Tim Farron’s full speech on the economy: the radical gems that weren’t in the extracts

In days of yore, 6 months ago, if the Liberal Democrat leader made a keynote speech on the economy, the journos would be there in force. While there was a bit of coverage on the Guardian and BBC, it was nowhere like it used to be. So, I guess that means it’s up to us, and by us I mean all Liberal Democrats, to get the word out. The first section of this piece has some commentary on the speech and the full text is at the bottom.

The trails sent out last night in my opinion missed out the best bits of the speech. The whole thing covered a huge amount of ground from entrepreneurship to mass migration to climate change to inter-generational fairness to massive investment in infrastructure to housing. There were also some key elements that weren’t there quite as strongly as I’d have liked, for example on the living wage and tackling poverty and inequality. He spoke of these things in his Beveridge Lecture to the Social Liberal Forum two years ago.

He cast the Liberal Democrats as the party of small business, innovation and creativity, while the Conservatives were the party of corporatism:

The fact is that the Tories aren’t really pro-free market capitalism at all.  They are pro-corporate capitalism.

They are there to fight not for entrepreneurs, not for innovators who oil the wheels of the market, but for the status quo.

In recent years, a common criticism of the Liberal Democrats is that we have been way too establishment. Tim Farron sets out that we are no such thing, likening us to entrepreneurs as the insurgents:

So I say “let the Tories be the Party of huge complacent corporations”

The Liberal Democrats will be the Party of Small Business, the party of wealth creators, the insurgents, the entrepreneurs.

And there’s a good section about challenging power, government or corporate:

We are in politics for precisely the opposite reasons to the Tories: to challenge orthodoxy and challenge those with power, while they support orthodoxy and established power – in business, just as in politics.

Because here is the truth – it doesn’t matter if it is big government or big business, the fact remains, too much power in the hands of too few people means a bad deal for everyone else.

That’s why Lib Dems have always championed a diverse, flexible economy with an enabling state and an innovative private sector.

Actually, we did do this while we were in government in quite a few places but we didn’t talk about it very much, and hardly ever after Lords reform bit the dust.

Intergenerational fairness

There are three key planks to what Tim was saying today. The first is the need to invest in infrastructure. The second is to encourage large and small scale entrepreneurs and the final one, which was massive, was about thinking long term. That section covered migration (“a blessing not a curse” and “We need to accept the facts:  if we close off routes for people to come to the UK they will take their skills and their ambitions elsewhere and others will benefit instead of us.” ), Europe and intergenerational fairness where he basically slammed the Tories for giving so much to the older generation and making life very difficult for younger people:

Can it really be fair and economically sensible to place all the burden of paying for the welfare state on a single generation?

That’s one consequence of the fiscal surplus compounded by universal benefits paid to wealthy pensioners.   It’s as if the Tories are running the economy as one gigantic closing down sale, as if it will be only this generation of older people and no others will follow.

Well, the current intergenerational balance is unsustainable and what the Tories seem to have forgotten is that this generation of older people are parents and grandparents too.  They want opportunities for their children and grandchildren and they don’t want their own financial comfort to be at their children and grandchildren’s expense.

So even they are asking “can’t we share that burden more fairly?”

And that is a question that I want my party to ask itself under my leadership.

Because I am determined that, over the years ahead, we must support the young, the wealth-makers, the innovators, every bit as much as we have supported older generations until now.

 

He had dealt with Tory attacks on climate change earlier but the intergenerational section  included action on climate change:

But investing in green energy is also about protecting future generations from the most extreme impacts of climate change created by previous generations: water shortages, flooding, mass migration, natural disasters – the decimation or deluge of the land that feeds us.

These would bring with them not just political and societal costs but also huge economic costs.

He ended with an invitation to the like-minded to join us, throwing a bit of shade at the Tories and Labour for belonging to the 80s and 70s.

To those who want to invest in the future, I say join us.

To those that are truly pro-business, I say join us.

To those, that are for innovation not the status quo, I say join us.

To those, who are for giving youth a chance, I say join us.

To those who see themselves as the challengers in business, I say join the challengers in politics.

And to all those that want to build a society that can tackle the challenges we and future generations will face in the future, I say join us, join us today.

If it’s all about the economy stupid, then surely we need a party that is not stupid about the economy.

There’s a lot to appeal to the people who left us after the coalition. Getting them back on side is key to rebuilding our vote,. He’s carving out a very clear space for us. It was interesting also that at one point he specifically praised Chukka Umunna as one person in the Labour party we could work with. The first step to a post Corbyn anti-Tory non aggression pact?

The full text is below:

As ever, as all of you know, it will be the performance of the economy over the next five years that will determine, ultimately, how this Government is judged.

And it will be the credibility of the Liberal Democrats’ alternative vision for the economy that will determine our ability to challenge them.

Our message

So today I intend to set out the three principles that will govern Liberal Democrat economic policy for the next five years.  They are:

  • Invest now in infrastructure
  • Back enterprise
  • Take the long view

It’s a clear prospectus – just ten words – but it sums up very simply where we need to take this country and how my vision for the future differs from those of George Osborne and Jeremy Corbyn.

And it is the basis of the bold claim that I will make today: that only the Liberal Democrats will invest in an economy fit for the future, that encourages opportunity.  An enabling state that empowers people to succeed.

Dogmatic Government

Next Wednesday, the Chancellor will deliver the results of his Comprehensive Spending Review.

In it he will set out £52 billion of new cuts to public spending over the course of the Parliament.

George would prefer you to think about public spending in a vague, esoteric way: a civil servant here, a feckless scrounger there, nothing terribly important.

But of course public spending pays for the things which matter to us all and to our daily lives: the schools our children go to, the hospitals and doctors we visit when we are sick, the police and security services who keep us safe – which is something we have been so starkly reminded of in this last week.

And here’s the thing: the vast majority of these cuts are nothing to do with the job that the Coalition Government started in 2010 to balance the books.

In total over the next five years George Osborne’s plans will mean cutting almost £100 billion from public spending – almost double what is necessary to tackle the structural deficit.

So be in no doubt: much of what George Osborne will announce next week will be driven by dogma and short-term politics, not common sense and long term economics.

Tax Credits

George tells us he wants the state to stop subsidising low paid jobs.   A worthy aim, but his ideology is getting in the way of common sense.

You know, the phrase “hard working families” has become a terrible political cliché.  But in the case of those that will be most hit by the removal of tax credits, it turns out to be spot on.

Those families that rely most on tax credits are those that have to work really hard – often holding down multiple jobs – to get by.

Tax credits are how we ensure that three million of the lowest paid, hardest working people are better off in work than on benefits.

Now, not only is that morally right, it is also economic common sense. Because, in the longer term, work is what gets people out of poverty and ultimately enables them to contribute to the economy.

So the Chancellor’s plans aren’t just unfair, they are also self-defeating and that’s why the Liberal Democrats will oppose them every step of the way.

And I want to take this opportunity again to invite the Labour Party to join us, because transitional protection is not enough.

So I say to Labour: when we oppose the cuts to tax credits again, this time join us. With your support, and that of the many Conservative MPs who have also expressed concern, we can stop them.

Tory gimmicks

But what leads someone like George Osborne to ignore the long-term impact of such measures?

His fiscal charter gives the game away.

It made creating a surplus the primary goal of economic policy.

More important than investing in the future, backing business, or long termism; more important than new jobs, the NHS or improved infrastructure

In government, the Liberal Democrats proved our commitment to abolishing the structural deficit.  Indeed, we paid a heavy electoral price for that. But the fiscal charter is nothing to do with eliminating the deficit – it goes well beyond that.

The fiscal charter is simply a trap for the Labour party. And you really don’t have to set Labour traps these days.

They are becoming the most ineffective opposition in modern history.

I don’t blame them, or anyone else, for not liking ‘austerity’.  I am appalled by those in the Conservative Party who seem to take glee in cutting programmes that were created with the best of intentions.  These decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly.  But some of them need to be taken nonetheless.

Leaving the deficit to fester is utterly short termist.  It means ultimately a larger public debt, more debt interest payments and less to spend on support for the most vulnerable in the future.

And some within the Labour Party, such as Chukka Umunna, seem to understand this.

But while John McDonnell will undoubtedly oppose George Osborne’s spending cuts, he can’t even agree with himself what to offer instead.

So George Osborne is playing politics with our economy.

He’s prepared to tie the hands of Governments long into the future, all for the opportunity to briefly embarrass Jeremy Corbyn.

Short term political gain, for long term economic pain.

Further education

What are the real impacts of not investing in the future?

Let me give three examples:

It is widely expected that a substantial chunk of the up to £2.6 billion in cuts predicted to be taken from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills budget will fall on Further Education colleges.

We need to get real.  Gone are the days when one degree, or one apprenticeship could set you up for life.  In the future people will need continually to return to the well of further education, if they are to continue to be productive in the 21st century.

Further education is the springboard of a successful economy and if we kill off the sector now, we will not get it back.

Catapult Centres

And Further Education isn’t the only function of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under threat.

Universities are key drivers of growth helping businesses to grow and develop. That is why ‘Catapult Centres’ – primarily based around our universities to support research, and, crucially, the development of new products – are so important.

They already have a proven track record in supporting high value manufacturing, medical innovation and digital technology and for every £1 we have invested with them, we are now seeing a £7 return.

Yet despite their success, private sector investors are now wary of committing to them, for one simple reason.  They do not have confidence in the Conservatives to continue to provide public investment in catapult centres, as they pursue short term spending cuts.

And so their value is being undermined to all our costs.

Renewable energy

Thirdly, we can be incredibly proud that green energy is a British success story. It employs 150,000 people in our country and we have the biggest solar PV market in the EU – bigger than even Germany.

Did you know that there more offshore wind turbines around our coasts than everywhere else in the rest of the world put together?

The companies making those turbines – and the other products and technologies which a decarbonised world are going to buy – are our future.

And they have been thriving due to the investment that Liberal Democrats fought for and secured in Coalition.

That’s why – over the last 5 years – and despite the need to sort out the deficit, Liberal Democrats in the Coalition fought to invest heavily in renewable energy: Since 2010 an average of £7 billion a year has been invested – delivering a doubling of the amount of energy produced by renewables to 15%.

If we continue to invest in our renewables sector, it could be worth up to £50 billion to our economy by 2020.

But now, for purely ideological reasons, the Conservatives are taking the knife to our renewable industries, cutting Feed-in Tariffs for solar, hydro and wind power, ending public support for on-shore wind power and halting the zero carbon homes policy that would have had a huge impact on energy emissions, all while selling off our brilliantly successful Green Investment Bank, without any guarantee that it will retain its remit for supporting our green industry.

This is short-sighted economic vandalism of the most self-defeating kind.  It has already placed more than 25,000 jobs at risk in the solar industry alone – and the entire industry is bracing itself for further deep cuts in the CSR.

Invest for the future

Still, at least we have Jeremy Corbyn calling for the reopening of coal mines.

But just in case Britain’s economic future doesn’t lie in exporting expensive carbon-based fuels to China, what might we do instead?

As a direct result of the actions we took in government over the last 5 years, the UK is a more stable, more economically confident place than it would have been had we delayed those decisions.

So as we now approach the point at which the goal of abolishing the structural deficit is met, I want to set out the Liberal Democrats first economic priority going forward: invest now in infrastructure.

The cheap borrowing costs we see today are a direct result of the prudent deficit reduction we undertook in government, so that past austerity makes future austerity less necessary.

Borrowing now to invest for the future can make debt more sustainable, not less.

Fix the roof

Or, to put it another way, fix the roof while the sun is shining.

If you’ve got zero percent interest rates – then the sun is shining. Why don’t we fix the roof?

So spending decisions over the next fiscal period must focus far more on long term infrastructure investment, than the short term need to reduce the deficit.

That does not mean ignoring the deficit, but instead reprioritising our approach to balancing it with measures designed to create a stable economy for the future.

I believe now is the time to balance deficit reduction with an active, ambitious and targeted programme of capital spending:

A high speed broadband service to every corner of Britain to allow those with new ideas and drive to do business from anywhere in the country

Transport links to allow them to get goods and services to their customers

Schools and colleges to provide the highly skilled, highly trained workforce they need to succeed

And homes to ensure that those workers have somewhere affordable to live.

We need to take seriously the case for borrowing to invest, specifically in housing, rail infrastructure and broadband.

The consequences of not doing so are clear.

We are already seeing a housing crisis.  If we fail to drive forward the building of affordable homes, to reach a level of 300,000 a year by 2020 then the problem will only be getting worse.

Much of this will have to be private sector led, but you know what?  It’s about time the Government stepped up to the plate as well.

We need to start direct Government spending on house-building, including finally cutting ground on new Garden Cities to provide new communities with decent jobs and infrastructure, for the next generation.

And if we don’t invest in rail the consequences are equally clear:

In too many areas our railways are already over capacity.  Failing to invest will only make the problem worse.

Failing to invest now means that the challenge of getting people out of their cars and on to commuter light rail will be put back yet another generation.  That means more traffic, higher levels of pollution and further pressure on the capacity of our roads as well.

And failing to invest now also keeps economic power focussed on London.  You can’t build new regional bases, across the North East and North West of England for example, if it takes almost twice as long to get from Liverpool to York than it does to get from London to Bristol.

And when it comes to investment in new technology infrastructure we are also falling behind our competitors, not just in the West but in emerging economies as well.

How can it be that when our government talks about superfast broadband they mean 24Mbps, while in South Korea, they are already rolling out broadband with a 1Gbps capacity?   It like buying a bicycle to compete against a formula one racing car.

And while it is true that communities like mine in the South Lakes are in desperate need of decent, fast broadband, let’s not pretend this is just about the roll-out of rural broadband, as the Conservatives have suggested.

Even in our capital city we lack the broadband speed and capacity to compete internationally.  London is currently ranked 26th out of 33 European Capital cities for download speeds.

This is a national problem and one that will damage our economy.

Key parts of our economy, such as our creative industries, rely on getting decent digital services.

But for many in this industry the problem of slow broadband is compounded by the sustained attack on the BBC, which is jeopardising those high skilled, new tech businesses in the creative industries that have grown up around hubs like Cardiff, Bristol and MediaCity in Salford due to the presence of our national broadcaster.

That is so short-sighted.  And again driven by ideology over pragmatism.

Unlike the Conservatives we will not define what we spend on infrastructure by what we can squeeze within an arbitrary spending target.

Instead we should determine what to support by looking at what we need for the future.  To do this I believe we need to set up an Office of Capital Expenditure- an OBR for Infrastructure to assess projects value for money and make sure we get returns on investment.

Back enterprise

And so to our second priority: back enterprise.

The liberal spirit is the entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurs are natural liberals.

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

It means believing that no-one owes us a living, but nor should government get in the way of us making a living for ourselves – like liberals.

It means, given the opportunity, believing we can make a difference through our own individual talents and vision – like liberals.

And it means believing everyone deserves that same chance to succeed regardless of where they come from or what they look like.

Just like liberals.

So, whether they know it or not enterprising people – entrepreneurs – are liberals…

…creative and innovative, wanting to be their own bosses, wanting to create opportunities for others.

Liberal. Entrepreneur. They are almost interchangeable words.

The Tory pro-business myth

You know, for many years the Tories have laid claim to being the party of business, the party of entrepreneurship.  This is a complete and utter myth.

And here is why:

The fact is that the Tories aren’t really pro-free market capitalism at all.  They are pro-corporate capitalism.

They are there to fight not for entrepreneurs, not for innovators who oil the wheels of the market, but for the status quo.

Don’t believe me?  Look, not at what they say, but what they do.

An opportunity to cut taxes on business?  Go for corporation tax to benefit the very largest of companies, not help small start-ups to grow.

An opportunity to diversify the energy sector?   Withdraw the subsidies for renewables that would give small start-ups the opportunity to challenge the big six energy companies.

An opportunity to change banking as the major shareholder in RBS?

Rather than use the chance to create a real, diverse, regional banking sector, sell the stake at a loss and keep the bank intact as yet another too-big-to-fail institution, ill-equipped to finance small businesses.

Maybe George or Dave don’t mean to lie when they say they want to support entrepreneurs.  But it’s simply not the Tory ‘gut instinct’ because the Tory gut instinct is to support the establishment, the status quo.

Well the liberal gut instinct is absolutely on the side of the entrepreneur, the challenger.

  • We embrace diversity in the marketplace.
  • We embrace those who don’t want to conform
  • We embrace those who want to try something different and disrupt the way things have always been done.

We are in politics for precisely the opposite reasons to the Tories: to challenge orthodoxy and challenge those with power, while they support orthodoxy and established power – in business, just as in politics.

Because here is the truth – it doesn’t matter if it is big government or big business, the fact remains, too much power in the hands of too few people means a bad deal for everyone else.

That’s why Lib Dems have always championed a diverse, flexible economy with an enabling state and an innovative private sector.

So I say “let the Tories be the Party of huge complacent corporations”

The Liberal Democrats will be the Party of Small Business, the party of wealth creators, the insurgents, the entrepreneurs.

And to do this means first understanding the differing ambitions of the 5.2 million small business owners in this country.

‘Small for Good’

First, come those business owners who are happy staying small, the businesses that are ‘Small for Good’.

‘Small for Good’ – means exactly what it says.  Like the small independent retailers in communities like mine in Kendal, plumbers constantly on the lookout for business or even the one person web and graphic design companies, operating out of Britain’s attics and garden sheds.

These businesses are the absolute backbone of our communities.

All too often they are run by people struggling to make ends meet, who are loyal to their customers and – where they have them- fiercely loyal to their staff, willing to pay themselves below the minimum wage so that they can keep those staff on when times are tough.

These businesses aren’t worried about growing.  They are worried about the people in their patch being able to buy their products, the businesses they supply treating them fairly and not being put under by business rates that demand stratospheric upfront costs.

So Liberal Democrats would do three things to help them:

One, we would give real teeth to the Small Business Commissioner, such as the power to fine large companies who regularly fail to pay their bills on time.

Two, we will press the Government to renew the review of Business Rates that Danny Alexander initiated when he was in the Treasury and which George Osborne has quietly dropped.

And, three, we will be passionate champions of local banking.

The big 4 banks lost any appetite for lending to small businesses after 2008, and what lending they do provide is far too London centric.

We are committed to the creation of a real, sustainable local banking sector to support small business across our country.

‘Small for Now’

However, in supporting these ‘Small for Good’ businesses, we must also back the ambitions of those who wish to grow.

‘Small for Now’, they will be the backbone of future economic growth.

Businesses that are ‘Small for Now’ were last year responsible for creating one in three of the new jobs in the UK – 4,500 new jobs every single week.  That’s three times the number of new jobs created by our FTSE 100 companies.  And over two thirds of those jobs were outside London.

Behind these businesses are people who are not just economically liberal – they are also so often socially liberal too.

They care about climate change, they support immigration not just because it makes good business sense, but because they recognise they live in a truly globalized world.

These are people who aim to use their success to start a charity as much as to finance a Ferrari.

They are people who want to do and think differently.

So Liberal Democrats will do everything we can to support these small businesses with big ideas and big ambitions.

And the first thing we would do is rapidly boost access to equity finance for these companies.

British businesses are still far too reliant on debt financing rather than equity. And these debts are a drag on growth.

That’s why I want the Liberal Democrats to become the champions of long term, high value Venture Capital in the UK.

What does that mean?  Well for starters we could look at doing four things:

First, British investors in British companies need to be able to move their money around more easily.  That may mean, for example, allowing investors to keep more of the money they would receive upon exiting an investment, providing they move on to the next investment rather than taking their profits.

Second, we need to encourage large companies to act as venture capital investors.

We could start by allowing companies that invest in Venture Capitalist Trusts to claim a significant rebate on the cost of investment in small businesses, or include such investment within the remit of Research and Development Tax Credits.

Third, we should look towards the success surrounding Stanford University in encouraging Venture Capitalists to set up shop around our Universities, on the lookout for the next great idea.

Cambridge is already having some success in this area but we need to go further, for example, giving local authorities powers to tempt those who may be able to fund new business ventures, or support the scaling up of existing projects via tax incentives.

And fourth, we need to do everything we can to encourage diversity within the financial industry, to further support peer-to-peer lenders, and other alternative finance providers.

That is why Liberal Democrats will push, in the Bank of England Bill, for a new requirement on both the Competition and Markets Authority and the Prudential Regulatory Authority to encourage diversity as part of their core remits.

And let me give one further commitment to ‘Small for Now’ businesses:  Throughout the CSR process, Liberal Democrats will seek guarantees of funding for university-based Catapult Centres for at least the next five years.

So, that’s my second priority – to establish the Liberal Democrats as the party of enterprise, the party of small business, the party of economic diversity.

Take the Long Term View

But still this is not enough. I want to take a longer view too.

Look back just a single generation and the world has changed beyond all recognition:

The opening up of new markets and shifting of power and resources, mass migration, globalisation and the Internet are creating a world that is ever more interconnected, ever more integrated.

Either we face up to these changes or we condemn ourselves to the economic and political side-lines for the foreseeable future.

Migration

It means understanding migration as a blessing not a curse.

The fact is that since the turn of the century, immigration has added £20 billion to our economy.  And it is why this small island is home to almost a quarter of the world’s best universities.

But this is at risk because of the Conservative’s refusal to exclude students from their immigration target.

The Government must also stop sending mixed messages to the world’s entrepreneurs.

On the one hand trade missions on the other more and more ‘tough rhetoric’ from Theresa May and more gimmicks to reduce immigration.

We need to accept the facts:  if we close off routes for people to come to the UK they will take their skills and their ambitions elsewhere and others will benefit instead of us.

Europe

That’s what I mean by taking the long view.  And the same applies to our attitude to Europe.

Many Conservatives, who we’ve established are not the party of business, make the case that Britain’s economy could survive outside the EU and they may be right.

But I don’t want Britain just to ‘survive’.  I want it to thrive.

At a time when every single trend in the world is towards more integration, more interconnectivity, more globalisation, how can it possibly be the right economic strategy to reduce our marketplace, cut our links to the biggest trading block in the world and head for isolation?

So Liberal Democrats will fight proudly for our place in the European Union, because we know that being in the EU doesn’t just mean jobs, it means ideas, it means opportunities and it means a say in the rules governing those with whom we wish to trade.

I am not naïve about the challenges of European reform or indeed the battering that Europe’s economy has taken over the past ten years.  But this is about the direction of travel for the UK economy, and the role we expect to play in the world over the next 100 years.

And be in no doubt, the Chinese and Indian leaders didn’t come to Britain because of what we once were, but because of what in the future we might be – a gateway to Europe – and what is still and will continue to be one of the most important marketplaces in the world.

That, too, is taking the long view.

Intergenerational fairness

And there is one more area related to taking the long view that I want to address before I close.  And that is intergenerational fairness.

I have already talked about the economic potential of the green energy sector.   There is no question that that is a business sector both for now and for the future.

But investing in green energy is also about protecting future generations from the most extreme impacts of climate change created by previous generations: water shortages, flooding, mass migration, natural disasters – the decimation or deluge of the land that feeds us.

These would bring with them not just political and societal costs but also huge economic costs.

So green policies are not a luxury that we cannot afford, but a necessity we must afford for future generations.

But there is also the need for more intergenerational fairness in the welfare system and public services.

Over the last twenty-five years since I was at university, we have seen a steady shift of the economic burden of paying for stuff on to the younger generation, the 18-35s.

Massive increases in housing costs whether for sale or rent, tuition fees and student loans, and now the ending of tax credits.

This is not a coincidence but a trend.

This is the very group on whom we will need to depend for our future economic prosperity.  We need them to succeed – which means investing in them – so that, when they do, they will pay the taxes to enable us to invest in the next generation and those that follow.

And yet, instead, the Tories are skimping on investing in their education – cutting back their opportunities – while ring fencing the incomes of older people.

Can it really be fair and economically sensible to place all the burden of paying for the welfare state on a single generation?

That’s one consequence of the fiscal surplus compounded by universal benefits paid to wealthy pensioners.   It’s as if the Tories are running the economy as one gigantic closing down sale, as if it will be only this generation of older people and no others will follow.

Well, the current intergenerational balance is unsustainable and what the Tories seem to have forgotten is that this generation of older people are parents and grandparents too.  They want opportunities for their children and grandchildren and they don’t want their own financial comfort to be at their children and grandchildren’s expense.

So even they are asking “can’t we share that burden more fairly?”

And that is a question that I want my party to ask itself under my leadership.

Because I am determined that, over the years ahead, we must support the young, the wealth-makers, the innovators, every bit as much as we have supported older generations until now.

That’s intergenerational fairness.

Conclusion

So to summarise: under my leadership the Liberal Democrats offer a balanced economic approach, based on living within our means for revenue spend, and investment now for capital spend.

We offer a commitment to enterprise and small business and we take a long view to challenges such as migration, European integration, climate change and intergenerational fairness.

I believe that the Liberal Democrats are the only party who are able to take the challenges we face seriously, because we are the only party whose philosophy is based on optimism for the future rather than the ideological struggles of the past.

Labour under Jeremy Corbyn continues to fight the battles of the 1970s, becoming ever more squeamish about free trade, and locked in an internal war of ideology.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives worry about the fights against the trade unions of the 1980s, and play to prejudices about the EU and immigration.  They are closing the door on new investment to boost growth.

Liberal Democrats will be different.

To those who want to invest in the future, I say join us.

To those that are truly pro-business, I say join us.

To those, that are for innovation not the status quo, I say join us.

To those, who are for giving youth a chance, I say join us.

To those who see themselves as the challengers in business, I say join the challengers in politics.

And to all those that want to build a society that can tackle the challenges we and future generations will face in the future, I say join us, join us today.

If it’s all about the economy stupid, then surely we need a party that is not stupid about the economy.  The future can be better than our Chancellor’s short termism will allow it to be.  But it is a future we will have to fight for.

Together we can create an economy fit for the 21st century.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about , , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

22 Comments

  • They better keep Tim off the TV, because he will be in a mess when he tries to explain how the LibDems would pay for everything he wants to do. Perhaps he’s hoping that attacking pensioners benefits – the people who always turn out to vote – will help. That really brought the votes in at the 2015 GE.

  • More than a tad cynical, malc. This 73 year old is prepared to vote for a less unequal society. Clearly much for the party to work on and to develop as part of a radical progressive economic policy.

    Time to get down to some serious economic thinking.

  • I too am, just, a pensioner. It is a sad reflection that parties are scared of reducing benefits for wealthy greys, but entirely logical as we vote. Sadly as said little is done for the young seeking their first home who vote much less.

    So do the old vote because parties pander to us or parties pander to us because we vote, and is the converse true for the young? My experience as a long time campaigner is that people vote more when they have a stake in society and thy often comes when they have children. Do others agree?

    By the way I agree with David Raw, I may be in a minority but I want a more equal society.

  • David Raw
    Perhaps a little cynical, but I struggle to understand why a party that’s so interested in young people voted to triple tuition fees. Now that was a policy I’m sure pensioners would have happily given up some of their benefits for. I’m an ex LibDem voter who has lost trust in the party and if they are going to build new towns and 300,000 new affordable homes I want to know where they will find the money in advance!

  • A big improvement from what we’ve had in the last few years and kudos to Tim for tackling the economy – not AFAIK his natural beat but easily the most important thing to get right.

    That said there are a few things we need to think about:

    1. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) happened when banks were overwhelmed by the bad debts they had incurred backing failed speculations rather than carefully judged investments in productive capacity. The government rescued them short term but the bad debts are still hanging about and can’t be paid off so someone must ultimately take the hit – but who? The Tories say it should be the people (hence austerity) but that won’t work. The allocation of resources (losses in this case) is core politics and will be massively contested but it’s going to come back soon so better have the thinking straight.

    2. The GFC was driven to a considerable extent by law breaking facilitated by “light-touch” regulation (i.e. it has the neoliberal Tories’ fingerprints all over it) that continues to this day so every substantial City market is widely believed to be “fixed” by insiders. One of our major banks has admitted to laundering the best part of $1 billion for drug cartels yet no-one has gone to jail. We cannot thrive as a nation while parts of the City are little more than a scamming conspiracy. The public are hazy about the details but they basically ‘get’ this and are incensed. Low hanging fruit.

    3. He is disappointingly on vocational education. For a substantial minority, school leads to university which gives something to work towards. For a clear majority it leads to nothing much that’s clearly structured and so something to work towards. A few apprenticeships don’t cut it (IIRC 300,000 of very variable quality was the number picked out of the air by the central planners at the Treasury last year). We need a new system that’s well understood by teachers parents and employers so they can guide a young (or not so young) person in an appropriate direction. Again, real voters understand this but for some weird reason the Westminster doesn’t.

    I could go on but word limits!

  • Conor McGovern 19th Nov '15 - 7:47pm

    Fantastic, especially the stuff on being pro-small business, not pro-corporate status quo – linking innovators in business to the Lib Dems as the innovators and insurgents in politics. Certainly we’ve got a long way to go, but this is hands down my favourite speech by Tim so far.

  • David Allen 19th Nov '15 - 7:52pm

    Oh dear, I admitted my age (65) on this site a day or two ago, and now everyone’s doing it. Can I just clarify, I’m not boasting about my youthfulness….?!

    I would also agree about intergenerational fairness. Yes, we messed up on tuition fees, but to say “right, blown our chances with the young vote, well, stuff ’em then, let’s look for votes somewhere else” would be a lot more cynical and unproductive than “let’s roll up our sleeves and try again”, which is Tim’s approach. It’ll take a long time to get the voters back, but honesty will be the best policy.

  • Really good stuff- of course not a magic wand…. there isn’t one. This begins to sketch out where Liberals are . We were in a Coalition – tough decisions were made – there was not a Liberal Government malc. Rock on Tim !!!

  • An excellent speech.

  • Tim’s speech is absolutely nothing to do with serious economics, it’s just a dream sheet of what he would like to do if money was no problem. I like him as a man, but as a leader he looks very lightweight. If he doesn’t want to make any cuts, and doesn’t appear to want to raise taxes

  • Cont (sorry cat stood on the keyboard)

    he needs to explain how much the country will need to borrow, because his plans look awfully expensive.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Nov '15 - 12:28am

    Wasted food is topical because of Hugh Fearnley-Whiitingdale’s series on TV. Local councils cannot help being involved because of their involvement in waste collection and recycling, lack of. Supermarkets need to change their policies and if foodbanks were open more often they could stock a wider variety of food.

  • Is there a video of this speech I can post on facebook please?
    It is 2015!
    [g]

  • Jane Ann Liston 20th Nov '15 - 12:07pm

    ‘Cont (sorry cat stood on the keyboard)’

    Clearly a Liberal Demo-cat, wanting to contribute to the debate.

  • Tim is right in addressing the British disease of short-termism. It is responsible for Britain’s chronic lack of productivity. Part of the cure is indeed to continue investing in Further Education colleges. ‘Small for Good’ is fine, but directly or indirectly, small companies depend on large ones. Perhaps he should also focus on the tendency of large British companies (with notable exceptions) to encourage short-term rewards at the expense of long-term investment. A personal experience may better expose the nature of the problem.

    I once was HR Director for the British subsidiary of an international manufacturing group. Most of the Directors aggressively pursued the objective of maximising their annual bonus for a few years before moving on. They did so by underspending on capital equipment and training, as compared to our continental counterparts. This enabled us to parade within the group our remarkable Return on Investment ratios and flexible employment contracts. Ultimately, as far higher levels of investment enabled our competitors to increase productivity and gain market share, our subsidiary was broken up with a substantial loss of skilled jobs that went to the continent.

    Having myself left to join the HQ of a European corporation, I discovered that high capital investment was a credo to ensure its long-term future (or pérennité, as they call it). Training and development was also a top priority, although most of my time was spent helping to absorb a large UK group we had been able to acquire thanks to its chronic underperformance.

    Some may say these examples merely show that it is the normal functioning of a free market for better-performing companies to replace poorer ones; and that it doesn’t matter if ownership moves abroad. But it does. Acquisition by foreign companies means a loss of strategic control, as well as of the advanced technical and managerial skills needed to run complex processes. It is no coincidence that these skills are particularly scarce in Britain.

    The corporate tax system can be used to encourage long-term investment in both capital and training, thereby improving the quality of management, developing skills and retaining or attracting them to Britain. The lure of greater return in the long run would help substantially to change British corporate culture and improve national productivity. There may be other ways of doing so, but this is an important issue the party’s leadership must also address.

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th Nov '15 - 12:45pm

    I am going to print this off to read properly later [age thing: 55-60 bracket 🙂 ] but from what I have read so far I think this is exactly why we elected Tim as leader. Great stuff Tim!

    Every Focus leaflet we put out should have a decent area set aside for this vision and to show us again to be the party of social justice Liberal Democracy and the true radical alternative to socialism.

    If we can get this vision and policies out to the electorate and Labour remains true to its Socialism, I maintain high hopes for our return to electoral support and success.

    And thanks to Caron for highlighting it!

  • I can absolutely second what Alan Depauw says based on my own experience.

    Our ‘system’ is run for the profit and convenience of the City. Speculation, endless churn, asset-stripping and short-termism are order of the day. Investment in people, the future and sustainability are after-thoughts tacked onto a ruthlessly extractive system to distract the people. That needs to change.

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th Nov '15 - 1:44pm

    Gordon20th Nov ’15 – 1:03pm
    “I can absolutely second what Alan Depauw says based on my own experience.
    Our ‘system’ is run for the profit and convenience of the City. Speculation, endless churn, asset-stripping and short-termism are order of the day. Investment in people, the future and sustainability are after-thoughts tacked onto a ruthlessly extractive system to distract the people. That needs to change.”

    Absolutely thirded.

  • Brilliant! Real gut liberal instincts that are pro-wealth creation, pro long term investment and actually relevant to 21st Century economy! And its nice to see intergeneration unfairness being given some real space, the last budget was deeply unbalanced in this regard – https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-generational-strife-wheres-the-fairness-46697.html

  • Lots of good points and plenty to think about. Thanks!

  • Will Foreman 25th Nov '15 - 3:15am

    Cat-man Malc,
    Perhaps re-establishing a 50p top rate of tax could pay for some of this? Maybe trim a bit off Trident? Could possibly gain some more from tax avoidance? Might gain some revenue from investment into the renewable sector? Could refuse to meet the EU recommended military budget? Potentially add a bit to corporation tax and, as Tim said, fine corporations for late payments?

    But really, as Tim laid out quite clearly, it’s about investing for the future while we are in a period of growth. Investing in infrastructure and further education to cement future economic prosperity.

    Tuition fees were mentioned: as the one remaining liberal democrat at my university, I get this a lot. Lets all remember that the Conservative proposal was to quadruple the fees with no changes to repayment. It was lib dem negotiation which brought it down to triple with no interest above inflation (though I think it’s set to change again if it hasn’t already). Andy Burnham, on his campaign trail, was talking about a graduate tax to replace tuition fees. Maybe this is a policy that we could look at if higher education fees need to have a pinned fiscal source.

    Sincerely,
    The elusive ‘voting youth’…

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarChris Cory 2nd Jun - 8:11am
    @Joseph Bourke. I am grateful to you for your summary of Jo Grimond's politics. A commitment to a more equal society, but combined with real...
  • User AvatarGeoff Reid 2nd Jun - 7:40am
    Chris Cory. Radical can be one of those slippery political words that can be attached to a wide range of politicians. Andrew Marr described Thatcher...
  • User AvatarThomas 2nd Jun - 5:25am
    I am also a strong advocate of state-funded universities, like most pre-2010 Libdems. State-funded university system will actually improve meritocracy by removing the incentive of...
  • User AvatarThomas 2nd Jun - 5:18am
    Joe Bourke – Two very radical ideas that I just came across are export promotion and export discipline. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-08-20/economists-struggle-to-explain-how-poor-countries-grow-rich You really should read the part...
  • User AvatarThomas 2nd Jun - 5:16am
    Joe Bourke - Two very radical ideas that I just came across are export promotion and export discipline. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-08-20/economists-struggle-to-explain-how-poor-countries-grow-rich You really should read the part...
  • User AvatarThomas 2nd Jun - 5:13am
    Chris Cory, David Raw, Joe Bourke - if school choice means "giving public money via vouchers to students and allow them to go to private...