huge profits courtesy of the taxpayer through housing benefit thanks to council housing having been run down due to “right to buy” means the state has become “larger”.

    The words you are using implying the state has become “larger” and suggesting there have not been any “slash and burn” cuts can and are being used to argue for cuts which are directly affecting people’s liberties, pushing people into poverty and unemployment. That you seem unable to recognise this and pooh-pooh it suggests to me you are little different in mentality from the Tories. You are spouting out the arguments the Tories use to justify making the poor poorer, making people suffer, denying the liberty that comes from having a job paying a reasonable income, affordable housing and so on.

    What is needed is a national debate which recognises the real reason state spending is increasing even though the state has less real power. In some cases it’s because slash-and-burn spending cuts just lead to problems elsewhere that end up costing more than was saved by the cuts. You utterly refuse to recognise this as a problem. As you refuse to recognise it, you will just go on and on urging more and more cuts, finding they don’t actually save any money, but claiming this means the state is getting “bigger” so we must cut again with your argument that no real cuts were made so no-one should be concerned at any damage caused.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '13 - 1:04am

    jedibeeftrix

    Do meet demand (of forty five percent of GDP) by raising supply (asking the public to accept higher taxation), or do we return spending to the level of taxation, has been answered as the latter.

    I believe people deserve to have the question put to them honestly. All the factors that are leading to state spending rising should be made clear – increasing lifespans being the major one, but there are other also deriving from the more complex nature of society, such as fewer jobs for unskilled labourers so a need for most young people to stay on far longer in education than used to be the case.

    Joe Otten and others like him are NOT putting the question honestly, because they love to go on about the state becoming “larger” and about it being “bloated” and “bureaucratic”, and so make out that extra demands on state spending are all due to things like too many civil servants on high salaries, or recipients being given huge sums to live lives of luxury and the like. They are not willing to mention the REAL reasons for state expenditure increasing, because that doesn’t fit in with their nice theories, and doesn’t fit in with the wishes of those very wealthy people who are paying think tanks to pump out simplistic arguments along these lines which they eagerly lap up.

    Sure, with lengthening lifespans and much more we can do medically, if we want to continue providing it all through a tax-funded NHS, then taxes must increase. That ought to be obvious. If people are unwilling to pay more taxes, then they will have to abandon the NHS system. If people didn’t want to pay large sums to pay for private rents, then they ought not to have agreed to the right-to-buy of council housing, because this is the inevitable consequence. If they feel the families of people without a job or with one paying far less than is needed for the rent of a family house, then they should tell us how they would humanely dispose of the children concerned so this is no longer an issue.

    The problem is that people are not thinking of it in these ways and so being given a chance to answer these questions because people like Joe are hiding the facts and pretending it’s all easy-peasy, that there’s no real problem, it’s all down to too many bloated bureaucrats, who can easily be sacked in easy-peasy cuts that no-one much would even feel.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '13 - 1:06am

    ” If they feel the families of people without a job or with one paying far less than is needed for the rent of a family house” add “should not have their rents paid by housing benefits”.

  • @ mickft

    “the people who believe that in a shared administration you can stop everything you don’t like and enact everything you ever promised.”

    I don’t think all those who are unhappy with the policies of the coalition have this view. The coalition agreement sets out what the coalition could or could not do and therefore everything not in it could be vetoed by either the Liberal Democrats or Conservatives. We should only have agreed to further Conservative policies either because we agreed with them or received something in exchange. We failed to do this and that is why we criticise the leadership.

    @ mickft

    “What is more surprising is that some of the loudest voices against the government and our role in it actually have extensive experience of doing the same thing at a local government level with both the other parties.”
    The reason these are some of the loudest voices is because they know how coalitions should be managed and so their experience shows the incompetence of our national leadership.

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    “What am I to do? I would welcome suggestions” I suggest staying in the Liberal Democrats and doing your bit to as Tony Greaves says, “rescue this party.” You have been in the party longer than me and I think you should stay. I believe the time will come hopefully in the next 2, 3 or 4 years to have a leadership more in tune with the activists and us.

    @ Joe Otten

    “what the right means by markets – broadly that people making their own choices in the economic sphere will generally make better choices than if those choices are made for them by somebody else. (Do the left, and authoritarians in general, generally imagine that “somebody else” in this kind of question will be more virtuous than the individual, and that this will help?)

    This sums up the problem with economic liberals that they believe the market always provides the best solution while social liberals believe in a mixed economy and believe that some things are best provided by government than markets. Also Joe believes that the left of the party are authoritarians when they are liberals.

    @ Dan Falchikov

    “The fundamental problem I have with Richard Grayson and Liberal Left if their refusal to see the state as anything other than benign.”

    “the reason why I quoted David Boyle is because I share his view of small scale mutualism.”

    Your understanding of those on the left of party seems to be very wide of the mark. I am sure all liberals acknowledge that the state does not do everything better than the alternatives and therefore is not always benign and I expect lots of them would support the growth of mutualism.

    @ Joe Otten

    “a government committed ideologically to shrinking the state would not be deterred by some increase in need for the services the state provides.”

    When economic liberals talk of shrinking the state, social liberals see them as pursuing ideology and rejecting the idea of a mixed economy and that governments can provide some services better than markets.

  • One good thing that is evident in this thread is the seriousness with which many of the participants, particularly in the thread’s later stages, have addressed themselves to the issues concerned. It is hard indeed to imagine that a thread on a Conservative/Green/Labour/UKIP supporters site would have had a similar character, and I do hope that those who may be tempted to leave the party, or indeed have left the party but who have not as yet joined other parties, will reflect on what quality of debate they are likely to find in other political environments.

  • Eddie Sammon 15th Jul '13 - 9:50am

    I’m working on Jedi, there’s nothing moral about sitting on your hands when it comes to defence and foreign policy :).

  • Eddie Sammon 16th Jul '13 - 1:40am

    Matthew, I knew full well that the Liberal Party at the time of the merger wasn’t akin to a free-market think tank and I didn’t try to make out otherwise. I wasn’t very clear what I was getting at in my post, but it wasn’t that.

  • @ Joe Otten

    “the left of the party talk about values thinking that the right of the party has different values. The right of the party talks about markets, in the hope that the left of the party will one day understand what the right means by markets – broadly that people making their own choices in the economic sphere will generally make better choices than if those choices are made for them by somebody else. (Do the left, and authoritarians in general, generally imagine that “somebody else” in this kind of question will be more virtuous than the individual, and that this will help?)”

    “I’ve never heard a single liberal democrat call for the end of the mixed economy.”

    “Do I believe the left of the party are authoritarians? Of course not. What is the Labour party for, after all?”

    Joe if you do not wish to be misinterpreted you should take more care with what you write. Clearly you have stated that with regard to the economic sphere you don’t see much need for any non-market activity. It therefore seems reasonable to think you are therefore against the mixed economy which has a role for government in the economic sphere.

    In the paragraph above you talk about “the right of the party” and “the left of the party” and then “the left”. It is therefore reasonable to assume you are still talking about the left of the party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Jul '13 - 12:14pm

    Amalric

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    “What am I to do? I would welcome suggestions” I suggest staying in the Liberal Democrats and doing your bit to as Tony Greaves says, “rescue this party.” You have been in the party longer than me and I think you should stay. I believe the time will come hopefully in the next 2, 3 or 4 years to have a leadership more in tune with the activists and us.

    I have already dropped out of all activity in the party, except for trying to defend what the party used to stand for in this forum. But when I find the most enthusiastic people for the party here, those who proudly advertise their membership by putting the Liberal bird by their names, so very far removed from in thinking from that which led me to join the party in the first place, I do have to question whether it is worth even this amount of bother.

    When I first joined the party, I was on its centre left. So, sure, on the big arguments I tended to fall on the left side, but there were also plenty in the party who were too far left for me. But now I feel as if I am on the fringe. People who think like me seem to be dropping out daily, their only replacements being people with extreme right-wing economic views, the sort of unthinking out-of-touch views I opposed when they were found only amongst Tories, and I joined the Liberal Party because I felt it was doing a better job than Labour at challenging the Tories and providing an alternative.

    I am now not at all convinced there are enough people left in the party who think like me to be able to mount an effective fightback. Arguing my case here, and then turning round and finding almost no-one in support of me is part of that. I think that too was what Richard Grayson was getting at. We balance closeness of the party with our views with size of the party making it an effective mechanism for furthering our views. If the party has both moved away from my views, and shrunk in size and hence electoral effectiveness, both of these are factors making it not worth bothering with.

  • I’ve just re-read all this thread, or as much of it as I could stand.

    The message has to be: Don’t keep going on about staying together for the sake of the kids. Stop obsessively refighting all your old battles. Admit it, the spark has gone now, and it will never come back.

    There isn’t room for three in a marriage. That Posh Boy who moved in with your man three years ago has completely usurped your position. Your man says it’s only a passing fling, but he’s lying to you, of course. He has eyes for nobody else. You mean nothing to him any more. Don’t sulk. Don’t get mad. Get even.

    Find a good lawyer. It was your family whose hard work over the generations built up all the capital and bought the house, wasn’t it? What right has this man to smarm in and seduce you, transfer the house into his name, and then invite Posh Boy into his bedroom, while you have to slink away and sleep in the cellar?

    Sue for divorce. Throw him out. Get your house back. Then you can start to rebuild your life.

  • David Allen 16th Jul '13 - 1:08pm

    I’ve just re-read all this thread, or as much of it as I could stand.

    The message has to be: Don’t keep going on about staying together for the sake of the kids. Stop obsessively refighting all your old battles. Admit it, the spark has gone now, and it will never come back.

    There isn’t room for three in a marriage. That Posh Boy who moved in with your man three years ago has completely usurped your position. Your man says it’s only a passing fling, but he’s just soft-soaping you. He has eyes for nobody else. You mean nothing to him any more. Don’t sulk. Don’t get mad. Get even.

    Find a good lawyer. It was your family whose hard work over the generations built up all the capital and bought the house, wasn’t it? What right has this man to smarm in and seduce you, transfer the house into his name, and then invite Posh Boy into his bedroom, while you have to slink away and sleep in the cellar?

    Sue for divorce. Throw him out. Get your house back. Then you can start to rebuild your life.

  • John Roffey 16th Jul '13 - 1:22pm

    Surely the Dear Leader, having seen the Party’s low poll ratings and the general contempt there is for him as a politician, will do the decent thing and fall on his sword very soon. {anyone seen the Matt cartoon with a picture of No 10 with a ‘Clegg Flap’?]

    He might actually be composing his resignation letter as I write!

  • I have also dropped out of all party activity. I just can’t face defending the leadership and what we are agreeing to in government. However if I could afford it I would still attend conference so I could try to ensure we had policies that are in line with our tradition. I identify with social liberalism and hope that the Social Liberal Forum can organise themselves to maximise their representation on the party’s committees. I believe that Liberal Left are further to the left than me and they are still in the party. I also see people posting on this forum that share my values. I haven’t counted those who are economic liberals so I don’t feel outnumbered here.

    “I am now not at all convinced there are enough people left in the party who think like me to be able to mount an effective fightback.”

    Who knows if this is true but if you leave the party then there will be one less to take part in the fight-back.

  • I think those of us still left from the YL tradition of the late sixties are probably “the furthest left” of all the Lib Dems (Tony Greaves, obviously, but others post here sometimes. We come from what was christened “leftier than thou”. A for instance; Amalric, you mentioned to Joe Otten about him “talking unthinkingly about the left, and presumably meaning the left of the Lib Dems”. Actually, he probably didn’t mean that, because he and many modern Lib Dems tend not to think of the Party in “left” terms. In our generation of YLs, our raison d’etre was of the left. Many of us would not have joined Labour because of what we saw as a “machine politics” rightism in Labour. The right in the Labour Party has always turned us off totally. So our concept of where the old Liberal Party stood would overlap with Labour on a left – right scale, and although we were aware of people from the right of the Liberal Party, being young, the zeitgeist seemed with us. We also saw and built, what became community politics, which at that time was based loosely around communicating, caring and sharing. Perhaps our generation (both in and out of the Libs / Lib Dems) “sold out” as we became richer, had families etc, and it was always an impossible dream of youth! We also had clear ideas that our form of left politics was inclusive, not sectarian and exclusive.

    Nevertheless, many of us have maintained our value set, and are prepared to continue the fight in some form! Unlike you both, Amalric and Matthew, I am still active – we have some local members who see the activity of the coalition in fairly negative terms, and we are trying to discuss how we address this within the party. I will not claim it is easy, it isn’t, but I don’t think all hope is lost – yet.

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