Swinson: The Liberal Democrats are the party of business

Today (18/11/19), Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson will be making a speech to business leaders at the CBI annual conference. She will be making the case that the Liberal Democrats are the natural party of business.

Jo Swinson is expected to say:

In an interview last week, Carolyn asked who the party of business is today.

The answer is clear. The Liberal Democrats are the natural party of business.

With the Conservatives in the pocket of Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn stuck in the 1970s, we are the only ones standing up for you.

Because we believe that any form of Brexit, whether it’s hard or soft, blue or red, will be bad for jobs, business, and our public services.

We believe that being part of one of the most successful economic blocs in the world is the best guarantee we can have for the future success of our businesses and of our country.

We believe that our best future is as members of the European Union.

……

I know that recent years have been challenging – and not just because of the dreaded B-word.

The Conservatives hide behind the balance sheet and employment rates to paint a picture of a healthy economy.

But you and I know that, if we look more closely, the image is not quite as rosy as they would have us believe.

After all, we know that Boris Johnson is hardly a details man.

It’s a bit like when you ask your child to tidy up their room – the room might look clean, but you know you’ll find a mess hidden under their bed.

So let’s take a closer look at the health of our economy.

Last year, business investment fell every quarter, for the first time since 2008.

In the last 12 months, our productivity growth has flatlined.

And R&D spending continues to lag behind that of our competitors.

That’s not what a healthy economy looks like.

And for too many people, the economy just isn’t working at all.

Despite record levels of employment, the average wage is £760 lower than it was ten years ago in real terms.

One in five people is living in poverty, in our country – the world’s fifth largest economy.

The vote to leave the European Union has distracted the government from addressing the very real issues in our economy.

Over the last couple of weeks, both of the Conservatives and Labour have set out their plans for investing in schools, hospitals, railways, and everything in between.

Build infrastructure, and the jobs, tax receipts and economic growth will follow.

Seems like sound logic, but it is not that straightforward.

To spend that much money that quickly, we need ‘shovel-ready’ projects.

We need the skills and people to make them happen.

And we need you to feel confident, to want to invest, safe in the knowledge that the government of the day values you and respects you.

Leaving the European Union makes all that so much more difficult.

Already EU citizens have started to leave us.

We know it will only become harder for you to get the talent you need.

And we know that business confidence is at its lowest level in seven years.

Both the Conservatives and Labour will have to scramble around for projects to pour money into just to keep their word – regardless of whether they’re good projects and good use of public funds.

So they can stand on stages like this one and give speech after speech, making all the right noises about investment, about wanting to work with you and give you what you need to thrive.

But the truth is this.

If you want to get Brexit done or get Brexit sorted, you are not the party of business.

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21 Comments

  • Nice enough speech but no policies to level out High Street v online, nor any inclination to move some of the tax burden from people to industry – a wide open area that would go down much better than nationalization or lower business taxes.

    Be interesting to have a small turnover tax that could be ramped up by popular petition via internet where companies are seen to be ripping people off, either through high prices or poor quality – that really would put the power back into the hands of individuals in areas where the market has failed and big business has moved into cartel mode.

  • I agree that the LDs should be the party or small and medium businesses at least. I think the pitch is wide open at the moment too. Sadly, I doubt that this speech would convince any small business owner that the understanding is deeper than just ‘there there’ of course we support you.

    I have never felt politicians to be so remote from small business in all my life. It starts with plonking an unnecessary election in the middle of the one month of the year retail can still just about make money, and the negligence goes on and on. Failure to recognise changing shopping habits with corresponding tax and rates schemes, no protection for small shops from the minimum wage (and yes if you think if we can’t afford to pay it we shouldn’t be in business that’s fine, in my case you’ll soon have 3 more of us to find benefits for) – why for eg doesn’t it recognise that there are really kin and local variations? Politicians have argued about Brexit angels on pinheads while business rates have destroyed the high street. Most damning of all, 85,000 retail jobs lost so far this year – not a squeak. Not a help package. Not even an ‘oh dear something’s wrong’.

  • David Becket 18th Nov '19 - 12:51pm

    The worst speech we have seen from Jo yet. Apart from the stop Brexit message and confirmation that things are bad (which they know) not a word about what we are going to do about it . Nothing about reform of business rates, nothing about using tax to improve the balance between high street retail and on line, nothing about £10,000 for lifelong education and training. I could go on. This is the first real own goal of the campaign, a real missed opportunity, unless we have only seen an extract from the speech. It is not too late, I understand the speech has not been given

  • Innocent Bystander 18th Nov '19 - 1:05pm

    Why the obsession with the High Street? Apart from nostalgia, that is.
    There is no future in playing Canute against the march of time. The High St shop won’t have the colour or size you want, or probably wouldn’t have it in the first place.
    Why would fiddling with rates fix anything? I am not going to traipse into town to be told they don’t stock it when I can tap on my lap top and it arrives later that day. A new rating system will just keep the doomed limping on a bit longer, that’s all.
    Don’t tell me I will miss the High St. Why should I ?

  • Paul Barker 18th Nov '19 - 2:28pm

    While all the above comments are no doubt stuffed full of wisdom, they rather miss the point in the middle of an Election Campaign.
    If we cant find anything positive to say, best to remain silent till Friday the 13th, its not a long wait.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Nov '19 - 2:30pm

    Silly slogan, poor speech. Whoever wrote it should be stood down.

  • David Becket 18th Nov '19 - 2:51pm

    @ Tony Greaves. Yes
    @ Innocent Bystander
    The High Street is not just about shopping. It gets you out into the community, you meet people, exchanger ideas, get inspiration, help build communities.
    Tapping on your lap top may give you material satisfaction but does nothing to enhance interaction with others. Sitting at your computer you are a bystander.

  • David Becket 18th Nov '19 - 3:31pm

    The speech looked better than the summary above.

  • Bill le Breton 18th Nov '19 - 4:04pm

    Jo has just done a really good interview on Bloomberg.

    You can always tell a good interviewer by whether they get our Party name right! Small but revealing thing. So, Bloomberg got our name right and let Jo answer every question without interruption.

    What does business want to know? Well actually not much of the above, so Tony is right.

    They want to know how we shall use our votes in the next Parliament. Which is to Stop Brexit or, without a majority, to get a referendum where a deal is set against Remain.

    In their brains every business in that room wants Remain, but are worried about not taking >50% of the public with us.

    “Every one of you will be less profitable this time next year and even less profitable three years from now if Brexit goes ahead. It is your fiduciary duty and in your interest that Brexit, as defined by the latest agreement, goes ahead.

    You can stop it, you can demonstrate to your staff and to your shareholders that they can and should Stop Brexit.

    Our appeal to you who have that influence is to use it and to vote Liberal Democrat and to urge everyone you meet and communicate with to vote Liberal Democrat.

    Thanks for listening.”

    Exit stage right!

    It is getting more and more important as each day passes (and is wasted) to avoid distraction and to focus on the primary issue.

  • Bill le Breton 18th Nov '19 - 4:07pm

    Oups! ” It is your fiduciary duty and in your interest that Brexit, as defined by the latest agreement, does NOT go ahead.”

  • @Innocent Bystander – Why the obsession with the High Street?
    It isn’t so much the obsession with the “High St.” but with retaining its modern commercial retail form and the business rates that currently collected using a broken valuation model; broken by out-of-town retail parks and the Internet/mail order.

    We have recently successfully transferred our local library to a CIC from the Council, who were closing it because they only saw a traditional (book lending) library occupying a prime high st. location (redevelopment £££), not a community space – that did alot of other things, that brought people into the high st. We effectively took the ideas behind “the pub is the hub” and applied it to our town centre library…

    The need is to rethink what the “High St.” is about in the coming decades and communicate that vision. It is this lack of thinking differently is why I’m certain that Brexit (if it actually happens) will be a failure.

  • Innocent Bystander 18th Nov '19 - 5:02pm

    Roland,
    Well done but it’s the High St as a retail model that’s irretrievably broken, no matter what dreamily miasmic vision David has for it. No fiddling with rates will force people out of a one stop hypermarket back to shopping with a little basket, stopping at one place for a packet of tea another for two apples and another for a piece of cheese.
    I remember the “Home and Colonial Stores” but it’s all over.
    Why do you think you should manoeuvre people into “enhanced interactions”? Let them vote with their feet. Let nature take its course and new practices displace the outdated.
    I do object to my very hard earned tax being used to prop up shops that have neither stock nor customers, purely for ” decorative” purposes.

  • Nonconformistradicql 18th Nov '19 - 5:11pm

    @Innocent Bystander
    “No fiddling with rates will force people out of a one stop hypermarket back to shopping with a little basket..”

    However in recent years the major supermarkets have been opening more convenience stores and holding back on building new large supermarkets.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jul/25/supermarkets-planning-permission-cancelled-new-stores-shopping-habits-change

  • Who watches Bloomberg?
    Will we appeal the High Court decision?
    We are now really up against it, Battle of Britain moment, where is our Spitfire. Will we be swept aside.
    Canvassed by the Cons candidate and helpers ie 2, this afternoon, m,y wife told them she would vote Con and I Lib Dem, to be informed there is no Lib Dem standing. Obviously the Boris lying and misrepresentation of reality has spead here. Did my bit for the party, chased them down the road and put them right, said I might inform the local media!!!.
    Strange really because he has made a splash in the local paper because he is only 18.

  • Innocent Bystander 18th Nov '19 - 6:04pm

    @Mr Adical,
    Then the market place is working as it should, although I don’t see how Tesco, Saintsbury’s and Morrisons would count as struggling SMEs who need my (tax) help.
    This probably is the trend as my son and daughter in law don’t go to out of town hypermarkets either. They use their laptop and it comes to them.
    You have confirmed there is no need to worry about the High Street. The customers will sort it out as they always do.

  • @Innocent Bystander
    … Let nature take its course and new practices displace the outdated.
    Don’t disagree with you.

    Although, I’m not totally sure just what you mean by this question:
    Why do you think you should manoeuvre people into “enhanced interactions”?
    I assume you are referring to the re-imagined old style interaction, where as you note, doing a weekly shop wasn’t readily practical.
    Certainly, one of the motivations for saving our library was because it was being extensively used, and was a community space that had all the benefits of being on the High St.: car parks, buses and shops (there are about 20 shops, two of which are of the 7-11 style), so we weren’t manoeuvring people, just making sure that what was being used currently by the community wasn’t lost, plus having got rid of the council, we can now use the premises, like opening in the evening(!) and having authors do book talks and signings…

  • Intresting take on the “they’ll bring it to me for not a lot”

    Let’s get specific. DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats all deliver for McDonald’s. According to that most reliable of all sources, the internet, they charge about $5 to deliver your burger and fries. And it takes about 30 minutes from the time you order to delivery. This means that, like pizza, the driver can do about two trips an hour. This is a truly great service for the consumer too stoned to get his own milkshake at midnight.

    But there is no way, no way, in the world this can be profitable for the meal-delivery companies (or the restaurants if they do it themselves). Ten bucks an hour won’t even pay for the driver’s gas and minimum wage, let alone his incidental car costs. What’s left for DoorDash on ten bucks an hour? Nothing.

    https://wolfstreet.com/2019/11/17/as-bad-loans-explode-in-turkey-government-tries-to-recreate-debt-fueled-boom-that-let-to-its-financial-currency-crisis/

    I’d say the only problem with his arguement is quite ofter a driver will be taking multiple meals to multiple destinations but it still doesn’t make economic sense. A lot of “bring it to me” works on cheap subsidised delivery when the real cost has to be paided I suspect the number of deliveries will drop.

  • UK High Streets are mostly very similar, with the same shops etc. Where I live a lot of the small shops are only there so the people running them can get various in-work benefits and never seem to actually be open, except for one chap in a wheelchair who always positions himself in the doorway to make sure no-one can actually get in!

    What would make things interesting is widespread implementation of shop-houses, with accommodation above and small business below, with zero business rates and zero community charge but in zones where in-work benefits were not available (so probably neutral cost), thus making sure these were real businesses but able to run on a minimum cost basis. Many High Streets started out as small units so the structures are still there under the larger shops. Much better use of space, as well.

  • Innocent Bystander 19th Nov '19 - 9:50am

    Roland,
    I commend your efforts. My issue is not with the evolution of the High Street but with the notion that prices should be forced to rise on the retail parks where 99% of us shop in order to artificially increase the attraction of tiny High Street shops, chasing some misty eyed notion of turning our town centres into scenes from “Miss Marple”.
    But keep doing what you are trying. I might even put down my laptop and go and have a look!

  • @Innocent Bystander
    But keep doing what you are trying. I might even put down my laptop and go and have a look!
    Bring the laptop! We have Internet (1Gb from Gigaclear) and hot desks/office cubicles. If you don’t like our refreshments (provided more for convenience than to compete) then take your pick of the three coffee shops within 200m of the library’s door and get yourself a takeout!

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