Tag Archives: inequality

Challenges for liberalism 1: How should liberalism respond to inequality and inequity in the UK?

Editor’s Note: These posts are based on a speech given by the author at an event organised by York University Liberal Democrats.

It seems to me that inequity is a huge problem right now. We have some of the richest and poorest parts of the EU within the country, and an increasingly polarised society. That polarisation is not only writing off millions of people, but it’s also creating the conditions in which authoritarianism, intolerance and violence thrive. We need some big ideas because what is clear is that we cannot keep going on the way we have been doing. We sold the country’s family silver and lived on unsustainable debt in the 80s creating a boom that ultimately had nothing propping it up, but our addiction to economic quick fixes met the cold light of day in 2008.

Sadly it seems we as a society haven’t learned our lesson. We’re just trying to get back to what we had before, and in trying to do that we are using austerity, and that’s both promoting the spread of poverty and systematically dismantling the structures and institutions we as a society have built to mitigate poverty.

So we are in a mess.

As I said, we need big ideas. The last time we faced a crisis on this scale it was liberalism that did provide the big ideas. The NHS, workers’ rights, the trade union movement, the welfare state. Labour may try to claim ownership of these ideas but we were there at their inception.

Let’s be clear – despite our government’s committed attempt to impose economic sanctions on ourselves with Brexit we are still one of the richest countries in the world. People sleep rough on the street, or have to go hungry to feed their children because we have decided, as a country, that these are OK. Two whole generations will work their backsides off to enrich landlords their entire lives because we have decided, as a country, that that’s OK.

And quite apart from the social consequences of this, our pursuit of a model of capitalism that has clearly had its day, at all costs, is destroying the ecosystem. Not the planet, the planet will be fine. It’s just that we might not be around to enjoy it.

Now I don’t claim to have the answers. There’s a lot of talk about moving to a post scarcity economy, of universal basic income, and other ideas and maybe they will coalesce around a single ideological framework, and I hope they will. It seems to me though that we need to start valuing people, and valuing the idea that we need to structure our society so that everyone lives in safety, warmth and dignity.

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Corbyn is right about inequality

Corbyn is clearly right to highlight the ‘grotesque inequality’ in our society. Wage growth has stagnated. Continued cuts are hitting the poorest hardest. And this generation is on set to be the first on living memory to be poorer than their parents.

Even if you try and ignore the unfairness, the evidence shows it harms productivity and creates the sort of ‘asset bubbles’ that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

But I have one question. Where are Labour’s answers?

At first glance the most radical is renationalisation. But this is nothing more than a recycled plan from the 1970s. It just tinkers at the edges of inequality, and carries significant risks for our future economic and energy security.

Next comes Labour’s big ticket spending item. Abolishing tuition fees. Our higher education system is far from perfect, but how many better ways could we spend £7.5 billion a year? What amounts to a tax cut for the middle classes does absolutely nothing to tackle inequality.

Most significantly, we have some Labour economic doublespeak –  ‘borrowing to invest’ in public services. While the NHS, for example, clearly does needs to be better funded, ‘invest’ falsely suggests that we get an economic return on borrowing for public services. That it will all be fine.

And this, maybe even more than Brexit, is the big danger of a Labour government. The government is already, as the Prime Minister admitted last week, spending more on paying interest alone than the entire schools’ budget. Labour’s borrowing plan would mean future generations would have to pay higher taxes and spend even less on public services.

We demand better. The Liberal Democrats have a genuine, radical plan to combat inequality.

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Demand Better: Liberal Democrat Priorities for a Better Britain

For as long as I’ve been active in politics people have complained they don’t know what we stand for. We may have a reasonable profile for our position on Brexit, but the fact that we’re only the fourth party in terms of MPs makes it even more difficult than usual to gain media attention.

On top of that, the party has more than doubled in size over the last two and a half years, so we have a large number of new or newish members who aren’t as familiar as many of us with the details of party policy or our key priorities for action.

So over the last six months the Federal Policy Committee has worked to produce the paper Demand Better: Liberal Democrat Priorities for a Better Britain, which is available here and will be debated at our autumn conference at Brighton.

We’ve written the paper in close cooperation with the party’s campaigns and communications committees and staff, and we’re using the party’s new slogan as the paper’s title. Demand Better summarises the Liberal Democrat approach to politics in 2018 and highlights our key policy priorities. Should a general election take place in the next year or so, it will provide the core of the Liberal Democrat election manifesto.

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Inequality in society harms our mental health – how can we fix it?

“Wealth is not a measure of worth. But low income is related to feelings of inferiority.” Across a range of countries, studies have shown, the experience of poverty leads to people believing they have failed themselves for being poor, and accepting that others feel like that about them.

This is part of the remarkable findings of professors Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, epidemiologists, whom I heard giving a talk on inequality on Wednesday night in a Keswick church.

Speaking alternately and informally, the professors reminded an attentive audience of how common it is for people to feel inadequate in social gatherings. They may feel they aren’t dressed correctly, can’t make small talk, and are scared of being judged. Sometimes people find social contact so difficult that they withdraw from social life. 

“Yet social contact is crucial to health and to happiness”, the speakers said.

They explained that income inequality is linked to anxiety about social status. There has been a study across 28 European nations of social anxiety, looking at it in relation to different income levels in these societies. The study found that there is more anxiety about status in unequal societies, and the more inequality, the greater the anxiety.

It was apparently known ten years ago when the two professors’ important book ‘The Spirit Level’ was published that there was more mental illness in more unequal societies. But studies of social psychologists, they told us, had led them to understand how this may happen. People made to feel they are inferior will sometimes struggle against the feeling, but others will accept it, internalise a feeling of subordination and submission, and become more prone to depression.

Other psychological effects of living in a more unequal society, the speakers continued, include more wrong self-estimation. Apparently in the USA 96% of drivers think that their driving is better than the average! In Sweden it is 66%. The greater the inequality, the greater is the tendency for people to be narcissistic, so that it becomes difficult to tell the differences between self-esteem and narcissism. (And “It’s awful if narcissism gets to a position of power!” they added, to rueful laughter from the audience.)

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How can we be seen as relevant again?

We have to offer people what they need, and I don’t think we are doing that.

The Southport Conference earlier this month, besides passing many useful motions, agreed a Strategy, grandly entitled, ‘Ambitious for our party, ambitious for our country.’ We are good on noble ideas. ‘Create a political and social movement which encourages people to take and use power in their own lives and communities’ – that’s a natural extension of our famous Preamble, ‘We seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community’.

But is anybody heeding us out there, even in the less than half of the population which takes some interest in politics?

Well, let’s be fair. Even in our diminished state, 7% in the national polls, we attract many more voters in Local Government elections. Our councillors are often known as work-horses who eat up local problems. Community Politics is still a big belief for us – ‘we will empower the individual in his or her community’. A current article here by Oliver Craven emphasises the point.

But I’ve come to believe that it is not enough for us to campaign locally to make a big impact. That’s because there’s precious little ‘community’ in our deeply divided country today for us to work with.

This week is what Christians call Holy Week, leading up to Good Friday, but fewer and fewer British people go to church to find a community. In the workplaces, ever fewer people join trade unions as more people take ill-paid non-unionised jobs. So the Conservatives win elections in formerly working-class areas, and Labour penetrates prosperous south-east towns.

Who feels part of a community in Britain today? Not, certainly, working families on the minimum wage who with curtailed benefits can’t afford even the basics and have to resort to Food Banks. Not people forced out of privately-rented homes into emergency accommodation, sometimes ending up living in another city. Not those trying to make ends meet through ill-paid temporary jobs or chancy self-employment.

There’s little sense of community either for sick folk obliged to stay in hospital for want of social care, or stuck caring for family members themselves at home, or for lonely old people sitting on park benches to talk to somebody. There’s no community for the depressed or for the oppressed.

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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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The fundamentals of Brexit don’t change – so opposition to it is a matter of principle!

“If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, then you have seriously misjudged the gravity of the situation” – goes the rather silly adaptation of Kipling’s famous line.

I am not suggesting that Liberal Democrats are losing their heads. But I am suggesting that we are the only British political party that appears to have judged the gravity of the situation on Brexit. For certain, we are the only political party that is brave enough to oppose it explicitly. We know that the least privileged households will be the most harmed by Brexit.

I have …

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What happened to those burning injustices?

When she took office, Theresa May spoke on the steps of Downing Street about the just about managing.

She said, “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you”.

In our own Borough – Richmond upon Thames, 6,000 children are living in poverty. Last year 14 desperate families went to Citizens Advice to seek a reduction in …

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Beyond the European Union: Inequality in British society is the biggest Issue that we face

I am a solid “Remainer,” believing that the United Kingdom is better off inside the European Union, particularly in terms of the economy but also because of the standards which the EU upholds in terms of consumer protection, human rights, commitment to protecting the environment and assuring our security.

In fact, I would like to push towards a more equal society in Britain – an idea which seems to escape the majority of the right wing and, unbelievably, some of the extreme left wing as well.

Although I am not an economist, it appears fairly obvious to me that the increasing gap …

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GINI Coefficient – is it really a measure of Press Power?

The Gini* coefficient provides an index to measure inequality. A measure of 0 shows everybody is equal, and 1 where the country’s income is earned by a single person. Allianz calculated (in 2015) each country’s wealth Gini coefficient and found the U.S. had the most wealth inequality, with a score of 0.80. As a comparison Rome’s top 1% controlled 16% of the wealth (compared to America’s 40%, today) with a Gini coefficient of 0.44.

How can a modern, educated, democratic society allow such a massive discrepancy in the distribution of wealth? The distribution of news (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines etc.) …

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William Wallace writes: Stopping Brexit isn’t enough – we have to help the left behind

Larry Elliott in the Guardian the other day declared that the Remainers don’t have any answers to the problems of the Left Behind in Britain.  He didn’t bother to claim that the Leavers had any answer either.  Their commitment to deregulation (with abolition of the Working Time Directive one of their first targets) will hit marginal workers in insecure jobs; their hopes of cutting public spending will increase the gap between rich and poor and starve education and health of resources.

But what do those of us who support Remain offer the Left Behind?  Remember that the highest votes for the Leave campaign came in England’s declining industrial towns, and in the county and seaside towns that have also lost out from economic and social transformation.  Middlesborough, Skegness, Canvey Island and Wisbech all returned over 80% of votes to leave.  It was easy for the Leave campaign to encourage them to blame the globalised ‘liberal elite’ for their woes; they have lost out from globalization, and feel patronised and neglected.  Some of their grievances are justified; others are not.  The selling off of social housing and the incursion of private landlords into what were once Council housing estates is not a consequence of European rules or of immigration.  But the loss of the stable employment that their parents and grandparents had IS a consequence of open frontiers and technological change, and successive governments of all parties have failed to invest enough – in education and training, in housing, in infrastructure, in supporting the growth of new local entrepreneurs – to spread the prosperity of the South-East and the metropolitan cities across the rest of the country.

Liberal Democrat peers tackled these issues in a working party over the past year, the report of which is attached here.  We have submitted a resolution for the Spring conference to take the debate within the party further.  Our analysis, and our proposals, cut across several policy areas.  Greater investment in education and training, from pre-school to further education, is central.  Long-term finance for local start-ups, of the sort that the British Business Bank was intended to provide but which also needs nurturing at regional and local level, is essential.  A revival of social housing is urgent.  Most difficult of all, we have to find a way of rebuilding political trust: a revival of local democracy within communities that feel abandoned by all parties and agencies of government, and that see politics as a game conducted by well-off and well-educated people in London.

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Indirect and Direct Messages…

It was only as I went out of the door of a local building society that I began to realise that I might have been given at least one powerful message through changes that had been made there!

The changes? Now there was a permanent mini-food bank, a collection bucket for the local food bank and a prominent collecting box for the “Samaritans.”

Previously, every banking place I had ever used only ever had items and notices, etc., to do with direct economics. For the first time, items to do with other aspects of life were there too. No longer was finance being kept separate from ordinary, everyday life, in practice if not in explicit theory. My “bank” was now dealing with socio-economics and so facilitating life-money questions and comments!

Does a bank collecting food and money for local people, in an area with high house prices, especially for sea views, suggests that something may be amiss with our policies for the circulation of money?

The growth of food banks is concrete evidence that some of us are starving.

Are starvation and malnutrition structural parts of current socio-economic policies and practices?

A “yes” answer leads us to question what could be done about it. Some might answer, “Nothing!” Others might answer, “Charity.”

A “no” answer results in the need to seek and apply ways to change our current economic policies so that we do not have starvation etc. as a permanent part of our society.

Answers may depend upon perceptions of “The Market”. Does it function efficiently with minimal to nil government involvement? For whom is it “efficient”?

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Campaigning for higher and fairer taxes?

We need to talk about tax. The IMF’s annual report on the UK economy recommends that taxes should be raised, in order to reduce the deficit further without cutting public investment and services. Philip Hammond, it is reported, would like to do so; but he is opposed by the ideological (and Eurosceptic) right of his own party, and by the influential group of free market think tanks who were cheerleaders for the Brexit campaign.

The Taxpayers Alliance and the Institute of Economic Affairs have repeatedly argued that it’s impossible to raise more than …

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Resolution Foundation Report on Autumn Budget

Britain is on course for the longest period of falling living standards since records began in the 1950s, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation.

The think tank found that under plans set out by Philip Hammond in the Budget yesterday, the poorest third of households are set for an average loss of £715 a year by the end of the Parliament, while the richest third will gain an average of £185.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

This analysis exposes the reality of Britain’s economic future under this Conservative government.

The squeeze on pay and living standards is set to carry

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Benefit Cuts Will Increase Child Poverty

A new report just released by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that benefit cuts will increase child poverty, especially in the North East and in Wales.

Absolute child poverty would increase by 4%, and three-quarters of that would be linked to the freeze to most working-age benefits and limiting of tax credits and universal credits to two children. Using forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, combined with current benefit plans, the study shows child poverty will increase in each English region and nation of the UK.

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman, Stephen Lloyd MP, says

These figures from

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Layla Moran talks education and inequality

Layla Moran has given an interview to the Oxford Student about her life and political priorities.

She talked about her early life and the influence it had on her:

Layla, having been born to a British father and a Palestinian mother, spoke of some of complications connected to coming from a multicultural background. “We had to move around a lot when I was younger so when all my peers would say ‘I grew up in this village’, I could never really say that I had”. But it is exactly this, combined with Layla’s career as a maths and physics teacher, that has

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We Are More Unequal Than Ever

My dismay over inequality was one of the two main issues (the other poor mental health care provision) which drove me into politics in 2014. I jumped in with both feet, determined to be a voice for the voiceless and make the world a more equal place.

But here we are in 2017 and the IPPR report just out shows we are more unequal than ever. The report was commissioned by Channel 5 to mark the launch of the second series of Rich House, Poor House, which sees two families from opposite ends of the wealth divide switch places. The …

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Vince Cable on Lib Dem mission to reduce inequality

For me, the Liberal Democrats have always been about reducing the inequality that poisons our society, that holds people back from opportunities.

We have always talked about it, but perhaps in the last few years the language has been a bit different. I was really chuffed when Vince talked about the need to tackle inequality so explicitly in his leadership manifesto. Today, his first major speech since becoming leader is on this issue and you can watch a clip here.

The full text of the speech is below. It’s thoughtful, serious stuff as you would expect.

Yes, under his leadership we’ll be looking for the exit from Brexit, but our main mission as a party is to do something about this inequality.  That works for me.

Politicians talk at length about fairness and unfairness. Verbal confetti. Bland. Something almost everyone can relate to emotionally. And it can be defined in so many different ways that it can be applied in almost every situation, for about every audience. Inequality narrows the subject down a bit but, again, has a wide range of definitions and meanings.

Putting aside the health warnings and the academic qualifications there is however, in the UK in 2017, something stirring around the idea of inequality: something new and worrying. It starts from the observation, or the belief, that inequalities of income, wealth and opportunity, between classes, regions and generations, are getting worse; that Britain is becoming relatively as well as absolutely unequal when we look at comparable countries, especially in Europe; and that this inequality is not merely offensive to the sensibilities of progressive minded folk but is doing serious damage to the wider society and economy.

Sometimes an event crystallises this feeling. The Grenfell Tower disaster wasn’t just a horrific accident with a large loss of life but illustrates in a graphic way that relatively poor people were not listened to by those in authority and attracted a casual approach to life threatening risk. And close by geographically, but light years away socially and economically, lived London’s super-rich.

What motivates me personally and politically is the way this this new Britain contrasts with the more egalitarian culture and mobile society that I grew up with: parents who progressed in 20 years from being factory workers living in a terraced house with an outside loo to being part of the professional class living in a detached house; from parents who left school at 15 progressing though ‘night school’ to a son at an elite university. There were of course ‘posh’ people in post-war Britain but they were few and largely inconspicuous; and there were poor people on the council estates but they were distant relatives or friends and we played and watched football together. A provincial British city, even today, does not have the jarring contrasts of London; but my sense is that even there, big differences in living standards and opportunities have opened up.

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Tackling inequality

 

The Kensington disaster, along with the referendum that voted for Brexit, demonstrates the pressing need to tackle inequality. Corbyn’s success was due to him offering hope.

It is time for Lib Dems to step up and offer radical solutions, as we have seen in France. Every candidate for the leadership must be asked what he or she will do to tackle this issue. Here are some ideas, though not exhaustive.

Government priorities

With a lame duck PM and a government in chaos we cannot expect to see too many balls in the air. We are not in a fit condition to manage Brexit, but we could get a consensus to tackle inequality.

We should apply to the EU to put Brexit on hold, if that means a withdrawal of article 50 so be it. We are not ignoring the referendum result; we are putting it on hold until we are in a fit state to deal with it.

We can then tackle the causes of inequality.

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Pay ratios, inequality and fairness

I’ve little time for Jeremy Corbyn but just occasionally his instincts are right- as when he recently raised the idea of pay controls for the highly paid. 

Now of course the random way he presented it made it an easy target but I was surprised and disappointed how quickly people dismissed the idea. Either its apparently ‘just bonkers’, or won’t work, or is bad politics or all of the above.

But I don’t think it is. Yes, we need more than just a cap on pay ratios to address rising inequality and the rising inequality of power that comes with it. Yes, rich people have other sources of income than salaries- including dividends, capital gains and rental income. Yes, the politics may be hard- but I suspect that’s more to do with how our perspective has narrowed after too much centralism over the last 30 years.

In the 1960s the ratio of a CEO’s pay to that of the average worker was around 20:1, rising to around 40:1 in the 1970s. What is it now? Around 150:1 in the UK and still rising. There is no convincing evidence that such massive increases of pay, so that a FTSE 100 boss earns £5.5m a year, is really linked to the brilliance or the insight of the leader, or the output or the outcomes for the company.  

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The problem with a wage cap

Jeremy Cobyn’s proposal to bring in a maximum wage (or, if you like, a 100% tax rate) would not work, for two reasons. The first, is that the swing voters he needs to attract would never vote for a party with this potty policy. If you are flirting with voting for the Conservatives, you are not going to like the idea of a wage cap.

If any further discussion is needed, then the second reason is that it would not have the intended effect. Presumably the reason to bring down wages would be to reduce inequality. But most rich people do not get their income from salaries, but from dividends, capital gains, rental income etc.

I don’t know if the Duke of Westminster takes a salary, but capping it would not change one iota the fact that he owns a huge swathe of London’s most valuable real estate. If your only source of income is your salary, then capping it only stops you being able to catch up with the already-rich. Or encourages you to take income in other forms. 

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Opinion: It’s the Inequality

Gary Lineker has been coming out with some pithy, relevant comments recently on Twitter, and much like an essential feature of the game he professionally played, the result of the US election reveals a country of two halves.

Like Brexit, this result and the corresponding lurch to the right, stem from inequality. Unfortunately, and quite to the contrary of what these dispossessed people have voted for, the resulting administration now has the propensity to make their situation far worse.

It is one thing to be a demagogue and stand up and say what you think people want you to say. …

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The Establishment

In a couple of previous posts I have looked at the effects of Brexit and possibilities for LibDem positioning and policy that may emerge. In many ways the EU is a distraction from the key political battles we face. The most pressing problem we have is inequality in its many manifestations and an economic and social system that works very hard to maintain and increase inequality while we try to redress the balance. That is the case whether we are in the EU or out of it. This is an opportunity to consider some key parameters of our policies without having to look at everything through the prism of the EU debate.

One constant in the debate is the thing called the establishment, a word as much misused as used. I cannot think of anyone more “establishment” than Nigel Farage, who has managed to make a career out of selling the lie that he is anti-establishment. Like many insurgent politicians he has no intention of changing the way the system works. He just wants to change the personnel at the top.

The nature and function of the establishment remains the same though its form has changed in recent decades. Whatever it is, it needs to be a focus of LibDem policy making so we need to consider clearly what it is, what it does and how to deal with it.

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LibLInk: Alistair Carmichael: Theresa May’s liberal rhetoric a surprise

Alistair Carmichael has written an article for today’s Scotsman in which he matches up Theresa May’s words on entering Downing Street to her actions in government. Certainly we can all remember Margaret Thatcher’s warm words about bringing peace and harmony when she entered No 10, and we know how that turned out.

For many people there were three main reasons for being pleased to see Theresa May enter No 10 Downing Street last week. Firstly she was not Boris Johnson; secondly she was not Michael Gove and thirdly she was not Andrea Leadsom. As a father, I felt it could have been worse. Mrs May, a vicar’s daughter we are told, delivered a little homily for the benefit of the world’s media outside her new residence. The rhetoric was good. I know from five years in coalition government that getting some Conservatives even to acknowledge the inequalities of modern life can be difficult. Here we had a Conservative prime minister not just acknowledging them but promising to tackle them.

But her record so far doesn’t quite reflect this:

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Vince, Brexit and inequality: a day at the Social Liberal Forum Conference

Vince  Cable SLF Conference 2016The alarm call at 4:30 was pretty brutal. I suppose it was my own fault. I could have been sensible and not have drunk large quantities of wine at a wonderful dinner with friends and got home before 12:30, but you only live once and all that.

So, I felt a little weary heading off to London for the Social Liberal Forum’s annual conference.

The event took place in the Resources for London building – definitely worth going to if you are planning a similar event. It’s a super space with halls and breakout rooms all on one floor. Our Mary Reid has a leading role in organising this event every year and she always does a brilliant job. Everything is run with efficiency and the programme is planned so that there is enough time for socialising and networking.

The theme of the day was Inequality Street, looking at the various types of inequality in our country, why it’s so bad and how we deal with it. It was based around the 2009 book The Spirit Level, which showed that the countries with the highest levels of inequality also had the highest levels of all manner of social problems.

The day started with a minute’s applause to remember two great social liberals we’ve lost this year – Eric Avebury and David Rendel.

The vote to leave the EU meant a significant re-jigging of the programme to give us an opportunity to discuss the implications of the vote and what we should do about it. Investigative journalist Shiv Malik, Jonny Oates, David Howarth, Lindsay Northover and Sal Brinton shared their thoughts with us. 

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Inequality and Brexit

inequality street 4The Social Liberal Forum conference on Inequality takes place on Saturday in Holloway, central London and readers of LDV are very welcome to come along and participate. We have added a morning session on Brexit to give everyone an early opportunity to debate the implications for the party. Please register in advance via the Social Liberal Forum website.  Guest speakers include Vince Cable, Norman Lamb, Sal Brinton, Shiv Malik, Neil Lawson from Compass and Karin Robinson from Democrats Abroad.

So why are we focussing on inequality?

The EU referendum result came as a terrible shock. Just as we started to wonder where we go from here, news came in of the reactions this provoked, one of which is a huge increase in Lib Dem membership. This opens the possibility that the Liberal Democrats may become a major force in British politics again. Another of course is a huge increase in racially motivated violence and intolerance. So we have more Lib Dem members becoming active in an increasingly illiberal society.

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Liberal Democrats must seize the moment

Both the main parties are currently paralysed as political forces by their leadership battles. The Government is leaderless, the country at a standstill politically. This is our moment to assert our right to be heard as former and future political leaders, and force our presence on the airwaves and on social media. Moreover if the right-wing press will not accept our voice, this is surely the moment to invest in national advertising.

The week of the Chilcot report is the time to remind the country that it was the Liberal Democrats who opposed the attack on Iraq, along with a great mass of the public whose voices were also ignored. We should now claim again to represent the majority of the public, not by ignoring the result of the Referendum, but by acknowledging the many doubts that were felt by people voting either way, and pledging to try to meet the needs that were  ignored by their self-obsessed leaders.

While the politicians of the two main parties fight for supremacy, we, the united Liberal Democrats, must fight for the people. With a growing recession, we must fight to protect the poorest, demanding government measures to alleviate probable rising food costs, and extra rises if necessary in the Living Wage. We should demand investment for growth, so that jobs can be created that are not just short-term or on zero-hours contracts, and social security reform to stop penalising those least able to protect themselves. We must insist on more funds for the NHS, more integration of health and social care – and also a welcome and thanks to the immigrant doctors and nurses and care workers. We should demand more social housing and some re-introduction of rent controls. We must develop economic policies which highlight the scandal of excessive pay rises for top executives, challenge the power of sophisticated predators linking hedge funds with top Tories, and promote greater equality through taxation.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 21 Comments

Nick Clegg chairs meeting on educational inequality in Sheffield

Back in January, the Social Market Foundation, a think tank, established its cross-party Commission on Inequality in Education. It wants to tackle the disparity of attainment and break down barriers it identified relating to where you live, your family’s income and your ethnicity.

Yesterday, Nick chaired a meeting  of the Commission at Sheffield Hallam University.

Nick said:

On launching the commission, our research showed that where young people live now has more impact on their performance at school than used to be the case.

It is not just the relative wealth of parents that holds lots of bright kids back: it is postcode inequality too. What part of the country a child grows up in has a real impact on their life chances.

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Farron: Tackling inequality is my mission for 2016

Tim Farron says that his mission for 2016 is to raise inequality up the political agenda. In a special Christmas message for the Mirror, he says:

From my family, to yours I want to wish readers of the Sunday Mirror a happy, joyous and restful Christmas.

My primary mission politically in 2016 is to raise the issue of inequality up the political agenda.

No-one should go hungry or homeless in Britain. We must have a national crusade to end this scandal. Once and for all.

We have the mission but we must also have the will power to do it.

The values of Christmas – charity, togetherness and compassion must be taken forward and I am committed to doing that.

He also reveals some of what he will be doing over the Festive Season:

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Opinion: Solutions to Inequality: Quakernomics and Economic Justice

  1. Unemployment
  2. Subsistence wages
  3. Hazards to Health
  4. Harm to the environment

These are the four results of unregulated capitalism according to Mike King in Quakernomics. In his book, which I highly commend, he details the history of Quakers in industry and how they modelled an ethical capitalism which served the community. “Quakernomics is the enthusiastic pursuit of economic activity as a social good.” We can always learn from history. In this blog I will explore what lessons gleaned from the Quakers can be applied to economic and social problems today.

The Quakers valued the entrepreneur, but gave equal value to the workers who brought new ideas to fruition. Equality and the worth of every individual were key. Owners and workers were interdependent.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 44 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarNom de Plume 14th Nov - 3:23pm
    Correction: 'customs union'
  • User AvatarDenis Loretto 14th Nov - 3:23pm
    @ Anthony Watts I echo that also and it behoves all of us to pursue the "people's vote" option as the only practical way to...
  • User AvatarNom de Plume 14th Nov - 3:22pm
    It was always going to be a bad deal. A currency union is a bad deal, but I wish you would leave "vassal state" terminology...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 14th Nov - 2:54pm
    @David Raw Are you saying that the non UK wide parties are of no relevance to demands for a second referendum ? No! I clearly...
  • User AvatarSue Sutherland 14th Nov - 2:45pm
    Mark Pack has emailed an interesting survey of opinion on Brexit undertaken in October. It indicates that those who voted Leave still believe there will...
  • User AvatarSue Sutherland 14th Nov - 2:18pm
    Great article Joe Bourke but I disagree with one of your statements. I don’t see any evidence that common sense has to break out because...