The Lib Dems have become an establishment party

Liberalism has a rich history of radicalism from the People’s Budget, to Beveridge through to the more recent opposition to the Iraq war. The latter event had the effect of placing the Lib Dems to the left of Labour and resulting in some spectacular electoral successes at the expense of Blair’s discredited administration.

It was this progressive party of Liberals that attracted me in my home town where council seats were being won and where Gareth Epps pushed Labour into third place in the East constituency at the 2010 General Election.

Then came coalition with the old enemy the Conservatives, which looking back was inevitable given the route mapped out by Nick Clegg and his allies at the top of the party. I believe that their aim was a pact with the Tories from the time he assumed the leadership. Coalition damaged the party badly and, yes, there were some gains but overall the balance sheet was a negative one born out by the sight of both candidates in the recent leadership election falling over themselves to admit they got things wrong whilst serving in government.

During those years the party was very much part of the political establishment, and the electorate’s verdict was harsh. It is only with the situation created by the referendum on membership of the European Union that some electoral progress has been forthcoming but my concern about that is that once again the party is lining up with the establishment. In addition it gives the appearance of being a single issue party.

On Brexit, Jo Swinson suggests a former senior minister from the Thatcher era or a New Labourite to be PM of a National Unity Government whilst at the same time rejecting the leader of the official opposition. This has the effect of making the party appear anti Labour, a dangerous move given the need to attract Labour voters in target seats. More worrying is the impression created that the leadership are much more comfortable with Tories than they are with Socialists.

At the same time there is virtual silence when it comes to the other major issues of the day. Labour and the Greens have plans for the environment, NHS and social care. What have the Lib Dems got to say? The problem even extends to the Federal Conference Committee who have succeeded in putting together the most anodyne agenda imaginable whilst at the same time rejecting much more radical motions. The gathering next month in Bournemouth will be another rally against Brexit with little else of substance.

I know my words will upset some but I make no apology for that because I care about the future of the party and the philosophy of Liberalism. I grew up in a Liberal voting family always viewing the Liberal party, and its successor the Lib Dems, as a centre left force opposed to the Conservatives. Leaders from Grimond through to Ashdown were spot on when they acknowledged this.

There is no place for another establishment party, the Conservatives already have that ground. The progressive field is more crowded with Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens but the opportunities for growth lie there. That is where the Liberal Democrats need to be to renew their heritage as a radical party taking on the establishment instead of being part of it.

* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

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168 Comments

  • Paul Barker 21st Aug '19 - 6:18pm

    At first I assumed that David Warren was trying to be funny but this seems to be serious.
    The point that struck me most forcefully was that Labour & The SNP are Progressive Parties. David Warren obviously sees Labour through Rose-Tinted spectacles bu The SNP Progressive ?
    My flabber has rarely felt more gasted.
    For those with no knowledge of Scottish Politics The SNP are a Nationalist Party, just like UKIP or The Brexit Party. Close-up they struck me as an Anti-English Party.
    Labour are tied to The Co-Operative Movement & most of The Trades Unions, are they not part of The Establishment ?
    Labour are a Conservative party, in a way that The Tories no longer are. The current Labour Leadership contains some genuine Revolutionaries but Revolutions are usually Antithetical to Liberalism.

  • David Warren 21st Aug '19 - 6:22pm

    @David

    Ending the benefits freeze doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. We need policy on welfare that aims to eliminate the need for foodbanks and ends homelessness.

    JSA/ESA/UC need to be a lot higher and housing benefit needs to cover the full cost of the accommodation.

    I believe UBI is a good idea and needs to be trialled.

    Now that’s radical.

  • I completely agree with this perceptive piece by David Warren.

    Far too many people at senior levels of the LibDems are establishment creatures. Clegg was one. The jury is out on Swinson.

    Two observations:

    Left-inclined LibDems work against themselves by cutting up any LibDems of a socially conservative bent. There are many of us who are socially conservative and economically centrist who are LibDems because we are very much anti-establishment. We follow a long tradition in the Liberal Party which runs from Gladstone through Hilaire Belloc through to Sarah Teather and Greg Mulholland.

    It is now clear that the LibDem opposition to ID cards was foolish and misguided. It very likely resulted in the majority in favour of Brexit. The large majority of other EU member states have ID cards. The absence of ID cards in the UK has adversely affected poorer and more peripheral groups in the UK, including migrants. I see numerous posts on websites from people struggling to get passports because, unlike the typical LibDem middle class member, they don’t have friends or acquaintances in the categories of person who can certify their identity for passport application purposes. The absence of ID cards and proper registration has contributed to widespread identity fraud and to benefit fraud which absence of faith has in turn assisted those who want to attack state benefits.

    LibDems need to think more deeply about issues and stop jumping on every middle class bandwagon that comes along.

  • @ Paul Barker Could you spell out for u,s Paul, your knowledge and experience of Scottish politics, and could you also tell us which particular non-progressive policies you oppose from the Scottish Government ?

    Could it be their opposition to Brexit, or the abolition of prescription charges ? Maybe it’s free hospital parking and minimum pricing of alcohol. Could it be a slight raise in the top rate of income tax to finance better welfare policies… or could it be the abolition of student fees ? Perhaps you don’t like the fact they opposed the introduction of Academy Schools and PFI’s… is it maintaining free social care for the elderly (introduced by the Lib/Lab Executive – as was the public smoking ban). Is it the change to organ donation ? Support for green energy of wind and wave ?

    Maybe you don’t think any of this is progressive ?

    PS we’ve got PR in all bar UK elections (thanks to Labour) … UKIP are most unpopular and unwelcome in Scotland… and the Scottish Greens have more MSP’s than the Lib Dems and sadly, I hear on the grapevine the Shetland by-election is looking a bit shaky.

  • Delusion is endemic through out the UK. the poster shows a touch by saying “Labour and the Greens have plans for the environment, NHS and social care. ” indeed but if Brexit happens there won’t be the money for their plans so plan away, but be prepared to rethink in our new poorer country. Delusion is also endemic among the Scots Nationalists, free from England we will be rich they cry,

    The estimated fiscal deficit for the UK as a whole in 2018/19 was £23.5bn – or 1.1% of its GDP. This was £18.3bn less than the previous year and the lowest for 17 years.

    Scotland’s deficit as a percentage of GDP is therefore more than six times higher at 7% – and more than double the 3% target set by the EU for its members.

    Cyprus was the only EU state to break that threshold last year, with its fiscal deficit at 4.8% of its GDP – although it is expected to return to a surplus this year.

    The average deficit across all 28 EU member states was 0.6% of GDP last year.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-49413345?SThisFB

    Free they may very well be, but rich hardly. We should also not underplay the many Civil service and agency jobs going South.

    Two examples of this

    CICA’s office is in the centre of Glasgow and employs over 300 staff.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/criminal-injuries-compensation-authority/about

    The Student Loans Company (SLC), which employs 1,700 people in Glasgow,

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/glasgow-employer-launches-graduate-apprenticeship-programme

    Does anyone truly believe the Westminster Government would leave those jobs in Glasgow. Nope like the EU Medicine agency, they’d be packed up and sent South, how far South, who knows but I suspect a newly impoverished Sunderland would snap the hand off and minister that offered them, them and bugger Scotland.

  • Paul Barker 21st Aug '19 - 8:28pm

    If anyone wants to know what The SNP is really like can I suggest they read what Scottish Liberal Democrats say about them ?
    For those who want to know more about Labour I recommend the site “Labour List” as I have before. I used to suggest that people should slog through the comment threads to get the full flavour of Labour Hate but they got rid of the comments the Week before The Independent Group broke away. There were a couple of commenters who always referred to Us as “Yellow Slime” but most stuck to the Witty “Fibdems”.

  • David,

    It is easy to buy things with other peoples money. Two thoughts

    The estimated fiscal deficit for the UK as a whole in 2018/19 was £23.5bn – or 1.1% of its GDP. This was £18.3bn less than the previous year and the lowest for 17 years.

    Scotland’s deficit as a percentage of GDP is therefore more than six times higher at 7% – and more than double the 3% target set by the EU for its members.

    Cyprus was the only EU state to break that threshold last year, with its fiscal deficit at 4.8% of its GDP – although it is expected to return to a surplus this year.

    The average deficit across all 28 EU member states was 0.6% of GDP last year.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-49413345?SThisFB

    Forecasted median age of the population of Scotland from 2014 to 2039
    Age
    2034 44.3
    2029 43.5
    2024 42.9
    2019 42.4

    So we have a country will an ageing population, on the periphery of Europe, unable to make it’s books balance without a transfer of money from the UK government. But, but cry the Nats “we are special and are being held back by an evil government”; haven’t we heard all that before from the Brexiteers and look where that got them, desperately looking for any straw to clutch at.

  • David Warren 21st Aug '19 - 9:15pm

    @PaulBarker

    Having spent more years than I care to remember in the Labour party I know exactly what they are. However if we are about pluralism and reducing inequality we have more chance of achieving it by working with them than with the Tories.

    As for the SNP last time I checked they were calling themselves a social democratic party. They outflanked Labour in Scotland by being to the left of them which until Corbyn came along wasn’t difficult.

    I don’t like either because I am a Liberal but there is some policy overlap on issues like the environment, health and welfare.

  • marcstevens 21st Aug '19 - 9:24pm

    What a brilliant post, and the first time I think I have ever agreed with all you’ve said let alone anything. My thoughts totally on rejecting the leader of the opposition, the tone of the Lib Dem leader came across as petulant
    and an overinflated sense of importance. A council tenant like myself is looking for a more socially liberal direction and that is lacking at the moment. A Social Liberal Party even, SLP, time will tell if one needs to be started up. Let’s hope the centre left Lib Dem members, supporters even, demand better and demand radical policies on Social Care/the NHS, the Environment, Transport, Localism and local government and decentralisation to name but a few.

  • @David Warren

    “””””….the more recent opposition to the Iraq war. The latter event had the effect of placing the Lib Dems to the left of Labour ….””””

    I don’t think opposing the Iraq War can be pigeonholed as left or right.

    I’ve always been right of centre, and it was the Liberal Democrats opposition to the Iraq War that caught my attention and acted as a wedge between myself and the Conservative Party (yes it wasn’t their war, but the party was broadly supportive of it).

    There were left wing reasons to support the Iraq War (solidarity with leftists and trade unionists long persecuted by Sadam Hussein, top down implementation of human rights, purely humanitarian aid to minority groups) and there were right wing reasons to oppose it (waste of taxpayers money, certain destabilisation of an economically important region, creeping government power going against desires for a smaller role of the state, ignoring the rule of law)

    “”””The progressive field is more crowded with Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens “”””

    I fail to see anything progressive about any of these parties. But there seems to be no definition of what progressive means in the political context, and is just a label that people apply to themselves to appear virtuous and what supporters apply to what they are supporting to give virtue to their cause.

  • Denis Mollison 21st Aug '19 - 9:39pm

    “Scotland’s deficit as a percentage of GDP is therefore more than six times higher at 7% – and more than double the 3% target set by the EU for its members.”

    This figure should be taken with a pinch of salt. The GERS figures that measure Scotland’s finances as part of the UK were set up by a Conservative Secretary of State, and are widely believed by their various inclusions and exclusions to present a biased picture. That said, the elephant in the room of Scottish finances is the Oil industry, which we need to run down sooner rather than later if we are to tackle climate change.

  • Martin,
    We seem to be faced with Hobsons choice. Some people wish to spend money to help the poor, but without a plan. Others wish not to spend money at all, then express surprise when the infrastructure fails and crime raises. I’ll take Housing Benefit as an example. Some say increase it so people have homes, some say don’t let them struggle it will encourage them to take any work. I’d say both are wrong, build houses and rent them at a sensible price, as we did in the past, that way Housing Benefit goes down, people have houses and both sides are happier. So spend money but spend it wisely would be my solution, might be a bit too radical for some.

  • David Warren,

    I wonder why you didn’t name the 2010 constituency as Reading East?

    I agree there is a lack radicalism in the party policy making process and I wonder why. I don’t recall it being so in the early 1990s. It must be the fault of the policy making process.

    Of the 27 members of the Federal Policy Committee 8 of them are members of a Parliament and perhaps they have too much power on the committee.

    Perhaps we need to reduce the power to select members of working groups, by having 13 members, one from each region and nation (except England) drawn by lottery from those people who were not selected by the Federal Policy Committee (rather than the Working Group chair). And for the Working Group Chair not to be appointed by the Federal Policy Committee but instead elected by the 25 members of the working group. The Federal Policy Committee would only appoint 12 members of which a maximum should be set of three Parliamentarians.

  • @Geoffrey Payne “In opposition to all this were social liberals like myself, and including Vince Cable ”

    So it must have been a different Vince Cable who served as a coalition minister, introduced tuition fees (and argued for the abandonment of the ridiculous no fees policy in 2009), and wrote a chapter of the Orange Book.

  • Peter Martin 21st Aug '19 - 10:53pm

    “The Lib Dems have become an establishment party” ???

    “Have Become” ? When was it ever any different? There’s no need to feel too bad! The establishment isn’t just the Tory Party. They aren’t of just one political persuasion and have representation in all major political parties. The Right wing of the Labour Party are probably worse than the Lib Dems in this respect.

    Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson are Establishement figures. But so too are Nick Clegg and David Cameron. The Establishment are just as split on the question of Brexit as the rest of the country.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Aug '19 - 11:04pm

    avid knows I think of him as a colleague or friend on here. But if I had some dosh for every member of any wing of this or other party, who yearned for “radical,” I’d be rich!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We need sensible, more than that.

    Was it sensible to be right wing with the Tories? It was radical.

    Was it radical to not back the Iraq war? It was sensible.

    We have policies on everything. Mistake. Not the absence, the fact we have too many.

    We have for a century had abortion as a conscience matter. Now we have a policy many of us do not like and could not support.

    We used to have Home Affairs spokespeople who on violent crime were as tough as Tories or Labour. Now we “don’t want to ruin lives” by imprisoning those who carry corrosive substances immediately.

    We need common sense , mainstream policies.

    New Labour won because it had them.

    We won often for similar reasons.

    Most of our policies and members and mps are not the problem, nor is our new leader.

    I reckon Jo is more able to relate to what I said here, than many, as is Vince, and Tim.

    Whether those on the libertarian left or right of our party are, they who yearn only for being, radical, is a different story. David understands this as do most. But to win is to be in touch with the decent, majority, and the decent minority. Not to pander to the fringe or appeal to the fanatical.

  • Peter Martin 21st Aug '19 - 11:05pm

    “Scotland’s deficit as a percentage of GDP is therefore more than six times higher at 7%…”

    So what? In any currency union there is a tendency for the units of currency to gravitate together in the wealthy regions. In the £ zone the ££ migrate to London and the SE. In the USA, in the dollar zone, the $$ tend towards New York and California. In the euro zone, the €€ head towards Germany and Holland.

    The job of central government is to push them back out again where they are needed. That means to Northern Ireland, Scotland and the North of England. In the USA that means to Mississippi and Tennessee. It’s just normal that they are in deficit.

  • David Warren is dead right about Clegg. His first major policy announcement after taking over the leadership was that his “big Idea” was “Big Permanent Tax Cuts”. That was clearly a radical neocon small-state anti-welfare policy, a massive shift to the Right. Sure, Clegg had an element of luck, in that the electoral maths two years later gave him the chance to implement that policy in Coalition. However, Clegg he never showed any similar interest in working with Labour. In demanding that Labour should sack Gordon Brown, he set what he will have known was an impossibly high bar to cooperation with Labour. Now Clegg is where he belongs, earning lots of money to help Facebook carry on the business of monetising personal data and allowing its use for nefarious political ends.

    Was Clegg an outlier? Before Clegg, the Lib Dems repeatedly insisted that they were “equidistant” between the Tories and Labour. Steel worked with Labour, Ashdown tried to do so. But since Clegg, the Lib Dems have kept far distant from Labour – and not only from Corbyn, but also from the fairly moderate Ed Miliband before him.

    Why the shift? Well, one factor may be what happened in 2010, when initially the prospect of a “rainbow coalition” with Labour looked just about conceivable, and Brown agreed to talk. Immediately, John Reid and other hardline Labour backbenchers jumped up to declare that it would be over their dead bodies. Brown gave up the idea, because he could see that the votes were just not there. By contrast, when Cameron negotiated his Coalition with Clegg, any Tory dissent was completely suppressed. That will have been a learning experience for the Lib Dems.

    After 2015, the Lib Dems went rather quiet about their Coalition experience – loath either to admit error, or to shout hard about their “success”. Swinson and Davey, largely in unison, changed all that. Sure Coalition made some bad mistakes, but… wasn’t it great, on balance!

    I fear that Lib Dem strategists think there is only one way back to power, and that is on Tory coat-tails. Hence, feigned radicalism is OK, and tokenistic opposition to Brexit is OK, but working with Labour is a greater evil than letting No Deal Brexit through. Thinking radical thoughts about things like UBI is fine, provided they don’t get in the way of forming the next Tory Coalition. When Hammond returns to power, charged with clearing up Boris’s mess, will the Lib Dems be on hand to help him?

  • Martin,

    If you read again what I wrote, I hope you will see that its main focus was on how policy Working Groups are selected and removing the power from the Federal Policy Committee and its appointed Working Group Chairs, in the hope, that if there is a majority of randomly appointed ordinary members from every region and nation of the UK, that the policy papers will be once more radical.

    Do you have any other idea why our policy papers don’t seem to be as radical as they were in the 1990s? Or are you just not bothered?

  • @Rob Cannon “The large majority of other EU member states have ID cards.”

    Having lived in a few EU countries, I would like to point a misunderstanding in the Lib Dem opposition to the ID cards. While it is true that most EU countries have ID cards, it is not true, that they would be obligatory (at least in most EU countries, I can’t tell that I’m sure of the situation in all of them).

    It might be obligatory to be able to prove one’s identity, but it can be done by other means than an ID card, for instance with a passport or a drivers license. Now when traveling between the Schengen countries one must have either an ID or a passport, but neither is needed if one stays in their own country. And a passport is needed also when traveling outside the Schengen area, so the ID is just an extra option, which one can use instead of a passport when traveling inside the Schengen area.

    I think Lib Dems could support an optional ID without sacrificing their principles. That would also enable UK joining the Schengen area later, if UK will remain in the EU. ID or passport would be required only, if an UK citizen would travel to another Schengen country. If an UK citizen.travels outside the Schengen area, they need a passport, as usual, so the ID would be just a (probably cheaper) alternative to a passport. Of course.it could be used to prove one’s identity in the UK, as well, but just as an alternative to other ways to do it.

  • This kind of commentary and world view depresses me. Politics is beset by people desperately trying to prove what they aren’t (we need to show we aren’t Tories any more! We need fight against things! Oppose!). The blunt truth is if you believe all the UK needs is a “centre-left force opposed to the Conservatives,” well that job has been filled by a much more electorally successful party than the Lib Dems for the last 90 years. If that is all the party amounts to — an understudy for Labour flapping around trying to attract single-issue tub-thumpers who have fallen out whichever Labour faction is in charge. A long-standing critique has been that the average voter doesn’t understand what the Lib Dems stand for. If that’s what one wants out of politics, one should vote (and consider joining) the Labour Party.

    Speaking for myself, I have a different vision for the country than either the Tories or Labour offer. I think people should be free to choose how to live their own lives as much as possible. While I agree with the average Tory that markets are often a very good mechanism to match supply and demand, I also recognise that they become unstable and lead to poor outcomes if wealth is concentrated among too few buyers, or if switching costs are very high. And, while I agree with Labour that we should value diversity, I don’t agree with their instinct that we are the sum of all the tribes we belong to; we are individuals. My sister is not a “disabled, middle-class, white woman” — she is an individual human person with a bunch of needs and ambitions, who may share characteristics with others, which we’ve labelled for convenience, but she’s herself.

    I do agree the Lib Dems need sharp policies on health, the environment etc. (though I note that Norman Lamb and Ed Davey haven driven a large chunk of the agenda on both of those things for the last 10 years). On Brexit, the party has finally managed to get the “what do you stand for?” boot onto the Labour Party’s foot.

    But, this line of thinking — which of the Big Boys’ gangs should we join? — condemns the Lib Dems to an eternity of being social club-cum-think tank with the occasional MP. I’d have more ambition than that.

  • Joseph Bourke 22nd Aug '19 - 1:30am

    David,

    I think it is quite difficult to represent oneself as a national mainstream party with roots going back to the 19th century, if not earlier, and not be considered part of the UK’s established institutional framework .
    Jonathan Sumption’s 2019 Reith lecture http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2019/Reith_2019_Sumption_lecture_2.pdf includes a segment on the decline of politics in which he writes:
    “Political parties have not usually been monolithic groups, they have been coalitions of opinion, united by a loose consistency of outlook and the desire to win elections. Politics is a marketplace. To achieve a critical size and to command the parliamentary majority, parties have traditionally had to bid for support from a highly diverse body of MPs and an even more diverse electorate. They have had to adjust their appeal to changes in the public sentiments or priorities which seem likely to influence voting patterns. Their whole object is to produce a slate of policies which, perhaps, only a minority would have chosen as their preferred option but which the broadest possible range of people can live with. This has traditionally made them powerful engines of national compromise and effective mediators between the State and the electorate. In Britain it is impossible to think about these things without an eye to the tumults of the past three years.”

  • David Allen – Clegg could have stayed outside and keep voting on issues on a case-by-case basis like the NDP in Canada under Jack Layton, and let the Tories keep destroying themselves with (failed) attempts to impose austerity policies. But nope, Clegg threw his lot with Cameron because they were ideologically closer to each other, than to Gordon Brown. Jack Layton refused coalition because he forsaw what would have happened with his party if they had done so.

    “I fear that Lib Dem strategists think there is only one way back to power, and that is on Tory coat-tails.” – yeah, campaign on free education and then jumping on board with the “party of the uneducated” is monumentally stupid. And don’t forget about the Liberal National sellouts during the 1930s.

  • @Mike Stamp what a pleasure to read your comment. It should be a lead article.

    Many of the commentators on this site are looking to make the party, as you put it, “an understudy for Labour flapping around trying to attract single-issue tub-thumpers who have fallen out [with] whichever Labour faction is in charge.” We see ample evidence of it under every article.

    And you are spot on when you say “If that’s what one wants out of politics, one should vote (and consider joining) the Labour Party.” Some are friends with Labour MPs!

    Thankfully these relics are a small, dwindling minority albeit over-represented in the comments section. And in Jo and Ed we have leaders who are firmly steering us away from this.

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Aug '19 - 7:25am

    David Allen: Impressive rewriting of history. “Equidistance” was abandoned during Paddy’s leadership in favour of “independence”. Equidistance sounds like “splitting the difference” between whatever the two larger parties are offering, and was lampooned in Spitting Image as “neither 0one thing nor the other, but somewhere in between”. Paddy’s perceived cosy relationship with Tony Blair’s Labour led to his downfall, and he was replaced by Charles Kennedy who proved much more critical of Blair but certainly no friend of the Tories. But many of our attacks on Labour under Charles were from the Left. Equidistance was well and truly dead at that point.
    Since Clegg left the stage, the party leadership has become increasingly critical of the Coalition experience. Vince Cable likened deals with the Tories to “mating with a praying mantis”. If we were wanting to hang “on Tory coat-tails.” then surely we would have sought a Confidence & Supply deal with the Tories after the 2017 election. This is almost certainly what we would have done if we had been led by a spiritual heir to Nick Clegg. But we went into the election with a cast-iron “no coalition” commitment, and we stuck to it. As a result, the Tories had to go begging to the DUP for support. This is hardly ideal for the Tories, as the DUP can’t be shafted the way we were due to its detachment from mainland British politics. Now, Jo Swinson has declared the current Tory PM “unfit” to govern, and has ruled out coalition with either Tories or Labour. We are likely to give the Tories a very wide berth for a long time, as it’s clear from the last experience that they cannot be trusted. It’s a return to pre-Clegg “independence”, but the posts have moved since that time.
    And based on current polling, we are in the running to take (in many cases, back) a lot of Tory seats. Why on earth would we be friendly to the Tories, especially when there is practically zero chance of their being led by a “one-nation” type, and even in they were, the ERG types would still be hovering in the background?

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Aug '19 - 7:38am

    Thomas: You seem to be referring to the mid-2000s in Canada when the NDP (=Labour) refused to prop up a tired, failed minority Liberal (=us) administration. Exact parallels are difficult to draw, but there is some similarity to us being offered the opportunity to prop up Brown’s Labour administration after he lost in 2010. Except that unlike in the Canadian case, Lib Dems + Labour didn’t make a majority. Whatever you think of Cameron and the Coalition, Cameron represented a change from Brown, and it would have looked bad for us to prop up a PM who had just lost his mandate, even if the arithmetic allowed for it.

    Incidentally, in Canada, the election following the collapse of Paul Martin’s minority Liberal administration resulted in a minority (Reformed) Tory government. The Tories subesquently won a majority, with the Liberals reduced to 3rd behind the NDP. But the NDP proved unable to capitalise on being the main opposition party, and at the next meeting with the electorate, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau won a landslide, with the NDP back to minor-party status.

  • martin,

    The Nats and Brexiteers handbook is interchangeable. both are special, both are being held back by an evil government, both will work wonder when free, both haven’t got a plan, both have high hopes, both blame the “other” and both can’t handle facts.

    As to the don’t trust GERs, well who draws up GERs. Well tis

    The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) web area provides information on the annually published GERS report. GERS is compiled by statisticians and economists in the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser of the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government’s Chief Statistician takes responsibility for this publication.

    So much for “This figure should be taken with a pinch of salt. The GERS figures that measure Scotland’s finances as part of the UK were set up by a Conservative Secretary of State, and are widely believed by their various inclusions and exclusions to present a biased picture. “. I suspect those that don’t like the GERS figures are allergic to a large number of facts, delusion strikes again. Reality is going to be harsh on so many. Look at our poor Brexiteers my dear Nats tis the fate that awaits you.

    As too Clegg, he just felt happier with people like him and Call me Dave was of the same social class. He was a mistake. We where taken in by a second rate Call me Dave or should that be call me Nick. I’d hope the mistake has been learned but I fear people just want a good looking slightly cheeky upper-class boy to believe in; certainly we have had a production line of them since 2010 (or perhaps longer after all first came Blair and obviously not May, but she was hardly a daughter of toil either).

    As to tokenistic opposition to Brexit, behave that is Jeremy and Co. You can decry the Lib Dems for much, but that is just plain silly. “Bollux to Brexit” is the battle cry, not “We May be neutral” that tis Labour. As to Hammond being PM, I really don’t think you know how right wing and Bonkers the Tory party have become. You really can’t tell the difference between the Brexit Company and the Tories “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” .

  • The Lib Dem’s need to push a more radical agenda. I’ve been quite struck by a couple of Labours recent policy announcements, for example scrapping the leasehold system. Such ideas are radical and popular. For the Lib Dem’s to succeed we need to appeal beyond London and the south to the Midlands and North. We need big ideas on Taxation, we need radical parties pans to reinvigorate industry, etc. We need to hear more of this.

  • William Fowler 22nd Aug '19 - 8:24am

    Working people paying huge amounts of money out in tax, NI and council tax might well prefer a Liberal Party that saw the political class as a necessary evil that should be minimized rather than expanded. All the talk of more democracy hits a brick wall when you mention the idea of the Swiss model, electronic voting and referendum on major topics, perhaps replacing the HoL’s. There is big difference in the way radical is understood between the political class and the general populace…

  • David 21st Aug ’19 – 5:57pm………………………..Good article, but disagree the Liberal Democrats don’t have radical policies – we do need to push them more – ending the Benefits Freeze, will bring millions out of poverty……………….

    Jo Swinson’s voting record on welfare/benefit reform isn’t very liberal….

    1) Almost always voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms ( “bedroom tax”)
    2) Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
    3) Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
    4) Consistently voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support
    5) Almost always voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
    6) Almost always voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

    Maybe it’s me but !’d consider a liberal approach to poverty was the exact opposite.

  • According to David Warren “The Lib Dems have become an establishment party”.

    Evidence ? The number of peerages, knighthoods and gongs such as the CBE dished out to Liberal Democrat M.P.’s and those on the inside loop. Patronage…. and visits to the Palace does tend to take the edge out of potential radicals.

    All very cosy and please don’t frighten the horses.

  • James Shearer 22nd Aug '19 - 9:13am

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I supported the coalition and Nick but through naivety we did more harm than good. I know far too many former Lib Dem supporters who still won’t vote for us because they felt we betrayed them.

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Aug '19 - 9:16am

    expats: Time for you to move on from the Coalition era and stop going on about Jo Swinson’s voting record as a minister in the Coalition government as if it represented undiluted LIb Dem policy at the time (i.e. what Lib Dems would have done if they had been in government on their own). Coalition involves compromise, and by definition it means voting for things you wouldn’t otherwise. And it would have been the same under Confidence & supply, except that then we would have been voting for PURE Tory policy (in which we would have had no input) to keep the government afloat.

    Thomas: PS on Jack Layton and the NDP in Canada, they offered the Liberal Party a deal to support the minority Liberal administration. In the UK in 2017, after the Tories lost their majority, the Lib Dems refused to even negotiate with them. You may reasonably accuse the Lib Dems of being too close to the Tories in 2010, but not anytime after the fall of the Coalition government.

  • I think our party is still radical in the wealth creation aspect of economic policy. Our industrial strategy proposals are still more comprehensive and progressive than those of other parties, and Oxford Economics research showed that our current plan would have resulted in higher medium-term economic growth than both the Tories and Labour, while keeping national borrowing costs in check. However, we definitely need clear and standout policies in health, education or housing.

    For regulation/deregulation, I advocate for tough regulations in areas like the banking and real estate sectors (I have never been a fan of financial regulations AT ALL) as well as corporate governance.

    However, regulations for the fast growing but underpowered tech industries (Internet of thing/5G/Telecom/Electronics/AI and automation/Big data) should be as lax as possible. In these sectors, the only part that needs tough regulations is foreign takeovers of young startups issues, and to a lesser extent, big-tech’s anti-competitive behaviours as well. This, from my point of view, separate me from a typical socialist, who seems to unable to distinguish between primary sectors a.k.a real economy and secondary (financial and real estate) sectors.

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Aug '19 - 9:50am

    James Shearer: Most voters have moved on from the Coalition, as there are far more pressing concerns in current politics. The minority who constantly keep on about our role in the Coalition, and say they “still won’t vote for us because they felt we betrayed them” is very vocal, particularly on social media, but not very representative of the electorate as a whole. And I suspect that a lot of them are never going to vote Lib Dem anyway. If they are prepared to continue to hold our Coalition record against us, yet ignore our *absolute* refusal to even open talks with the Tories after 2017, then it’s reasonable to assume their opposition to us is not in good faith.

  • Neil Sandison 22nd Aug '19 - 10:02am

    David Warren .Agree with much of the content of your article and would consider myself a social liberal but i have no wish to ape the authoritarian Labour or Green party .I lisened to Corbyn the other day and once you remove his wish list of things he would like to nationalise there is very little public spending left to genuinely tackle poverty ,social exclusion or inequality .Liberal Democrats should demand better than that .We need to enable and empower communities into transition to raise and improve them themselves .We must empower through education and training a sense of hope and that you get more than just a second chance but life long learning to enable you to adapt to an ever changing jobs market ,people should not be defined by their disability but be encouraged perhaps through their community that they are of value and can and do contribute and should not be discriminated against. We need to be as radical as our roots in radical liberalism and social democracy lets get sharp elbows and loud voices if we want to get these items on the agenda.

  • @Geoffrey Payne “many Social Liberals wrote chapters in the Orange Book, there were only about 2 chapters that could be described as economically right wing.”

    Unlike most SLFers you appear to have read the Orange Book and should be commended for that. Apart form taking issue with the term “economically right-wing” – the term economically Liberal is more correct – I agree.

    I’ve never understood why SLFers are so fragile about economic Liberals, and use Orange Booker as a term of abuse, given that overall it’s an attempt to meld together all strands of Liberal thought.

    Economic Liberals are relaxed about Social Liberalism, seeing it as being enabled by Economic Liberalism and all part and parcel of the same thing. They are also relaxed about SLF party members (though will call out when they think they’re straying off into the wilder fringes of socialism).

    The reverse, however, with a few exceptions, is not the case, as I can testify. I wonder what drives this fragility and lack of accommodation for different views within the Social Liberal community?

  • Sandra Hammett 22nd Aug '19 - 10:15am

    Sir Nick Clegg
    Sir Vince Cable
    Jo Swinson CBE
    Jeremy Corbyn PC (the Leader of the Opposition MUST be sworn in upon appointment)

    Which of these was not in coalition with the Tories?

  • Dear pro-market/tax cuts/deregulation Orange Bookers (TCO, Geoffrey Dron):

    I have found a very interesting comment from anothee forum:

    “I would say that it’s not so much that “there’s no such thing as the Laffer curve”, it’s that it is essentially meaningless beyond the very basic fact that it posits that there is a level of taxation where you get diminishing returns on that level of taxation. There is no way to identify what that level is, there’s no reason to believe that the sort of tax rises discussed (well below historic values) would put you on the other side, etc.

    Government deficits ballooned as countries tried to preempt the Laffer curve by cutting taxes, then cutting taxes again when it didn’t result in magic growth, and again, and again — for a decade. The reason the opposite of austerity isn’t simply “spend more money” is because some critical sectors of the state have essentially been hollowed out, and it’ll take more than just throwing money at the self-inflicted problems to fix them”

    The second paragraph is a huge rebuttal to Clegg, Laws and Orange Bookers’ tax cuts and “reducing the size of the state” agenda.

  • John Bicknell 22nd Aug '19 - 10:39am

    Sadly, too many on LDV want the Lib Dems to become a pale imitation of the Labour Party. Any party that does not have the confidence and self-belief to forge its own identity has no future as an independent organization. Labour’s strength is that it is one of the two main national parties in Britain; its prime objective is to retain that status, not to facilitate the rise of potential rivals. The Greens stood down in a number of seats in GE 2017, in favour of Labour candidates, but received nothing in return. If the Lib Dems were foolish enough to try something similar, they would receive the same treatment. That is simple Realpolitik. Those who feel that we can ride on Labour’s coat-tails, in some glorious political brotherhood, are either being very naïve, or disingenuous in terms of their true motives.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Aug '19 - 10:41am

    Arguably, any party with a capacity to take power in this country is by definition part of ‘the Establishment’, as we seem to be understanding the term, and so we are and must be. There is no shame in that. However, that does not prevent us being the most radical and progressive party within the political establishment, and that is what we have been prior to the Coalition and should be now. I hope our many new members will steer us towards that.

    Our leadership, given Jo’s voting record on welfare issues and our welfare spokeswoman’s backwardness in reaction to the accusatory Alston report, seems doubtful at present on this, but happily the party’s policies are decided by Conference, and excellent policies on vital issues such as jobs, housing and taxation were passed last year in Brighton. This year, if Conference happens, we have a chance to establish our radical approach to social justice and ending poverty by strengthening the motion, A Fairer Share for All . I believe that tackling the uncaring and unjust policies of this government, helping the poorest and most disadvantaged people in our society, must be our party’s top priority along with tackling climate change after the anti-Brexit battle is finished.

    The tone of Conference is important as well as its policy decisions. Jo has said she is for ‘the people and the planet’, and spoken of the social contract. Let us ensure that the members drive the leadership on to the radical leftist and progressive stances which are so much needed, at this time when the right-wingers are galloping forward on their populist steeds.

  • David Warren 22nd Aug '19 - 10:47am

    @JohnBicknell

    I certainly don’t want our Liberal Party to be a pale imitation of Labour. Having spent more years than I care to remember as a Left Labour activist I want to see Jo Grimond’s non socialist centre left alternative to the Tories.

    All factions of the Labour party are authoritarians we Lib Dems are Liberals that is a big difference but we need to be more radical.

    It is possible that if we get it right we could push Labour into third place nationally. That is my dream.

  • I don’t really understand why members can’t recognise we are a left of centre party, with the Tories as right of centre. Looking at the history of the Liberal Party and the Whigs we can see a tradition of opposing the established power. They didn’t defend the power of agriculture, they didn’t defend the restriction of the vote, and they defended the interests of the weakest in society (woman and children and sometime working men).

    During the 2015 general election we attacked the Labour Party, which is likely to have helped the Conservatives. If a person sees the Labour Party as a threat to society they are more likely to vote Conservative. In 1997 we didn’t attack Labour. The lesson from these examples and there are others is that when there is a Conservative government it is in our interest not to attack Labour and imply they are not suitable for government. We can attacked their policies but not their competency to be the government.

  • @ Martin “Of course you can point to details where in coalition the Party let down particular groups, but whether or not mistaken, it would be wrong to impute motives that aimed to reject established principles of social and health provision.”

    That’s alright then. I’ll tell the clients at my local foodbank (5,500 parcels in the last 12 months) that the Lib Dems didn’t really mean it.

    @ Katharine It’s good news Tim has replaced ‘our welfare spokeswoman’s backwardness’. I’m sure he’ll listen if you buttonhole him at Bournemouth or in Kendal.

  • As this thread has gone on ( & on & on ) the comments have come, more & more to simply parrot Labour attacks on us.
    I fear that some Libdems have internalised The Establishments arguments. Some of us are just too anxious to be liked. If we are serious about multi-party politics then we have to accept that all Parties will be disliked by more Voters than like them.When Parties are in Government they piss some Voters off, that’s unavoidable.
    If we really want to change things we need to develop thicker skins.
    Perhaps we could have some T Shirts with the slogan “Yellow Slime” ?

  • John Bicknell 22nd Aug '19 - 11:20am

    Happy to agree with you on those points, David (Warren).

  • Neil Sandison 22nd Aug ’19 – 10:02am……………….I lisened to Corbyn the other day and once you remove his wish list of things he would like to nationalise there is very little public spending left to genuinely tackle poverty ,social exclusion or inequality .Liberal Democrats should demand better than that ……………………

    Jeremy Corbyn’s nationalisation plans have high levels of public support.
    The Labour leader’s plans to take over railways (76% support), water (83% support), gas electricity (77% support) and electricity (77% support) seem very much at odds with your observations..

    Regarding your ‘poverty ,social exclusion or inequality’ may I suggest you compare Jeremy Corbyn’s voting record, on those matters, with that of Jo Swinson; “Handsom is, as handsome does” and, as you say, “Liberal Democrats should demand better than that.”

  • We have a vast swathe of policies, some more radical than others and all progressive. The art is deciding which to prioritise in our manifesto. We are pragmatic regarding public services that leaves some space for more radical policies on assisted suicide, addictive drugs and homelessness to name just a few.

  • Mike Stamp said: “This line of thinking — which of the Big Boys’ gangs should we join? — condemns the Lib Dems to an eternity of being social club-cum-think tank with the occasional MP.”

    Fighting talk. But a teeny bit denialist? While policy wonks dream radical thoughts, backroom staff and career politicians plot party strategy. Their careers depend on it.

    Overtaking both Big Boys at one fell swoop is a unicorn’s chance in hell. Standing aloof and seeking to sway events from an outsider position is, er, condemning ourselves to an eternity of being social club cum think tank. Career politicians know that realistically, to achieve anything, we have to engage with Big Boys.

    David Warren’s ambition, to replace Labour as the anti-Tory Big Boy, was the party’s declared ambition all the while (1981-2008) I was a loyal Lib Dem footslogger. It was a noble ambition. Some of us wanted to out-radical Labour with community politics, some wanted to out-moderate Labour by ditching doctrinaire socialism, and some wanted to do both.

    There were consequences. Labour rightly saw us as a clear and present danger. The Tories, condescendingly, offered us lukewarm support.

    Then Blair came along, and dealt with the Lib Dem threat by shooting our fox. He vanquished doctrinaire socialism. Suddenly, the party we had described as dangerous Lefties had repositioned itself on our Right. This threw us into some confusion.

    Into the fray rode the Orange Bookers, funded by rich capitalists, who understood that after the Blair revolution, it was Kennedy’s Lib Dems who presented the only serious threat to rich capitalists. The Orange Book set out to put a stop to that threat, by replacing Kennedy with someone more amenable. Clegg filled the bill.

    Labour had been spooked by Blair, saddened by Iraq, and thrown by the Crash. The last thing they wanted was to work with a Lib Dem party who wanted to replace them. The Tories, by contrast, were happy to take on any ally who could help them gain power. Hence the Coalition.

    Ten years later, much has changed but the underlying paradox has not. The Tories still want us at beck and call, Labour would just prefer to bury us.

    I don’t have a simple answer. But I do know that we face a choice between principles and power. If we treat No Deal Brexit as a lesser evil than giving any ground to Labour, then we are ditching our principles.

  • David Warren 22nd Aug ’19 – 10:47am……………..It is possible that if we get it right we could push Labour into third place nationally. That is my dream…..

    Where-as ‘pushing the Tories into third place’ would be what?
    If half the LibDem effort spent demonising Labour was put into fighting the party whose policies exemplify everything this party is supposed to despise (Tories; as from your post, that party seems to be Labour) this country would be a fairer, finer place to live.

  • Michael BG, Joseph Bourke, TCO, Geoffrey Dron, Peter Hirst, Martin, John Bicknell, Steve Trevethan, Paul Barker, Katharine Pindar –
    I think everyone must read this article.
    https://internetofbusiness.com/south-korea-automated-nation-earth-says-report-uk-nowhere-robotics/
    “the UK lags behind other developed economies in 22nd place, with a robot density of just 71. That’s below the global average of 74, and well behind Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and France, among others.

    In fact, the UK is the only G7 nation with a robot density below the global average. Even Belgium is automating faster than the UK, and is ninth in the global league.” Look, we even fall behind Spain and Italy of all people.

    The following sentence alone can give us an idea of a very radical industrial policy: “Japan is investing £161 billion by 2020 to build what it calls a “super-smart society”. By contrast, the UK is investing just £200-300 million in the same timeframe – a sum that is 500 to 800 times smaller than Japan’s”. So, how about a £200 billion package of investments in AI and robotics. The article also dispells “job losses” fear. Currently, our party’s Automation plan in the industrial policy papers only focuses on regulations, but totally fails to promote the adoption and investments in robotics and AI. Come on, this sector can be worth up to $4 trillion worldwide over the next decade. If we do not act, we will permanently lag behind our competitors.

    By doing this, we can create a key difference between us and Labour and especially Green: “We are not Luddites and will oppose Luddism of all kinds”.

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Aug '19 - 1:16pm

    Thanks; robotics need to know their place. Though doing menial tasks quicker and more economically than we can is welcome, we need to discuss the wider effects of more automation. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.

  • Innocent Bystander 22nd Aug '19 - 1:16pm

    Labour’s plans to pay for all this depends on an economic strategy which would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. They intend to encourage business by increasing Corporation Tax and employee rights and expecting businesses to take responsibility for everything and everyone (I didn’t make that up).
    They propose a National Transformation Fund and a National Investment Bank. Think Dragon’s Den but it only supports the basket cases, dead ducks and outright frauds which the private sector won’t touch, so only the taxpayer gets cleaned out.
    But it’s all right because they propose a Digital Ambassador (but that’s just because the title “Tsar” is so tired and yesterday). It will be the same overpaid useless parasite who is owed a favour.
    Their personal tax plans aims to put even more burden on the 1% who already fund 27% of the nation’s income yet they expect them to stay running businesses instead of selling up and moving to the sun.
    So expect the talented and energetic to either leave or just sit back and keep their ambition to themselves and as for business, Labour will be sharply taught the meaning of the word “Globalisation”.

  • @Michael BG

    “I don’t really understand why members can’t recognise we are a left of centre party, with the Tories as right of centre.”

    In other words” “I’m left of centre and define my self as such, so everyone else should too.”

    The party doesn’t work like that – we don’t need self-appointed regulators telling us what to think and what we are.

    “Looking at the history of the Liberal Party and the Whigs we can see a tradition of opposing the established power. ”

    The history of the Whigs and Liberal Party is full of dynamic, wealth-creating business men who didn’t fit into the narrow social confines of the Tories/Conservatives, seeking power and influence for themselves and their class. Non-conformist industrialists opposed to CofE Landed Gentry.

    “During the 2015 general election we attacked the Labour Party, which is likely to have helped the Conservatives. If a person sees the Labour Party as a threat to society they are more likely to vote Conservative.”

    Obviously – as we were in government and had been facing attacks from the Labour Party for the preceding five years. Labour were seeking to take seats from us.

    “In 1997 we didn’t attack Labour. The lesson from these examples and there are others is that when there is a Conservative government it is in our interest not to attack Labour and imply they are not suitable for government. We can attacked their policies but not their competency to be the government.”

    And generals who fight the last war lose the next one.

    It is self evident to everyone with half a brain that the current incarnation of the Labour Party is utterly unfit to be anywhere near government. It is our tragedy that both larger parliamentary parties are in the same state.

    It is clear you have a natural leaning towards the Labour Party, seeing them as friendly rivals rather than the bitter enemies bent on destroying us that they are.

    @David Warren perhaps your many years as a self-described “Left Labour activist” have coloured your ambition, if the limit of it is to ” push Labour into third place nationally. That is my dream.”

    Mine is to assemble a broad Liberal coalition from the centre-left to the centre-right, and become the natural party of government for the majority of decent Liberal people in this country.

    I want to consign Left Labour socialism and Right Tory nationalism to the sidelines in perpetuity.

  • David Warren 22nd Aug '19 - 1:24pm

    @expats

    There is no prospect of the Lib Dems pushing the Tories into third place. As I said in the article previous leaders have rightly acknowledged this. Paddy Ashdown sets this out far more eloquently than I can in his diaries. Our future lies on the centre left which in the short term winning back those seats where we were prior to 2015 the main challenger to the Tories.

    In whole swathes of the country, Sussex where I am now being a good example. It is Conservative v Liberal Democrat. Labour is more and more a party of the large urban conurbations. They can’t reconcile the different parts of their electoral coalition and it is time for us to strike.

  • Peter Hirst – Germany, Japan, South Korea manage to become global leaders in the adoption of automation in industry while having lower unemployment rates than the UK.

    You then be content with current British industrial policy-making consensus, fine, if you want British economy, British industry, British businesses to permanently lag behind our peers once the Fourth Industrial Revolution kicks in, and eventually loses our great power status. I, however, believe that Britain cannot hope to match France, let alone Germany, over the next 10 years even with a much more aggressive investment strategy regarding automation and AI.

  • David Warren – I hope that you can have a look at my post about automation, since it can give us a whole new area to exploit.

    I agree that we cannot displace the Conservatives as it is always the party of the establishment, the Royalty, the Anglican Church, the aristocrats and the financial and landed interests overall, and also because fear of change is an integral part of humanity and people often become more conservative as they become older (which mean there must always be a conservative party). If we displace them, we will simply become another conservative party.

  • David Warren 22nd Aug '19 - 2:14pm

    @Thomas

    Thanks.

    You are spot on with regard to the Conservative party. As far as British industry is concerned I am far from happy with the status quo. We urgently need a industrial strategy for automation, the challenge of climate change and we should relaunch the old Liberal party policy of employee share ownership.

  • David Garlick 22nd Aug '19 - 3:07pm

    If that is David’s view then I have no doubt it is shared by others inside and outside the Party.
    Either we don’t have the Policies in which case we must put that right or, we do have the Policies in which case we are not communicating them well enough.
    Work ahead whichever way is correct but my view is that there is some gaps in a real visionary set of Policies and some excellent Policies which we are not shouting about.

  • Rob Parsons 22nd Aug '19 - 3:27pm

    Responding to the sixth paragaph of the OP: “At the same time there is virtual silence when it comes to the other major issues of the day. Labour and the Greens have plans for the environment, NHS and social care. What have the Lib Dems got to say?”

    I really get very angry when I see Liberal Democrats saying this, and I get angry quite often because they say it quite often.

    We have policies. We have policies for every sphere of public life. The media choose not to hear them or publicise them (and then play that game of only listening when we talk about brexit, and then saying, but you’re a one issue party”).

    David, if you really don’t think we have any policies, please look at: https://www.libdems.org.uk/manifesto and familiarise yourself with it. And then stop doing our opponents’ work for us.

    And we do publicise them. Look at our press releases over the last few days:

    UK will not be net zero by 2050 if Tories ignore climate emergency
    HS2 vital to rebalancing our economy
    Tories must stop ignoring consequences of their failed war on drugs
    Lib Dems: All school meals must be sugar free by 2022
    Lib Dems: Rail fare rise an insult to passengers
    Lib Dems call for 80 per cent of UK power generation to come from renewables by 2030
    Lib Dems: NHS can’t be ambitious when being cut to the bone
    Lib Dems: The UK Govt must stand with Hong Kong protesters
    Lib Dems: Prison security funding yet another “hollow” move by PM
    Home Office provides “inadequate and evasive” answers over controversial Rough Sleeping Support Service
    Police should reduce fear, not create terror
    Government must provide fair funding for our schools most disadvantaged children

    and so on and on.

    You may not like those policies. You may think they are not radical enough. But please, please, stop saying we have no policies.

  • David Warren 22nd Aug '19 - 3:35pm

    @RobParsons

    Issuing some press releases doesn’t cut it i’m afraid. Labour are doing lots promoting their Green New Deal, I don’t see us doing it.

    As for Health and Social Care again the silence is pretty deafening.

    Our national spokespeople need to get their finger out.

  • Rob Parsons – if you scroll up and read my post about Britain’s lag in the adoption of automation technology, you will realize that our party is currently missing a very big elephant in the room that will determine our international competitiveness over the upcoming decade.

  • Rob Parsons 22nd Aug '19 - 6:35pm

    David – but you said in your OP that there were no policies. Not true. You may want more policies or different policies, but stop, please, doing our opponents’ work for them by saying there are no policies beyond Brexit.

    On health and social care, did you go to the link I suggested? The policy page on health and social care is quite lengthy: https://www.libdems.org.uk/health You cannot call that a deafening silence. If your criticism is that we are not good at getting our message across, that is different from your OP which said that we have no policies – again, I reiterate this is not true, so please stop saying it. And if your criticism is indeed the channel rather than the content, I refer again to the fact that we can shout till were blue in the face, but the media refuse to listen. That is not our fault.

    Thomas – same applies. You may want a specific policy which you think is missing. But that does not mean the party has no policies. It has plenty.

  • Nonconformistradical 22nd Aug '19 - 6:52pm

    Quoting Peter Hirst 22nd Aug ’19 – 1:16pm

    “Thanks; robotics need to know their place. Though doing menial tasks quicker and more economically than we can is welcome, we need to discuss the wider effects of more automation. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.”

    Seconded.

  • David Warren 22nd Aug ’19 – 1:24pm…..expats, there is no prospect of the Lib Dems pushing the Tories into third place. As I said in the article previous leaders have rightly acknowledged this. Paddy Ashdown sets this out far more eloquently than I can in his diaries. Our future lies on the centre left which in the short term winning back those seats where we were prior to 2015 the main challenger to the Tories…….

    ‘Oh ye of little faith’. There is a new kid on the block and he’s called ‘hard-brexit, The Tory party has been fragmented by both its own stance, remainers within their party and those whose views are more in line with the Brexit Party and UKip…
    In many areas, where the Conservative party has been strong, few would vote for Labour but would hold their collective noses and vote for a Remain LibDem party.

    This party will never get a better chance but a childish feud with ‘nasty Corbyn’ will only re-inforce Tory waverers to stick with their party.

    Grow up, act sensibly and target a weakened Tory party.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Aug '19 - 8:24pm

    Rob Parsons is right, we have many good policies, and we continue to develop them. Thomas, with your emphasis on robotics and AI, I only wonder if our backwardness in that respect has to do with the lesser place in our economy today of the manufacturing sector, which it is hard to see regaining its former importance even if the current disincentives cease and Brexit is stopped. I am asking – does the growing service sector and small-scale industry have the same need of high-tech development?

    TCO, Michael BG is hardly alone in thinking that we are predominantly now a left-of-centre party, and the author himself writes that ‘our future lies on the centre left’. I also suggest it is both rude and incorrect to write as you did, “It is self-evident to everyone with half a brain that the current incarnation of the Labour Party is utterly unfit to be anywhere near government.” I quote you part of what Mr Corbyn said on Monday in Corby (perhaps a place meant for him!). Referring to ‘a real change of direction’ needed by the country and according to him offered by Labour, he proposed, “A radical programme to rebuild and transform communities and public services, invest in the green jobs and high tech industries of the future, and take action to tackle inequality and climate change.” If that were all! I wondered if he had been learning from the debates here among the Liberal Democrats! Labour are, as Michael BG has said, our rivals, and we have to look out to be more radical and progressive in approach, though always continuing of course to point out the superiority of Liberalism.

  • David Warren 22nd Aug '19 - 9:28pm

    @William Francis

    I think you mean F29 because F23 is the Constitutional Amendments.

    F29 is the most radical motion on the agenda but it hasn’t got much competition (and I would like to see us go further).

  • @Katherine Pindar if it’s rude to point out that an anti-Semitic, terrorist apologist with a self-declared Marxist chancellor and a public school Stalinist pulling his strings,who wants a hard brexit to enable disaster Socialism, is unfit for government, then so be it. It’s certainly not incorrect.

  • @William Francis “Technically Cable wanted to replace fees with a graduate tax ( a policy supported by the NUS at the time).”

    The present policy being little different, except it’s time limited and collectable from graduates living overseas.

  • David at No !, and our “speaker’, David Warren.

    I very much agree with both of you, apart from a quibble with David, who disagrees that the “Lib Dems don’t have radical policies — we do need to push them more — ending the Benefits Freeze will bring millions out of poverty.” This is a prime example, I believe, of where we are going wrong. Ending the Freeze may well be a good idea, but it is NOT a radical idea. It is tweaking, like so much of our policy making: we look to see how things stand, and nobly recommend amelioration, and make it our policy. Remember Private Eye and the Ashdown prize, last Christmas? A modest GOOD idea won a competition advertised as seeking Radical Ideas. Very embarrassing — and extremely disappointing, I do not doubt, for Paddy himself. When shall we learn the lesson?

    A truly radical idea gets approval from David Warren. But in all succeeding responses UBI is mentioned no more than twice, I think; if that.

    We shall be left behind if we don’t smarten our act on UBI. The Greens have adopted it (though I don’t think they understand it quite). And the Labour Shadow Chancellor received this summer a Report on UBI from one of its foremost exponents, Guy Standing of the Progressive Economy Forum. Any Lib Dem looking for a truly Radical and promising idea ought to read that Report. It may have been written for Labour, but it sounds much more Liberal than socialist, in both tone and content, and anyone wanting a policy both Liberal and good ought to read it. The author describes it as “Transformational”: it will change everything. Most of all, it will make life better for the poor, restoring their self-esteem and sense of being full, taxpaying, members of their communities and nations.

    One big problem, though. For many reactionaries –and they are many — UBI looks daft, contrary to common sense, as well as to good sense. The Lib Dems must lead the way in making the case for it, in plain language. Changing the name would be good, and we might consider “National Income Dividend.”

  • Innocent Bystander,

    I think the correct figures are – the top 1% pay 28% of income tax, which is different to the top 10% of households pay 27% of all taxes (https://fullfact.org/economy/do-top-1-earners-pay-28-tax-burden/).

    TCO,

    It seems to me you are denying what happened in the past and refusing to learn the lessons of history.

    Martin,

    While I might think Liz Truss is incompetent and Boris Johnson has an issue with the truth I don’t see these as ways of getting people to vote for us. To maximise our votes we should not demonise either Labour leading politicians or Conservative ones, as doing so just pushes people to vote for either the Conservatives or the Labour Party.

    William Francis,

    If you look at British history you will find many caretaker governments led by people who wanted to win an election. I think Winston Churchill was the last one. Others would include those that came to power in 1846, 1852, 1859, 1866, 1885 1895 and 1905.

    Roger,

    A Universal Basic Income is a liberal idea but setting it at a rate a person can live on is expensive. I read recently that it would cost £60 million to pay for one for 4,000 people in Sheffield. I would rather we had the radical policy of ending relative poverty in the UK in eight years, but I will settle for 15.

  • Katharine Pindar – “Thomas, with your emphasis on robotics and AI, I only wonder if our backwardness in that respect has to do with the lesser place in our economy today of the manufacturing sector, which it is hard to see regaining its former importance even if the current disincentives cease and Brexit is stopped. I am asking – does the growing service sector and small-scale industry have the same need of high-tech development?” – the leading countries in adopting automation, Japan, SK and Germany, all do a better job than Britain in keeping unemployment low. Also, even Spain of all nations has higher level of automation in its manufacturing, and its manufacturing is not bigger than ours. Britain is still within top 10 manufacturing countries in absolute size. The much bigger issue here is industrial productivity: Britain already lags behind our peers even before Industry 4.0, and our peers also invest in AI and automation much more aggressively than us (see above, Japan is investing £161 billion by 2020, while ours is pitiful, just £200-300m and worse, most of those investments are from Europe). And about your mention of the growing service sector, services will ultimately benefit from both industrial automation spillover effects and direct automation/AI investments in service sector, so service sector needs AI/automation investments as well, otherwise we will also lose our competitive advantage to our peers in Europe. For small scale sectors, I think certain part of them will benefit, and they can actually embrace AI/automation to scale up and challenge the establishment. Of course, certain measures to protect “small-for-good” businesses are needed. Anyway, Germany has a vibrant SME/Mittelstand sector while being a leader in automation technology.

    The skeptical attitude towards new technology had led to our decline during and after the Second Industrial Revolution. We must not make the same mistake again. We currently have strong expertise in laboratory AI/automation research, but we need to invest heavily in bringing them to industry/commercial adoption if we want to remain competitive in the future.

  • Roger, Michael BG – have you ever thought that UBI can be used the Right as an excuse to dismantle the current welfare state?

  • @Michael BG “It seems to me you are denying what happened in the past and refusing to learn the lessons of history.”

    I suggest you look up the parable of the inductivist turkey.

    We are in a situation where fault lines are appearing in all the major parties. The conservatives, supposedly the party of incremental change, are bent on constitutional and economic destruction with a Maoist zeal. Labour’s always unstable coalition between the socially conservative working class and identity obsessed metropolitan middle class is stretched to breaking point. The election of Corbyn as Labour leader has polarised Liberal Democrats between the minority who want to be Labour-lite and the rest.

    We are seeing unpredictable and unprecedented events.

  • My apologies to Professor Guy Standing, mentioned above. Lying abed, I realised that the word he used about his report on UBI was Transformative, not ‘transformational’. His full title is “Basic Income as Common Dividends : Piloting a Transformative Policy — A Report for the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer]”

  • Neil Sandison 23rd Aug '19 - 8:18am

    EXPATS Corbyns policies on nationalisation are popular .This may be true until they get to know what the real costs will be and the loss of revenue to support our overstretched services. Its a bit like Brexit ,the public liked the simple slogan of taking back control until the harsh reality began to hit home about the impact on services ,jobs and transport began to be spelt out .There is no such thing as a free meal someone will have to pay for it along the route.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Aug '19 - 8:23am

    expats: “a childish feud with ‘nasty Corbyn’ will only re-inforce Tory waverers to stick with their party.”
    Actually it’s the exact opposite. In Tory-Lib Dem marginals we found many people who said they would love to vote for us but had to vote Tory to keep Corbyn out. They bought into the Tory narrative that it’s either May or Corbyn, and a vote for anyone other than the Tories would help Corbyn into No.10. To get those voters, We have to make clear that the Lib Dems would never help Corbyn into No. 10, any more than we would help prop up Johnson and the Tories, and the only way Corbyn is going to become PM is if Labour wins an overall majority at the next election. To do this, we have to make clear distance between us and Corbyn, and that means attacking him. But it also means we attack him for different reasons than the Tories do. For instance, attack him for his support for Brexit, on which he obviously is in agreement with the Tories.

  • Michael BG and Thomas:

    (More apologies from me — I am Roger above. My name used to appear automatically, and I did not realise the change.)

    Thomas, I believe your comment is half of my reply to Michael BG. My own expectation of UBI is that it would indeed be paid for by a partial dismantling of the welfare state: the universal payment would replace many ‘Benefits’, turning them from a grudging handout to an automatic entitlement. Those who would not have qualified for the Benefit would find their Income Tax would ,so to speak, retrieve it from them. I hope to enlarge on this soon, employing the ONS figures for Household Incomes in 2016.

    That, I believe, is an illustration of the “transformative” character of Standing’s Report: introducing UBI could be gradual, but it will change everything — for the better. But for everyone’s reassurance, and I hope approval . . .: Once UBI is up and running those with the highest incomes will find their disposable income has fallen: their income Tax will have risen by more than the value of their UBI. That is why UBI will narrow the gap between those with big and those with small incomes.

    More later, if the Editors will permit.

  • @David Allen. You made a good point at the beginning but lost me after that.

    The Lib Dems absolutely do need to engage with other parties; you are right. The problem, I think, is that the rest of your prescription would prevent that. You describe the pincer movement pretty well: can’t work with Labour because the stated goal is to replace them; can’t work with the Tories because the stated goal is to oppose them; can’t do anything without working with one or the other because 14 MPs and <25% in the polls. In that world, you're quite correct, there is a stark choices between principles and power.

    But, David, what is the point of backing oneself into that ideological corner? Power without principle is dangerous. Principles without power are futile. Quite reasonably, the average voter will look at that and say, "well, what's the point of you, then?"

    It seems to me that the only valuable contribution the Liberal Democrats have to make to the polity is to have a coherent, liberal position, backed by policies, and a willingness to work with other to get it into action. To use the OP's language, it requires an aspiration to be an establishment party and a willingness to work with other establishment parties to get things done. The alternative, to my earlier point and your concluding one, is to stay on the sidelines: a think tank-cum-social club with the occasional MP.

    (An aside: I don't at all share your analysis of how the coalition happened, or the idea that capitalist is an insult. I don't necessary believe in the purity of shareholder value per Milton Friedman, but I do think that, adjust for power imbalances, markets where people decide for themselves what they need and how much it's worth to them is fundamentally liberal; and a socialist planned economy, where bureaucrats tell people what they may or may not have, is fundamentally illiberal. I don't know how you make markets work without property — i.e., capital. Maybe that makes me a Hated Orange Booker and unfit to pass comment, I don't know.)

  • @Mike Stamp “Maybe that makes me a Hated Orange Booker and unfit to pass comment, I don’t know.”

    FWIW I agree with everything you’ve written. There are plenty of us about and we’re becoming more assertive in the comments sections here. Stick with it! 🙂

    “It seems to me that the only valuable contribution the Liberal Democrats have to make to the polity is to have a coherent, liberal position, backed by policies, and a willingness to work with other to get it into action. ”

    Absolutely. You’ve touched here on the fundamental reason why so many on the left of the party hate the coalition (and the Orange Book era for want of a better word). They resented any stain on the purity of their principles by actually getting hands dirty in doing things. Funnilly enough though it doesn’t seem to apply in the other direction, where most seem very happy to countenance all sorts of alliances with Labour.

  • David Warren 23rd Aug '19 - 10:21am

    @Neil Sandison

    Labour’s policies on nationalisation are based on ideology whereas ours must be based on common sense.

    Rail could be returned to the state at little or no cost if franchises are not renewed. Water is a priority for me because it is now a private monopoly and the consumer is getting ripped off. In the wider Energy there is a bit of competition and I could live with just beefing up the regulatory regime. As a former Royal Mail employee I am a bit starry eyed about the company but looking at it objectively it could be left in the private sector, its parcel arm is where the growth is and there is plenty of healthy competition in that sector. Letter delivery is dying fast.

    We could also raise some cash by selling off the BBC!

  • Nonconformistradicql 23rd Aug '19 - 10:28am

    @Thomas
    “However, regulations for the fast growing but underpowered tech industries (Internet of thing/5G/Telecom/Electronics/AI and automation/Big data) should be as lax as possible. In these sectors, the only part that needs tough regulations is foreign takeovers of young startups issues, and to a lesser extent, big-tech’s anti-competitive behaviours as well. ”

    “As lax as possible” – just what does that mean? What about peoples’ privacy?

    Why do I need the Internet of things? How is it going to enhance my experience of life?

  • TCO – all those Continental European countries with free tuition university have lower inequality and more robust economy than Britain.

    You haven’t showed us the evidence of social liberals being the minority of the party. In fact, it is the Orange Book faction that is the minority (with the exception of 2007-2015 period). Our 2017 manifesto is never right-wing by any means. The millenial and Gen Z are no longer a fan of Orange Book principles, mark my words, they are closer to socialism more than any other generations before (you can check Corbyn’s youth vote). This trend is not only in the UK, but in the US (Trump just lost the House in mid-term election due to increased youth turnout), Canada (Trudeau bosses every single polls when it comes to youth vote, and I have not even counted NDP/Green votes yet) and many other European countries as well (e.g. the rise of The Green in the Germany).

    Steve Trevethan – want a lazy solution: use the money that Corbyn promise for his nationalization programs to subsidize businesses and manufacturers’ adoption/installation of AI and automation technology, as well as replacing previous Tory corporate tax rate cuts with tax credits/incentives to adopt automation technology. Not just AI/automation investment, but industry plant&equipment modernization overall. All political parties have forgot about the means of production, which are plant, machinery and equipment. I have stated clearly above the following and I hope that everyone will read it: *the Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming and Britain has already lagged far behind our OECD peers in industrial automation usage, including Spain of all people. If we do not act now, we will continue to fall behind and our international competitiveness will continue to erode further. Don’t be a bunch of Luddites or otherwise twenty years from now on we will witness our OECD peers laughing at us as “The Sick Man of Europe 2.0″*.

    Britain’s lacklustre national productivity, or even more specifically industrial productivity, is the root cause of many socio-economic problems we are facing, and AI/automation investment is the most visible medium measure that can quickly turn around the problem. Long-term solutions are much more than that but for the medium term, automation is the best option.

    Nonconformistradical – privacy issues have already been covered by EU regulations so we don’t have to gold-plate our regulatory system further.

  • @Thomas “You haven’t showed us the evidence of social liberals being the minority of the party. In fact, it is the Orange Book faction that is the minority (with the exception of 2007-2015 period). Our 2017 manifesto is never right-wing by any means. The millenial and Gen Z are no longer a fan of Orange Book principles, mark my words, they are closer to socialism more than any other generations before (you can check Corbyn’s youth vote). ”

    Methinks you doth protest too much, my friend. It sounds like someone convincing themselves its true because they’re worried it isn’t.

    Unfortunately, the evidence is against you.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/thatchers-children-blairs-babies-british-social-attitudes-more-authoritarian-right-wing-a7557351.html

    Corbyn’s vote in 2017 was largely down to Labour managing to pretend it was a Remain party. As the opinion poll trends suggest, that’s no longer credible or believed.

  • Several qustions were raised some hours ago, about UBI and its cost. I try to show in two Tables below, how it could be financed so as to help the poorest, wihout leaving anyone with a diminished Final Income, after paying Income Tax. It will prompt objections, and I believe I can answer them. But I have been told to shorten what this is half of.

    A UBI can work: it would sit exactly in the moral and practical area combining the best of Left and Right: it is a social contract elevating individual liberty.

    What I propose is truly radical, as befits LibDems, in starting with our destination and navigating backwards. Briefly, I discuss “The effects of taxes and benefits on household income by quintile groups . . . [in] 2016; Diagram 3” (ONS) That shows how households (averaging about 2 ½ people) start with a Household Income which is variously supplemented by Benefits and depleted by Taxes to yield a Final Income – what they finish up with for spending.

    Table 1 shows ONS figures, in £ kpa, for 2016 – for households, remember! – by quintile groups

    Original Income 7 14 27 43 85
    + Benefits, -Taxes = Net: +6 +7 +1 -4 -18
    ___________________________________________________________
    Final Income 13 21 28 39 67

    Table 2 shows my figures, based on a simple world in which Taxes and Benefits are annulled or dis- counted, their effects as regards disposable income being replaced by the introduction of UBI, a . . .

    National Income Dividend (NID) of £8 kpa per household. The change of name is important.

    Original Income (as in Table 1) 7 14 27 43 85
    + NID +8 +8 +8 +8 +8 – – Income Tax -1 -1 -3 -9 -26
    _______________________________________________________________
    Final Income 14 21 32 42 67

    I hope readers can see the advantages: if not, please challenge.

  • Thomas,

    I have not seen any suggestion for UBI that would include a person’s real housing costs, so there is always likely to be a need for a safety net benefit system. What UBI can do is give those with no housing costs more freedom. Young people living at home often have no housing costs while those people who have paid off their mortgage have low housing costs. This is why I think a UBI should be introduced for the young when they turn 18 and if set at the equivalent of the income tax person allowance it would not cost much each year to introduce.

    TCO,

    I had not heard of the parable of the inductivist turkey – here is a link – https://mashimo.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/bertrand-russells-inductivist-turkey/.

    What the parable points out is that just because history teaches to expect a particular result this does not mean that result will always happen. In this context it is clear evidence that you are denying what happened in the past and refusing to learn the lessons of history.

    You have claimed that you are a student of history, perhaps you should compare our current situation with the early 1980s, where the Labour Party was in fact an extreme socialist party advocating extreme socialist policies and the Conservative Party was advocating increased unemployment and the destruction of our manufacturing base “with a Maoist zeal”.

    I don’t want us to be Labour-lite, I want us to be radical social liberals who ensure no one in the UK lives in relative poverty which severely restricts their liberty and freedom. Where everyone who wants a job has one, where everyone who want a home of their own has one, and where everyone fulfils their full potential. What is Labour-lite about these aims?

    W, or is it William Francis?

    You should study history more, Russell didn’t have a majority in 1846 nor after the 1847 general election, (I am not sure he was popular either) nor did Derby in 1852, 1859 and 1866, nor did Salisbury in 1885 and 1895, nor did Campbell-Bannerman in 1905.

    I am not sure that those who don’t want a no deal Brexit will be bothered how a government is formed so long as we don’t exit the EU without a deal on 31st October.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Aug '19 - 4:24pm

    TCO, your reference from the Independent does include the caveat, that the young may well come to think differently, given the rise of inequality. Meantime, I am surprised at your endorsement of Mike Stamp’s useful comment, since he believes we need to work with other establishment parties to get things done, whereas you use violent language against Mr Corbyn and are dismissive of left-of-centre Lib Dems such as Michael BG.

    I believe it is time for our party to take a more balanced view of the current Labour party. We have rightly deplored Mr Corbyn’s fence-sitting about the EU, but he has finally allowed his party to accept the desirability of another referendum after an election. As to the nationalisation proposals, there is a good deal of public support for them, and posters here have seen some possibilities in parts of those plans. It is also the case that Mr Corbyn’s right-hand man, John McDonnell, has been able to calm City fears about Labour plans to some extent.

    I am most concerned that Labour plans to tackle inequality need to be matched by us with a real commitment to changing the outlook on the people who absolutely require government support and the support of local authority services, taking a compassionate view of their needs and determination to end relative poverty within a few years. (Roger Lake, I believe UBI is a cop-out from dealing properly with the various needs of groups of disadvantaged people,) We should show at least as much determination as Labour apparently has to support the victims of austerity and governmental indifference, and we will need to work with them to achieve what needs to be done, perhaps in a very few months.

  • Roger Lake,

    The current level of the basic benefit is well below the poverty line, so introducing a UBI at just the current inadequate benefit level would raise no one out of poverty and would cost billions which would be better used to raise the basic benefit level to the poverty line.

    You should have posted a link to the ONS table.

    Starting with your changes

    Bottom 20% UBI + 8 Benefits – 6 Tax -1
    Next 20% UBI + 8 Benefits – 7 Tax – 1
    Middle 20% UBI + 8 Benefits -1 Tax -3
    Next 20% UBI + 8 Tax -5
    Top 20% UBI + 8 Tax -8

    This doesn’t balance by a shortfall of 8. I don’t understand why the bottom 40% end up paying more income tax, nor why the middle 20% would be better off the most. Also as UBI is paid to individuals and not households using household income is not realistic. How do you ensure that where a couple both work they are taxed enough, but when only one works that person pays the extra tax which their partner should pay?

  • @ Michael BG Quite right to tell TCO “You should study history more”.

    He made a questionable claim about the Asquith government wanting to increase naval expenditure. Fact is, they didn’t want to and split down the middle. After the Asquith compromise ‘four Dreadnoughts next year – if needed’ – they supported increased taxation to provide welfare support.

    As LLG said in 1909 “A fully equipped Duke costs as much to keep up as two Dreadnoughts, and Dukes are just as great a terror, and they last longer. ”

    TCO’s also shy about disclosing the subject of his History PhD. I bet it wasn’t about the beginnings of the welfare state.

    @ Katharine Pindar Another great balanced comment… and get Tim in a corner at Bournemouth about Alston. It should be pushing an open door.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Aug '19 - 6:34pm

    Katharine

    My liking and appreciation for you as always based on that you are a good sort, must not stop me saying you are wrong on the attitude to Labour at present.

    The antisemitism crisis and influx of extreme members is being ignored by you and others.

    We have support from the mainstream. Few ever encapsulate the mainstream on here when they should on these matters. We are a party of the moderate and radical progressive area, not far left involved with pseudo progressive extremism.

    I do not care if Corbyn is or isn’t called Marxist. I care that he be called wrong. And called out therefore.

  • Joseph Bourke,

    As you don’t support increasing the basic benefit level to the relative poverty line and you think it would be problematic to find the about £72 billion needed to fund it, would you keep the existing benefits and add your UBI on top? What level would you set it out? How much would it cost?

    If we assume everyone in work earns more than £12,500 a year, we can get an idea of how much a UBI of £48.08 a week on top of benefits would cost. In the latest Labour Force Survey there are 1.329 million people unemployed and 19.134 million economically inactive aged 16 to 64. Therefore just paying the £48.08 to these 20.45 million people would cost £51.15 billion. It would actually cost more and would leave many people still in relative poverty.

    A single person needs £157.62 and a couple needs £271.58 a week excluding housing costs to live at the poverty line. So with a UBI of £48.08 a single person would be £36.44 short and a couple would be £60.57 short. I have not talked about children, the new reduced child element of benefits is £53.46 a week and child benefit is £20.70 for the first child and £13.70 for additional children. The poverty line level of the cost of a child is £84.13 a week. Therefore for a person living on benefits they are £9.97 a week short for the first child and £16.97 for each additional child on top of the shortages I identified earlier. (Poverty line figures based on Joseph Rowntree Foundation figures for 2016/17 increased by CPI for 2019/20).

  • David Warren 23rd Aug '19 - 8:17pm

    The Labour debate is an interesting one.

    Since the 2017 General Election Corbyn and his close allies have shifted a bit on policy as they believe they are closer to power. The EU is a good example with Brexiteers like Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott coming out for Remain.

    Their economic policies are pretty moderate when compared with the positions the left took in the 1980s and it’s the same in areas like defence.

    On welfare we have a lot in common with the Labour party whichever faction you look at and there is room for us cooperating with them.

    It is also worth noting that Corbyn despite being leader has not really stamped his authority on the party, he behaves more like a Chairman than a leader.

  • Joseph Bourke,

    I have read widely on UBI. I think you have read my 2018 LDV article – https://www.libdemvoice.org/can-we-afford-a-universal-basic-income-56572.html

    Malcolm Torry suggests changes to NI (which in the above article I state the IFS state these changes would raise £16.1 billion) and three pence on all three rates of Income Tax will pay for his schemes but it doesn’t. According to the government’s 2019 figures a penny on all three income tax rates would raise £7.12 billion in 2022-23. Three pence would raise only £21.36 billion. Together they raise only £37.46 billion.

    As I have pointed out £48.08 a week for those aged 16 to 64 who are not in work would cost more than £51.15 billion. Malcolm Torry goes further than this, giving £20 extra to children, £61 to those aged 25 to 64, £50 to those aged 16 to 24 and £40 for those aged 64. Therefore the shortfall is well over £13.69 billion.

  • TCO – how they will vote is the only thing matter. There were also numerous predictions in 2016 in the US context that Gen Z would be the most right-wing generation ever. The 2018 mid-term election showed the completely opposite situation: they are even more left-wing than the Millennials. The same is also completely true with Canada, with the youth shunning the Conservatives. And don’t forget about the rise of Green in Germany, as politically homeless young urban social liberals flock to them en masse.

    Currently, when it comes to youth vote, Labour still dominates the poll with double digit margins even after Corbyn’s stance on Brexit is clearly dubious. If we add SNP, Plaid, Libdem and Green youth vote to the equation, the gap between Conservative and anto-Conservative vote is even bigger.

  • Michael BG, Joseph Bourke –  I think two of you are the ones should definitely read this article and give comments.
    https://internetofbusiness.com/south-korea-automated-nation-earth-says-report-uk-nowhere-robotics/
    “the UK lags behind other developed economies in 22nd place, with a robot density of just 71. That’s below the global average of 74, and well behind Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and France, among others.

    In fact, the UK is the only G7 nation with a robot density below the global average. Even Belgium is automating faster than the UK, and is ninth in the global league.” Look, we even fall behind Spain and Italy of all people.

    The following sentence alone can give us an idea of a very radical industrial policy: “Japan is investing £161 billion by 2020 to build what it calls a “super-smart society”. By contrast, the UK is investing just £200-300 million in the same timeframe – a sum that is 500 to 800 times smaller than Japan’s”. So, how about a £200 billion package of investments in AI and robotics. The article also dispells “job losses” fear. As I stated above, currently, Libdem’s Automation plan in the industrial policy papers only focuses on regulations, but totally fails to promote the adoption and investments in robotics and AI. According to the article, this sector can be worth up to $4 trillion worldwide over the next decade. If we do not act, we will permanently lag behind our competitors.

    The article also suggests that Britain has strong AI and automation research capability but fails to bring them to industry application due to underinvestment.

    Michael BG, Joseph Bourke, please respond, since you two are the ones who have stronger interest in economic policies than average LDV members/followers here.

  • For me, I would call myself a non-socialist conservative basher a.k.a a typical New England liberal NYT reader.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Aug '19 - 8:08am

    @Thomas
    “Nonconformistradical – privacy issues have already been covered by EU regulations so we don’t have to gold-plate our regulatory system further.”

    Provided those regulations are not in the future undermined. I’m sure Trump would like them to be undermined….

    You have not answered my other question:-

    “Why do I need the Internet of things? How is it going to enhance my experience of life?”

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Aug '19 - 8:09am

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    “I do not care if Corbyn is or isn’t called Marxist. I care that he be called wrong. And called out therefore.”

    Seconded

  • Michael BG at 4.51 pm on 23rd.

    Forgive me, Michael, but there is an error in your criticism of my figures. The Final line of Income Tax is not what you say — it is this : -1 -1 -3 -9 -26. That exactly balances the 8 + 8 +8 +8 +8 +8 of the even distribution of the chosen UBI to all households.

    None of my figures is a recommendation. I chose 8 for the UBI because that, I reckoned, was the figure that would restore the poorest quintile to the disposable income they currently enjoy (?) under the present regime of Benefits and Taxes. So this particular set of figures has the main purpose of showing how the present distribution of Final Incomes could be achieved by abolishing all Benefits, then introducing a UBI of 8, and then restoring the status quo by large alterations in Income Tax rates. In other words: abolish Benefits, bestow UBI, adjust Income Tax — and (hey presto!) all is the same!

    Except it isn’t. Now nobody has to make application for the supplement to their personal incomes! So those in the bottom fifth now very really feel better off: they get what the kingdom considers enough (it votes for a Government that chooses the Benefit levels) because they are automatically entitled to it, as the UBI. You could reasonably say nothing has changed, but for the abolition of all the wretchedness and uncertainties of having to apply for Benefits. That is a worthwhile change from everybody’s point of view, I believe.

    So I did not advocate anything. What I tried to do — and in round terms I think I have done — is to show that UBI would not cost the vast amounts many allege, if it replaced the current expenditure on Benefits.

    I would like to go on to make proposals, but the Editors, I find, are very strict about length. I will try, below.

  • Nonconformistradical – British businesses need to embrace the “Internet of thing” in order to remain competitive in the future, especially when the Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming, plain and simple. Or, if you want Britain to fall behind and become Sick Man of Europe once more, then go ahead and embrace Luddism, and this will make you no different from the Socialists and the Green hippies. I am a social liberal who is centre-left in both economic and social issues, but I am strongly opposed to any forms of anti-science and Luddism.

    About Donald Trump, depending on the state of the American economy, he may not even be re-elected. And I expect the Dems to at least retain control over the House in the near future.

  • Nonconformistradical – British businesses and industries need to embrace the Internet of thing in order to remain competitive internationally in the future. If you want Britain to fall behind and become Sick Man of Europe once more, then go ahead and embrace Luddism. This will make you no different from the Conservatives, the Socialists and the Green hippies. I am an economically and socially centre-left liberal, but I am strongly opposed to any forms of Luddism and anti-tech, anti-science.

    About Trump, depending on the state of the American economy in 2020, he may not even be re-elected. Also, I still expect the Dems to retain control over the House in the near future.

  • TCO – if you want to win cities from Labour, going down the right-wing Orange Book path will destroy your strategy. In the end, urban middle-class are still closer to liberalism and also more well-educated and more pro-Europe than the more conservative rural populace, a significant portion of which can be “some dudes with MAGA hats on their heads”, especially the SoCons. If you want to chase after those rural votes and compete with the Tories to win the race of becoming Britain’s “party of the uneducated”, then shifting rightward is probably more suitable, but is that what we want to become? Obviously not.
    In America, your strategy would result in chasing after Middle America votes instead of the West Coast/Northeast. In Canada, your strategy would be chasing after Alberta/Prairies instead of Ontario/Quebec/Maritimes.

  • Peter Martin 24th Aug '19 - 10:49am

    @ Roger Lake @ Michael BG,

    “According to the government’s 2019 figures a penny on all three income tax rates would raise £7.12 billion in 2022-23. Three pence would raise only £21.36 billion…….”

    The problem with this type of “analysis” is that there is an implicit assumption that, if one parameter is changed, ie the rate of income tax, everything else in the economy remains the same. This is not a valid assumption.

    ANY rise in income taxes, especially at the lower end, will slow down the economy and affect the total tax take. Therefore, even if the take from income taxes does rise , the take from other taxes will likely fall.

    If we are all paying more in income tax we have less to spend on other things.

    Incidentally, this line of thinking shows why austerity economics doesn’t work. All that tends to happen is that the economy slows, which in turn creates an increasing demand for Government assistance from those who are adversely affected.

  • Michael BG above, at 4.53pm on 23rd.
    “I don’t understand why the bottom 40% end up paying more income tax, nor why the middle 20% would be better off the most. Also as UBI is paid to individuals and not households using household income is not realistic. How do you ensure that where a couple both work they are taxed enough, but when only one works that person pays the extra tax which their partner should pay?”

    Thank you for asking questions, Michael. I was not advocating anything (I do below): I was trying to show that introducing UBI need not cost more than the present regime costs.

    The bottom 40% end up paying “more income tax” in order to confer on every one of them, as on the prosperous rest of us , the sense of being fully paid-up members of the national community, contributing to the public services all use and enjoy. Remember, some people currently pay no IT, being too poor.

    The idea of a UBI is, to most people, counter-intuitive, and therefore unthinkingly opposed. If UBI is ever to be introduced, it will require the votes of the middle. Some will vote from altruism; many will vote if they themselves stand to gain. The biggest obstacle to UBI is gut-reaction. Liberals are well placed to overcome it.

    I can’t answer your riddle, important as it may well be when we get down to details. I chose Households figures because we are talking here about a way of life. Some Households have one occupant. The ONS figures and diagrams for Households give a quicker or better grasp, I believe, of what is going on — the Bigger Picture.

    I am sorry not to have given you the link, but my age is such that I have not mastered such helpful tricks, and time is short. ( Try googling ‘ONS household incomes 2016’.) ( good diagram).

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Aug '19 - 11:15am

    @Thomas
    “Nonconformistradical – British businesses and industries need to embrace the Internet of thing in order to remain competitive internationally in the future. ”

    That would be absolutely fine if it was doing something useful! And without collecting data off me. I don’t need my house connected up to google or anyone else of their kind. As it is – the IOT seems more about fleecing people to buy stuff they don’t need to do jobs they can do quite easily for themselves.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Aug '19 - 11:45am

    Left-of-centre Liberalism can appeal to all classes, when we make sufficiently plain what our values and our agreed policies are. However, just as our councillors do in practice, we have to be aware constantly that with our duty to represent and support ordinary people, individuals and families alike, we have to think about their needs and concerns all the time. We have to speak out against the sectional interests of the other parties, denouncing the Tory feathering further the nests of the wealthy, and retain our own focus on aiming for everyone to have sufficient income, a decent home and work, security and the chance of personal fulfilment,

    A pressing question is how we can better support young people, with an income boost when they are young, perhaps at 18, with housing support of some kind, and giving them the prospect of life-long learning and retraining possibilities.

    David (Raw), thank you for your support – I will certainly hope to enlist Tim in following up the Alston recommendations, and that we can embody some of them in amendments to the motion on social justice, A Fairer Share for All .

    Lorenzo, an ‘influx of extreme members’ is also a source of threat in the Conservative Party, and more concerning in that they are the ruling party. As for Mr Corbyn, whatever his demerits, I suspect he will not be head of the Labour Party for very much longer. But meantime he is saying good things about helping the poor and ending austerity, and I am anxious that our own party is just as much concerned and perceived to be so. We need to have this at the top of our agenda, after stopping Brexit and along with fighting climate change, and be prepared to work with all other political groups to achieve needful results for the poorest and most disadvantaged people in our society .

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Aug '19 - 11:52am

    Thomas, thank you for replying fully and usefully to my earlier query. I have long been interested in your ideas on our economic and industrial strategy, and hope that you will indeed find influential supporters among the members with industrial experience and/or economic expertise. It would be good if you could come to Conference as well.

  • In discussing the financing and potential size of UBI
    perhaps I ought to say more about my choice of Household Incomes, apart from praising the ONS presentation of their statistics. I am expecting that the UBI figure of £8,000 is understood as an arithmetically convenient Household Income, and that may might that a Personal UBI would therefore be about £4,000 per adult, and £2,000 per school leaver. But I chose that figure of “8” to demonstrate one simple idea: UBI is not expensive — it is self financing, through income tax*. ( As a Lib Dem I would want a higher.)

    But the main purpose of UBI (IMHO)is to reunite a disunited kingdom torn by several ills: Brexit and the grossly uneven distribution of incomes stand out. The figure I used above, £8k (for a household) is a matter of choice for the Govt of the day. Double it, the self-financing principle still holds, but Tax (probably mostly or entirely* Income Tax) would also have to double, with much heftier slices off the top 20%, making the graph from lowest to highest income very much flattened — a much smaller range between top and bottom Disposable Incomes.

    *It is taxes that shape the life of the nation, at present grossly unfairly. Income Tax is the easiest to grasp, but we must not overlook taxes on wealth, which is also unwarrantably distributed.

  • David Warren 24th Aug '19 - 2:18pm

    What an excellent comment from @KatherinePindar regarding Left of centre Liberalism.

    One of the reasons overtook us in the early party of the 20th century was the organised working classes shifting to Labour. That organised working class is less than half the size it used to be and in trade unions who haven’t been very successful since the Thatcher era.

    We Lib Dems need to be talking to the people employed in the gig economy, leading the debate on the future of work and arguing for legislation that strengthens employment rights.

    That along with a programme for housing, education and health is the way forward.

  • David Warren 24th Aug '19 - 2:20pm

    Insert the word ‘Labour’ after the word ‘reasons’ in the first line of the second paragraph.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Aug '19 - 3:30pm

    @Joseph Bourke
    “The Japanese when refurbishing houses tend to go the whole hog and knockdown older homes replacing them with entirely new modern structures rather than extending or simply replacing kitchens and bathrooms only.”

    Could it be that enhanced building codes for earthquake resistance are a factor in encouraging whole building replacement rather than partial replacement and/or extension?

    Also, Japan lies at lower latitudes than the UK, so buildings would have lower needs for thermal insulation than in the UK. Not that I’m suggesting UK buildings are adequately insulated – all too many are not. But historically buildings in the UK have been of stone or brick construction – time-consuming to build and I presume needing a long lifespan before replacement is economic?

  • Neil Sandison 23rd Aug ’19 – 8:18am…………………EXPATS Corbyns policies on nationalisation are popular .This may be true until they get to know what the real costs will be and the loss of revenue to support our overstretched services. Its a bit like Brexit ,the public liked the simple slogan of taking back control until the harsh reality began to hit home about the impact on services ,jobs and transport began to be spelt out .There is no such thing as a free meal someone will have to pay for it along the route…………….

    Within my lifetime a ‘leftie’ Labour leader took over a country worn out from total war and almost bankrupt. He managed to tackle homelessness, welfare, health and pensions; strangely, the next few Conservative governments managed to continue with his policies.
    Now, a country with the 5th? strongest economy in the world, when faced with the same challenges can only bemoan the cost. Tackling these problems has little to do with “free meals” and much to do with priorities.

    As I’ve said before, Jo Swinson’s record on such matters shows that her priorities may be your’s but they are not mine.

  • Joseph Bourke,

    I had noticed you hadn’t posed on here for a while and Katharine suggested you had been on holiday. I hope you enjoyed your holiday to Japan (a country I believe you lived in for a while).

    Peter Martin,

    In the Malcolm Torry report something else does change and that is transferring the money from the tax rises. If money is transferred when taxes rise to the poorer people in society it is likely to increase spending in the economy and be a stimulus to our own production and result in some economic growth. Torry used a computer model of the economy and this might have included some calculation of the economic effect of the transfer. I can’t believe that a transfer of say £51.15 billion would increase government revenue by nearly 27% of that figure on top of the expectation from income from the tax rises.

    Roger Lake,

    When I did a Google search I found the 2017 figures and graph and that helped me understand what you had written (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/personalandhouseholdfinances/incomeandwealth/articles/theeffectsoftaxesandbenefitsonhouseholdincome/technicalreport).

    When calculating if your figures balanced I used them all. The UBI is 8 x 5 = 40 therefore the changes to benefits and taxes should equal this but they only equal 32. Hence the shortfall of 8. Note I listed the changes not the total. For the first three the figures are 1, 1, 3 and for the last two they are 9-4 = 5, 26-18 = 8. If you add all five final incomes they started at 168 but ended at 176. As I said 8 short. So you have not shown that taxes were increased to pay for the UBI.

    It is clear even from your figures that your UBI scheme does not increase the income for those on benefit enough to get them out of poverty. The Benefit Cap is £20,000 for a couple outside London (anyone affected by the Benefit Cap is living well below the poverty line) and you are suggesting they should have their benefits reduced to only £8,000 a year. (I think you want this couple to pay £1000 in income tax from their £8,000.) This is because you scrap the existing benefit system. As Malcolm Torry accepts a UBI has to be in addition to the inadequate benefits people receive today.

  • Roger Lake, (cont)

    You have not shown how much a UBI would cost. There are about 27.2 million households in the UK so the net cost of £8,000 per household is £217.6 billion. If you were paying for this just by increasing income tax, all three rates would have to be increased by 30.56 pence to 50.56%, 70.56% and 75.56%. Do you really think people would be happy to see the basic rate of income tax increase from 20 pence in the pound to 50 pence in the pound? If you add in NI the government would be taking 62 pence from each pound you earn.

    The people who benefit most from a UBI are the majority of those 19.134 million people (the maximum of whom could be on benefits is 5.7 million) of working age who are economically inactive. I believe that a majority of them are not economically active because they can afford not to be.)

    If we introduced a UBI for people when they turn 18 at £48.08 it would cost about £1.82 billion (I have estimated the number of people turning 18 at 910,000 (based on 47% of them going to university and estimated that 20% are in work paying more than £12,500). As those aged over 18 earned above the income tax personal allowance the cost of the scheme would be reduced for that year group, so subsequent years should cost less than £1.8 billion. (If introduced on top of existing benefits then those aged 18 who were unemployed would be £32.88 a week better off than someone aged 25 or older. Therefore a new lower rate would have to be introduced so they end up with the same as those aged 25 or over.)

  • Joseph Bourke – monetary policy won’t do much. But fiscal policy, subsidies, tax incentives and national investment bank can certainly encourage and support businesses, especially when they come with modernization requirements. Industrial policy must go hand in hand with industrial/performance discipline to be effective. In other words, businesses only receive incentives and subsidies on the condition that they modernize their plant and machinery. Also, in the medium to long run, subsidies and incentives should be removed for businesses that consistently underperform.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Aug '19 - 5:25pm

    @Joseph Bourke
    “the Japanese, like the British, were city dwellers and had a similar seasonal climate to the UK, if a little hotter during the summer months.”

    Please look at a map. The major Japanese cities are at far lower latitudes than any UK ones. Therefore significantly hotter in summer. And they have higher humidity.

    Here are pages on climate for Japan and UK
    https://en.climate-data.org/asia/japan-108/
    https://en.climate-data.org/europe/united-kingdom-213/

    I’m not sure why Lord Mountbatten of BURMA should be specially qualified to pontificate on the climate of Japan. His last education experience as far as I can see was at the Royal Naval College Osborne starting in 1913. Climate measurement has moved on since then.

  • Peter Martin at 9.45am

    Thanks for that point, Peter, about everything changing when something does — an important one. And thanks for the comment about austerity (I always give it a capital A, to point at the Tories ‘neoliberal’ doctrine. ) When I studied some Economics, in the early 60s, everybody at Bristol was a Keynesian, and I assumed thereafter that all right-thinking people were. It came as a shock, when I began to take more interest, to discover that there are today even Liberals who were not Keynesians, and are not.

  • Michael BG.

    “Roger Lake,
    When I did a Google search I found the 2017 figures and graph and that helped me understand what you had written When calculating if your figures balanced I used them all. The UBI is 8 x 5 = 40 therefore the changes to benefits and taxes should equal this but they only equal 32. Hence the shortfall of 8. Note I listed the changes not the total. For the first three the figures are 1, 1, 3 and for the last two they are 9-4 = 5, 26-18 = 8. If you add all five final incomes they started at 168 but ended at 176. As I said 8 short. So you have not shown that taxes were increased to pay for the UBI.”

    Michael, I did not say that taxes “were increased to pay for the UBI.” And I do not understand how you arrive at the 9-4=5 and the 26 -18= 8. I think I may have made things unhelpfully confusing, by offering a Table 1 which has one less line than what ought to be corresponding two lines in Table 2. The latter shows UBI on a separate line from Tax, whereas Table1 has one line for +Benefits and for -Taxation. The Tax I show has been chosen by me not only to make a total of 40, as you rightly suggest I ought, but also to encourage the middle earners to support UBI. My figure does suggest very big tax increases for the top earners — but, hey, their UBI pays much of the increase in their Income Tax; and the rest of the rise is that reduction in top disposable incomes that we all desire. How else would we do it? There are other ways, of course. Whatever happened to Purchase Tax, levied on ‘luxuries’? Charge that, until all can afford ‘necessities’ on their UBI.
    (Incidentally, I believe I chose the ONS figures for 2016 , because I found the diagrams were simpler that year.)

  • Michael BG

    “Roger Lake
    It is clear even from your figures that your UBI scheme does not increase the income for those on benefit enough to get them out of poverty. The Benefit Cap is £20,000 for a couple outside London (anyone affected by the Benefit Cap is living well below the poverty line) and you are suggesting they should have their benefits reduced to only £8,000 a year. (I think you want this couple to pay £1000 in income tax from their £8,000.) This is because you scrap the existing benefit system. As Malcolm Torry accepts a UBI has to be in addition to the inadequate benefits people receive today.”

    I’m not sure, but isn’t it the case that in such discussions Poverty is usually defined as having an income smaller than x% of the mean or the median? If so, surely poverty cannot be eliminated, since as the lowest incomes rise, so will the target.

    But I confess that I have not considered what the level of UBI ought to be. Others like you, much more familiar with the actual figures than I am, will be able to arrive at a figure. Different political parties will fight about it, no doubt. My only purpose has been to show that a simple route from Benefits to Rights would not be so expensive as some suppose. As Peter Martin reminds us at 10.49 on Saturday morning above, when you change one thing, everything changes.

    Incidentally, Michael, what do you think about changing the name from UBI to “National Income Dividend”?

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Aug '19 - 11:50pm

    David Warren. Thanks, David for your comment at 2.18 pm. Your article plus your interventions have produced an interesting and varied discussion, with scope for new thinking. I certainly agree that it will be good for us to consider the problems of the gig economy and the future of work and employment rights, building on the excellent policy passed last autumn on jobs, business and community. As you say, we lost out to Labour in relation to the working classes, and need not continue to do so.

    However, I believe that, even if Brexit is prevented or at least ameliorated, we need to consider the plight of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in our country as a national emergency which requires us to make helping them our top priority now. It is too easy for us to forget that insecure and erratic employment, often on the minimum wage, without adequate benefits is causing great hardship and recourse to food banks, with the plight of the poorest often made worse by a shortage of social housing and reduced local government services. There is much that needs to be tackled, and I think we should be demanding a new social contract between our government and our people.

  • Katharine Pindar – “Left-of-centre Liberalism can appeal to all classes, when we make sufficiently plain what our values and our agreed policies are. However, just as our councillors do in practice, we have to be aware constantly that with our duty to represent and support ordinary people, individuals and families alike, we have to think about their needs and concerns all the time. We have to speak out against the sectional interests of the other parties, denouncing the Tory feathering further the nests of the wealthy, and retain our own focus on aiming for everyone to have sufficient income, a decent home and work, security and the chance of personal fulfilment” – well, after following Canadian politics for year, I think you are a little too optimistic. I can see that “social conservative” and uneducated people keep voting Conservatives even though Trudeau’s policies benefit them.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/profamirattaran/status/1147515674828443648?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fd-29099195092484590979.ampproject.net%2F1908222134250%2Fframe.html
    Although this post is obviously a Conservative-baiting troll post, this professor does say some truth: the uneducated keep voting Conservatives and their numbskull policies at their own expense. And as far as I know, about uneducated folks voting right-wing parties, British politics is not that much different.

    Our party cannot become “the party of the uneducated” by offering numbskull policies to placate these votes.

  • Roger Lake,

    I didn’t understand that your final income tax line wasn’t a final line at all but the additional taxes for each group adding up to 40 and that your new total was wrong.

    If you are removing the benefits and adding the taxes you get:

    Bottom 20% Income 7 UBI + 8 Tax -1 Final 14
    Next 20% Income 14 UBI + 8 Tax – 1 Final 21
    Middle 20% Income 27 UBI + 8 Tax – 3 Final 32
    Next 20% Income 43 UBI + 8 Tax – 13 Final 38
    Top 20% Income 85 UBI + 8 Tax – 44 Final 49

    It still doesn’t balance it is 14 short – the value of the benefits you cut!

    But you haven’t shown that there is a simple route from Benefits to UBI (if there was such a route I expect the last two working groups on welfare reform would have come out in favour of a UBI) and you have not dealt with the costs. Have you read the Malcolm Torry schemes that you can get to from Joseph Bourke’s link and the schemes I refer to in my LDV article of last year?

    It is possible to ensure that no one has an income less than 60% of the average. Using your 2016 staring figures if the bottom 20% had an income of 21 keeping the next two the same and increasing the tax on the next one by 3 and the last one by 5 the end figures are 21, 21, 28, 36, 67 giving an average of 34.6 and 60% is 20.76 and no one is living in relative poverty.

    Once you have achieved this you can introduce a UBI or as I suggest introduce one for people when they turn 18 while working on getting people out of relative poverty and then further expand it once everyone is out of relative poverty.

    I don’t like “National Income Dividend”. I don’t like the word national. I don’t really like the idea that the UBI is basic. I don’t really like calling it a dividend. But if we introduced it for people when they turn 18, we could call it the “Young Dividend”. Then when considering expanding it, if we decided to start at the other age bracket, we could call it the “Elder Dividend” for people before they reach retirement age and when it is universal call it the “Universal Dividend”.

  • David Warren 25th Aug '19 - 9:56am

    @Katherine Pindar I agree with you on the national emergency. As someone who gave up a full time job to care and then suffered with his own health I have seen the welfare system at first hand.

    People are really suffering and as a result of the party’s involvement in the coalition some of the responsibility for that lies with our parliamentarians. Going forward we need to commit to radical policies to reform the welfare system where nobody is trapped in poverty.

  • David Warren 25th Aug '19 - 1:34pm

    It looks as if we might have reached the end of this discussion. Thanks to everyone who has commented and I hope some of the senior figures in the party have been reading.

  • David Warren,

    I do not believe that our MPs and members of Federal Policy Committee read LDV, or if they do that it affects their opinions.

    I too would like to see us adopt radical policies to reform the welfare system. I suggested these in my submission to the “A Fairer Share for All” policy paper, but they have been rejected. Is there any evidence that Federal Conference has a majority for the adoption of radical welfare policies which commit us to spending nearer to an extra £9 billion per year rather than £5 billion per year on welfare payments to those of working age? (Is there any evidence that such a policy would even get selected by Federal Conference Committee for discussion? I submitted such a motion in 2018 and one of the reasons for its not being selected was the cost of the policies.)

    Thomas,

    Sorry about the delay in replying but I knew I would need some time to do some reading round the subject.

    I note from the RSA report “The Age of Automation”, linked to in the article you linked to, calls “for the government to establish personal training accounts that could aid lifelong learning” which will be party policy after our conference in September. I like the idea it has of “Establish(ing) a Centre for AI and Robotics that encourages greater take-up of innovations among industry”. I would add the government aim to achieve economic growth of 3% each and every year as this should ensure our economy is near to full employment and so will encourage businesses to invest to improve productivity which will mean more AI and robots. The other short-term policy could be to provide tax breaks for investing in AI and robots. The reason it has to be short-term is because the RSA report points out that taxes on capital will need to increase over the long-term.

  • David Warren 25th Aug '19 - 4:51pm

    @MichaelBG

    I also made a submission to the ‘Fairer Share For All’ working group which isn’t reflected in the final paper. There is a problem with the policy making process, the FCC clearly has a majority of more conservative minded members and it looks like the working groups are in the same category.

    I have applied to be on the ‘Future of Work’ group but I don’t expect to be selected.

  • Dear Michael BG, we do seem to have got in a tangle, but I believe we’re on the same side! I will expand my two Tables just below, trying to make them easier to compare, and typing in the box instead of elsewhere and then cut n pasting, which often leads to distortion in the columns.

    Table 1 Original Income: ___7_____14____27____43____85_____
    plus cash Benefits 8 10 7 5 3
    minus Taxes -2 -3 -5 -9 -20

    Gross Income 13 21 29 39 67

    Table 2 Original Income ___ 7_____14____27____43____85_____
    plus UBI 8 8 8 8 8
    minus Taxes – 1 – 1 -3 – 9 -26

    Gross Income 14 21 32 42 67

    Nobody here has less to spend than before, the 40 handed out as UBI being largely provided by the Benefits that have been withdrawn (33, necessitating an increase in total Income Tax of 7, to balance the deficit.)

    But, seeing that one major purpose of UBI is to narrow the range between the lowest and the highest Disposable incomes, that seems reasonable to me. What people find objectionable is that the top quintile should have so much more to spend than the poorest; and unless you want Government to legislate about what people are allowed to receive in the way of pay, interest, etc, surely the best way to narrow the spending gulf is by income tax. That is not to discount the usefulness or justice in other taxes, including a Purchase tax on luxury goods.

    I believe I have found the error you accuse me of, Michael, and I plead guilty-ish; and thank you. These figures are not recommendations of mine (apart from the way in which I have chosen to distribute the Tax burden), because the prime intention of this pair of Tables is to show that things could be very much the same for any household as they were before, in Table 1, at modest additional cost to Government (and probably savings in admin?). (As a Lib Dem I would recommend a higher UBI, in order to attack the gap — a gap that the figures above do nothing to narrow).

  • Roger Lake,

    I will not comment on your new figures except to say that I haven’t checked them.

    Your end figures are 14, 21, 32, 42, 67. My end figures are 21, 21, 28, 36, 67. I think my figures are better because no one is in relative poverty.

    I have even narrowed the gap more than you between the top and bottom to 46 while yours is 54.

    You have not commented on my idea on how to introduce a UBI.

    You haven’t addressed my figures about the real cost of your scheme and how this would increase income tax. You haven’t answered my questions about you reading other reports and ideas on schemes.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Aug '19 - 10:12pm

    David Warren and Michael BG. I agree that the outcome of this working group has been rather disappointing, and it is strange in my opinion that Michael was not selected a member of the group. However, amendments can improve the motion, A Fairer Share for All, in September. Whatever the disappointment we may possibly feel in the workings of FPC and FCC, I have some faith in the radicalism of Conference, and our power to produce effective results there. That is to say, faith in the members who are able to come to Conference.

    Thomas, it is not only the uneducated we have to convince. I have a well-educated Tory-voting friend who refuses absolutely to discuss the current situation with me, on the grounds that I know more than she does! I suppose basically we have to progress by patient work to produce the policies that everyone can see are good for the country, and which will command the support of a majority. But we also need electoral reform to advance, and any alliances should keep that in the forefront of planning for the future.

  • Michael BG,

    I am very grateful to you for keeping this going. I agree that your figures are better, though I did try to explain the thinking behind mine, in two ways. The first, was to try to show that in numerical or monetary terms the same outcome could be achieved in a different, and simpler, way than the current Benefits System works, (or operates!). In other words, I chose to change as little as possible, almost. That was an attempt to bring an end to the widespread assertions that UBI would be too expensive.

    I agree with the superiority of your end result, in applying more boost to the poorest; and indeed, I did expect queries about my apparently favouring the middle and upper echelon. My reason for doing that was the belief that without the votes in favour of those two groups, the thing would never command the electoral approval needed to get UBI adopted. My firm impression is that many good people are automatically opposed to the very idea, and that a little harnessing of short-term self-interest (bribery, in other words!) would help swing the votes. [ I would not use those terms in other circumstances than this forum, because taken out of context they look discreditable]. So that is why I seem to favour the lucky ones, tho’ not the most luckiest. As Katharine Pindar observes, just below you: “It is not only the uneducated we have to convince.”

    I confess, Michael, that I have not commented on your idea of how to introduce UBI, because I must have missed your explanation. I shall try to find it. The melancholy fact is that I cannot devote to this nearly as much time as it requires. My brain is ageing and my internet skills are slow. And I confess that my reading on the whole matter is not wide, nor wide enough!

    I think we may agree on one thing, though — tell me if I’m wrong — and that is that raising the disposable real income of the poor can only be done by taking the icing off the biggest cakes and spreading it on their bread. The beauty of UBI, I believe, is its simplicity, as well as its humanity. I will revert soon to that, I trust: I can feel the Editor line-counting!

  • Katharine,

    I hope that when we have another working group on the welfare system, any members of Federal Policy Committee who are still members will remember by interest and knowledge about the issue and ensure that the chair appoints me to the working group. I think the policy paper would have benefitted from my input even with regard to drafting issues, where it appears to me that a policy is both something to do if needed and a commitment!

    Do you have any evidence for your faith that Federal Conference would support radical policies to end relative poverty or even to reverse all the welfare cuts since 2010? Federal Conference Committee is the gate keeper for policy motions and they have not allowed your motion last spring on Alston or my motion on ending relative poverty last September to make it on to the agenda. Of course they might say they were badly drafted, but I had received drafting advice. One of the reasons for my motion to be rejected was because of the “very large spending commitments” in it.

  • Roger Lake,

    I believe that we could end relative poverty in the UK without increasing the taxes of anyone. I believe it can be done in about 8 or 9 years from the extra revenue the government would receive if it had an economic policy of maintaining economic growth to close to 3% as possible. I hope I can convince the party to commit to doing it in 15 years.

    If we introduce a UBI to the majority of people in the UK then the cost will be very large and the benefit very small. I don’t think income tax should be increased to pay for it, I think National Insurance should be raised to 12% for all earnings, which will hit those earning more than £50,000 the most. Also some way has to be found to ensure that those earning more than £100,000 do not benefit from the introduction of UBI if it replaces the Income Tax Personal Allowance as I want.

    If you are advocating UBI you should read the articles I referred you to earlier and you should accept that unless benefits rise considerably then UBI has to be on top of benefits because the amount of the UBI is small.

    My suggestion was to introduce a UBI for people when they turn 18 which I estimate would cost about £1.82 billion in the first year and less in subsequent years as those receiving it would have benefited from the full value of the Income Tax Personal Allowance which it replaces for young people. Then introduce it for those near to retirement age once we have ended relative poverty.

  • Peter Martin 28th Aug '19 - 12:12pm

    @ Michael BG,

    “I believe that we could end relative poverty in the UK without increasing the taxes of anyone….. in about 8 or 9 years from the extra revenue the government would receive if it had an economic policy of maintaining economic growth to close to 3% as possible.”

    We’ve had extended periods of 3% annual growth before. It helps of course but it hasn’t ended “relative poverty”. So why would it be any different next time? Relative poverty is essential to capitalism. We nearly all have had a fear of that at some point. It makes us get up in the morning to do our jobs when we’d rather do something else. So we do need something to act as an incentive, to keep the wheels turning, but I would agree that things have moved much too far in this direction over the years.

    Which country do you have in mind that has managed to end relative poverty? Maybe Norway but they’ve got lots of oil!

  • Michael BG and Peter Martin.

    Surely all “relative poverty” means is that you recognise that some people are poorer than others — they have less to spend? And Peter says it was ever thus, and must be evermore. He is right, except that it soundsopposed to the idea, the basic idea, of UBI. .

    “What do we mean by UBI, and why do we think it is worth considering?” I am motivated primarily by the desire to see the gap in the spending power between the poor and the affluent considerably narrowed, so as to bring the two ends of the spectrum and their people closer together, as fellow members of our national community. There is one basic way to narrow the gap, and that is to take money from the well to do, and give it to the poor, to enable them to enjoy a life less straitened, less humiliating, than they suffer now.

    If that is right, how should we take income away from the lucky and deserving ones, to give to the poor and the hapless? I suggest: primarily in the shape of Income Tax. It is relatively simple for all to understand, and for HMG to administer.

    And UBI can be paid for, as the Welfare State is: take from the affluent to give to the needy. That is why I argue that UBI in the UK ought to be called the National Income Dividend. The amount each year would be set by Parliament, as a percentage of the National Income (which sounds nicer than the National Product, though essentially the same thing). “Nicer” counts, because this thing will need selling to a nation of which many are naturally initial opponents. Income sounds better than Product, and Dividend has a jolly ring, to shareholders, co-op members, and bank robbers. If all get it, none will feel demeaned, and none will begrudge it.

    Can anyone reasonably object to the UBI principle without saying under their breath — or, of course aloud — “I don’t want to pay more Income Tax.”?

  • David Evans 28th Aug '19 - 3:45pm

    I think that the only objective conclusion of this thread is that the Lib Dem party establishment have become an establishment party, only taking account of each other and the people who they talk to in their bubble (usually London centric) who usually agree with them/defer to them.

    The active membership of the party by contrast is very radical and not just in issues that appeal to those liberals who look to directly enhance specific liberties of the individual but also to those liberals who focus on the enabling liberties like education, freedom from poverty etc.

    As is inevitably the case, the establishment have been around a long time, the sort of time it takes to simply get established, particularly get established among the previous establishment. As a result they tend to be those who empathise and ‘get on’ with the existing establishment. To do this they have to get noticed whether by dutiful and regular attendance at meetings (the traditional approach) or by blogging (the modern approach) or, for those who are really successful, by both. Interestingly as some find out too late, being successful in elections so that one can actually deliver Liberal Democracy is often nowhere near as important.

    Overall though, the most important characteristic of a putative new member of the establishment is that they are nor perceived as a threat to the existing establishment, and so while new ideas are generally acceptable, any idea, new or old that implies the existing establishment got or even worse are getting something wrong has to be self suppressed. Everything must be done in a non-threatening way to earlier generations, and so tend to turn out to be only mildly radical and certainly not threatening. Thus they become people like the previous generation of the establishment.

    The consequence is a suppression of anything too radical and a policy process that, while learned and deliberative, produces dull but worthy and almost totally unnotable policy motions that enthuse officianados, but are totally useless when seeking support from the public in elections.

    It is these problems that local activists have to overcome by creating a message that appeals to their local community in order to get elected, in contrast to a party machine, who only has to appeal to other politicos, but consequently produce things that are as dull as ditchwater.

  • Peter Martin,

    I don’t accept your premise. I don’t believe “relative poverty is essential to capitalism”. I don’t believe people have to be forced to work by the threat of living in poverty. I believe people would work for other reasons.

    Roger Lake,

    Relative poverty does not mean some people are poorer than others. It means that some people have less than 60% of the median earnings and this is not enough to live on to the acceptable standards of our society. The median is the middle position if all incomes were ordered from the lowest to the highest. Increasing the income of those with incomes under 60% to 60% will not change the median income.

    As I pointed out, and you accepted, my idea of increasing benefits for the poorest is “better”. I have pointed out that having a UBI will give money to millions of people (over 10 million) who can afford to be economically inactive. It is this cost which makes it so expensive to introduce and it doesn’t help the poorest in society. I have pointed out lots of things to you about the issues with a UBI but you have not engaged with them. You will only convince people that a UBI is a good idea if you can engage with the issues regarding UBI. The policy paper “A Fairer Share for All” engages with one issue: the effects of having no conditions attached to the money a poor person receives. It is advocating pilots of giving benefits to some unemployed people with no conditions attached.

  • Michael BG, today at 2 pm

    I think you make unjustified assertions about some things Peter Martin and I have said., which should not be left unchallenged. Peter did not say “relative poverty is essential to every society”. I would share your disagreement if he had. But I believe what Peter says about “capitalism” is true. As for ‘relative poverty’, I did not realise that in the world of statistics that coupling of two common words means, so to speak, much less than its meaning in ordinary parlance. It does help if technical terms can be ‘labelled, as such (quotes? Caps?) but we do share the problem of exacting Editors!

    As to your attack on, for example, my accepting that your figures were ‘better’, I believe you know very well — since I have said so — that I was not recommending figures, but simply and only attempting to show HOW things could be done to produce the same outcome as the status quo, especially wrt to bottom and top quartiles: ” I agree that your figures are better, though I did try to explain the thinking behind mine, in two ways. The first, was to try to show that in numerical or monetary terms the same outcome could be achieved in a different, and simpler, way than the current Benefits System works, (or operates!). In other words, I chose to change as little as possible, almost. That was an attempt to bring an end to the widespread assertions that UBI would be too expensive.” One thing at a time, is how I try to elaborate an idea with several dimensions. I fear that the hour, and fear of the Editors , prevent my saying more here about the ‘what’ as opposed to the how, beyond saying how disappointing I found the Policy Paper you mention: more tweaking than radical.

  • Roger Lake,

    I quoted what Peter Martin had written, “Relative poverty is essential to capitalism”. I did not mention society. We live in a capitalist society and I have no plans in changing this, just the way our capitalist society works for the poorest.

    You assert that you are advocating a simpler system, but unless you address some of the issues I raise, it is only an assertion which you haven’t evidenced. You still haven’t addressed the need to keep the current benefit system because any UBI introduced will be less than the current benefit system because of its universal nature. Abolishing the current benefit system is not changing as little as possible. It is a huge change and it has always been given by our policy working groups as one of the reasons they don’t support a UBI.

    I have given you some figures about the expense of a UBI, and who it benefits most and how much income tax would have to be increased by, but you have just ignored the figures.

    You wrote an article on this topic. Also I don’t understand why you think the editors are not allowing you to comment in the same volume as I do.

  • Dear Michael BG, thank you for your recent comments. I’ll tackle the last first, because that helps to answer the others. I cannot judge the volume of your comments, because I don’t know how often or how much the Editors have imposed an abridgement on you. Some of our fellow correspondents successfully send half of what they wish to say, and immediately follow up with the remainder. I don’t think I have tried that yet, but I have had some offerings rejected for being too long. I find it difficult to judge: it would be helpful to us all, if the rolling panel in which we write would count our lines and warn us, perhaps with a text warning, or even just ceasing to unroll more space!

    Michael, my attempts at brevity get me misunderstood. I did not attribute to you the quotation you repudiate: I said that if if he had said that ” “, I would agree with you in challenging it. [I find it difficult to be lucid and brief, when indications of emphasis are unavailable to us.] I can see, now, that I could have ordered my sentence differently — changing the order of the chunks — to make the meaning clearer. So much of what all of us write is more ambiguous than we realise at the time. In what you write above, for example, the ambiguity of “works” is troublesome. (You will recall my sincere but doubtless vexing difficulty with ‘relative poverty’!). So when you write about “the way our capitalist society works for the poorest” it takes a lot of background ( the foregoing text and articles) to be quite sure what “works” there means: you may be saying “the way the nature of capitalism affects the poorest”, or you may be saying ” the way capitalism endeavours to enhance the lives of the poorest”. I know that what I’m arguing sounds like pedantry gone mad and bad, and I apologise for it, but, as we say,”there it is”! A popular and perennially puzzlesome example is our own dear word ‘liberal’, and of course its close relation ‘Liberal’. [ ‘Close relations’ may be lovey-dovey or daggers drawn! ]. I’ll draw the line here, and follow up below.

  • Michael BG…. I’m very sorry: events have overtaken my age, and it will be several days before I can make a useful reply to your last. This thread may well have closed by then, but I’m sure the LDV folk will send on to you any reply, if I ask nicely. Meanwhile, thanks for pushing me!
    Busy days are coming for all of us, so to all of us, Best Wishes for a non-brexit!

  • Roger Lake,

    I am sorry, I read your comment regarding capitalism and society incorrectly. If what you and Peter Martin think about capitalism is true then what is the point of trying to ensure the poorest in our society do not live in poverty?

    With regard to comment lengths. I do not know what the limit is but I think it is in the region of 400 words. My comments to you and Katharine on 28th August were 452 words and they were rejected as too long. So I copied them into a Word document (which has the facility to count the words in a highlighted section (Review, then Word count) and split them and posted them one after the other, which can be done on LDV if you haven’t reached the “flooding limit”, which often affect me, meaning I have to wait the few hours stated in the rejection notice. I hope this helps.

  • David Warren 1st Sep '19 - 9:35pm

    Interesting that our enemies particularly Labour and the Greens are attacking us vociferously over recent days.

    The crap they are throwing at Jo Swinson is unbelievable.

    All that tells me is that both parties have been taken over by extremists.

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