Tag Archives: economy

Why the Liberal Democrats must adopt Universal Basic Income

To be quite blunt, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about where it’s all gone wrong for the Liberal Democrats. I’ve been a member of the party for seven years now, three-quarters of a decade no less, and in that time we have scarcely polled into the double digits.

Amongst the young, the people who you may think would be the natural supporters of an anti-Brexit, progressive party, the outlook is especially bleak. In the latest Times tracker conducted by YouGov, a mere 4% of 18-24-year-olds plan to vote Liberal Democrat at the next election. The number shoots up to a comparatively lofty 7% of 25-49-year-olds but it’s still nowhere near good enough for a party such as ours.

It’s time to face a stomach-churning truth. The Liberal Democrats are not a party that speaks to modern Britain, and we most certainly do not represent Britain’s future. Not the way things stand, anyway.

As someone who is (just about) inside that 18-24 bracket, I think I’ve got a decent idea about why the party has haemorrhaged youth support so drastically (and no, it’s not just about tuition fees – although that is a huge factor as I wrote for the New Statesman in 2015.)

In my view, it comes down to this. When my generation was growing up, we were all sold a story, the same story our parents were sold. Specifically, the story that if you work hard, apply yourself and ‘get on’, then you’ll do well. Our parents bought into that story because it was broadly true for them. But we aren’t buying into it because it’s a lie for us. Millennials are the first generation set to earn less than our parents, so I think we can be forgiven for thinking that the system has not worked.

And it is this broken system that, to me, explains my generation’s disinterest in the Liberal Democrats and our collective adoration for Jeremy Corbyn. The Liberal Democrats want to make the system fairer. But Corbyn wants to tear the system down. That is his appeal, and it’s why we are falling by the wayside.

But we can beat Jeremy Corbyn at his own game. Liberals can remake the system too, and liberalism can provide a much more empowering and inspiring future than socialism ever can.

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An economic policy for 2022 and beyond.

There are many reasons why our vote collapsed after five years of government but perhaps the most important was our ditching the economic policy of our 2010 manifesto, which included an economic stimulus in the first year of government, a promise to create jobs for those who needed them and implied that we would only reduce the deficit when the economic recovery was secured. What we actually did was reduce government spending straight away and took money out of the economy with a 2.5% increase in VAT. During the Coalition government the news reported that there was a double-dip recession (later upgraded). On our watch unemployment increased from 2.5 million in May 2010 to 2.71 million in November 2011. The highest percentage since November 1995 and the greatest number since August 1994. Even in May 2015 with 1.85 million unemployed we failed to provide a job for everyone who needed one.

The current economic consensus has given up on trying to achieve full employment and sees the NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment) as the lowest level possible. This is often seen as in the region of 5%. The last Labour government and the Conservative party accept the NAIRU but also want to make it difficult for those unemployed to claim their benefit as a means of saving money. As Liberals we value each and every person equally and don’t think less of a person because they have difficulties in finding work or meeting the bureaucratic conditions required for those wishing to receive out of work benefits. As Liberals we must have an economic policy to achieve full employment. We know from history that economic inequalities reduced the most between 1945 and 1979 when UK governments tried to achieve full employment. No Liberal Democrat should find it acceptable for there to be more than 1 million people unemployed in the UK.

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The Brexit nightmare continues

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This week, we’ve had our biggest warning yet about what the post Brexit world holds for us. We knew already that prices were going up because of the fall in the pound, that EU nationals were swapping our hospitals and surgeries for somewhere they felt more welcome and businesses are growing increasingly worried about the Government’s diplomatic faffing.

This week, we learned courtesy of the OBR that our economy is barely going to grow, that investment growth is scarily low at 0.2% and …

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Autumn Budget – what our Spokespeople say

The Lib Dems have been hot off the mark with what this Autumn Budget doesn’t do.  Here are 7 failures.

And leading Lib Dems have been speaking out about what the budget really means:

Leader of the Lib Dems Vince Cable MP says

Each person in Britain is set to be £687 worse off per year compared to forecasts before the election.

And as living standards are squeezed, the Government is setting aside £3.7bn to cover the cost of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The Chancellor found more money in the Budget to plan for Brexit than he did for our struggling NHS, schools and police.


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Economic Implications of Autumn Budget

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake commented:

“Instead of a bright future for Britain, Conservative plans will see a £65bn hit to tax receipts, slashed wages and higher borrowing.

The Government found £3bn to spend on Brexit, but nothing for our police or social care.

The Chancellor has completely failed to show the ambition needed to tackle the housing crisis, build the infrastructure the country needs or fix Universal Credit.”

And here is the breakdown of the economic costs:

1. £65bn hit to tax receipts: Tax receipts have been downgraded by £65.4 billion over the five-year period compare to …

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In full: Jo Swinson’s response to the Budget – with a cheeky intervention from Tom Brake

It was Jo Swinson who led the Lib Dem speeches in the Commons today in response to Philip Hammond’s insipid budget. Here is her speech in full. Note the cheeky intervention from Tom Brake, reminding of us of some words on the side of a bus.

The British economy today faces three key challenges. First, we have low productivity, with the associated wage stagnation that comes with it, and of course the reduced tax receipts. Secondly, we have high public sector debt. We must recognise the constraints that that places on what is possible economically, and be honest about some of the hard choices that need to be made. Thirdly, there is Brexit, which has already been described as the elephant in the room. We see the uncertainty it is creating for businesses and investment in the country, its impact on our economy, and the opportunity cost of all the energy and money being spent on preparing for it that could otherwise be directed elsewhere.

The Chancellor is a serious man. We had significant differences in coalition but in recent months he has appeared to be one of the few voices of reason in the Cabinet on Brexit. He had an unenviable task coming to the House today, given the picture of higher inflation, lower growth, lower productivity and high levels of debt. It really is bleak. The economy will be £45 billion smaller in 2021 than had been projected just in March this year, so his attempts to paint a cheerful vision of the future were rather less successful than his jokes. The truth is, as the Chancellor knows, that this Budget, the next one, the Budget after that and all future Budgets are made all the more difficult because of Brexit and the extreme approach to it that this Government are pursuing. Making it clear that an exit from the single market and the customs union is a red line for the Government—this is aided and abetted by the Labour Front-Bench team—imperils the future of the UK economy, and the Chancellor knows it.

The right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) rightly said that there is no pot of gold at the end of the Brexit rainbow, although the more appropriate metaphor is that of a thunderstorm. We learned today that the cost of Brexit preparations is not just the £700 million already allocated but a further £3 billion, which is more than the extra money that could be found for the NHS, and that tells its own story. We need to add to that the exit bill, and who knows what that will be—£20 billion, £30 billion, £40 billion? In addition, there is the overall hit to the economy, which the OECD has suggested could be £40 billion. It is no surprise that these figures were not stuck on the side of a bus in the referendum campaign.

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ICYMI: Vince’s pre-budget speech

A couple of weeks ago, Vince got his retaliation in first by delivering a statesmanlike Budget speech.

Two weeks ahead of the Budget, tomorrow Vince gets his retaliation in first. Of course, as a former business secretary and the man who predicted the financial crash, he has a whole load of economic credibility. In comparison, when the Chancellor delivers his speech on 22 November, he’s going to look pretty amateurish compared to Vince.

He will outline the major challenges facing Phillip Hammond in light of the expected downgrades in Britain’s projected future growth, the threat posed by Brexit to any attempt to fix our economy, and what needs to be done in the budget to begin to solve these problems. He will include the Liberal Democrat long-term vision for the economy. And I’ll be very surprised if the Paradise Papers didn’t get a mention.

He will emphasise the need for a Government with economic competence and how important it is to have a fair deal for young people.

I’m kind of hoping that the main speech is slightly less heavy than the extracts released tonight. It will definitely be a credible, authoritative speech and not a wild oration, though.

Below is the whole thing. I’d be lying if I said it was sparkling, but it was full of detail and substance and you can judge it against Philip Hammond’s effort. .

As Leader of the Liberal Democrats, it is one of my responsibilities to give a serious Lib Dem analysis of the economics around the Budget, and to present an alternative.

I have recently been returned to Parliament from exile.

One of my regrets, however, is that the previous competition between the parties on economic competence no longer exists.

The likes of Gordon Brown, George Osborne, Ed Balls and Oliver Letwin were all serious players and thinkers even if I often disagreed with them.

Now, the economy – pivotal still to people’s lives – has been relegated to the margins of political debate.

The June election produced minimal discussion of economic policy.

The Conservatives didn’t produce any economic numbers in their manifesto.

Labour did, but as the IFS caustically pointed out at the time, there was a strong element of fantasy.

My Party did much better than our rivals at the hands of the IFS and serious commentators at the FT and The Economist but few noticed. And, now, economic debate is drowned out by the politics of Brexit and an unstable government.

Yet this is an unusually important and difficult budget.

The Chancellor has foresworn the use of a second budget, traditionally used to correct the mistakes in the first.

And the potential for a massive, if unquantifiable, economic shock from an unsatisfactory deal – or, even, ‘no deal’ is palpable.

Brexit hangs over the forecasts.

The environment of radical uncertainty is already spooking business investment and depressing growth, including the growth in government revenue.

I want, then, to set out some analysis of where we are and some ideas for where the Liberal Democrats think Britain could and should go.

Our focus is on freeing up capital spending to build the homes and infrastructure the country needs, on reviving the NHS with a targeted injection of cash, and on giving a leg up to young people with a learning account as they begin their working lives.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarSue Sutherland 24th Mar - 3:04pm
    I welcome any thoughts about what we need to do about the increasing number of people who are struggling to make ends meet because, for...
  • User AvatarSue Sutherland 24th Mar - 2:53pm
    This is a very welcome paper because it creatively links our values with policy ideas, although it doesn’t deal with the controls needed to avoid...
  • User AvatarChristopher Curtis 24th Mar - 2:42pm
    As far as I can see, the data collected was within the permissions given by Facebook users at the time. There's nothing yet to suggest...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 24th Mar - 2:33pm
    I’ve just checked out what ‘Harry Lime’ actually said. It was “500 years of democracy and brotherly love” and he was comparing Switzerland with renaissance...
  • User Avatarjay 24th Mar - 2:30pm
    @Chris Cory Major, Heseltine and Soubury? Soubury's an awful politician. But I suppose the Lib Dems have a habit of jumping in bed with the...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 24th Mar - 2:26pm
    I would remind Mr Fowler that the referendum, or plebiscite, was one of the preferred tools of Mr A Hitler. As for the Swiss, there...