The Saturday Debate: Can a progressive alliance between the Lib Dems and Labour work?

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

‘Can a progressive alliance between the Lib Dems and Labour work?’ That is the question asked in this month’s issues of Total Politics magazine, debated by Neal Lawson of the left-leaning Compass pressure group (who argues Yes) and Labour MP Michael Dugher (who says No).

Neal’s is a thoughtful piece, which recognises the ebbs and flows of history — but does not view them as inevitable. After al, it was only 13 years prior to the Coalition being formed that Paddy Ashdown and Tony Blair were all set to unleash their joint Project on their largely unsuspecting parties. Who knows what the political situation might look like in, say, 5-10 years’ time?

Naturally Neal’s article is coloured by his anti-Coalition view, but there’s plenty of thought-provoking material, including his provocative wish-list of what the Lib Dems should do next. This excerpt offers the gist of his argument:

A cursory glance at British politics would suggest that such a realignment is further away than ever. But take a closer look. As with Labour, so the Liberal Democrats have been the victims of a takeover by a small, rather neo-liberal elite. There will be a reaction to this – and there already is; witness their conference vote on rejecting NHS reforms. And emember, too, that, unlike Labour, they are still a democratic party. …

Over in the Lib Dem camp I hope one of three things happens; either the social liberals should take back control of their party, or they should split between the small groups of Orange Bookers and the rest. Alternatively, a large block could leave and join Labour or the Greens, who are, by necessity, the other part of any progressive alliance. What they can’t do is stay indefinitely in a coalition with George Osborne.

Agree or disagree? Let us know what you think below…

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44 Comments

  • The idea begs the question whether either party is “progressive”. And if so, what do we mean by that?

  • I agree with Jock. If you think I’m `getting into bed` with the local Labour Party (no bed would be big enough but that’s another story!) you’ve got another think coming.

    My local Labour party may be `progressive` in their own narrowly self-defined terms – however their BEHAVIOUR is totally regressive and unenlightened.

    To be progressive I think you have to have three qualities

    1) Ethics when dealing with people and the electorate
    2) Transparent when it comes to budgets and the alternative you’re putting forward
    3) Ensuring that progressivism doesn’t exclude those on lower and middle incomes who are locked out of the benefit system

    On all these local Labour is FAIL FAIL FAIL!

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Apr '11 - 9:11am

    “Over in the Lib Dem camp I hope one of three things happens; either the social liberals should take back control of their party, or they should split between the small groups of Orange Bookers and the rest. Alternatively, a large block could leave and join Labour or the Greens, who are, by necessity, the other part of any progressive alliance. What they can’t do is stay indefinitely in a coalition with George Osborne.”

    All part of the Labour /Miliband narrative that the natural party for us to ally with is Labour, that the Coalition is part of an entryist ‘orange book’ plot and that if we end the Coalition Labour might be kind enough in future to let us be in Coalition with them.

    Which would be laughable if we didn’t have ‘ useful idiots’ like Richard Grayson and Linda Jack working from inside our party (while sitting on Labour Party Committees) to bring this about.

  • >Neal’s is a thoughtful piece,

    It would be useful if you linked to the actual article, rather than the home page of the magazine (plastered with ‘vote no to AV’ adverts!!).

    >Over in the Lib Dem camp I hope one of three things happens; either the social liberals should take back control of their party, or they should split between the small groups of Orange Bookers and the rest.

    I hope the party stays a ‘broad church’ where a wide diversity of views on all subjects are tolerated, rather than splitting into narrow little tribes, none of which would probably fully represent my views of the life, the universe, etc.

    >Alternatively, a large block could leave and join Labour or the Greens,

    If you are an authoritarian who thinks they know what’s best for everyone and want to micromanage other people’s, feel free. Makes no more sense to me than would switching to the Tories.
    Does the author not get that we are aware of the choices between the two major parties and don’t support either for good reasons?

    >What they can’t do is stay indefinitely in a coalition with George Osborne.

    Does this bloke understand how coalitions work?
    It lasts till 2015 (hopefully1). After that, either one party gets an outright majority and doesn’t need a junior partner, or (realistically!), either the Tories or Labour get a tiny majority and have to look to form a new coalition.
    Working with the Tories now doesn’t mean we couldn’t work with Labour (if they could work with anyone) post-2015. We’re not ideologically welded to either (thankfully).

    Funny how it’s only in England these debates seem to take place.
    Labour and Plaid are kicking lumps out of each other in the election campaign in Wales, despite having been in coalition and the possibility of being so again in a few weeks.

    Don’t hear anyone loudly complaining that Plaid can’t “stay indefinitely” in coalition with Carwyn Jones.

  • Oops:
    …other people’s, feel free.

    the missing word is ‘lives’

    (wish there was an ‘edit post’ option!!)

  • It is rather a strange question really, can you form a socialist alliance? Well of course you can, a political party is not a machine it is a group of human beings who can form relations and alliances (and make them work) if they so desire.

    All 3 of the major parties tend to have a broad range of opinion amongst their members, for some elements the only real difference between the factions is the colour of the rossette.

    You may have issues in the near future though as NC seems to have moved half of the Lab MPs into the Con/UKIP/BNP parties, which will probably not endear them to your Party and have them spitting feathers no doubt. Also, after reading a lot of Labour blogs I would say your Party isn’t really trusted by many in Labour due to campaign tactics you’ve used in the past, so that may be a barrier which you will have to work on.

  • I think that as long as Labour completely misses the point about the LibDems and about the nature of coalition politics, as this argument seems to be doing, there won’t be much of a chance for LibLab alliance. I think it’s a pity, because it ought to work, and better than a LibCon coalition, to be honest.

    As long as Labour doesn’t understand that the LibDems aren’t just ‘Labour Light’ (or, at the moment, ‘Labour Light’ led astray, as they would have it) this won’t happen. As long as they don’t understand that ‘not Labour’ doesn’t necessarly mean ‘right wing’, this won’t happen. Again we are treated to the idea that the evil ‘Orange Bookers’ have temproarily hijacked the LibDems, which is the only reason why they are currently not behaving as ‘Labour Light’ should. It’s obvious that there are different opinions within the LibDems, but this is simply too simplistic and misses the point about liberalism, instead clinging to the old one-dimensional left/right model which simply isn’t sufficient to describe people’s political position, or to describe accurately where the LibDems feature in the political landscape.

    Thus, this article just shows how far we are from a point where mutual understanding is possible. How can there be an honest conversation if one side is unwilling to deal with the LibDems as they are, and insists that before any deal is possible, they turn into the LibDems as Labour wants them to be?

    Frankly, it makes me sad. I’d rather like to see a coalition between LibDems and Labour: in policy terms that ought to be an easier fit in many respects. But the Labour mindset needs to move on to understand the fundamentals of collaboration between *distinct* parties. No wonder that they haven’t yet come up with an analysis of the current coalition which actually matches reality and which would help them to become the effective opposition we urgently need.

  • @Simon McGrath

    “Which would be laughable if we didn’t have ‘ useful idiots’ like Richard Grayson and Linda Jack working from inside our party (while sitting on Labour Party Committees) to bring this about.”

    Nice display of intra-party tribalism. Of course, it might be said that the only ‘useful idiots’ are the trojan horse tories such as yourself…

  • Cheltenham Robin 23rd Apr '11 - 10:26am

    @ Maria “As long as Labour doesn’t understand that the LibDems aren’t just ‘Labour Light”
    ——————————————————————-

    Unfortunately in my constituency of Cheltenham and in others such as Bath and Chippenham that is exactly what we portrayed ouselves as.

    The elction campaign in these constituencies had 3 messages.

    1) Our candidate is a good bloke standing up for …………

    2) You can’t trust the Tories

    3) Labour can’t win (so vote for us because we’re a bit like them only nicer)

  • David Boothroyd 23rd Apr '11 - 10:40am

    It would be profoundly in the interests of Liberalism (and liberalism) if there were no Liberal party and instead left-wing Liberals formed a community of opinion within a left-wing party while right-wing Liberals joined a right-wing party. That way would mean the ideal political system of two broadly based but ideologically distinct parties, each capable of government, competing with each other.

  • Typical narrow minded Labour view that we’re currently being hijacked by right wingers. No, we cannot stay in Coalition with the Tories indefinitely, just for as long as it’s the best option for us, for them and for Britain.

  • I agree with “Jock”. Is it accurate to describe the Conservatives and the current LibDems as “progressive”/

  • So err, Vince Cable as a useful idiot too then?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/22/vote-for-av-vince-cable

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Apr '11 - 12:01pm

    @peter – ‘if course, it might be said that the only ‘useful idiots’ are the trojan horse tories such as yourself…’

    I joined the party in 1976 .. an awful long time to be a Trojan horse.
    @G – have you actually read the article – vince is calling for an alliance on AV. Nothing else. and he isnt as far as I know on any labour party committees.

  • Of course we could form a coalition government with Labour, we have just as much if not more in common policy wise with the Labour Tradition as we do with the Tories. What it will take though is Labour to grow up and stop blaming us for the coalition and all the cuts (many of which they would have made themselves had the won the election) when they failed to win enough seas and had a very unpopular Leader which made such a coalition after the last election impossible. On the other hand we need to stop arbitrarily attacking Labour whilst seemingly defending the Tories we should be critical of both where they deserve it, although that is a difficult if not impossible thing to do whilst collective responsibility demands we defend all Government Policies without even pointing out what the Lib Dem position is.

  • paul barker 23rd Apr '11 - 2:00pm

    Why are we even giving this the time of day ? We should seriously consider splitting so we can become Labours b*tch, sorry, junior partner ? Would any Labour site publish an appeal for Labour to split so their liberal faction could work with us ?

    Labour arent Progressive. Dont take my word for it , there was a poll on this very question in 2009 – the results on “who is progressive ?”
    Libdems & Conservatives came equal 1st with 22%,
    Green a close 2nd with 17%,
    Labour 3rd with 12%.
    Thats the “Peoples” verdict.

    Of course we are open to Coalition with Labour in 2015, if the numbers are right & they offer us a good deal, thats 4 years away.
    I think Lawson is going to look fairly silly a lot sooner than that, in 12 days when the Libdem “meltdown” fails to appear.
    To put my neck on the line I am predicting Libdem losses of 200 seats or less in the English locals.

  • @Alex M
    Spot on. If the party believes in pluralism it means that they should be willing to explore working with anyone. The problem here is that Clegg and others to the right of the Party do not seem (and it could just be appearences) to want to work with Labour full stop…

    @Simon McGrath
    Whilst you may see them as idiots, perhaps they actually believe in pluralism and their work may help Labour see that the Lib Dems are not Labour Light. I would like to see a similar thing happening with the Tories before the next election. The Labour process needs to be now as they are rightly reacting to the publice wholesale rejection of them by examing all policy areas.

    Personally I have previously voted Labour but voted Lib Dem at the last few elections. My reasoning has always been based upon policies on offer and the perceived integrity of the party I am voting for (not to mention a healthy dose of tactical voting on one occaision). Integrity has taken a massive hit with tuition fees but the former holds true. I would see the Lib Dems curbing some of the more right wing tendancies in a Tory coalition, I would want them to tackle Labour authoritarian nature in a Labour Coalition. Would I would not want is a love in (as we seem to have now) or anything more permanent than one parliament (obviously the same combination may be appropriate following an election).

    For any coalition to work the whole concept of collective responsibility needs to be addressed. Parties should only be required to collectively take responsibility for items in the agreement (and any subsequent one passed by appropriate party mechanisms). Other than that criticism should be allowed and indeed welcomed. The voters need to know what parties stand for. This would neccesitate a decent period post election for negotiations, as in other countries where coalition is the norm.

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Apr '11 - 5:04pm

    @Steve way – when I described them as ‘useful idiots’ it was the Leninisnt meaning I had in mind. Defintion from Wikipedia:

    “In political jargon, the term useful idiot was used to describe Soviet sympathizers in Western countries. The implication is that though the person in question naïvely thinks themselves an ally of the Soviets or other ideologies, they are actually held in contempt by them, and were being cynically used.”

  • Funny, I rather see Richard Grayson as a member of the Maquis circa 1940 than a Stalinist patsy.

  • @Simon McGrath
    None of which changes my point. If a party is truly pluralist it needs to be prepared to work with any and all other parties towards common goals. Those who took up Labours invitation cannot really lose. Either it will be genuine and it will foster better understanding of common ground AND differences, or Labour will be playing a game and will be seen by the electorate to have done so.

    There are many on the right of the Tory party who probably see many Lib Dem MP’s as useful idiots at this time…..

    The truth is even to their supporters, Labour were a spent force and needed time in opposition to re think. For any coalition to work with them they need to curb the authoritarian approach that was followed in the latter Blair and Brown years. But the Tories are no better, it was right to form this coalition but closing doors off to Labour before an election may scare voters off who feel that a vote for the Lib dems will only prop up another Tory led government.

  • ‘On the other hand we need to stop arbitrarily attacking Labour whilst seemingly defending the Tories we should be critical of both where they deserve it, although that is a difficult if not impossible thing to do whilst collective responsibility demands we defend all Government Policies without even pointing out what the Lib Dem position is.’

    The trouble is the basic economic policy of the Tories (when to deal with the deficit & when to make cuts etc) we quite rightly opposed whilst in opposition and were closer to Labour on this key issue in the election of 2010. The Tories reluctantly offered a referendum on AV not PR; probably not as a middle way compromise but because they knew it would be easier to defeat & discredit than one of genuine PR. So the coalition was born with a very few other pallatives to Liberals – one being that of raising low income earners out of tax.

    If AV is defeated then we should begin to make moves to a Labour Party under Ed Milliband that is seemingly becoming a different beast. Mr Milliband is supporting electoral reform unlike our coalition partners and we agree with him and his party on social & economic issues, foreign affairs, Europe etc far more than Cameron., Osborne, Haig et el. The referendum on AV exposes the sham nature of this unnatural coalition. Just take a look at his virilent and obnoxious Right Wing bank benchers – can we really stomach sitting with these reactionaries.

    I think one will find that Ed Milliband will increasingly reject the authoritarian old (new) Labour – I believe we will not be hearing any more on ID cards and similar however much their old guard reactionaries like Reed & Blunket et el (yes Labour has it’s fiar share) will carry on as cheerleaders. There is a good chance that Labour will re-discover their civil liberty ethos of old and thereby making a much more natural coaltion with them more possible and certainly more pallatable than the present one.

    This coalition is what the Tories do best i.e. riding on the Lib Dems to get power (despite the electorate voting overwhlmingly against their sort of policies) promising this that and the other while in reality ensuring it is their policies and only their policies that actually hold sway. The AV referendum simply reveals all this of course – Cameron’s seeming broken promise that he will keep a low profile, and not criticising the excesses of the NO Campaign; as if pretending that it is not being organised and basically run & funded by the Tories and their donors.

    The NO Campaign has sunk to low levels but what on earth do we expect from that lot – their main reason for the coalition let’s face it was, as I have said, to get power by any means and of course to suck the life out of us and destroy our party which they have always hated. Look at the way the NO Campaign is trying to discredit Nick Clegg – for (can you believe) agreeing to compromise his policies to create the colaition which got them into power (that’s rich isn’t it!). Talk about being ungrateful but of course it just proves that they are suc a lot of ——!

    At last spurred on by the sudden realisation that the Tories are (have always been and will always be) a bunch of ……. Nick (God bless) is beginning to criticise Cameron – twice in two days! Vince we see has just about had it with them and so too

    So let’s now begin to make a rainbow deal and kick the Tories out – if the AV referendum is lost a new Rainbow Coalition will put a vote to the people for PR or FPtheP and see what the peole decide then – after all the Tories themselves argue, don’t they (?), that that should be the real choice in a referendum on electoral reform. I agree.

    Finally:

    ‘As with Labour, so the Liberal Democrats have been the victims of a takeover by a small, rather neo-liberal elite. There will be a reaction to this – and there already is; witness their conference vote on rejecting NHS reforms. And remember, too, that, unlike Labour, they are still a democratic party. …’ Exactly the so called neo-liberals are a small minority and do not represent the Lib Dem grassroots.

  • By the way – of course if the Referendum goes for a NO the Tories are double winners as in the ‘agreement’ they get (wrongly in my opnion) a reduction in the number of seats. Coupled with the Simple Plurality System of voting (if it were ot remain) – the Tories could well be in power for years to come; of course on their own having seen off electoral reform and the Lib Dems at one stroke!

  • @Judith:

    Yes, Labour may be patronising sometimes, but I’d take that over the Tories any day. The fact is that the election of 2010, LibDems campaigned on a platform which was miles closer to Labour’s than the Tories’. The majority of the country did not vote for right-wing, reactionary and uncaring Tory policy. Most people voted LD and Labour. There indeed is a progressive majority in the UK.

    The Tories always hated the NHS, voted against it at its’ inception and chronically underfunded it whenever in power. And now it looks, to me, like they want to truly pave the way for future privatisation. LDs did not campaign on this! The public don’t want it. The plans should be scrapped.

    The way the government has been scapegoating the sick and disabled is something LDs should speak out against, but you’ve just been letting it happen. Labour were horrible towards the disabled as well, at times, but not as nasty as the Tories are now. One who doesn’t live here would think it was the sick and disabled who created the crisis based on the way the Tories and their press talk.

    A few weeks ago Clegg was attacking social privilege. All well and good and I agree with him. And then what does Cameron do? Come out FOR social privilege seemingly to undermine Clegg. And the nasty lies of the NO2AV campaign is disgusting. The Tories have never cared for the average man in the street and we all know it. They care for big business, money and more money. They are the most reactionary, uncaring force in UK politics. And our party is letting the Tories be Tories. Why? To placate the all-powerful markets who are more important to the Tories than people? Well, it’s what Tories do. It’s what they’ve always done.

    Labour may have become authoritarian under Blair/Brown and they made plenty of mistakes, don’t we all know it?! But, IMO, I’d rather work with Labour any day rather than the Tories. The Tories stand for the rich, big business and the ruling class. The LDs never did, but the public long started to associate you with the Tories.

    We’re probably going to be battered on May the 5th. And the longer we enable the Tories, the lower our support will drop. Our voters are warning the LDs. Either we start to listen to the mostly left-of-centre people who voted for us, or we die. I see it being as simple as that.

  • Well done Charlie – let’s hope more realise the truth in what you are saying at last!

    But in answer to :

    ‘I believe you have an inflated sense of the Lib-Dem’s importance as understood by the Conservative party.
    If they hate anyone, and the visceral hate always appears to emanate from the left, then it would be labour for it is they that are the real competition, just as it is they that hold the key to release a generation of voters poisoned against the Tories as a result of the Thatcher years.
    Quite frankly, the Lib-Dem’s do not feature in this calculation significantly.’

    You perhaps reveal yourself as some one from the Right! For in my experience having grown up in a very Tory area amongst Tories – the Right hold the keys to hating people believe you me; conversly the Left generally do not have hate on their agenda. (Apart from the extreme Left)

    That’s the first point but the second is where you say I have ‘an inflated sense of the Lib-Dem’s importance as understood by the Conservative party’. Actually no one party thank goodness holds the key to power any more and with a vote for electoral reform even less so in the future. We now live in a multi-party society where other than the main old parties can decide our future. Sadly for both Tory & Labour Party – especially the Tories for as Charlie said most people are left of centre – governments are more vulnerable than before to third party opinion. Were the Lib Dems to withdraw their support for this coalition Cameron could hold an election but my guess is that the Left and Centre Left would this time win over 50% of the seats. This in turn would lead to a more natural coalition of a (hopefully and I do believe) less authoritarian Labour Party with Lib Dems and others like Greens, Plaid and SNP (all centre Left and progressive). This Rainbow Coalition government had been denied the voters in 2010 – we can redress that by acting to oust the Tories.

  • Interesting you quote Daniel Hannan who of course is a very right wing anti-European Conservative and member of the Conservative Party and an MEP for that Party.

    Many conservatives might like to call themselves classical liberals but that is a subterfuge for what they are in reality which is of course laissez faire Conservatives – maybe not Tories in the old sense but in today’s politics – of the Right.

    As a modern Liberal I believe in political freedom and civil liberties. That is why I and other Lib Dems support the European Court of Human Rights which anti- Europeans inc. Mr Hannan (and I presume ipso facto you too) would not support. I also believe in protecting the poor and vulnerable.

    Of course a democratically accountable state needs to regulate certain activities that impinge upon the rights of vulnerable people such as the elderly, children, ao. The state also needs to regulate corporations from exploiting employees and unions’ rights, as they do consumers, by checking on Cartels and unfair practices. Obviously any intervention by the state needs be subject to democratic accountability through Parliament and even better through strong regional and local government. Just as the police need to be fully accountable and acting within the rule of law; which is why I believe that there needs be an independent check on any police activities an actions that might be deemed to infringe civil liberties. Which is a good reason to support a written constitution and Bill of Rights as in the US; and separation of powers. It is also a valid reason for more local democratically accountable bodies and other measures to ensure against arbitrary or unnecessary intrusion into a person’s privacy eg ID Cards etc.

    Of course to a so called classical liberal (i.e. someone who would today be numbered as included within the modern British Conservative Party umbrella – which of course still includes paternalist Tories & more Left leaning social Tories too et el) this is seen as an intrusion, but it is only intrusion to protect people from exploitation and harm etc.

    We are no longer living in the 18th Century which is why to be a Liberal today has a somewhat different meaning to one 200 years ago or more. The modern Liberal and Lib Dem Party is much more a party of LLoyd George, the 1929 Yellow Book, Keynes, Beveridge & Jo Grimond etc than Wm. Gladstone – but still upholding many of the political freedoms in which the latter believed – just not the economic ones! After all Mrs. Thatcher was not entirely incorrect to say that she was the heir of Gladstone, but of course only in fiscal economy/fiscal prudence; just like Geo. Osborne, in fact, with his obsession with cuts and his real objective of shrinking the state’s intervention in social and economic protection for the vulnerable.

    So – no you are not my type of liberal because you a Conservative of the Right.

  • David Orr Posted 24th April 2011 at 7:13 pm

    @”…the Right hold the keys to hating people believe you me..” & “…the Left generally do not have hate on their agenda…”

    More of that Socialist tolerance I see, have you read many of the comments on this site? I only ask as there are plenty of examples of foaming at the mouth hatred of both the right and the Labour Party (I would guess that most of the people who comment here are not from the extreme left). In fact it gets so bad that it can blind people to certain facts, how about:

    “..Most people voted LD and Labour..” Er no, they didn’t, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a need for all the small parties to form the coalition that was originally talked about.

    Some other points:

    “… Rainbow Coalition government had been denied the voters in 2010 …”

    Actually, them there pesky voters denied the politicians a cosy little coalition, because on the whole history shows that the left tend to hate other versions of the left only slightly less than they hate the right. Voting the way they did made made it very hard for the left to establish a coalition.

    “… especially the Tories for as Charlie said most people are left of centre …”

    As some one who has a passing interest in politics, I would appreciate the links to articles that show this. A huge chunk of people didn’t bother to vote all so how were their allegiences determined?

    “… Cameron could hold an election but my guess is that the Left and Centre Left would this time win over 50% of the seats …”

    Quite a gamble, but even if it turned out to be true then I would guess that Labour would win by enough to avoid coalition with the LDP (you don’t have a particularly good rep amongst some Labour people), though they may need a couple of the smaller parties.

    “… Plaid and SNP …”
    Nice bit of short termism there, so these 2 would demand extra funding to prop up that coalition which would mean extra cuts in England. I don’t suppose you care to much about that as England seems to be far more centre right than Wales and Scotland and is probably hated for “not seeing the true light”.

    @ Jedibeeftrix Posted 24th April 2011 at 8:11 pm

    “.. How many ways can the government legally force entry into your home? ..”

    I’ve heard the same sort of figures, HM Customs always had the right to search without a warrant of course. But when Gordon merged them with the IR they never removed that right, do you happen to know it the tax people adopted the no warrant right as a consequence of the merger?

    PS, just saw your site, love Ubuntu – had a hard disk crash one of my boxes last month and have been running it off DVD since with hardly any issues – try that with Windows!! When I’ve scraped enough together to get another disk it’ll be loaded and that machine will become my main workhorse (apologies, 100% of topic there).

  • Ignoring your condescending comment on apple pie – which I have heard so often from people who loathe the idea of a welfare state

    ‘And yet the first instinct is to play the caricature, and not read what he said. That is disappointing.’

    You are assuming incorrectly – and having read what he said, and having heard other things he has said in the past, I still find myself in almost (not of course total) disagreement.

    The conservative idea of liberty always ignores social liberty as being of equal importance to political freedom in order to ensure that liberty is geniune for everybody in a modern society. One way of ensuring social & economic liberty is having a progressive tax system. Freedom from want & poverty, is mainly guaranteed by our welfare state. This can only be fairly paid for by income tax.

    Taxation is not a ‘diminution of personal autonomy’ as it is a way that individuals can contribute to the community and support those less privileged than themselves. Income tax is a progressive way of re-balancing society and protecting the poor and disadvantaged. Daniel’s criticism of taxation reveals both his and those generally on the Right’s hostility to ensuring a fair distribution of wealth.

    Of course we could indeed lower tax to reduce genuine waste:

    One way we could possibly reduce taxes is if we spend less not on essential services etc but on so called defence. Britain is a medium power and so we should start by cutting trident and reducing the size of the armed forces to match our medium power status position in the world to other countries such as Denmark or Germany. Even better would be to pool our defence resources with Europe as was suggested the other day. Another way of reducing taxation would be to get rid of the monarchy (and hangers on) and other useless wastes of expenditure (how much is this so called royal wedding costing the taxpayer?) rather than nurses or teachers.

    Liberty is not today a narrowly defined or easily defined term.

  • “I have a friend who likewise has a duff harddrive that will not accept windows, and he too finds that Ubuntu copes magnificently regardless.”

    And broadly speaking socialism produced Ubuntu and capitalism produced Windows. Don’t think about that one too hard or your brain might explode.

  • William Cullerne Bow rightly says that this thread should remain live for some time because the topic is so important – that is one of the things that frustrates me about this form of communication: this will shortly just disappear under the weight of subsequent, often less important topics.

    On the subject of ‘progressive’ majorities though: I’ve done a bit of research on this and looked at the share of the vote at every election since 1945, both UK wide and in England, and I am a bit surprised to find that if you take the Labour/Liberal/SNP/PC vote as ‘progressive’ (room for argument, I accept) as opposed to the Conservative vote then at every election with the exception of 1955 the UK progressive vote is larger than the Conservative vote, and even more surprisingly this is true in England as well. In addition, the disparity between the UK Tory vote share and the English Tory vote is smaller than I would have guessed, being 3.1% in 2010 and at its maximum in 1987 at 3.9%.

  • David Orr – “….how much is this royal wedding costing the taxpayer?” In direct terms, a piffling amount. In terms of the imposition of an extra day’s holiday by the government an absolute fortune: I employ four people, and my wage bill for one day is £385, so that is straight out of the (non-existent) profits of the business, in addition to the loss of production at our busiest time of the year when we can, just about make a profit. So thanks, Cameron: you could have told them to get married on Saturday like everybody else, but the chance to curry favour with the electorate just before an election was too tempting. Party of small business my a…!

  • “..Most people voted LD and Labour..” Er no, they didn’t, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a need for all the small parties to form the coalition that was originally talked about.

    Er yes, they did actually – over 50% of people voted lib dem and labour combined.

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