There are issues more important than Europe

David Cameron famously told his party to ‘stop banging on about Europe’, are we in the Liberal Democrats in danger of doing the same? I fear we are.

With our seemingly exclusive focus on Europe we are missing a more fundamental concern for British voters, to paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign message ‘it’s the economy stupid!’

An Ashcroft poll conducted in September this year showed that although most voters agreed that negotiating the best Brexit deal possible was the top priority for the country as a whole when it came to issues facing themselves and their families it came fourth behind tackling the cost of living, improving the NHS and getting the economy moving. This doesn’t surprise me.

Like many I was dumbfounded by the result in June. For the first time I felt there were huge sections of our society that I neither knew nor understood. It would be easy to write off the 17,410,742 who voted to leave as xenophobic, racist, ignorant or just conned by an anti EU media establishment. That would be a mistake.

I have spent the last few months thinking about why, when to me the arguments for remain were clear, we as a nation voted to leave.  My belief is that confused by a torrent of dubious facts from both sides a significant proportion of the electorate assessed the ‘state of nation’ and concluded that it simply wasn’t good enough. With nothing to lose they voted accordingly.

Should we really be so surprised by this? Faced with falling real wages, declining social mobility, greater financial insecurity and government policy that rescued the banks but let the steel industry wither it really isn’t that shocking that so many voted as they did.

As Liberal Democrats we are certainly doing a great job articulating the publics concerns about Brexit. Since June we have become the rallying point for those deeply worried about the implications of a hard Brexit and a recent YouGov poll  showed that we could gain significant electoral advantage in the event of a snap general election. 

Important though Brexit is we need to do more to address peoples day-to-day concerns about themselves, their families and their communities. Fortuitously as I write this Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned that as a country we need to do more to help those left behind by globalisation and the financial crisis.

The tectonic plates of British politics are shifting and a tidal wave of discontentment is upon us. With the Labour Party in disarray there is a huge opportunity to gain electoral advantage by addressing these concerns.

We need a bold, radical and most importantly inclusive economic policy that shows the electorate that we are able to tackle the cost of living and get the economy moving across the whole of the UK. To do this perhaps we need to stop ‘banging on about Europe’ so much and talk about something else.

* Ashley Cartman is a Lib Dem member in North Somerset

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39 Comments

  • Max Wilkinson 7th Dec '16 - 10:46am

    We need to bang on about anything that gets us noticed. If there’s a chance to bang on about something that we care passionately about that the media will report, and that voters in our market also care about, then we’re onto a good thing.

    When we become newsworthy enough again, we might get the chance to bang on about other things. You are right that when this moment comes we must have other issues to talk about.

  • ethicsgradient 7th Dec '16 - 10:49am

    I think it is hard to move away for the fact that Brexit/EU relationship will and does affect every other area of people lives (directly or indirectly). So Brexit will remain the overarching and most important issue for the next 5 years.

    However I agree with you. The Lib dems need to talk about and offer a fully inclusive vision of the future and translate that into a practise manifesto to put to the people.

    Ashley Cartman makes a good call. Lib dems need to start developing that ‘new deal’ (got get a bit fo FDR liberism in there) for the public ( the tuition fee deceit is receding but I would advise keeping Clegg away from anything non-EU (I disagree with him but he is at least as authentic on the EU).

  • The topics mentioned by Ashley are all intimately affected by the decision to leave the EU (along with others no less urgently important – particularly climate change and other environmental change). We need to get to grips with arguing for a ppolitico – democratic Europe and wider world, which basically Remain failed to do, along with its precursor, the Clegg v Farage debate, which Nick was widely reported to have “lost”.
    Max Wilkinson – people ARE starting to listen, and if we show clear links they will take even more notice. Ashley – your argument makes better sense linking, rather than separating them into “different” topics. Lib Dems have consistently underpreformed at Euro elections precisely because of this failure over many years. European (and world) politics are vitally important – a democratic dimension, eg voting for our MEPs, gives us all the chance to participate.

  • David Evans 7th Dec '16 - 11:11am

    Sorry Ashley, but having started well I think you have fallen into the old trap of believing you know best for everyone.

    The good start was to say it would be a mistake to write off the 17,410,742 who voted to leave as xenophobic, racist, ignorant or just conned by an anti EU media establishment.

    But then you spoiled it by saying “My belief is that confused by a torrent of dubious facts from both sides a significant proportion of the electorate concluded that … it simply wasn’t good enough.”

    I think you are in danger of talking down to people who disagree with you, without looking at things from their viewpoint. Putting it simply, if you were a young(ish) person say under 35; with a good job in London, getting regular payrises and promotions; working for a company with lots of multinational connections that is good at exploiting the opportunities offered by a free market; frequenting places and meeting people of all sorts with a similar outlook and making friends with some them; who can see that EU membership has been very beneficial to all those people and things that are most important to you (i.e. to your community), you would almost certainly vote remain.

  • The two issues are interlinked – if you believe that the singe market is good for the economy, or don’t think we have the right people negotiating these marvellous new trade deals we’ve been promised. Mr Trump says we can’t even devalue without his permission and he may want us to pay for a wall somewhere. There is a concerned campaign to bounce the Nato into wasting 2% of GDP on ‘defence’.

    Chances are though, the UK will have left the EU before the next general election. If we want to address peoples everyday concerns, we will need some new policies and values.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Dec '16 - 11:31am

    Ashcroft wrote up his poll in the Daily Telegraph. Although he is a Tory the poll is fair enough as expressing the view of the UK population as wanting to have their cake and eat it. Ashcroft called it a challenging objective.
    “Call me Boris” was on Peston-on-Sunday and presented with a slice of cake, but ITV went into a commercial break, after which he had disappeared and the debate moved on. He is biking less than previously. He said that in Pakistan he was accompanied by numerous police cars, two ambulances and a fire engine.
    Tory MEP Hannon looked downcast after the Richmond Park by-election, but was previously optimistic about the UK’s prospects for trade with the rest of the world. His confidence was not supported by evidence.

  • Please note that we do not allow people to get around our word limit on comments by posting “Part 2” comments. Any comments that fit this description will be removed.

  • John Peters 7th Dec '16 - 11:42am

    @David Evans

    Would you agree with the following?

    On the other hand, if you lived somewhere else, and the most important things to you are your friends, family and local community, which happens to be in rural Lincolnshire. You weren’t quite so good at school, but have an average level of education, didn’t get to university, so you looked to build your future in the place you were born. Your friends and family are mainly people who have lived in your area all of their lives, but their jobs are manual, seasonal and generally not well paid but not low enough to benefit from the minimum wage. There is little opportunity to change jobs and get a promotion and no way could you afford to move to London to work while supporting your wife and child in Lincolnshire. Wages have been suppressed by an influx of workers who are mainly single and prepared to live six to a house, or who can afford to leave their family behind while working in the UK, because living costs are so much less in their home country. As a result of the overall economic situation, unemployment is increasing and you see your community being allowed to decline; rural busses have been cut to non-existence, so you can’t get to see your friends as often as you could in the past. All in all you see EU politicians talking about the problems (maybe) but like most politicians, never doing anything about them. How would you vote?

    Until we realise that both individuals have come to equally valid liberal, but totally different, conclusions based on what is important to them, we will fail to even start to address the problems we now face of inequality and injustice. And if we continue to fail to address them, then ever more extreme parties will fill the void with a message of division and despair.

  • Ashley Cartman hits the nail on the head. We need policies that speak to the condition of the nation. It is not : “We need to bang on about anything that gets us noticed”. That trivialises politics.
    As the trustee of a food bank with over 3,000 ‘clients’ (a third children), I know we live in a very unequal society. Many people see globalisation and the power of multinational corporations as the source of their predicament and kick out because they feel powerless and disenfranchised.
    Today, drugs giant Pfizer has been fined a record £84.2m by the UK’s competition watchdog for overcharging the NHS for an anti-epilepsy drug. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also fined distributor Flynn Pharma £5.2m for the 2,600% overnight price increase for the drug in 2012.NHS spending on the capsules, used by 48,000 UK patients, rose from £2m a year in 2012 to about £50m in 2013. This, at a time the NHS is in crisis with social work crumbling. The whole issue of private profit including PFI needs to be examined and tackled in the NHS and local government.
    The old Liberal Party had great research (Rowntree, Keynes,Beveridge). We need a serious effort today or we are just fluff. Relying on neo-liberal economics and the wonders of ‘the market’ is not good enough. In the 1960’s Harry Cowie as Research Officer worked with teams of university advisers to produce policy. It would be re-assuring to know if a similar effort goes on today – (competency in the finance department, too ?). Tim needs serious advice to enable him to articulate the whole spectrum of policy. We must avoid the charge of being a 24 hour flash in the pan anti-Brexit one trick pony.

  • People rarely vote just for one issue. While judging peoples priorities is useful it doesn’t give the whole picture. The poll says at one two and three are ” cost of living, improving the NHS and getting the economy moving” but if four goes badly, the cost of living will go up, the NHS will be even more under funded and the economy will crash. So in my opinion by tacking four your actually addressing the other three. The Lib Dems need to make that argument and show they can do joined up politics not just issue based ones.

  • David Evans 7th Dec '16 - 12:43pm

    Indeed I would agree John.

    As we all know (well most of us know) Liberalism is a complex multi faceted philosophy and exploring two sides to an argument is not something that can be short circuited, and where the indiscriminate enforcement of conformity through the application an arbitrary word limit ultimately acts simply to stifle debate and discussion.

  • We also need to be a lot more precise at discerning to what extent these issues are the fault of UK government policy and how much is due to the impact of EU policy. House prices for example. Prices bumped up by overseas buy-to-let landlords; didn’t need to happen. Immigration; why has the governments got such a poor handle on who is coming and going, from where and what for. Why is immigration from outside the EU so high. Benefit systems may not discriminate but can be taylored more effectively. Distribution of wealth generation; why has government be so ineffective (BBC moving to Salford is a great example). Getting to grips with these issues will not only dispel myths but guide policy making.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Dec '16 - 12:52pm

    Ashley

    I read the headline and nearly reached for the smelling salts ! Oh, surely not someone actually seeing and saying more than …EU… Brexit…?! Well done , on the whole article , and confusion on the part of the electorate is par for the course in divisive campaigns , so no need to feel insulting implying it .

    I do agree with David Raw on something too , getting noticed for it’s sake is childish . Better to be decent , professional and obscure and grow from there , than silly embarassing and noticed , as a joke .

    David Raw
    One thing , though , David , we must stop the absurd over-use of vast multi -national companies in health care , but never equate the private sector with that only , most doctors are self employed and many therapists and providers of treatments could and should be brought in involved in the NHS if we had that thing which is at the heart of Liberalism but not the NHS, flexibility .

  • The thing about Brexit is that it is about more than Brexit.

    Received wisdom (rightly IMO) sees the Leave vote as comprising a range of views on the EU (including “soft Brexiters” with whom we may make common cause) and, as with Trump, a strong sense of communities “left behind” by the establishment, much of which has nothing to do with Europe other than the belief that the EU was a sacred cow for the elite. Conversely, much of the reaction from Remainers is about a sense that xenophobia and racism have been unintentionally given a shot in the arm, along with a desire to turn the clock back to a non-existent fantasy past.

    Two opportunities follow: first, opposition to Brexit is a signal to all who reject xenophiobia and reactionary politics; and second, that we can address the concerns of the left behind about lack of democratic accountability, community spirit, and regional economies. Watch John Harris’s excellent video reports for the Guardian and see how few of the eurosceptics of Sleaford are actually taking about the EU or even immigration, and ask whether any of their desires or concerns are incompatible with our vision. Damn few IMO.

  • Phil Wainewright 7th Dec '16 - 1:35pm

    I’m a firm believer we should have something that stands out as an economic policy, and which speaks to the “left behind”. It would reinforce our message of social inclusion and give these voters a reason to back us even if they disagree with our EU stance.

  • ethicsgradient 7th Dec '16 - 1:58pm

    the key thing that has been missing for a while is some form of aspirational vision.

    Thatcher (love or hate her) gave aspiration in feeling that anyone could better themselves. you could be working class, setup a business and make your own life. you could buy your own house and invest for the first time. These were big changes to the previous post war consensus.

    Blair , gave aspiration to those left behind but the Thatcher social changes; exposed by the early 90’s recession. Those 5 pledges held great aspiration: everyone would be able to get a chance to get on, all would be protected. Education, education, education On a side point the pledge to keep to Tory spending limits for the 1st 3 (was it 2?) years of parliament provided the trust in competency in running the economy (no old left spend and bust).

    So lib dems to attract floating voters like myself (taking out the point that i voted to leave and continue to do so). Give me a vision where I feel I can do better for myself. build policy around that core vision.

  • ethicsgradient 7th Dec ’16 – 1:58pm…..the key thing that has been missing for a while is some form of aspirational vision……..Thatcher (love or hate her) gave aspiration in feeling that anyone could better themselves. you could be working class, setup a business and make your own life. you could buy your own house and invest for the first time. These were big changes to the previous post war consensus……

    Thatcher’s visions were a mirage…How many held on to their shares when, within days, a quick guaranteed profit could be made?
    How many lured into ‘home ownership’ found ‘negative equity’ and soaring mortgage rates shortly after buying into that dream?
    How many ‘Right to Buy’ council homes are now ‘Buy to Rent’ properties with those who should have benefitted from ‘Council Rents’ only able to afford them with massive taxpayer’s ‘housing benefit’s?

  • Andrew McCaig 7th Dec '16 - 3:29pm

    Expats
    To be fair, most of the ex-council houses rented in the private sector are there because of natural processes: middle aged people buy cheap in 1980, they die and the house has to be sold, but the children get the money…
    There are 2 things historically wrong with right to buy: firstly councils were not allowed to reinvest the proceeds in social housing due to barmy monetarist economics. Secondly, in the modern era private tenants are not given the same right (which does expose it as a fundamentally unfair policy…)

  • Richard Underhill 7th Dec '16 - 3:29pm

    At PMQ today the first obvious point is that the Labour leader did not ask the Labour deputy leader to deputise for him. Previously Angela Eagle had done well at PMQ and then stood for leader. At 24 hours notice he created a new post of shadowing a government role that does not exist and gave it to Emily Thornberry (Islington South & Finsbury). She did not say whether she would like to be Labour leader.
    The Tory leader of the house aspired to be PM in his answer to Peter Bone (husband of Mrs Bone) thanking him for the implied promotion and hoping it was not “career limiting”.
    Deliberately or accidentally he said who the government were consulting about what they wanted from Brexit. “The government is at the moment, engaged in a consultation with more than fifty sectors of United Kingdom business to ascertain precisely which aspects of European Union membership work well for them, which they see as harmful, where the opportunities beyond EU membership lie. We will come to a decision and we will go into negotiations on behalf of the full 100% of United Kingdom population and all four nations of the United Kingdom.” He then sat down. He should know the problem with lists. Does he really intend to exclude EU citizens who are not British? Does he only deal with trade associations, many of whom have internal divisions? What about the self-employed? the unemployed wishing to work? the disabled? etc, etc, etc?
    His hand signals will not be recorded in Hansard, but are on TV.
    The PM is a churchgoer and may not have time for card games. As the government whips hand out questions for use by whoever the Speaker chooses to call they should be a little more careful in exposing their ignorance. The negotiations with the EU27 are a very serious matter and not a game of cards. Gradual or total display is normal, in stud poker, in contract bridge and in other games played with cards or tiles. The bridge correspondents of the quality newspapers politely ascribe the drop in the quality of MPs to a recent lack of all night sittings in the Commons, while perhaps being unaware of an increasing volume of constituency casework.
    Missing from the assertions is the criterion used in the Northern Ireland negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement “Nothing has been agreed until everything has been agreed”.

  • Joseph Bourke 7th Dec '16 - 3:37pm

    Ashley concludes “We need a bold, radical and most importantly inclusive economic policy that shows the electorate that we are able to tackle the cost of living and get the economy moving across the whole of the UK.” I would argue we have it sitting in the drawer waiting to be pulled.

    Mark Carney, in his speech, identifies the key issues as avoidance of tax and responsibility by stateless corporation; low wages and economic insecurity; rising wealth inequality. Here, I would agree with his analysis.

    He goes on to argue that rising house prices have restored a level of economic security to savers beset by low interest rates. Here, I would disagree.

    The vast majority of household wealth in the UK is represented by housing equity and investments in pension funds. Increasingly , this wealth is becoming concentrated in fewer and fewer hands with home ownership and participation in company schemes falling dramatically along with real wage growth in recent years.

    An economic policy built around the collection and redistribution of economic rents (in the form of Land Value Tax) offers the prospect of addressing the key issues such as spurring productive economic growth, tackling corporate tax avoidance, income and wealth inequalities, low wages and high housing costs.

  • ethicsgradient 7th Dec '16 - 4:16pm

    @expats
    @Andrew McCaig

    To clarify, my point is not about the pros and cons of what Thatcher offered or whether it was illusionary or a mirage.

    My point was that a key part of both Thatcher and Blair’s offer to the public was apirational, indeed core to their platform. Whether the policies pursued by each is for a different discussion or at least, not relevant to a holistic vision that the Lib Dems might present the public with.

  • Andrew McCaig 7th Dec ’16 – 3:29pm…I agree with both your points and would add…
    Thirdly…In many cases children ‘clubbed together’ to buy their parents houses knowing that on their death they’d receive the ‘windfall’ of full-market price on a house bought at a major discount…

  • Andrew McCaig 7th Dec '16 - 5:00pm

    Ethics gradient,
    Yes, I agree, by organising a giant giveaway of state assets to council house tenants at the same time as the giant giveaway of state assets such as BT to rich people (and selling off another state asset, NSea oil, at a cheap price and returning the value on current account as tax cuts) Thatcher made herself very popular with both rich and poor..

    I would not like to pursue such irresponsible policies myself but maybe giving private tenants the right to buy with price offsetted by rent paid could make us very popular with everyone but landlords!

  • Andrew McCaig 7th Dec '16 - 5:03pm

    But I agree, as an expensive piece of populist social engineering, council house sales were quite successful. We are now reaping the downside with shortage of property, prohibitive rents, and councils with no money to help people however.

  • @ Richard Underhill “At PMQ today the first obvious point is that the Labour leader did not ask the Labour deputy leader to deputise for him”.

    There’s plenty to demonise Corbyn with without inventing conspiracies. The Deputy Leader was in Manchester at the Whitworth Gallery.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Dec '16 - 7:33pm

    David Raw 7/12/16 Please see Laura Kuenssberg on the Daily Politics at about 12 noon.

  • Joseph Burke,
    You are so right: “An economic policy built around the collection and redistribution of economic rents (in the form of Land Value Tax) offers the prospect of addressing the key issues such as spurring productive economic growth, tackling corporate tax avoidance, income and wealth inequalities, low wages and high housing costs.” However, this policy needs to be promoted in language that will be understood in the contemporary context rather continuing to use the 19th century terminology beloved by the disciples of Henry George.
    Fred Harrison, Research Director of the London-based Land Research Trust, gives a powerful brief account of his labours for economic justice and why they have failed and what to do instead on the link below:
    http://georgist.com/6-2013-october-announcements-fred-harrisons-new-website/
    and please follow the link to his “sharetherents.org” website.

  • @ Mr Underhill :

    Tom Watson ‏@tom_watson 5h
    If I had to pick a favourite gallery it might well be @WhitworthArt. With @mbalshaw in front of Andy Warhol earlier today.

  • It’s fair to say that we can’t just bang on about Brexit, and that having sound policies for tacking the economy is important, but it really is hard to get beyond the fact that the damage to the economy from Brexit will be significant, and any non-Brexit economic policy is tinkering at the edges. Nevertheless, we won’t convince pro-Brexit voters about this by repeating it, and not appearing to be able to talk about anything else risks us looking like a one-trick pony. Having other politics on the economy makes our claims about the EU more credible. And frankly, people don’t care if things are worse for the banks, because they blame the banks for the financial crisis. The fact that the banks struggling impacts on the economy which impacts on ordinary people, isn’t enough for some people not to want the banks to get a kicking.

    We need range of tangible policies that will improve things for the majority, regardless of whether we’re in or out of the EU. People need to see how these will benefit their own lives, and be convinced this isn’t just about helping business for the sake of their directors.

    On the subject of council houses, I think that in grand terms, selling off some of them was a good thing. It wasn’t just convenient for those who could afford to buy at a discount, but brought some investment into what used to be run-down estates. There would be a renewed sense of pride, and the privately owned homes acquired more character as their owners did non-council-standard improvements, which helped to give the estates characters, and added a bit of diversity in who lived there, and a sense of aspiration. Of course, this had the biggest impact where a portion of the properties were sold off. Selling off too many, and it’s all yuppies and private landlords making a profit, and risks making the most run-down estates where no-one wants to buy, feel worse.

    The whole thing could have been handled a lot better, and have to echo that the single biggest mistake was not allowing the councils to re-invest in replacement properties.

  • Barry Snelson 7th Dec '16 - 8:23pm

    The conclusion of this discussion appears to be that the LibDems should campaign for ever more imaginative taxes.

  • I just want to quote Ethics Gradient because he or she makes an important point that seems to have been missed in talk of Thatcher and council house sales:

    “Give me a vision where I feel I can do better for myself. build policy around that core vision.”

    This is crucial.

  • Ethicsgradient 8th Dec '16 - 2:19am

    @Adam Cain

    Quite correct. The point I was making was about giving the electorate an aspirational message to be able to better for themselves.

    On side note, the lack of a positive message for the remain side I think did contribute as a reason to losing the referendum ( one of many reasons not exclusive)

  • Simon Banks 8th Dec '16 - 7:12pm

    We should think about what we really mean by “the most important issue”. The most important issue facing us is climate change. The issue most likely to shift votes is the economy, but really that’s a whole bundle of issues.

    The EU issue, of course, feeds into both.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '16 - 6:28am

    David Evans

    But then you spoiled it by saying “My belief is that confused by a torrent of dubious facts from both sides a significant proportion of the electorate concluded that … it simply wasn’t good enough.”

    Well, when Brexiteers are asked to give some examples of actual things that the British people want to do and can do but can’t do due to the EU stopping them, they can’t.

    I have been asking this question again and again and again of Brexiteers ever since the referendum started and have got no clear reply. The only obvious thing is stopping immigration from the EU. I do understand why many people are concerned with this, and I don’t think they should be written off as just irrational racists for having that concern. Nevertheless, all this stuff about Brexit meaning “Britain takes control of itself again” and such ought to mean there are many other things that could easily be given. So, what are they?

    The reality is that the lack of control that is hurting people doesn’t come from the EU. IT comes from the Thatcherite policies of privatisation and allowing our economy to become dominated by big multi-national companies.

    The Brexit campaign was put it place to draw attention away from this and put the blame elsewhere. Not one Brexiteer has been able to give me concrete examples of control issues to cause me to think I am wrong in making this assumption. And the more they fail to do so, the more I think they are right. The fact that 52% of the population voted for Brexit does nothing to stop me thinking like that. And since I think that most of those who voted Brexit are not mad keen Thatcherites, yes indeed I do think they were fooled. If anyone who voted Brexit is insulted by me saying this, well, prove to me I am wrong by answering the my question.

    Oh, one answer was the working hours issue. Did people really vote Leave because they felt it was mightily wrong that the EU stopped big companies forcing them to work excessive hours?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '16 - 11:32am

    Fiona

    On the subject of council houses, I think that in grand terms, selling off some of them was a good thing. It wasn’t just convenient for those who could afford to buy at a discount, but brought some investment into what used to be run-down estates. There would be a renewed sense of pride, and the privately owned homes acquired more character

    My parents and my brother and sisters were perfectly proud of the house we grew up in, thank you very much, the fact that it was a council house did not stop that. The security of knowing it was our house, with a fixed rent and lifelong security to stay there gave us the pride the modern generations, having to live in cramped insecure private rented accommodation do not have.

    The fallback option of council housing, modest in size, but enough to meet your needs, available to anyone who needed it, kept general house prices down. As the free market people say, it is best for people to be able to keep their money and use it for investment and to build up businesses and the like, so taxes should be kept low. So why not say the same for house prices and rent?

    The lack of a fallback option means that our economy is dominated by wealth absorbers, people who make money by owning property rather than by work, and who suck dry those who do work for their money.

    If your housing is insecure, as it is if you are renting or paying a huge mortgage, you can’t afford to take risks, so this stifles enterprise, it is better to do safe-option jobs in order to be able to give most of what you earn to the wealth absorbers.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '16 - 11:51am

    Barry Nelson

    The conclusion of this discussion appears to be that the LibDems should campaign for ever more imaginative taxes.

    Does it even need to be particularly imaginative?

    Why can’t we just come out and say what ought to be obvious: “if you want it to be provided by government, it has to be paid for by taxes” and “If you aren’t willing to pay taxes for it, you will end up having to pay for it in some other way”.

    We were smashed to pieces in 2015 because we did not come out clearly and say this about university tuition. By electing a Parliament dominated by the Tories, as the British people did in 2010, and they were saying they didn’t want higher taxes, and they confirmed they wanted a Tory-dominated government in 2011 when they voted against electoral reform accepting the argument put by the Tories and those Labour people who said anything that the biggest party in terms of votes should be propped up. Well, fine, then things have to be cut. Sure, the Tories didn’t quite get a majority, but thanks to the electoral system that the people said they wanted, no other government but one dominated by the Tories was possible, and under those circumstances there was no way the LibDems could get the Tories to drop what was their number 1 pledge: keeping taxes low.

    What was cut was direct government subsidy of universities.

    And next time?

    It is no good waving hands and pretending there are easy ways to pay for things without raising more money. Might we not say that by now, since we have been told almost continuously since 1979 that there is government bureaucracy that can be cut to pay for it, that just perhaps there isn’t any more? If the answer is to put it all out into competition, how come private health care is so expensive, when surely if that line is right it should be cheaper than the NHS?

    And please, no more “Huh-huh, we can cut that to pay for it” (a favourite line of the pretend populists) when “that” costs millions and “it” costs billions. A billion is a thousand millions, you know.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '16 - 12:14pm

    Tim13

    We need to get to grips with arguing for a ppolitico – democratic Europe and wider world, which basically Remain failed to do, along with its precursor, the Clegg v Farage debate, which Nick was widely reported to have “lost”.

    Indeed. When arguing with political opponents, it usually works best to point out that they are not what they claim to be rather than use arguments that actually boost their false claims.

    Clegg’s main line against Farage was that he wanted to turn the clock back, and, er get Britain back to the golden age before 1973 when people felt secure and there were jobs for everyone, er … Not going to work, is it? Clegg was just supporting Farage by agreeing with what people voted Brexit thinking it would give.

    Meanwhile, the Brexiteers have been successful by claiming that liberals and social democrats are the opposite of what they claim to be, that they are an elite wanting dominance, that they oppose giving British people democratic control, that they want to stop freedom by imposing EU stuff (a bit vague on what the stuff might be, of course) on us. Mostly nonsense, but good tactics, yes?

    As I have said, the killer line against Brexit ought to have been that it was a diversionary tactic, to turn people away from realising that the true cause of the misery and lack of control and democracy that bothers them comes from decades of Thatcherite policy. Why no fuss about the way privatisation means lack of control? What’s the point of talking about control by the British people when Thatcherism means minimising that by taking away democratic government influence? And Farage claimed to be the true successor of Thatcher.

    Sadly, the Cleggies stopped us from doing this by pushing the Orange Book line “we too” to Thatcherism at just the point when the failures of Thatcherism to achieve what it was supposed to achieve were becoming obvious.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    Matthew. I couldn’t agree more with may of the things you say, which I have been saying for ages myself. Try this one for size.
    Why do we have two tax allowances for people who earn their living partly through speculation ie. Capital gains allowance and Personal allowance? Utterly ridiculous. Why do we allow multinational companies to pay tax linked to their country of domicile (McDonald’s is the latest example). Surely profits should be distributed according to business level in each country. There are a great deal of things that the LibDems can point to which can be changed and we can bring forward the policies to enact them.

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