Tag Archives: centreforum

Time for the Lib Dems to blow the final whistle on national wage settlements

It’s over 50 years since the campaign by Jimmy Hill, then chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, successfully scrapped the maximum wage which operated throughout the football league until 1961. Some probably lament the commercialisation of the game which it set in motion. But the idea that individuals should have a ceiling placed on their wage-earning potential by the authorities seems quaintly absurd today.

Except in the public sector. If you’re paid by the government — if, for example, you work in schools, colleges and universities, or the civil service and local government — then your wages are defined by national pay rates determined by Whitehall and trade union negotiations. It doesn’t matter which part of the country you work, you operate within that centrally-set national pay framework. It is as quaint and as absurd as the wage rules of football were half a century ago.

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The Independent View: Dropping the bomb

A report launched this week caught the headlines by describing the replacement of Trident as “nonsensical”.

“Replacing Trident makes no sense” said the BBC, while the Guardian led with “Trident nuclear deterrent upgrade ‘nonsensical’”.

But they were not quoting the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or any other campaigning organisation. Rather, they were quoting the liberal thinktank CentreForum, which David Cameron has previously commended “for their excellent work”.

Nick Clegg has also indicated the policy significance of CentreForum: “Many of the policy areas my party is implementing in government were developed, tested and refined through dialogue with the CentreForum team.”

The …

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Opinion: Reasons to be Cheerful

Waking up to the encouraging string of headlines as I did on Monday, I’m suddenly wondering if this is the point where we as a party have started getting it right?

If there are three uncontroversial elements to Lib Dem identity then equal marriage rights, campaigning against Trident and defending the individual (Nick Clegg launching the #thisisabuse campaign) are surely good starting points?

Conference is this weekend, so you could be forgiven for thinking these brilliant policies appear pre-emptively in our packs – but no, it’s almost as if we are a party of government: the Deputy Prime Minister appearing

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Opinion: It’s time to scrap Trident

The world is a better place because of the role Britain plays internationally through aid, diplomacy and, when necessary, using force sanctioned by international law. It is worth remembering the many Libyans and Sierra Leoneans who are alive today because of the actions of Britain’s forces.

Yet at a time when the government is preparing to spend at least £25 billion on replacing our Trident nuclear weapons, it is making cuts to the conventional forces that make such interventions possible. There have been £74 billion of defence cuts to date, with another £3-5 billion due to be announced before the Easter …

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Opinion: Vince Cable right to abandon penalties on early student loan repayments

Vince Cable has done the right thing, for the right reasons.

The new student loan system requires well off graduates to pay a higher rate of interest on their loans – up to three percent above inflation. This helps to cover the government losses on loans to graduates who end up on low incomes – overwhelmingly women working part time after having children – as well as making the system more progressive.

Cable was worried that well off graduates would pay off their loan early, to avoid paying the interest charges. He commissioned his department to look into creating early repayment …

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Opinion: 29 Days to save the UK

We are lucky it is a leap year. It gives us an extra day to save the country.

Here are two graphs, both from the Financial Times. This one shows the UK’s Nominal Gross Domestic Product. It shows the development of the double dip recession we are facing.

The figures are up to October 2011. The next will be published in February, but expect the trend lines to continue ‘south’.

Then, here’s a chart of a measure of the supply of money in the economy. It is a broad …

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LDVideo: Nick Clegg calls for ‘John Lewis economy’

Nick Clegg yesterday called on more British companies to offer shares to their employees, arguing it will improve productivity and unlock growth: “We don’t believe our problem is too much capitalism – we think it’s that too few people have capital.”

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Opinion: Before the debate – What’s the evidence?

The relaunch of the Beveridge group featured in Lib Dem Voice on 10th January, said that it hoped to generate debate amongst Liberal Democrats about how public services are best delivered.

Liberals in general are clear that public services should be democratically accountable at the lowest possible level. Where there is far less agreement is the role of choice, competition and the private and voluntary sector in provision of these services – particularly in relation to health and education. Inevitably many people’s reactions are heavily influenced by their own personal experience as a service user, public service employee or indeed …

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Tim Leunig writes: The problem with Labour’s proposed tuition fees cap

Ed Miliband has seized the initiative at the start of his conference, announcing that Labour would cap student fees at £6,000 per year. This policy is superficially attractive, and is clearly designed to win over LibDem supporters who remain angry at the rise in tuition fees.

Today I have published an analysis of Labour’s proposal. It uses the Business Innovation and Skills graduate income “ready reckoner”, which is based on data from the ONS Labour Force Survey. The underlying data are as good as they can be, although of course predicting graduate incomes in 30 years time is a dangerous …

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Ed Balls has a new take on having your cake and eating it

There are two problems with a Liberal Democrat like myself blogging about Labour Party conference. First, as I’ve so often seen from the other side of the fence, an outside blogging about another party’s conference frequently misreads what is really happening. And second, no blogger can compete with Hopi Sen and his cat.

So caveats deployed and on to the confusion that Ed Balls’s speech today left me in. For he had two messages: first, that Labour can’t promise to undo the government’s cuts and, second, that many of the cuts are wrong. Either on its own would be a …

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The Independent View: Centre Forum is wrong about aid – UK aid makes a difference

At a time of economic difficulties, it is welcome that the Coalition Government is retaining its commitment to the UK overseas aid budget. Indeed, UK aid is demonstrating great value for money, and making a real difference in the lives of the poorest. Which is why CentreForum’s recent paper by Pauline Dixon and Paul Marshall ‘International aid and educating the poorest’ is so puzzling. The report paints an alarming – but highly partial – picture of aid doing little to help reduce poverty, promote growth or achieve progress in education, and everything to line the pockets of corrupt elites. …

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Opinion: CentreForum’s parenting report is a step in the right direction

Liberal think tank CentreForum has produced a report, Parenting Matters, which advises the Government to do more to promote better quality parenting, specifically targeted at those families who need it most.

Much of the publicity surrounding the report concentrated on its “5 a day” campaign which suggests that parents should:

    1. Read to their child for 15 minutes
    2. Play on the floor with their child for 10 minutes
    3.  Talk to their children for 20 minutes every day with the television off
    4. Adopt positive attitudes to their child and praise them frequently

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News in Brief: Ming savages Danny, ‘Parenting Matters’, and Don Foster on “rodents with wings”

Former party leader Ming Campbell is apparently furious with fellow Scottish Lib Dem, Danny Alexander, according to the Telegraph.

The two MPs are, it appears, at each others’ metaphorical throats over the handing over to the British army of RAF Leuchars in Fife (Ming’s patch), while RAF Lossiemouth in Moray (Danny’s neighbouring patch) — though it should be noted that RAF Kinloss, also close to Danny’s own consituency, will suffer the same fate as Leuchars.

The Telegraph quotes Ming implying with scarcely veiled fury that Danny’s intervention in the defence …

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Stephen Williams MP writes: Backbench committees and the louder Lib Dem voice

There has been much talk in recent weeks about how Liberal Democrats show our distinctiveness and make the party’s voice heard more loudly in government.

A key part of this is the role of the Lib Dem parliamentary committees, one of which I co-chair.

These committees are not simply talking shops. They perform two important functions: making our influence felt within government and preparing the ground for party policy in the future.

Increasingly, the fruits of these committees are being seen.

The Coalition Agreement is the contract that underwrites this government. It sets out the policy agenda agreed between ourselves and our Coalition …

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Changes at CentreForum

Two significant changes of staff are happening at the CentreForum think tank, with current director Julian Astle leaving in April after three years as director and with Tim Leunig joining as Chief Economist. Tim will be familiar to many of our readers as a regular commenter and occasional contributor on this site.

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LibLink: David Laws and Julian Astle – Coalition must not waste the pupil premium

Over at the Financial Times today, former Lib Dem cabinet minister David Laws and CentreForum’s director Julian Astle write about the potential of the ‘pupil premium’ to transform the life chances of pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds — but argue that schools must be held accountable for using the money directly for this purpose. Here’s an excerpt:

The pupil premium, which for the first time will see a universal service underpinned by an explicitly pro-poor funding system, sits front-and-centre in this agenda.

At present there is additional school funding for young people from deprived backgrounds, but it is allocated in

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Opinion: The importance of ideas and policy

It is only a few months ago that my whole life, as Lib Dem PPC for Streatham, revolved around knocking on doors, meeting with community and tenant groups, delivering leaflets and doing casework. Nothing could seem more distant from the world I now inhabit, as Director and Chief Executive of CentreForum, of think tanks and discussions on reforming welfare or what the Big Society means.

But one thing which was clear from the election result on May 6th was that knocking on doors and putting hundreds of thousands of leaflets through letterboxes is not enough to win. Yes, ‘where we …

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LibLink: Julian Astle – How Lib Dems are being defamed

Over at The Guardian’s Comment is Free website, the director of liberal think-tank Centre Forum, Julian Astle, gives a personal take on what it’s like as a Lib Dem to be taunted as a Tory by Labour’s “deficit deniers”, and parises the Coalition measures he believes should cheer all progressives. Here’s an excerpt:

Deficit denial may have its advantages if you are an opposition politician vying for the leadership of your party. Take that denial into government, however, and the consequences would be catastrophic. … The uncomfortable truth is that, to bring in a lot of money, governments have no

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The Guardian asks, “What happens if Cameron loses?”

Here’s a bit of fun speculation, at least if you’re not a Tory. Let’s suppose most of the last 10 days’ polls are right, and David Cameron’s Tories are destined to have fewer MPs than Labour in the House of Commons (even if they win more votes) – what would the Tories do?

That’s the question Andy Beckett ponders in today’s Guardian.

Would David Cameron resign or be forced to quit? According to Tim Bale, author of The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron, he’d be safe if he chooses to be:

“You’ll get lots of huffing and puffing on

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The Independent View: A Lib-Con coalition? Don’t hold your breath

In the past week, the Conservatives have been talking up their chances of doing a deal with the Liberal Democrats if the forthcoming general election fails to deliver them a working majority. Conservative shadow business secretary Ken Clarke has even suggested that “Nick Clegg is a conservative”. David Cameron meanwhile regularly describes himself as a “liberal Conservative” and has claimed that on a range of policy issues, “there’s barely a cigarette paper between us”.

But in a new report from CentreForum, the liberal think tank, we argue that the two parties’ similarities …

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Opinion: How to make QE into good Liberal Democrat policy

In the last week, there has been a silly fuss about the risk posed by a hung parliament following the next general election. Nick Clegg has scotched the idea that the Liberal Democrats would undermine stability. In fact, his party has taken far more steps than the others to demonstrate credibility to the markets. Cherished policies have been sidelined in the interest of stablity.

The UK’s leading economics writer, Martin Wolf, agrees that there is nothing to fear from minority government, adding: “I cannot be the only person who believes that Vince Cable is far better qualified …

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LibLink: Giles Wilkes – The hidden cost of quantitative easing

Over at The Guardian’s Comment Is Free website, Lib Dem blogger Giles Wilkes – liberal think-tank Centre Forum‘s award-winning chief economist – argues that though quantitative easing was needed to prevent financial collapse, it has made the rich richer, and taxpayers will foot the bill for growing inequality. Here’s an excerpt (but NewsHound does recommend you read the full article to enjoy Giles’s imagined budget speech of a year ago):

QE was the right thing to do: it may become the most significant step that Labour took to fight recession. … quite possibly averted an outcome far worse: an

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Why I’m sticking up for the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Sort of.

Today’s Guardian is full of righteous indignation about the allegation that the Taxpayers’ Alliance has set up a charitable arm to claim Gift Aid on donations from wealthy backers, Tory tax allies ‘subsidised’ by the taxpayer:

A campaign group which claims to represent the interests of ordinary taxpayers is using a charitable arm which gives it access to tax relief on donations from wealthy backers, the Guardian has learned.

The Conservative-linked Taxpayers’ Alliance, which campaigns against the misuse of public funds, has set up a charity under a different name which can secure subsidies from the taxman worth up to 40%

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Where are the the think tank bloggers?

Yesterday saw the annual Prospect Think Tank of the Year awards ceremony, an occasion the glittery red-carpetness of which those of us on the outside can only dare to dream. Congrats are due at the outset to the UK’s only liberal think tank, Centre Forum, for winning Pamphlet of the Year for Giles Wilkes’ report, A balancing act: fair solutions to a modern debt crisis, about which he wrote here on LDV.

Awards are usually a moment to take stock, which is what I’ve done today. Because one of the points that has struck me over …

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Opinion: Property and consumption taxes need to rise to fix the fiscal mess

Politicians everywhere are being urged to get real about the fiscal mess. For the last month, this has meant a bitter dispute about the government’s spending figures. Who will cut the most? For any numerate observer, the debate is trivial: a rising bill for interest payments and the social security budget make it inevitable, no matter what contortions Brown attempts in disguising the figures, and no matter who is in power.

CentreForum has just published a new report about Britain’s fiscal mess, called A balancing act: fair solutions to a modern debt crisis. …

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CentreForum: Lucky timing, or conspiracy of international proportions?

Oh OK, so it’s lucky timing.

Today’s unveiling of the Trident white paper (see our sort-of-advanced warning here) represents something of a timing coup for liberal think-tank CentreForum, for this evening they meet in Parliament for a long-planned discussion on… you guessed it… Trident.

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