Should the Liberal Democrats sell themselves like chocolate?

The UK consumed £3.5bn worth of chocolate in 2009, according to market researchers. Further research shows advertising spending by Cadbury’s results in them making £3 for every £1 they spend. We all know what chocolates we like, yet the confectionery companies spend millions a year on product recognition.

Let me ask you a question. What comes to mind when you think about the word Labour or Tories? Labour – do you associated them with the unions, NHS, nationalisation; Tories – what type of people come to mind, their attitudes, economic groups they favour etc. Such characteristics are not fixed but they do reflect a general perception among the voters regarding how they see the parties and affiliate themselves with them.​

Now think about Liberal Democrats – what comes to mind? Liberty, freedom of the individual/speech, equality to name a few. I would make the assumption that these are your thoughts and not what you hear on the doorstep. In this country, people pride themselves for living in a liberal society with liberal values yet we have not been able to associate those liberal beliefs that people hold so dear to the one liberal party in this country – the Liberal Democrats.

Serious politicians want to talk about serious things but the platform from which they are heard requires them to be elected. We don’t have billions to spend in order to associate events/issues that occur in our communities to Liberal Democrat values. So, what’s the answer?

To be honest, I don’t have an answer, but I have a theory.

It’s surprising how many members have trouble linking party policy to liberal values, so what chance have the voters got? We know that regular and clear messages will build voter recognition. We need to communicate our messages in our Focuses, when discussing issues on the doorstep or being interviewed by stating the liberal principle we are addressing/championing before replying to a question or advocating/supporting an issue in a Focus.

We don’t have billions like the chocolate companies but we have a large membership, we have thousands of active members across the country who regularly contact voters; if we state the liberal principles we are supporting that lead us to an action on an issue, I believe, it will start to resonate with liberal thinking people that we, naturally, have a lot in common with them. This involves a change to the way we script our messages and write our literature and it will remind us we are liberals.

Hopefully, one day when members of the public are asked what comes to mind when they think of Liberal Democrats? They will reply that they recognise our liberal stance for their liberal communities.

By the way, I am a milk chocolate fan…

* Tahir Maher is a former Chair of South Central Liberal Democrats and lives in Wokingham.

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71 Comments

  • nigel hunter 22nd Jan '18 - 10:42am

    People talk about the Liberal elite running the country. I would say we have the Conservative elite running the country. Our values should be discussed on the doorstep
    and focus leaflets

  • ………………….Now think about Liberal Democrats – what comes to mind? Liberty, freedom of the individual/speech, equality to name a few. I would make the assumption that these are your thoughts and not what you hear on the doorstep. In this country, people pride themselves for living in a liberal society with liberal values yet we have not been able to associate those liberal beliefs that people hold so dear to the one liberal party in this country – the Liberal Democrats…………….

    The old adage about, “Handsome is as handsome does” comes to mind…
    We can call ourselves anything we want but what comes to mind with most voters is how we behaved when we were in government..

  • I’ve only been a LD member for a year, but I could explain what the party means to me at its best – it should be about internationalism rather than isolationiam and xenophobia; for freedom of choice where possible; for equality of opportunity; for opposition to vested interests (big business and big unions equally); intolerance of intolerant beliefs like antisemitism and transphobia.

  • Yeovil Yokel 22nd Jan '18 - 10:55am

    My general rule of thumb is that a good product shouldn’t need advertising. I’ve never seen my favourite chocolate (G & B’s Organic Dark 85%) advertised – does the same principle apply to a political party?

  • nigel hunter 22nd Jan '18 - 11:02am

    Yes it is true when in Government we made a mess of it.yes the voter has a long memory but we must still persist. We must seriously learn from the past and convert new voters and not make the same mistakes again

  • nigel hunter 22nd Jan ’18 – 11:02am………………Yes it is true when in Government we made a mess of it.yes the voter has a long memory but we must still persist. We must seriously learn from the past and convert new voters and not make the same mistakes again……..

    I agree; but we don’t learn…Two of the most ardent supporters of Anti-(L)liberal policies have been knighted; LDV still has many supporters of our years in coalition…Until we, as a paty, distance ourselves from those persons and policies that cost us so dearly we will remain a fringe group on single figure national support…

    Corbyn seems to have no problem distancing his vision of Labour from those of the 2000s..That is why Tory taunts about Labour’s past sins fall flat…Why can’t we do the same?

  • expats: Who would lead this party with a clean slate ? Maybe a change of name from Liberal Democrat to Democrat as in the USA or Social Democrat as that seems to be the position of most present day Liberal Democrats but ideally this should wait until or if there is a breakaway Labour Group which seems unlikely to happen so it might have to happen earlier. The word “Liberal” seems to be toxic now, not just because of the coalition but because the media seem to have poisoned people’s minds against the supposed failings of Liberalism. The word used to be linked to the policy of peace, retrenchment and reform but that does not seem to be what Liberal Democrats support now so its use is a misnomer and is unhelpful to the modern party.

  • John Marriott 22nd Jan '18 - 11:55am

    Expats can be wise after the event if he/she wants. For me, and many other supporters of pluralism in party politics the events in the Downing Street Rose Garden in 2010, whilst being a little cheesy in some aspects, signaled a possible once in a lifetime opportunity for Liberals to practise what they preach.
    You see, if you believe in a fairer voting system you will nearly always end up with coalitions. Germany, with the D’Hondt method of PR, has only had one majority Government since WW2. So, when FPTP delivers a hung parliament, what do you do? You can go for a Confidence and Supply arrangement à la Tory/DUP or you can go the whole way by forming a coalition government.
    The cynics might argue that Messrs Clegg, Alexander and co, in choosing the latter, were more seduced by the government limos than by the prospect of doing some good, which is probably where Expats is coming from. If it is political purity that he/she craves for, fair enough. Let the Liberals stay a single digit in the opinion polls. As someone who spent 30 years as a councillor, working with and against other parties, I can tell him/her that real life is not as binary as his/her type would like. The shining example of that must surely be the 2016 EU Referendum.

  • The title doesn’t fit the article that well, but the answer to the question in the title is “no”. Politics shouldn’t be presented as product people passively consume but as one they get involved in and become part of.

  • John Marriott 22nd Jan ’18 – 11:55am…………………Expats can be wise after the event if he/she wants……………

    But I wasn’t just wise after the event…I and others ( many of whom have left not just the party but will not vote for us) watched with dismay, and said so in no uncertain terms, as we lost hundreds of councillors, 9/10 MEPs, bye elections and deposits….

    What happened? Nothing…We were branded trouble makers and ‘party/personal loyalty’ was the byeword..In 2015 our resident ‘Mystic Meg’ forecast a late surge where we would become the official opposition and a luminary promised to run naked if we gained fewer than 26 seats (we won 8)…

    Three years and one more election later we are just where we were in late May 2015…

  • Tahir Maher 22nd Jan '18 - 1:24pm

    Thank you for your comments. I don’t believe that Liberal is a dirty word, in fact I think it’s something we should use more of as liberalism is so prevalent. But I like the idea of considering calling ourselves, as an alternative, Democrats (kind of emphasis PR).
    Peter Watson – I agree with you, what is our unique political identity, because the voters will have no knowledge of the preamble to the constitution (good as it is). The point I wanted to make was what values can we identify that are specifically Lib Dem, state them in small bytes, again and again, to votes that resonates to their liberal values. The other point really is the one you raise currently what is our unique political identify that separates us from other parties. I am open to suggestions.

  • Well

  • “Should the Liberal Democrats sell themselves like chocolate?”
    Well, perhaps we need to ask the Rowntree trust for a grant…….
    I think that the Cadburys were a Liberal family, too. The Frys were Quakers (like Joseph Rowntree).

  • Now think about Liberal Democrats – what comes to mind?

    From the perspective of the average person on the street:

    (1) They love the EU

    (2) PR

    (3) Um, aren’t they the ‘legalise drugs and prostitution’ party?

  • John Marriott 22nd Jan '18 - 3:43pm

    We appear to be back to the world of two party politics in England at least, where we were when I first got involved with the Liberal Party back in the 1970s. This might not be the case in council elections to the same extent that it appears to be at national level.
    How you change that scenario is the $64,000 question. Without a reform of the voting system we could be in for a long wait. As has been said before, it could all boil down to what they call the ‘core vote’, which, as far as the Lib Dems are concerned, is historically low, compared with the Tories and Labour. Even during the euphoria of the SDP/Liberal Alliance in 1983 or the height of ‘Cleggmania’ in 2010, when opinion polls had the parties’ percentage points in the middle to high twenties the number of parliamentary seats won were a poor reward. So, what’s different this time?

  • David Evershed 22nd Jan '18 - 4:42pm

    Marketing is about communicating with people – but before that you have to decide what is your value proposition. This should be clear, brief and distinctive – unlike the preamble to the our constitution.

    As Lib Dems we are not entirely clear how liberal we are when it comes to business where many people are tempted to intervene nor when it comes to freedoms where many people are tempted to a nanny state.

    The Labour party have already taken the value proposition for the interventionist, nanny state party. Lib Dems should adopt a value proposition of being liberal and free and then communicate it consistently and constantly.

  • @ David Evershed ” The Labour party have already taken the value proposition for the interventionist, nanny state party.”

    I hope you never have to wait six hours in an ambulance or on a trolley for admission to an A & E unit, or have a relative wait for mental health treatment over 200 miles away, or have your three month old twin grandchildren rushed into hospital with breathing difficulties (which I have), or lose your job with Carillion and have a six week minimum wait for your Universal Credit and then have to visit your local foodbank. or you end up rough sleeping because your landlord has been told your rented accommodation is unfit for human habitation. You’ll be demanding a Nanny then,

    There is such a thing as Society – and I’m frankly appalled that the phrase ‘Nanny State’ can be used by you as a Liberal Democrat on a Liberal Democrat site..

  • Unfortunately, I think the term Liberal is a bit tainted, and doesn’t mean the same to others as it does to us. We are also vulnerable to how the term is used around the world, and not just the traditional meaning to us Brits.

    Right-wingers use liberal as an insult, and they associate the term with a lack of morals, whether it’s a free for all with drugs, alcohol, sex, or most generously (to them) an assumed naivety towards the sort of threats the Mail and Express readers are reminded of daily. To the left-wingers, the term is used to describe the worst excesses of greed and capitalism, often couched in the term ‘neo-liberalism’, which has become a catch-all criticism for people who want to sound intellectual, but rarely show any understanding of what it means.

    That these abusive uses of the term are unfair is beside the point so long as it is working for them. Can we rehabilitate the term? I think we should stick up for it, but we need to realise that what we all see as a positive attribute, isn’t quite as impressive to everyone else. We have to fight hard to present our vision of liberalism, and be able to explain what that means, and why it’s definitely not about turning a blind eye to greedy bankers, or turning a blind eye to child protection.

    As for marketing ourselves, that should be happening, whether it’s as obvious as a big brand like Cadbury’s, or subtle like a niche brand, such as Green & Blacks (who definitely do have a marketing team). Do we want to be seen as a niche party or mainstream?

  • OnceALibDem 22nd Jan '18 - 7:23pm

    “My general rule of thumb is that a good product shouldn’t need advertising. I’ve never seen my favourite chocolate (G & B’s Organic Dark 85%) advertised – does the same principle apply to a political party?”

    Given that G&B is a niche product with a small market share supported by a dedicated (and informed) customer base that got taken over by (sold out to) a bigger rival this may not be a good analogy!

  • It’s a long time since the Cadbury family funded the Liberal Party and the News Chronicle. And it’s a long time since Cadburys, Rowntrees and Frys had British owners.

    As to advertising and ‘the brand identity’ – telling the truth, not breaking promises and having radical relevant policies are prerequisites. If people don’t believe in the authenticity and integrity of the product then no amount of advertising will shift public opinion.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jan '18 - 9:59pm

    What comes to mind when you think about the word Labour? Their leader and their shadow chancellor.
    Tory is a four letter word with origins on Tory island, off the northern coast of Ireland.

  • Suzanna Austin 22nd Jan '18 - 11:47pm

    I’m mulling this over and although yes what is repeated back to us on the doorstep can be (and often is) about our ‘days in coalition’ and ‘selling out’, i think people do really understand what we are about especially at community level. I’ll give an example i’m in Northants and libraries are under fire here due for closure, locals have automatically contacted me as the Lib Dem Candidate in the local election to fight for community services. Whilst it could be that they know i’m pretty loud and I’ll let everyone know what i believe in, i think it is more possibly to do with the association between fairness – equality of opportunity and Lib Dems. I have asked people why they are asking me and say not UKIP or Greens and almost unanimously they seem to believe that Lib Dems will fight to protect communities. So that tells me that the equality message is hitting, just maybe being cynical here people only want it when it benefits them! Election day is the 15th Feb so we will find out then.

  • @ Red Liberal

    Liberalism often sounds middle class. We should give up the idea we are about equality of opportunity – a Conservative idea. We need to acknowledge that having a more equal outcome is liberal. We need to have a radical approach to ensuring no one in the UK has an income less than 60% of the average. If a person has an income less than 60% of the average they lack freedom and their liberty is reduced compared to the average. Of course liberalism is about the control of power, but workers are not really powerful today.

    @ expats

    One of the major failures of our party during the Coalition was our giving up our economic policy and publically supporting with enthusiasm the economic policy of the Conservative Party.

    @ nvelope2003

    After merger there was talk of presenting ourselves with different names and the reason we decided on Liberal Democrats was the popularity of Liberal. To change our name as you suggest would divorce us from Liberalism. It is Liberalism which should be the basis of our policies and so it should not be abandoned.

    @ David Evershed

    It is a major function of Liberalism to intervene within the Capitalist system, because the Capitalist system does not provide the same level of freedom for everyone.

  • Liberal Democrats-the party of reform.
    Reform the economy so that all young people can get a worthwhile job.
    Reform the health service so that everyone gets the care they need.
    Reform education so that all can develop the skills they need.

    Learn the lessons of the coalition but look forward. This country does not need to return to a failed political system where ultimately many will suffer.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jan '18 - 7:04am

    Manfarang,
    How you define the Lib Dem’s could apply to all parties that occupy the mainstream of politics. However, I do have concerns that you have singled out “young people” alone for special treatment.

    The trouble is that, if you take all main parties as broad churches, you will find that their core values often overlap. That’s why our ‘winner takes all’ voting system does not reflect the complexities that exist.

  • I absolutely agree that the LibDems should be marketed in the same way as a consumer product. The public have to WANT to become members, it is not enough simply to pronounce policy, it needs powerful, emotive imagery and words that pull the emotional, rather than the intellectual strings. The solidifying of those emotions can be underpinned later, in the same way that eating the chocolate reinforces the initial desire.

  • Susanna Austen Good luck in your fight to save your libraries –
    But has it ever occurred to you that the cuts to local government finances emanated from a gentleman by name of Sir Danny Alexander?

  • The example of chocolate is a good one. I do not remember seeing a chocolate advert recently but have in the past. They do not say anything about getting lots of sugar and thus leading to ill health. They do not say anything about being addictive. They do not say anything about the healthier alternatives. Very like politics really.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jan '18 - 9:40am

    Suzanna Austin,
    Whilst it may be easy to blame Sir Danny for threatening your libraries in Northants, you should be aware that where the cuts are made actually does depend on the local authority. Sadly, for a variety of reasons, libraries are not the only source for personal entertainment and intellectual enrichment they once were and so it is no wonder that councils of all political persuasion have been reconsidering them for some time.
    We faced the Libraries issue in Lincolnshire directly after the 2013 local elections, when the small Lib Dem Group joined a coalition with the Tories and some Independents. If my memory serves me correctly, it was decided to retain five main libraries and around fifteen smaller strategic ones and to put the running of them out to competitive tender (as per EU regulations). In addition it was decided to offer the running of the rest (around 30 small libraries) to volunteer groups under the supervision of the libraries service.
    Yes, there was a fuss at the time, led mainly by the Labour opposition group; but now, not only does the county have over twenty professionally run libraries but also around thirty libraries, supervised professionally but essentially run, as envisaged, by volunteers. Our local library is one of the latter and, now that I am retired as a councillor, I am about to be a volunteer as well (if I get through the training). You see, I practise what I preach.

  • Phil Wainewright 23rd Jan '18 - 10:14am

    @ Michael BG
    Can you elucidate how it is mathematically possible for a majority of the population to have an income greater than 60% of the average?
    I have a feeling 50% will prove to be the maximum achievable.

  • Phil Wainewright 23rd Jan '18 - 10:17am

    @ Michael BG
    Apologies I have rechecked my maths. I see what you mean.

  • John Marriott
    Everyone All

  • I wasn’t a LibDem voter until last year, but I remember two electoral campaigns which worked well enough for me to still remember: “the real alternative” (circa 2005) and the posters in 2010 attacking the established parties as the “Labservatives”. Perhaps positioning the LDs as a strong opposition force is the answer, with an anti-establishment (and also anti-populist) edge.

  • The problem we have is that we had a “new Coke” moment in the coalition. There was much that was good about the coalition but “consumption” of the product was not wholly a success in either case!

    We need a new Beveridge report that addresses the NHS, social care and free university tuition fees paid for by fair taxation. And get back to classic Liberal Democrats.

    There is much that is unfair with current taxation – starting with council tax. A university degree is what A-levels were a few decades ago.

  • Nick Collins 23rd Jan '18 - 12:50pm

    @ Michael. Perhaps, after your “new Coke” analogy, you should be calling for a new beverage report? Does that bring us back to the hot chocolate idea?

  • Michael BG: Until 2010-15 the name Liberal was an asset but since then it has become a liability in many places, often provoking ridicule or even contempt. I do not think the party will ever have the courage to drop it although not many of those who post on this site are really Liberal in the way that word has been traditionally understood. Social Democrat would be a more accurate description and now that we have a Socialist Labour party there might be some demand for a revival of that strand of left of centre politics although judging by the state of the Social Democrat parties in Spain, France, Germany, Italy etc the omens are not good at the moment. The only Liberal parties that seem to be thriving tend to be those on the centre right rather than on the left of centre. Britain is one of the few countries where the left under Corbyn is doing better but I am not sure that they will win the next election as even under this awful Conservative government they are only level pegging in the opinion polls and there is some concern about the people who are running the Labour Party. A long period of Conservative Government has usually produced some revival in Liberal fortunes especially if the Labour Party is distrusted.

  • @nick collins
    🙂 LOL!!!!

    You may well be right!

  • David Evans 23rd Jan '18 - 1:16pm

    Actually David (Raw) it wasn’t just Danny who made a mess of Local Government Finance, it was Eric Pickles who was given ministerial responsibility over the one area above all others where the Lib Dems were strong and massively competent. For some reason, Nick and his advisors didn’t think this would be a problem. In fact, after Tuition fees, this was probably the biggest blunder we made in coalition.

    Eric Pickles fancied being on the top table. The way to get there was to cut your departmental budget like mad. It didn’t affect his civil servants, just local government. Hence not only were we massively unpopular because of what we were doing in Westminster, we couldn’t do anything to offset it locally because money was being cut much more from councils than in any other area.

    Talk about selling ourselves like chocolate. More like giving ourselves away for nothing.

  • Tahir Maher 23rd Jan '18 - 2:59pm

    Thank you all for your comments – some very amusing. All products have a USP I really want to understand what is ours so we can build our themes of delivery and policies on. This is an area I will come back in future articles. Thank you again for your comments.

  • Having just started to read “Pure, White and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It – John Yudkin” I don’t think selling ourselves like chocolate is at all a good idea. An interesting book, given he originally wrote it in the 70’s but the power of orthodoxy and the sugar industry drowned him out. Perhaps we should be more like Yudkin, seeking the truth and what is best for our society rather than short term fixes and sound bites.

  • Phil Beesley 23rd Jan '18 - 3:58pm

    nvelope2003 : ” Until 2010-15 the name Liberal was an asset but since then it has become a liability in many places, often provoking ridicule or even contempt. I do not think the party will ever have the courage to drop it…”

    I don’t understand how the UK liberal party might drop the liberal nomenclature.

    Even given the post-2010 kerfuffle, “liberal” is our best attribute. Sadly, we don’t know how to use it.

  • @ Jane H-J

    We could try pushing the idea we are a party of hope. We are optimists; believing we can improve the lot of everyone; believing everyone should have the same choices through-out their life no matter what life throws at them; believing every person is of equal worth.

    Is this an emotional message?

    @ Phil Wainewright

    Thank you for your posts. I wish every party member understood it was possible for everyone to have an income of at least 60% of the average and I wish it was party policy to achieve it during a five year Parliament.

    @ Michael

    The slogan “fair taxation” is meaningless unless you define how you think they could be made fairer; then we can discuss if in fact your proposals reduce the taxes of the poorest and increase them for the richest.

    @ nvelope2003

    I am not sure that the general public dislike the word “liberal”. However, I expect there are lots of people who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 who feel betrayed by what the Party did in coalition.

    I don’t know what Social Democracy political philosophy is. However, I know what Liberalism is. It is making everyone equally free, so everyone can make choices for themselves and they are not constrained by their economic circumstances or their schooling or the power of others (I expect there are others).

  • David Evershed 23rd Jan '18 - 4:14pm

    Re the chocolate analogy.

    Remember that chocolate melts when the heat is on.

    Thus confirming some people’s misconception that Liberals are wimps.

    How about some Steel advert analogies? That’s the metal not the former leader.

    Try the promo ‘Values Stronger than Steel’ at

  • @Michael BG

    Fair taxes are taxes based on the ability to pay. That’s particularly income tax. Unfair taxes are ones that are the same for everyone regardless of income – particularly council tax. We also have a weird marginal rates of income tax on earned income that go up and down at different points if you include employers and employees National Insurance in with income tax. Arguably the cap on NI should be removed.

    Property in particular is fairly lightly taxed in this country.

    I think there is a willingness to pay the fabled 1p on income tax for a better NHS and indeed for social care. We also “gave away” – £30 billion a year by increasing the personal allowance on income tax.

    Personally I would also keep Government borrowing at £30-£50 billion a year in the short to medium term

    Of course the trick in Government is to “pick people’s pockets” without them noticing and give them lots of goodies in return – three-quarters of tax is through measures other than income tax as income tax is very noticeable.

  • Red Liberal 23rd Jan '18 - 5:46pm

    @nvelope2003 “The only Liberal parties that seem to be thriving tend to be those on the centre right rather than on the left of centre.” Believe it or not, there aren’t many centre-left liberal parties in Europe – most European liberal parties are on the centre-right (German FDP, Dutch VVD and so on).

  • nvelope2003 23rd Jan '18 - 5:51pm

    Michael BG: What is the basis for your figure of 60% of the average income as a basic income for everyone and why do you think this is possible for everyone ? I do not understand how you would enforce it.

    Mark Pack has produced an excellent description of the meaning of Social Democracy.

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Jan '18 - 5:58pm

    We must use the present situation to build a brand that says the Liberal Democrats stand for consistency and credibility, taking the inevitable backlash on the chin. We are the only Party offering such a stance on Brexit, the pivotal issue of the decade. Both the other Parties are scared of us doing this that is why they remind voters at every opportunity of our failings during the coalition. Defending civil liberties and the environment are of course also important.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Jan '18 - 6:04pm

    Michael B.G. Let us by all means be a party of hope and of optimism, Michael. Also identified as progressive, opening opportunities to everyone, and trying to find ways of ensuring everyone has a job, a home, and sufficient income. I’m only doubtful about suggesting everyone should have ‘the same choices’. I think I would like people to be able to have different choices. We want (our Preamble says) people not to be stifled by conformity. The challenge will be, I suppose, to ensure equality of outcome in the important matters, as you suggest, but still allow individual freedom and opportunity.

  • @ Michael

    I am glad we are on the same page. Until the Coalition government there was a strong element of people only paying Council Tax if they could afford to pay it. Now across most of England if you are of working age you have to pay something in Council Tax and this must mean that you now pay more Council Tax than you did before the Coalition Government even if your income has not changed and your Council Tax has stayed the same. The first step in making Council Tax fairer is to restore the national Council Tax Benefit scheme which the Coalition government abolished.

    @ nvelope2003

    Please can you give the link to Mark Packs definition of Social Democracy?

    The standard definition of poverty is having an income less than 60% of the average. I do not understand why you think policing a minimum income is not possible and designing a benefit system which ensures that everyone receives at least 60% of the average income needed for their household type is not possible.

    If you read my recent article (https://www.libdemvoice.org/how-we-could-abolish-relative-poverty-in-five-years-56262.html) and my comments which correct some mistakes in the original article hopefully you will see how it is possible to ensure everyone has an income of at least 60% of the average for their household type.

    @ Katharine Pindar

    No one should have restricted choices is what I mean by everyone having the same choices. This does not mean everyone makes the same choices; they can make different choices. When everyone is able to have the same choices this does not impose conformity, it increases liberty and freedom.

    Katharine, I think total equality of outcome is Communism, while having a more equal outcome is Liberal. As Liberals we need to decide how unequal outcomes should be. For me the test has to be an equality of choice.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Jan '18 - 12:47am

    Michael B.G. Ah, I see, Michael, Equality is as dangerous an idea as Freedom! Equality of opportunity is Conservative, you said on the 22nd. Equality of outcome is Communism, you said just now. We Liberals want equality of choice, you add. I’m not disagreeing, just thinking I’ll stick to telling people we want as you also say, ‘a more equal outcome’, it just sounds less absolute. But aiming that nobody should have an income less than 60% of the average, that’s definite and an idea we can uphold. For Britain at any rate. 🙂

  • Do I want “equality of choice”, actually no I don’t I want “equality of opportunity”. If the choices you get to make cost you much more than someone else then actually it ceases to be a choice. The greatest opportunity we can give anyone is education, and until we adequately fund education in all it’s forms peoples choices become truncated. This country doesn’t like to educate it’s people, it would much rather pick up trained staff from other countries and then moan about the feckless poor and bloody immigrants.

  • Alex Macfie 24th Jan '18 - 9:07am

    John Marriott: We didn’t target in 1983. And in 2010 Cleggmania led to us effectively abandoning our targeting strategy in favour of ‘One More Heave’, hence the disappointing result. The hubris in the party around that time reminds me of that in Labour currently, which is likely to end up similarly.

  • Michael BG: I do not have a link to Mark Pack’s article but details are on his blog.
    The problem with your figure of 60% has been pointed out by John Barrett in his comment on your original post. How would you calculate 60% “for their household type” ?
    In some circumstances 60% of average income could be a very high income.

  • Red Liberal: There are some centre left Liberal parties in the Netherlands, Denmark and Scandinavia and they have similar levels of support to that achieved by our Liberal Democrats in 2015 and 2017. In Denmark there is more than one centrist Liberal party and they seem to fragment over time but the Norwegian Liberals, Venstre (left) seem to haver recovered in the last 2 elections and have 8 seats in Parliament.

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    I didn’t say either equality or freedom were dangerous ideas. They are great ideas but as a liberal I understand if either is applied totally there can be problems. Total freedom can leave the weakest at the mercy of the strongest; total equality can stifle innovation.

    @ frankie

    Equality of choice includes equality of opportunity but goes further. If you see equality of opportunity restricted to equality of education outcomes will always be within a large spread. I expect you will admit that not every 16 year old can get all “A”’s in their GCSEs, not every 18 year old can get all “A”’s in their A levels and not every graduate leaves university with a First. To think that equality of education is enough is to not value each person equally but to value those who did very well out of their education more than those who didn’t. A person because they didn’t succeed with their education will have restricted choices thought-out their life. How can this be liberal? Liberalism has to be about removing as many restriction on a person’s choices as possible thought-out their life and this includes ensuring everyone has access to education and especially training thought-out their whole life.

  • @ nvelope2003

    John Barrett’s is correct if you doubled everyone’s income there would still be some on less than 60% of the average. However if you increase the income of the poorest to just above the 60% level you can increase the average only slightly while getting everyone to have an income above 60% of the average.

    Did you read my reply to John Barrett?
    “According to common sense this appears to be true. However if incomes for the poorest are increased and the incomes for the richest are not then it is possible. I put some figures in a spreadsheet with 35 incomes that produced an average of 100. I then increased the bottom 11 (28%) to 70 which increased the average to 108.8571. 60% is 65.31 but none are lower than 70. Which means it is possible. I don’t think it is easy. If there was the political will it could be done. My question is do we have the political will?”

  • Peter Martin 24th Jan '18 - 2:31pm

    We have to beware of averages. If we have nine people earning £10 per hour and one person earning £100 per hour the average income is $19 ph but the median income is still £10 ph .

    In such an example no-one is earning less than 52% of the average income but, even so, the level of inequality is still too high . IMO.

  • Peter Martin 24th Jan '18 - 2:41pm

    @ Michael,

    “Personally I would also keep Government borrowing at £30-£50 billion a year in the short to medium term”

    You can’t say this. If anyone buys some NS savings certificates, Premium bonds, Gilts or whatever they are creating Government debt or National Debt. The National Debt is the total of all previous deficits. The total of all the National Debts in the world is some $70 trillion. We don’t owe this to the Martians. We owe it to each other. So Government debts are just everyone else’s savings.

    In other words you, especially as a Liberal, can’t tell everyone what they should or shouldn’t save. If everyone wants to save more the Govt’s deficits have to rise. And vice versa if they want to save less.

  • David Evans 24th Jan '18 - 3:05pm

    Peter Martin, Surely he can say that, but it does depend to an extent on what the government did with the money used to buy savings certificates. If they used it to pay back other debt, there would be no change to National Debt. If they spent it on consumption, National Debt would rise (all other things being equal), but no higher than if the money was borrowed from somewhere else later.

    Also, there is no requirement for government to sell gilts, NC Certs or whatever. If they didn’t need to spend it they wouldn’t need to borrow.

  • @Peter Martin @David Evans

    People/businesses do not just lend to Governments but also to private businesses and individuals. An annual deficit of around 5% of the total debt does not add to the total debt as a PERCENTAGE of annual national income (GDP) as roughly the economy grows by that amount. (say 2.5% inflation, 2.5% growth).

    Spending on infrastructure firstly generates economic activity – jobs and taxes – further increasing GDP and reducing the debt as percentage of GDP. It also helps economic productivity – less time spent sitting in a traffic jam. Arguably spending on health and education also helps with a healthier and more skilled workforce.

    Economists will argue that there may be a “crowding out” effect – government borrowing may reducing private sector investment – especially when the economy is at full capacity and interest rates will rise see – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowding_out_(economics). But most western Government substantially increased borrowing 2008-11 with no effect on interest rates.

  • Micheal BG,

    I think your problem is your limited view of what education is. It isn’t getting everyone through a Levels or even to University, it is fitting them for life. Education is providing the life skills and training to succeed. People need the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, but they also need training to make them the best they can be, that may well be a graduate but it should also mean an electrician, a brickie and engineer and even a street sweeper. If you don’t invest in that, do not be surprised when we have to scour the world for skilled or even none skilled employees.

  • David Evans 24th Jan '18 - 5:33pm

    Michael, true, but I wasn’t posting on that aspect at all.

  • @ frankie

    I don’t understand where you get the impression that I don’t want everyone to have the education and training to make them the best they can be. As I have said this is not just education. However, not everyone will end up at the same place, but this should not reduce their choices, which it does currently. The question for liberals is how to ensure that the electrician, “brickie”, engineer, street sweeper, doctor and company director can have similar amounts of liberty and can make similar life choices and are not held back by their economic situation so that their liberty and freedom are reduced.

  • Peter Martin 24th Jan '18 - 7:34pm

    David Evans,

    You are right to some extent. If I bought some NS certificates at the same time as you were cashing in the same amount of yours to be able to spend on something, then there wouldn’t be any change to the ND. The cashing in of your certificates is the process of government repaying its debt.

    If Government didn’t issue NS certs, premium bonds, gilts etc the only option we would have to save our money would be to hoard it as cash under the floorboards or in a safe or whatever. We’d still be saving and the Government would still have a debt even though for historical reasons it isn’t counted as part of the ND. Cash is an IOU of government in just the same way as a govt bond. If we’d spent that money it would end up being collected as taxes by government unless someone else saved it along the way. Therefore not spending in that way has to increase the Govt’s deficit.

    The accounting identity that a Governement’s deficit has to equal, to the penny, everyone else’s savings has to hold true. ‘Everyone else’ does also include our overseas trading partners.

    @ Michael,

    You’re making the point that National Debts are usually expressed a % of GDP. So, the highish National Debt from the wartime period wasn’t actually paid off. It just went down as a % of GDP as the economy grew in the 50’s and 60’s. That’s really the only way it can be reduced.

    There is no crowding out effect as the events of the last decade have shown. Short term interest rates are decided by the monetary committee at the BoE. Longer term interest rates are manipulated by the BoE intervening in the bond market. When the BoE buys up (net) bonds (QE) their price rises and therefore their yields fall. So if the Govt wants lower longer term interest rates then it just asks our not-so-independent BoE to play ball.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Jan '18 - 9:28pm

    Michael BG. I certainly understood that you would be thinking of education and training for life, and I think you put it well when you wrote that ‘liberalism is about removing as many restrictions as possible on people’s choices throughout their life’. As to equality and freedom, it wasn’t you who said they were dangerous ideas, but me! I was thinking of how freedom as an idea is usurped at times by the Tories, and equality theoretically by Labour. I guess we Liberals need to get to specifics about what we mean, as you and Frankie have both been thinking about helpfully in relation to equality.

  • Sorry Katharine, it was not clear to me, that “Equality is as dangerous an idea as Freedom!” was your view and not a conclusion you were drawing from what I had written.

    I remember when the Conservatives always talked about wanting “equality of opportunity not outcome”; that is why I think it is important that as Liberals we never say we just want equality of opportunity and so imply we are not interested in reducing economic equalities and providing a more equal society. We need to recognise that ensuring no one is “enslaved by poverty” includes recognition that relative poverty can reduce liberty and we need to do something about abolishing relative poverty.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 28th Jan '18 - 12:29pm

    However to get back to the original question, do we want to advertise something that is not ethical, fair, or giving people a say ? Cadburys used to have some FairTrade chocolate, but have now downgraded that commitment which will lead to them making bigger profits. True Fairtrade ensures that the farmers get a fair and guaranteed price and therefore income. lt has good working practices, gets rid of exploitation. There are high environmental standards. It includes training. The Fairtrade premium is spent on what is going to improve working practices and/or life in the community. Decisions on how that money is spent are made by co-operatives, and women have to be part of that. Now all of this strongly reflects Liberal Democrat values. Sadly the marketing is about the same. It relies on committed people flogging away, and the product is bought by those discerning that it really matters to have what is fair and ethical even if it costs a bit more.

  • David Evans 28th Jan '18 - 2:25pm

    Peter in your post 24th Jan 2.41pm you say ” If anyone buys some NS savings certificates, Premium bonds, Gilts or whatever they are creating Government debt or National Debt.” in your response to me at 7.34pm you say “If Government didn’t issue NS certs, premium bonds, gilts etc the only option we would have to save our money would be to hoard it as cash under the floorboards or in a safe or whatever. We’d still be saving and the Government would still have a debt even though for historical reasons it isn’t counted as part of the ND. Cash is an IOU of government in just the same way as a govt bond.”

    You seem to want to imply that the government has no control whatsoever over its debt, but seem to be constructing ever more tortuous arguments to support it, extending and contracting your definition of National debt to counter whatever argument is put forward. However, you really can’t have it both ways.

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