The best way to answer Coalition guilt-shaming is to challenge austerity and poverty today, head-on

The election of a new Liberal Democrat leader has been followed by a predictable burst of accusations and guilt-shaming – mostly, but not only, from Labour sources – regarding the Lib Dems’ part in the Coalition, cuts and austerity. Responses on Liberal Democrat Voice and in other Lib Dem groups have often followed a familiar pattern too. A fair amount of irritated defensiveness. A lot of detailed discussion of the financial situation in 2010, deficit levels, etc. Sometimes a feel of this being a rather theoretical economic argument a bit far away, only raised to torment us.

I think this is to miss the point. The best way to get over endless guilt-shaming and raking-over of the Coalition is not to get sucked into circular arguments over just what part any Lib Dem minister played in this or that decision in 2014 but to say very clearly we’ve moved on, there are urgent matters to be dealt with, and that today, in the here and now, 2019, the Liberal Democrats see poverty as a real crisis, care about it and are prepared to tackle it.

What doesn’t leap out from current Lib Dem responses is any sense of urgency. An urgent awareness that there is an atrocious crisis of poverty in this country, and it’s getting worse. Galloping homelessness, thousands dependent on food banks, more and more people in work but so poorly paid and so insecure they barely keep going. Public health indicators that had been improving for decades now stalled or going backwards, as the United Nations’ Alston Report on Poverty in the UK highlighted.

And behind this worsening poverty are some very old ideas, like the assumption that anyone in need of support is potentially a ‘scrounger’ culpable for their own poverty who needs to be kept in check through such things as the benefit sanctions regime.

This impoverishment – and the resulting sense of hopelessness – in large sections of our country is surely something Liberal Democrats care about, and oppose. This is actually stated clearly in documents such as ‘Demand Better’ and the ‘Fairer Share for All’ motion due to be voted on at the autumn conference. More good proposals have come from other Lib Dem groups.

The problem is they’re not given much prominence, not enough people hear about them. Poverty issues did not feature highly in the leadership debate, and combatting poverty isn’t among the campaign themes on the Lib Dem website home page. As others have commented on Lib Dem Voice, the party’s response to the Alston Report was weak.

I know Brexit tends to focus all attention, but I suggest Liberal Democrats’ concern for and proposals on poverty have to be highlighted far more – maybe even as much as Brexit – if the party is really going to offer, as Jo Swinson wrote in her excellent Observer article, ‘a positive, alternative vision for our country’.

In the first place, because it’s the right thing to do. But it’s also a matter of very practical politics.

Currently many people see Labour as the only party really concerned over austerity, and see the Liberal Democrats as having little to say about it. Part of this is of course the old Coalition issue: as Alex Wasyliw said in his recent Lib Dem Voice thread, ‘the Coalition robbed us of compassion in many people’s eyes, and we still don’t seem to understand this’.

Accepting this, allowing poverty and austerity to be seen solely as ‘Labour issues’, their turf, is to open up a massive own goal. And the best way to combat this will be to stake out our own positive, inclusive positions in advance.

To make a credible case that the Lib Dems are, as Ed Davey put it in a fine piece in the New Statesman, ‘tough on the causes of Brexit’, we must convey an urgency in what we say and how we say it. A clear, consistent vision of how Lib Dems today will address this crisis will do far more to defuse attacks than trying to relitigate decisions made years ago in coalition.

The party needs to proclaim as clearly as possible that –

  • Liberal Democrats reject the ideology of the penalization of the poor. And acknowledge that austerity has gone way beyond anything required by economic necessity after 2010.
  • And that LDs have practical, readily understandable proposals to respond to the poverty crisis and aim to pursue them as a matter of urgency.

And this needs to be hammered home very, very loudly.

The impact of the clear anti-Brexit stance has shown the Lib Dems’ potential when we put forward a clear, unambiguous message. We also have a strong image on climate change. But to be a truly inclusive national party, avoid being corralled as a ‘one-issue bubble’ and make the most of the extraordinary situation we’re now in, we need – and have a responsibility – to put forward equally clear and emphatic messages in other areas as well.

This is all the more important in the current crisis. Within weeks we might be facing a very dirty election campaign, with all the tricks Dominic Cummings can come up with. Labour will ratchet up the guilt-shaming too. The best way to deal with this will be to see it coming, and have fresh, positive responses ready. We can, and should, put out an anti-poverty, anti-inequality message for today, not 2010, presented in simple and accessible terms. In living colour.

* Nick Rider is a Liberal Democrat member from Hornsey, North London.

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61 Comments

  • David Becket 7th Aug '19 - 2:06pm

    I would like to think that our leader and other key figures are aware of the comments on LDV, but I doubt it.
    As many others have complained we are the ONLY PARTY that has not commented on the Alston Report. Would Jo like to come onto LDV and explain why this is so?
    This is URGENT.

  • David Evans 7th Aug '19 - 2:37pm

    The problem remains that we may want to have moved on, but many members of the public have not and until they do the problem simply continues. It may be nice and reassuring for us to say to ourselves that we have moved on, but it doesn’t work like that. There are two ways to deal with a problem of past behaviour – the first is to face up to it, accept it and convert people by putting the counter argument (which all of our senior figures have signally failed to do since 2010), the second is to ignore it and wait for people to forgive or forget.

    Forget takes a long, long time (generations in many cases). Forgive needs a new ground changing occurrence that restores faith in us or undermines our opponents or preferably both. Brexit could be that, but only if we successfully stop it and manage the media publicity so that most people give us the credit. The first part, stopping Brexit, remains very difficult, but I see very little attention of a strategy to win the media battle.

    Whether it is lack of finance, lack of ability or just a lack of understanding that simply believing we are right is not enough to win over public opinion, I don’t know. Suffice it to say, without a willingness amongst ourselves to change our ability to recover to anything close to our 2010 position remains balanced on a knife edge.

  • A welcome post from Nick Rider, and as David Becket rightly says, this is urgent.

    A number of us, including Michael BG and Katharine Pindar have raised the Alston Report with senior members of the party – with no success. Ed Davey told me he hadn’t read it, though to be fair, said he would when I gave him a copy. Our DWP spokesperson Christine Jardine failed to turn up for a Commons debate on the Alston Report on 13 June and has not made a comment. I have yet to hear anything from Jo Swinson. This lack of response fuels what Nick describes as ‘Coalition Guilt Shaming’.

    The issues of poverty (and growing inequality) do exist. The Alston Report evidenced it. A new enquiry by the Nobel Prize winner Professor Sir Angus Deaton for the IFS highlights it. The new IFS study will focus on extreme inequality, levels in pay, wealth and health in which the UK appears to be closely following the USA. The USA is ranked on some measures among the most unequal of major nations.

    In the UK earnings after inflation in the finance sector grew by as much as £ 120 per week on average whilst the average worker is about £ 17 pw worse off in the last ten years.

    The IFS states the richest 1% in the UK have seen their share of household income triple in the last four decades with the average FTSE chief exec income rising 145 times that of the average worker compared to 47 times in 1998. Meanwhile Food Banks grow in number and size. Check out the Trussell Trust website.

    The issue is critical – resentment fuelled Brexit. Lib Dems ignore it at their peril. The history of Seebohm Rowntree’s research in York fuelled the 1909 people’s budget. It’s time to fly that flag again in York at Conference. Issues ignored will not go away.

  • Well tis embarrassing to have to accept we Tagalog with Gidieon, nay in the case of Alexander ran ahead proclaiming the rightousness of austerity. Well the first part of putting things right is to accept you did something wrong. In our case we fell hook line and sinker for the need for austerity, so a mea culpa, austerity went too far, tis a mistake we will not make again would be a start. Perhaps the message of “We are a party that learns from its mistakes, unlike the others that just repeat them” might be a message people can appreciate.

  • I, and many other party members like me (especially those who’ve joined since 2015, which, let’s not forget, is 2/3 of the current membership), simply do not accept the premise of this article. There is no guilt or shame in what we did by entering into the Coalition. The only shame is in those who continue to aid and abet our political enemies by repeating their propaganda.

    We should be proud of the coalition and what it achieved. For the first and only time since the Second World War we were part of a government and were able to actually DO things.

    There is no point entering politics if you are only prepared to sit on the sidelines and moan. You have to get out there, get your hands dirty, make compromises and work with people you don’t necessarily agree with.

    We have nothing to apologise for; quite the contrary – the coalition was a model of stability and probity when compared to the horror show that has followed it. If only “Coalition Mk 2” had been an option on the ballot paper in 2015, as the Financial Time argued, saying “the best outcome would be a continuation of the 2010 coalition between the Conservatives and Lib Dems. Mr Clegg’s party has proved a responsible partner in government.” https://www.ft.com/content/e61ce174-ea94-11e4-96ec-00144feab7de

    As Joni Mitchell said, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

  • Christopher Haigh 7th Aug '19 - 4:58pm

    It’s so sad but the party powers that be just don’t seem interested in the plight of the disabled and their carers. Debbie Abraham’s

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '19 - 5:36pm

    “The best way to answer Coalition guilt-shaming is to challenge austerity…..”

    Maybe, but first how about trying to understand what it is? Austerity is simply the process of squeezing the economy using fiscal measures.

    That’s what we need to do when the economy is running too hot and high inflation needs to be tackled.

    It’s not what we needed to do when the economy had just been ht by the worst financial crisis for 80 years!

  • @ Peter Martin “Austerity is simply the process of squeezing the economy using fiscal measures.”

    Indeed so, Peter, but there are deeper questions to be asked about which people and which sections of society will it have the most impact on and hurt the most.

    Many of the answers to that are in the Alston UN Report on Poverty in the UK. Any political party claiming the moral high ground should have convincing answers to that….. or …… the honesty to fess up and admit when things didn’t work out the way they might have hoped. Silence is not a convincing option.

  • Paul Barker 7th Aug '19 - 6:33pm

    The simplest way to help the poor quickly would be a sharp rise in Non-Pension Benefits combined with an end to the “Hostile Regime” within The Benefits system.
    Scrap things like the 2 Child Limit & The “Bedroom Tax”.
    Scrap the necessity for The Unemployed to Sign On.
    Scrap all the Medical Reports Industry, go back to awarding Sickness Benefits on the basis of a Doctors Note.
    Scrap the fake “Job Creation”Schemes.
    A lot of Civil Servants could be moved to doing more useful work.

    The use of the Word “Austerity” is falling into a Labour trap. The Liberal position is that we should not be running up Debts that Our Children have to pay.
    The thing that’s different about The “State” is that under Normal Conditions (excluding War, Natural Disasters or Brexit) it has a lot of control over both its Income & Spending, that not true for most individuals.

  • Christopher Haigh 7th Aug '19 - 8:43pm

    I meant to say that it is Debbie Abrahams that is speaking up on our behalf.

  • David Evans 7th Aug '19 - 10:41pm

    As TCO says “We have nothing to apologise for; quite the contrary – the coalition was a model of stability and probity when compared to the horror show that has followed it.” Unfortunately what TCO prefers to omit is that the horror show that followed coalition occurred because we sacrificed ourselves for five years to support and save the Conservatives. That is why we lost 90% of our MPs. That is why the Conservatives won the 2015 general election. That is why we had a Brexit Referendum and that is why our country is in the horror show it is in now.

    Self justifying denial is the worst form of political narcissism, and the poor, the old and the weak and those easily exploited like the Windrush generation are the ones paying the price for what TCO describes as working with people you don’t necessarily agree with – presumably like Theresa May and her immigrant bashing “hostile environment.”

    As Joni Mitchell said, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” And our ability to stop the Conservatives destroying our country went in those five years of self destruction.

  • Andrew McCaig 7th Aug '19 - 10:59pm

    I agree with the tenet of this article, and the comments. We need a strong Liberal Democrat policy on poverty.

    However we should not fail to point out the hypocrisy of the Labour Party on this. The Labour Party that first abstained on the terrible 2015 Tory benefit cuts, and then did not promise to reverse them in the 2017 manifesto. The Labour Party that prioritised middle class graduates over the poorest in Society, and which takes backbench MPs as the salary level below which people are too poor to pay any extra tax. The Labour Party is now a middle class Party, with policies aimed at helping the middle class above all.

  • Neil Sandison 7th Aug '19 - 11:41pm

    By 2020 most of this will be folk memory .We will not have served in government for 5 years .Perhaps people have forgotten how much was pumped back into the economy and banking system through qauntative easing .or the last Labour love note as they left office ,Sorry there is no money left.

  • The Labour Party are saying they are the anti-austerity party because unlike us they were not in government implementing austerity. As Peter Martin and David Raw state austerity was the wrong policy in 2010. As I keep pointing out it led to a reported double-dip recession at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012.

    There was no economic argument for austerity in 2010 or in 2015. It is time everyone in the party and especially our MPs recognised this. Economists today mostly recognise that austerity was the wrong policy in 2010.

    When we have policies to reverse all of the 2012/13 welfare cuts not just the Tory ones after the 2015 general election then we can hold our head up high and say we have learnt from our mistake. That we will not only never support austerity again, but we will reverse the main effects of austerity on the poorest in society. We should be able to say we now understand economics better than in 2010 and we know that a government should only deflate the economy when there is full employment and/or high inflation or the risk of high inflation.

  • David Evans writes: “Unfortunately what TCO prefers to omit is that the horror show that followed coalition occurred because we sacrificed ourselves for five years to support and save the Conservatives. That is why we lost 90% of our MPs. That is why the Conservatives won the 2015 general election. ”

    I’m sure that on reflection, he would accept that a more measured analysis that his contention that we entered government in 2010 solely to “save the Conservatives” is both absurd, ignores the state of the economy and the country in 2010, and is a slight on all those Liberal Democrats who voted for coalition.

    Unfortunately we lost MPs in 2015 for two reasons: (i) a failure of a small but unfortunately vocal minority to get behind their colleagues in government, who sowed discord and misinformation, and (ii) the electoral system, which meant that faced with the prospect of a Labour government and no reliable way to ensure a continuation of the coalition, opted for the Conservatives.

    I hope he will reflect on this, and ponder whether his well-documented personal enmity towards senior coalition ministers may have influenced his thinking.

  • Andrew McCaig is only partially correct when he writes ” The Labour Party is now a middle class Party, with policies aimed at helping the middle class above all.” That’s true, but it’s primary function is to ensure it keeps a client vote to preserve it in its fiefdoms. That has already broken down in Scotland and hopefully it won’t be too much longer in England and Wales.

  • @ TCO “Unfortunately we lost MPs in 2015 for two reasons: (i) a failure of a small but unfortunately vocal minority to get behind their colleagues in government, who sowed discord and misinformation”,

    So of, course you know better – the electorate were mistaken and they should have known much better.

  • TCO: hindsight if the party had simply not got involved in coalition, accepted a hit in an election during the Autumn of 2010/Spring 2011, probably losing 20 seats, then we would have been in a position to recover before 2015, particualrly with an unpolpular Conservative austerity government. David Evans is spot on.
    However it is time to move on provided we have learnt from that experience, stay out of coalition, it was an experiment that lead to disaster.

  • TCO,

    I note that you joined the party after 2015 and I wonder if you were a Conservative voter before this. I am astounded that a Liberal Democrat party member can state that members of the party should have got “behind their colleagues in government”. We have a duty to point out where our colleagues are not pursuing the correct policies and are supporting things that they had no business supporting and try to persuade them to pursue the correct policies.

    The economy in 2010 was not in a bad state. The Labour government had pursued the correct policies during the financial crash and we were recovering with economic growth returning. The idea that we were like Greece was absurd. The idea that we needed to deflate the economy was absurd; this was why in our 2010 manifesto we stated we would stimulate the economy in 2010 and not reduce the deficit until economic growth was high enough to cope with deflationary policies.

  • Appreciate the positive comments. There seems to be plenty of frustration that LDs’ concern for poverty is not highlighted enough in campaigning. Maybe if the Fairer Share for All motion becomes policy at the next conference things will change.

    Russell Simpson – If by defending the record of the Coalition you mean more explanations of economics in 2010, specific decisions by Lib Dem ministers and so on, then, sorry, but I think this is counter-productive, best left to historical analysis. Most people don’t have time for it, and glaze over. I’m talking about ordinary voters, not arguing with Labour activists. In the current extreme situation in the UK, with imminent no-deal Brexit, most people are less interested in 2010 than in what might happen now. And in this regard there is a big question mark hanging over the Lib Dems.

    I’m thinking of knocking on doors and meeting usually-Labour voters who are tearing their hair out about Corbyn and like a lot of things about the Lib Dems (especially on Brexit) but say ‘but you opened the door to austerity, and look what’s happening now’. With the underlying impression that we don’t care.

    There’s no ready answer to this at the moment, and this is a gaping hole in our campaigning. To counter this negative impression we need to proclaim a new, positive Lib Dem commitment on poverty over and over. Then maybe you can add in some details, such as the Lib Dems role in raising tax allowances, but only after you’ve put forward a positive image.

    As a party the Lib Dems seem finally to get the value of strong, clear messaging. ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ maybe looked juvenile at first but you can’t deny it’s had an impact. And in the next election the tone will set by characters like Johnson and Cummings who do not do detail at all but only deal in the broadest broad-brush messages. Labour HQ will throw their oar in too. So, without sinking to the Cummings level, Lib Dems have to be clear as day – and inclusive.

    There just won’t be time for detailed analyses of the Coalition. They sound inherently defensive, and seem to imply that even now ‘poverty isn’t so bad as they say’.

  • TCO – You appear to claim to speak in the name of most LD members who have joined in the last few years. Well, I joined in 2016, but I wouldn’t claim to speak for any large group of people. I can say I’ve met other recent joiners who are as concerned as me about poverty, and of course there are also a lot very recently from Labour backgrounds.

    And you say you don’t accept the premise of this article. Not sure what you mean but one central premise is that there really is a crisis of poverty in this country, people in real need, as confirmed by multiple surveys and enquiries, if not one’s own experience. And I think most Liberal Democrats see this as unacceptable. Are you saying it’s OK?

  • Sue Sutherland 8th Aug '19 - 1:13pm

    I think Frankie has the right idea about our response to criticism about austerity. We have learnt from our mistakes is a powerful message, especially when we are encouraging others to change their minds about voting Leave.
    I have been puzzled, shocked and disappointed by our party’s lack of response to the Alston report but the party as a whole has the opportunity to discuss the issue when it debates the policy paper “A Fairer Share for All”. The unfair society we have now has not been caused by the austerity that was implemented during Coalition although it did exacerbate it. I understand that the party expected austerity to end in 2016 but the Tories have carried on with it because, for them, it’s part of their ideology whereas for us it seemed the best option to help the economy recover from the crash of 2008.
    Poverty, however, should be regarded by the Lib Dems as an enemy of its’ deeply held ambition for society. Our ideology is that we do not want people to be enslaved and Poverty is one of the great enslavers. We now have a vastly unequal society and it’s our duty as Lib Dems to sort it out.

  • David Evans 8th Aug '19 - 1:27pm

    Again TCO comes out with incorrect and downright misleading information in an attempt to shore up his rosy view of the disaster for Liberal Democracy (and the UK) that was coalition. Continuously ignoring the content of other people’s comments and instead reiterating misinformation as he/she so assiduously does is neither Liberal nor Democratic and I hope that one day he/she comes to realise that.

    As he/she surely must know, I did not contend that “we entered government in 2010 solely to save the Conservatives” but simply pointed out the uncomfortable truth that was the consequence of what we did while in coalition. Indeed, it is a fact that many Lib Dem MPs were more loyal to David Cameron’s government more than many Conservative MPs were. So the whole of his second paragraph is built on misinformation.

    His third paragraph then goes on to blame the messenger, a tactic so popular during coalition among coalition catastrophe deniers when those who cared about the party’s future were trying to get a change in our approach before it was too late. His comment “Unfortunately we lost MPs in 2015 for two reasons: (i) a failure of a small but unfortunately vocal minority to get behind their colleagues in government, who sowed discord and misinformation, …” This presumably was the misinformation that in May 2011 we had lost 748 Councillors (41% of the seats we were defending) and 11 out of 16 MSPs. In 2012 we lost another 336 councillors (44% of our defences). In 2013 another 124 councillors lost (only down 26%). But in 214 we lost another 310 – down 38% and all but one of our MEPs. Of course to TCO it was pure misinformation, not the judgement of the electorate year after year after year.

    Of course if TCO has any evidence of misinformation by that small and vocal minority, I’m sure he will provide it. Just as I am sure he will provide evidence of his claim of my “well-documented personal enmity towards senior coalition ministers”.

    And I thought Boris and Donald were the masters of bluff and bluster.

  • @michael BG I’ve been a member since the mid 80s. The suggestion that I’ve been a conservative member is bizarre.

    @Nick Rider I don’t claim to speak for new members and of course I believe in addressing poverty. I just don’t think it’s necessary to accept and repeat the criticism and policies of the Labour Party to do so.

    @Michael yes, Mr Evans has been a long and vocal critic of Clegg and the coalition but was noticeably light on alternatives. Farron of course got fewer votes in 2017 than Clegg in 2015.

  • Peter Martin 8th Aug '19 - 1:35pm

    @ Martin,

    “Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling had borrowed massively and cut income (lower VAT) in order to ride over a sharp recession…….”

    Have you ever heard of the term ‘balance sheet recession’?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_sheet_recession

    This ” occurs when high levels of private sector debt cause individuals or companies to collectively focus on saving by paying down debt rather than spending or investing”.

    If you follow the concept of sectoral balances you should by now realise that if the private sector is “focusing on saving” then the Govt sector has to be doing the borrowing. It’s just the same as you buying a qnty of premium bonds. You are saving. The Govt is borrowing. BUT, that’s your decision. The Govt hasn’t asked you to lend it some money in the same way you might ask the bank for a loan if you needed some money.

    “They were fairly successful in this, but neither they nor anyone else considered the measures to be sustainable……”

    Why wouldn’t it be? Are the Govt going to run out of their own IOUs?

  • Martin,

    VAT was lowered by 2.5% from 1st December 2008 until 31st December 2009, so by 2010 it was back at 17.5%. The Coalition increased it to 20% from 4th January 2011, when set against the increase in the Income Tax Personal Allowance from April 2011 this deflated the economy by more than £7.5 billion (which was about 0.5% of GDP).

    As I stated in our 2010 we had the correct economic policy – an economic stimulus for 2010 and reducing the deficit when the economy was strong enough to cope with it.

    In 2010 the coalition government made cuts in that year’s capital spending – not stimulating the economy but deflating it on top of Labour’s restoration of 17.5% VAT rate.

    Please will you point out how “Austerity was largely mitigated”?

    We lost 90% of our MPs because of a combination of the party not being seen as trustworthy following the no broken promises political broadcast and MPs breaking their personal pledge to vote against all increases to tuition fees, our spokespersons being in the media supporting government cuts and welfare cuts, and the disillusionment of some of our supporters that we were in government with our traditional enemies the Tories.

    It appears that you have not yet learnt that austerity was the wrong policy in 2010 and that the best way to reduce the deficit would have been by having strong economic growth and increasing government spending by less than the rate of economic growth.

  • Steve Trevethan 8th Aug '19 - 2:28pm

    Perhaps a most concerning matter is the detachment of our “leadership” from the everyday-visible poverty on our streets and the increasing differences in wealth across our society. (See above)
    Perhaps, we, as a nation and as a party, need well founded theories and practices to remedy this poverty and inequality crisis as it damages our society and our democracy.
    If/when these show errors in our Coalition phase, then we should wholeheartedly apologise and demonstrate our better way forward.

  • i agree with the original premise of this thread, that we dont seem to be very focused in the issues surrounding poverty. The same could be said of the other manifestations of inequality – poor housing, inadequate standards in education, lack of job opportunities. Unfortunately contributors to LDV seem to have other priorities !

  • @TCO You say ‘of course I believe in addressing poverty’. There’s no ‘of course’ about it, because you do not then suggest anything to address poverty. Saying ‘of course we hate something’ and then going on to talk about something else is just a way of avoiding the subject. And addressing poverty ourselves has nothing to do with accepting Labour arguments.

    Because the main point is that there is an atrocious poverty crisis in this country, which is a disgrace, an outrage, but Lib Dems often give the impression of not being too bothered about it. And frankly, very sadly, much of this discussion seems to prove the point… Because a lot of people have ignored the issue and gone back to raking over the Coalition, economics at the time, etc. Which is an internal argument that out there in the world people glaze over at, they’re not interested in endless detailed, self-justifying analyses of why the Lib Dems weren’t quite as bad in 2011 as they thought they were.

    And none of this is of any use when you’re knocking on people’s doors and they say they hate Brexit, can’t stand Corbyn, like a lot of things about the Lib Dems, but then… say ‘the last time you just tailed after the Tories and enabled austerity, and allowed the benefit system to be screwed up, and look at all the people having to use food banks’. And we need an answer.

  • Peter Martin 8th Aug '19 - 4:32pm

    @ Martin,

    “Peter Martin: The hardship experienced in the US must be a mystery to you.” ???

    Maybe this comment is meant for someone else?

  • Martin,

    I know that the Labour government took action so people would not lose their homes if made unemployed by returning mortgage interest payments to their previous level. There was no over-heating of the UK economy. Please provide unemployment, economic growth and inflation figures for any time since 1997 when the UK economy was overheating.

    As I have pointed out most economists now recognise that austerity was the wrong policy in 2010.

    It is a myth that the Coalition followed Labour deficit reduction plans. I have provided evidence in another thread this is a myth. If you have any evidence that the Coalition followed Labour deficit reduction plans please, please provide it. The cuts in 2010-13 were deeper than Labour planned and the VAT increase deflated the economy when the economy was not able to cope well with it. Please remember that at the time it was reported we were in double dip recession early in 2012.

    Nick Rider,

    much of this discussion seems to prove the point

    I hope this does not refer to me, who has been very vocal on LDV calling for the party to have policies to end relative poverty in the UK. (Also see my first comment in this thread 8th Aug 1.38am).

    In my submission on “A Fairer Share for All” policy paper I suggested that our policy should have included ending relative poverty in the UK after eight years; I suggested we keep our spending benefit commitments for the first year of a Lib Dem government as set out in our 2017 manifesto and then spend between £5.1 and £8 billion a year each year after that to achieve ending relative poverty in the UK after eight years.

  • @Nick Rider “And none of this is of any use when you’re knocking on people’s doors and they say they hate Brexit, can’t stand Corbyn, like a lot of things about the Lib Dems, but then… say ‘the last time you just tailed after the Tories and enabled austerity, and allowed the benefit system to be screwed up, and look at all the people having to use food banks’. And we need an answer.”

    The answer is “Is Corbyn or Johnson the answer?”

    More generally, you can only pay for welfare if you have a strong and functioning economy. I work in the private sector and the business I work for funds our public spending (as does my own tax). I see a lot of talk about spending money and none about earning it.

    If the economy crashes, we get real austerity.

  • @Martin I’m glad to see that you “get it”.

    There is absolutely no point in endless hand wringing; it just annoys people and puts them off. If you don’t believe in yourself why should anyone else?

  • @Michael BG I wasn’t referring to you personally, I’d seen your position on poverty issues, but rather to the general drift of this discussion back to dissection of the Coalition. Whereas my point was that this kind of argument is not that relevant in our current situation, when there are urgent issues to deal with. Maybe there should be a separate ‘Liberal Democrats Historical Analysis Forum’ so that all this argument could carry on isolated from current policy.

    And @TCO, one more time… Earlier on you appeared to reprimand me for repeating Labour criticisms of the Lib Dems – which I wasn’t, I was proposing clarifying and giving much more emphasis to Lib Dem policies. But when I ask how we’re supposed to respond to the widespread view that the Lib Dems facilitated the growth of austerity/poverty, your only idea is ‘Is Corbyn or Johnson the answer’. So you don’t offer any Lib Dem policy on poverty at all, only pointing at the opposition.

    This is a highway to nowhere. Do you have any intention of broadening electoral support, or just standing on free market principle? And by the way, not many people believe in pure trickle-down economics any more.

  • Dilettante Eye 8th Aug '19 - 7:40pm

    Sue Sutherland

    In a previous thread discussing policy plans to solve poverty in the UK, and alleviating ‘the reasons why Brexit happened’, there was a pointer to this document you mention ‘A Fairer Share for All’, consultation paper 137.

    So I thought it worth a read. However I stopped when I got to this at item 1.2.3. with regard for more affordable housing.

    “….so that within five years 100,000 new social houses are being built a year. To ensure that this is possible we would establish a British Housing Company that will be able to buy land for reasonable prices,”

    There is no explanation about how this newly formed British Housing Company, might legally gain access to reasonable land prices.?

    Surely, market value of land is the market value, so what form of policy magic will this BHC be imbued with, to ensure it buys land at a reasonable price, below its otherwise market value?
    I can only hope that post consultation (137), the final document will fill in the obvious gaps of what appears to be woolly ill thought through, magical thinking?

  • @Nick Rider my comments were most certainly not aimed at you. I welcome new members and their fresh ideas.

    My personal view is that welfare reform has been poorly executed. I’m not a policy expert and leave it to others to derive the fine detail.

    My key concerns are that if we were only to go by the comments on here from some long standing contributors, you’d think we had to accept every labour criticism and ape their policies. I reject both as wrong politically and ultimately self defeating.

  • Peter Martin 8th Aug '19 - 8:47pm

    @ TCO,

    “More generally, you can only pay for welfare if you have a strong and functioning economy. I work in the private sector and the business I work for funds our public spending (as does my own tax).”

    This is a Tory argument. It’s the same sentiment Margaret Thatcher would have agreed with. The idea is that the private sector creates the money which then funds the Govt. It could possibly work like this if the UK were like Ecuador and Puerto Rico which use the US dollar. Then the govt would really be constrained by the number of dollars that the rest of us could earn and then be available to be collected in tax by the Govt.

    But we don’t! You might want to think about where those ££ come from in the first place. Before they reach our possession and before they are available to be collected in taxes.

    @ Nick Ryder,

    Have you ever read the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell? That’s about the poverty of a hundred years ago. Tressell ridicules the popular attitudes of the time which were presented to explain the causes of poverty. I’m not sure we’ve moved on! Tressell was pretty close to getting it right. He understood that you can’t separate politics, economics and what we would call ‘austerity’ now which is primarily the cause of present day poverty.

    He also understood that the wealth of the country was produced by those who did the work. And that wealth and money weren’t quite the same thing. I don’t think he would have looked too kindly on the notion of a UBI.

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Aug '19 - 10:01pm

    @TCO
    “the business I work for funds our public spending (as does my own tax).”

    Are you implying that people who work in the public sector do not pay (income) tax?

    We all pay taxes of one sort or another. Some may not pay income tax e.g. if they do not earn enough but there will for example be very few people who don’t pay VAT on something.

  • It would help and be more convincing if the leading members of the party showed a bit of interest in poverty and inequality.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Aug '19 - 1:35am

    Dilettante Eye, the creation of a British Housing Company is already our party policy. It was passed at last September’s Brighton Conference in the motion F23, An Affordable, Secure Home for All “b>. The words of the motion, lines 73 – 77, are as follows:
    Conference calls for: 1.The creation of a British Housing Company as a dedicated, arms-length, not for profit non-governmental body to acquire land of low amenity at current use value through compulsory acquisition to reduce prohibitive land costs and excessive developer profits.
    The policies passed in this motion go some way to recognising the contribution to the problem of poverty in this country of housing costs and of rising homelessness. The policies offered in the motion for this autumn’s Conference on
    A Fairer Share for All will also help to tackle poverty, though they may need further strengthening.

    It is excellent to read this article by Nick Rider and his further comments, especially I think this one: “The main point is that there is an atrocious poverty crisis in this country, which is a disgrace, an outrage, but Lib Dems often give the impression of not being too bothered about it.” That is exactly right, and yet any member who has read either of the studies of the UN Rapporteur on extreme poverty in this country, that is the Alston Statement of last November and the Alston Report of this May (both extensively reported here in LDV) surely cannot fail to be very bothered about it.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Aug '19 - 1:41am

    PS I obviously haven’t quite mastered the newly-learnt art of emboldening, which I intended to highlight only the titles of our policies past and probably to come! They are both important motions that should help to affirm our commitment to eliminating relative poverty in our country as soon as possible.

  • @NCR “Are you implying that people who work in the public sector do not pay (income) tax?”

    A public sector worker earns £30k. They pay tax of £10k. Their net cost to the Exchequer is £20k. Where does the revenue for that £20k come from?

  • Dilettante Eye 9th Aug '19 - 8:45am

    Katharine Pindar

    So your new British Housing Company will have the ability…
    “….to acquire land of low amenity at current use value through compulsory acquisition”

    Isn’t that just another way of saying State sponsored theft?
    I can already see the flaws in such a policy, which will clog the courts with challenges and disputes and simply make a lot of lawyers very wealthy.

    Wasn’t a similar ‘state sponsored theft’ attempted decades ago under the Slum Clearance programme? Getting the council’s Environmental Health Officers to classify a house as unfit for human habitation so that the council could compulsory purchase the house and land for a pittance?

    Of course there were many slums which needed clearing back then, but over time the EHO ‘unfitness’ classification began to be used dubiously on homes which were very clearly repairable, but were still mis-used to give the council the ability to ‘steal’ huge swathes of land (on the cheap!)

    As people caught on to this ‘council land theft’, they began to challenge those EHO declarations of ‘unfitness’, and thus demanding full market value. I recall that this ‘council sponsored property theft’ stopped and turned into a new policy of Housing Regeneration around the late 80’s.

    We all welcome measures to reduce poverty and increase home building, but frankly, what amazes me most about these kinds of ill-considered (regurgitated?) policy plans is how little attempt is made to learn from the failures of history?

  • @Dilettante Eye ” what amazes me most about these kinds of ill-considered (regurgitated?) policy plans is how little attempt is made to learn from the failures of history.”

    Indeed. And it’s this that landed us with tuition fees, against the wishes of the top MPs, in 2009.

    @David Raw it would help and be more convincing if the prolific contibutors showed a bit of interest in the economy, fiscal probity, business and growth.

  • David Garlick 9th Aug '19 - 10:52am

    Great article the thrust of which is spot on and undeniable. Get the top brass to listen.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Aug '19 - 10:52am

    Perhaps our esteemed colleagues Lord John Shipley, who moved the motion F23 on housing policy last September, or Joseph Bourke of ALTER would care to answer the point made by Dilettant Eye above and move the discussion on?

  • Perhaps our esteemed colleagues … would care to answer the point made by Dilettant Eye above and move the discussion on?
    Suspect someone is getting uncomfortable with the real world…

    I suggest if you have doubts about what Dilettante Eye is saying, I suggest a review of the wave of “modernity obsessed” regeneration that swept the country in the 1960’s.
    I remember the proposals for St.Albans (I think the council was Conservative but could of been Liberal back then), that, if they had gone ahead would have cleared a relatively large part of the city that was deemed ‘unfit’, today expect to pay around £800,000 for one these homes.

    I think one of the lessons that Dilettant Eye is alluding to is that with any policy, you do need to ask “how can this be abused”, because you can be sure people will try.

  • Martin,

    It only seems a few days ago that I posted extensively about what each political party promised in 2010 and how difficult it is to compare them with what happened. Please see my comment 29th Jul 5.16pm – https://www.libdemvoice.org/jo-swinson-gives-jeremy-corbyn-a-lesson-in-opposing-a-terrible-government-61568.html#comments.

    I hope that your failure to provide any evidence for the claim that the Coalition followed Labour deficit reduction plans, means you will never make the claim again.

    TCO,

    I recall you posting that you couldn’t post here using your name as you have a politically restricted job. Now you have written, “I work in the private sector” and that you work for a business. (I also note you have stated, that you had “victories against Conservative opponents to my name” [29th Jul 9.44pm].) Please can you explain why the company you work for does not allow its employees being seen in public as a member of a political party?

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Aug '19 - 4:22pm

    A debate on housing policy is worthwhile in itself, but here I want to write in support of Nick Rider’s very pertinent theme, focusing on our policies today. As others such as David Becket and David Raw have commented, there has not been a noticeable emphasis from our leaders on the importance of tackling poverty and deprivation as an urgent and pre-eminent issue, and yet there is not only a crying need for this focus, but it also shows we have moved on, as Nick pointed out. I think we have to keep pressing on it, and it is not very helpful when others present on LDV pleasant wish-lists for the party which scarcely mention it.

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Aug '19 - 6:15pm

    @TCO
    “A public sector worker earns £30k. They pay tax of £10k. Their net cost to the Exchequer is £20k. Where does the revenue for that £20k come from?”

    From any financial resource the Exchequer has – including taxes which are not income tax – taxes which may be payable by all of us, irrespective of whether we might have worked in the public or private sector (personally – both). e.g. VAT, taxes on booze, fags and fuel….

  • @NCR “From any financial resource the Exchequer has – including taxes which are not income tax – taxes which may be payable by all of us, irrespective of whether we might have worked in the public or private sector (personally – both). e.g. VAT, taxes on booze, fags and fuel….”

    Any tax paid by a public sector worker comes from income paid to them as a public sector worker. Ergo the delta comes from the private sector.

  • Martin,

    I pointed out that any comparisons are meaningless because so many things change. It is not important where the parties wanted to get to, what is important is what public spending cuts and tax increases were planned by Labour and carried out by the coalition. It would be like saying that the coalition followed my deficit reduction plans, where my plans were based soling on increasing government income and making no public spending cuts at all.

    TCO,

    Please answer my question – Please can you explain why the company you work for does not allow its employees being seen in public as a member of a political party?

  • TCO – you and certain Coalition apologists conveniently forgot about David Laws’ bragging about reducing the size of the state during the worst possible time. The likes of Laws and Alexander were definitely on board with Tory-style austerity. Oh, if you bring up pre-1945 time, don’t forget the Liberal National sell-outs who abandoned liberal principles and *supported Tory austerity during the Great Depression*. And we all know the damage their actions caused to our party after ww2. Seems like history repeated itself.

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