Tag Archives: social liberal

If we want to win elections we have to denounce austerity

Part 1

“Never point out your own mistakes” seems like a good political maxim, so why should we ignore it on this occasion?

Of course, not everyone agrees that austerity was a mistake at all, and some say we should embrace our coalition record. That would be a monumental mistake. Trying to embrace austerity would be like Labour trying to embrace the Iraq war, it would be untenable.

Many people point out that all the major political parties were pushing austerity at the time: during the coalition Labour boasted that the government had, more or less, kept austerity to the levels Labour suggested. Clearly this wasn’t something the Liberal Democrats were solely responsible for. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a mistake though or that no one knew it was a mistake at the time. While it’s true that many economists working for large banks were very clear that government debt was definitely the problem (and noticeably not the banks themselves!) academic economists took a rather different tack- their warnings were clear and broadly, as it turned out, correct. Even the IMF famously chided the coalition for being too reckless with austerity.

Estimates of GDP per household lost due to austerity in the UK vary with from some at £4000 per household and the Oxford economist Simon Wren-Lewis’ guess being more like £10,000 per household. There is no suggestion it did anything positive. (Simon Wren-Lewis’ book ‘The Lies We Were Told’ chronicles this beautifully. Also worth seeing is the recent report from the NEF featured in Bloomberg estimating the cost at £100 billion.) The famous academic paper (by Reinhart and Rogoff) that was used as political cover for austerity in 2010 turned out to be based on a simple maths error and was ultimately disgraced. Traditional macroeconomics won out- if interest rates go to zero, which they did, governments must either increase spending or hold back their own economies- we chose to hold back our economy.

It’s estimated that around 50,000 UK citizens died unnecessarily due to austerity during the coalition with more afterwards. Which is why it sticks in the throat a little when we’re told, and I’ve heard this a few times from more coalition supporting Lib Dems, that the coalition was “the best government since 1945!” I would gently point out that that the post-1945 era includes the Attlee government, which took on the ideas of Keynes and Beverage, both Liberal party members.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 73 Comments

Economic liberals or social liberals? Pragmatists or ideologues? How Lib Dem members describe their own political identity

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 600 party members responded to this set of questions – thank you – in a supplementary poll ran just before the party conference.

How do Lib Dem members think of their own political identity? I asked this question in April 2011, when the Coalition was less than a year old. With less than a year of the Coalition left, I thought it was time to revisit it.

60% social liberals,

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged and | 38 Comments

Question: Big or small government? Answer: effective

One prominent member of Liberal Youth hits the nail on the head when she says ‘ frankly sick of all this I’m a social liberal so I’m a better Lib Demno it’s Orange Bookers that are real Lib Dems… we’re in the same party ffs.’

And the contrasting Economist correspondent missed the target by a mile when he wrote – following our last conference – that ‘the Liberal Democrats are still in denial about their innate dividedness.’

You see according to this correspondent – quoted again in The Week – he has had a brilliant insight: ‘You cannot be both for, and against, the Big State.’ But whilst his truism is logically …

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Who are the Lib Dems ‘unconventional men (or women) whose mad ideas make us think’?

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in today’s Observer under the surprisingly un-PC title In praise of unconventional men who make us think, sticks up for those iconoclastic thinkers who challenge their parties’ conventional thinking, citing as paragons the Tories’ Steve ‘Big Society’ Hilton and Maurice ‘Blue Labour’ Glasman:

Conventional is not a description you could apply to either of these eclectic thinkers. … There are many big differences between these two men and their philosophies, but something interestingly common to them is anti-statism, a deep antagonism to bureaucracy and managerialism. … It would be a shame if either were to be silenced.

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How do we build the Lib Dems’ core vote?

Can the problems the Liberal Democrats are currently experiencing be put down not to the Coalition but, in the long view, to a failure of the party to promote a strong, distinctive liberal philosophy and agenda to the public?

That’s the argument put forward by Simon Titley in the latest Liberator magazine and I have to confess that he says a great deal that I agree with.

He’s right say that the party has a smaller core vote than the other two big parties (ours is around 10%, Labour and the Conservatives around 25%, Simon suggests – and I’m sure those …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 74 Comments

Opinion: The phone hacking scandal is an attack on civil liberties

Wikipedia defines civil liberties in the following way:

Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the right to life, freedom from torture, freedom from slavery and forced labour, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one’s self, the right to privacy, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and the right to marry and have a family.

Traditionally when we think about civil liberties we think about how freedom can be taken away from the individual by the state.

So what are we to …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 13 Comments

Reinventing the State reprinted

I’m very pleased to say that Reinventing the State: Social Liberalism for the 21st Century has been reprinted with the first print run having sold out. The editors (myself, Duncan Brack and David Howarth) have taken the opportunity to relate the book to recent events by including a new foreword which explains why we think the ideas contained in the book are more relevant than ever. Among other points, we have said:

The collapse of the banking system worldwide has revealed the ultimate dependence of what had previously appeared to be free-standing market relationships on straightforwardly state institutions, such

Posted in Books | Also tagged , , , and | 6 Comments
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