Time to appeal to youth, and to enrol more students

Liberal Democrat members on campuses, tell your friends. Parents and grandparents, contact your offspring at University. Teachers and lecturers, get active on Facebook and What’s App!

A lot of young people won’t have heard yet. But Sunday’s Observer broke the story – that student organisations representing almost a million young people studying in UK colleges and universities are starting a campaign for a ‘People’s Vote’ before a final Brexit deal can be implemented, and I believe they will be a potent voice.

They want another referendum, on the proposed deal with the EU. From 60 of the country’s universities and colleges, student union leaders have now written to their local MPs asking them to back the idea. They argue that promises of the Brexiters haven’t been fulfilled, and point out that there are now thousands more young people eligible to vote. They plan a big summer campaign.

These student leaders may or may not be Liberal Democrats, but they can effectively work with us over the summer.  We should surely be making contact and planning joint action, perhaps with our Young Liberals taking the lead.

Everyone knows that students were significant in securing Jeremy Corbyn’s achievement of 40% of the General Election votes. But the Opposition leader doesn’t support a referendum on the deal. Some student unions will continue to follow his path. But now more than 120 student leaders are not supporting his policy.

It’s time to destroy the myth that our party can’t expect the support of young people. The student fees increase agreed by Coalition ministers have kept the universities going, and young people have continued to apply for places, perhaps hoping that they will never have to pay all the money back. What is certain is that Corbyn’s Labour Party can’t promise to refund their fees. As in their stances (plural) on Brexit, they showed deliberate ambiguity which intelligent young people should reject.

The Liberal Democrat leader at the time of the Referendum, Tim Farron, immediately insisted that we must stay in the EU for the sake of young people, his own and everyone’s children, whose future is at stake. Our commitment was and must be for them.

Some young people have realised this.  Analysis after the General Election showed that a higher proportion of 18 to 24-year-olds voted for the Liberal Democrats than did older age groups – up to 9% of them. This trend is also suggested by Times Red Box analysis reported yesterday by Marc Pack. To the question of ‘Which party would you never vote for?’ 44% of the18-24 age group indicated they would never vote Conservative, 16% never Labour, and 28% never Liberal Democrat. Our job now is to win back more of idealistic youth from Labour, starting with the student activists who want a vote on the deal.

Young people want dynamism and honesty. They will not find those qualities in the present Labour Party, but we can remind them of our consistent opposition to Brexit. We also need to pledge to tackle generational unfairness, through fairer tax policy and by developing further plans for much better housing opportunities for young people. We must fight for environmental protection against Climate change, and for our place in a dynamic and powerful EU that stands up for human rights and the welfare of all its citizens.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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  • Where we continue to go wrong is obsessing about young people’s interests in (or against) Brexit, whilst letting Labour run with the wider agenda of social and economic change that is so important to so many of them. We should be trying to rebuild the strong support we had amongst young people, before Clegg decided that breaking his biggest promise was the way to go, across a wide policy agenda within which concerns about Brexit should be a footnote, not the headline.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th May '18 - 8:39am

    David, I believe our party today can offer dynamism and honesty. People can see that about us at local level, and at national level our MPs show it too. What we may lack at present, I think, is a co-ordinated drive to show what we are worth and what we have to offer, and to combat a certain inertia – to which, I am afraid. constant dwelling on the failings of our Coalition leaders may contribute. The student leaders show us a way ahead, and we should surely contact and work with them.

  • Sandra Hammett 17th May '18 - 9:01am


  • David Raw 17th May ’18 – 8:04am……………………..The biggest single problem the party faces is that of trust…………………….

    Absolutely! I’ve written far more than I ought to on the “A mistake from the Coalition years…..” thread.

    It is the first headline thread, on LDV, (that I can remember) that comes close to condemning a LibDem decision during our time in coalition; such threads (on ‘tuition fees’ etc.) usually point out the ‘upsides’…

    I’m finding posting there rather cathartic.

  • Nonconformistradical 17th May '18 - 9:20am

    @Sandra Hammett
    Please stop shouting. Please turn your caps lock off!

  • Peter Martin 17th May '18 - 9:27am

    Honesty? I don’t believe any party is offering that to young people. The 2017 Lib Dem manifesto, though not as neoliberal as the two previous ones still contains the phrase “balance the books”. This means the elimination of Government ‘borrowing’. Both Labour and yourselves push the line that its OK to borrow on the capital account but not the current account.

    It sounds superficially plausible, but it leads to such policies as Governments building schools and hospitals but then “being unable to afford” to staff them properly because teachers, doctors, nurses etc are paid from the current account.

    So if you’re being genuinely honest with the younger generation what to tell them? How about?

    “Over the years we have decided that it’s a bad thing for Government to borrow money. We also decided that it’s a good thing for the pound to float and that enabled us to buy lots of lovely imports that we wouldn’t had the money to buy otherwise. So where did this money come from? Borrowing of course! Someone in the UK had do it. So we deregulated the economy so that the private sector was doing the borrowing rather than the Government.

    Naturally the economy zipped along just fine on all this borrowed money and house prices rose year after year as everyone borrowed more and more to ‘get on the the ladder’. Good eh? Well it was for us as we already owned our houses. Sometimes a lot more than one. But it’s tough on you guys. They are now out of your price range. But, never mind, we won’t live forever and you’ll inherit them one day.

    But you do understand the importance Govt “balancing its books” don’t you? We don’t want to leave you with all our debts!”

  • I suspect social and economic change is important to most people. The problem is a low wage, high debt, low stability and costly economy. Rents through the roof, student debt piling up, ZHC and over priced utilities. Young people do not live in a vacuum with entirely separate problems from the rest of the population. They still have to live somewhere, still need to pay for electricity, eat and so on. Labour, under Corbyn, have realised that there are a lot of people on low incomes. The orthodoxy of cutting state involvement and other “centrist” certainties is over. What young people want, like anyone else, are political representatives who will fight their corner.
    Look around Britain and you see boarded shops, homelessness and social deterioration virtually everywhere. People talk about the success of metropolitan London, but which parts of London? It has some of the poorest constituencies in the country. The point, to me is, that there is not some mythical group of left-behinds who have failed to benefit from the glories of our current social and economic models, but that those models are simply not working and are in many ways actively destructive .

  • russell simpson 17th May '18 - 10:23am

    @ David Raw. I don’t think we should apologise for our time in government. I’ve lived in this country for 30 years and I think the coalition 5 years was the best govt in that period. If we keep on apologising it only makes us look stupid. Clegg got it right in his apology in 2012. Reinstate grants for poor kids and cancel the +3% on RPI for interest rate (ie as it was in 2015) and you’ve got a system which works relatively well and is fair. Interesting to see that in Wales they are bringing in a means tested grant for student living costs (which is what the students actually want). Libdems would be well advised to adopt a similar policy for England.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th May '18 - 10:27am

    Hi Katharine, I’m very sorry to be negative, but I think we have to accept that many young people are convinced that Corbyn represents “dynamism and honesty”. Many older people seem convinced of this too.
    It may seem clear to us that in many ways Corbyn is the opposite of dynamic or honest. But his supporters believe him to embody these qualities, because they desperately want to believe it.
    Ironically, I suspect that the thing that will eventually lead to a revival of support for the Liberal Democrats, will be a Corbyn led Labour government! His supporters will become disillusioned when they realise he cannot bring about utopia overnight.
    But at the moment, his supporters, young and old, believe him to be…whatever they long for him to be.
    But I think most of his supporters are actually quite well aware that Corbyn is not opposing Brexit, and indeed that he probably wants Brexit. They know this because Corbyn himself has said openly that he does not want to prevent Brexit, and because it is no secret that Corbyn was consistently anti Common Market, anti EEC, then anti EU. So I think we have to conclude that the many Corbyn supporters, of all ages, who voted Remain, understand the situation quite well. They may have been pro Remain, but they are less interested in the EU than in the vision for Britain that they believe Corbyn to represent.

  • Katharine, I’m sure you are sincere when you say “David, I believe our party today can offer dynamism and honesty.” But the voters don’t agree.

    David Raw is right, No forgiveness without repentance. It seems we still would rather the party continues to decline than accept we made a mess of it, ‘fess up and start again.

  • I have the answer for those who continually want to apologise for the coalition. Let’s decide never to go into government at all. That way we can never make mistakes and can’t be held accountable. Let’s eschew any coalition that’s offered, even if we’re the largest party and if by some terrible misfortune we were to gain a majority, let’s insist that someone else forms the government.
    Instead we can be pure as the driven snow and stick to our principles and be a thorn in the side of anyone who has the temerity to make decisions and try and change the world.
    That is the logic of those who think our time in government had no merit, achieved nothing positive and was only an exercise in implementing terrible Tory policies.
    Every government makes mistakes and only very rarely do they apologise for them. Yet these terrible governments who make mistakes get re-elected. Otherwise the Labour and Tory Parties would never get into government at all.
    So of course we have to learn from our mistakes, resolve to do better and adopt policies relevant for where the UK is now and where we want it to be in the future.
    But please accept that government is difficult and mistakes will be made.
    And no, I doubt very much if the sort of apology the pessimists are demanding will make a jot of difference. What people want to know is that we will do things differently now and in the future. Hoping on about the past instead of looking to the future will impress no-one.
    Time to move on

  • Harping not hoping

  • David Becket 17th May '18 - 11:31am

    We move on by offering a new vision for all, including the young.

    Vince has been going on about a grant to all at 18 for use in Education throughout their lifetime, but it is nowhere near policy. We should have had a national consultation by now, it does not need conference to consult. No doubt this is bogged down with other good ideas in a policy making process not fit for purpose.

    Lets us concentrate as a party on some six key issues and get moving on them.

  • Mick, Your chosen preference (No apology, no doubt) has just seen the party decline for seven years. How much longer before you accept that pretending failure has nothing to do with you is not a good strategy?

    David Becket, it doesn’t matter whether you have one, six or sixty key issues if no-one is listening to you. That was where the Liberal Party was in the 1940s and 50s. We can’t want to go back there again, surely.

  • @David Raw

    at the start of everyday Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and these other wicked Lib Dem leaders should offer a heartfelt apology for their disgusting behaviour in Coalition. It’s not good enough saying mistakes were made; it has to be grovelling repeated and endless.

    To think they were stupid and wicked enough to bring in policies like raising the income tax threshold, introducing the poor pupil premium, same-sex marriage, a Green investment bank….. and other wicked, wicked policies.

    To think they went into government as a minority party where they had to swallow some Conservative policy. What wickedness! What stupidity! Shame on them! Spit on them! Stamp on them!


  • Oliver Craven 17th May '18 - 12:09pm

    Idk maybe listen more to the many actual young people in the party, including debating the motions and amendments we submit which seemingly get shot down by FCC every time.

    But what do I know, I’m only a young person.

  • Here’s a really quick, simple way to help us recruit more young people: https://wales-liberalyouth.nationbuilder.com/donations

  • David Evans: Voters DO listen to us when and where we campaign (like in Kingston and Richmond in the election just gone). We are not where we were during the Coalition era, when even where we did campaign our message fell flat. Our problem now is that far too few people even get to hear our message because the national media are ignoring us. It has nothing to do with the message. Apologising would give out the wrong message because it would validate what our opponents say about us, which is the only thing voters outside our target areas ever hear about us. We advance by putting forward OUR message, not by agreeing with that of our opponents about us.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th May '18 - 12:55pm

    Mick Taylor and Russell Simpson, I am entirely of your opinions, thank you. As David Becket says, we move on by offering a new vision for all, including the young. Oliver, please contribute some ideas of what we should be focusing on for young people. David (the forward-looking one), I agree, we need to be developing Vince’s idea of a learning grant made available to people at 18, to be used at any point in their lifetime. I think that is a much better idea than the Resolution Foundation’s of just throwing £10.000 at them.

    But we Lib Dems also have one policy for students already which I understand is NOT held by either of the two main parties. Russell mentions the grant for living expenses for students being brought in by the Welsh government from September, which was described in the Today programme this morning, and which I caught the end of – I think it is to be £9000, which if so is a neatly appropriate amount. We already hold the policy that the equivalent of the Welsh grant, Maintenance grants for students, should not have been abolished, and therefore should be reinstated This is not much known and obviously should be publicised in our approach to students.

  • Oliver Craven 17th May '18 - 1:01pm

    I’m not the only young person in the party and YL as a whole has loads of ideas that are often rejected offhand by the rest of the party. Better engagement with young members, including giving them more responsibility (excl. Youth Officers) across the party, would do wonders for developing our young members and allow them to promote the party better to their peers

  • Katharine Pindar 17th May '18 - 1:07pm

    Glenn, your social and economic analysis is appropriate. Young people are coming out of colleges and universities and often only finding low-wage jobs and expensive rental housing. We need to develop policies to end relative poverty for all, but I am suggesting here we should concentrate on the needs of the young. Mental health problems are growing about schoolchildren. If they go to college and come out with only poor prospects for jobs and living conditions, they are also quite likely to sink into depression and anxiety. It seems to me we need as a party to focus on them now and give them hope.

  • David Becket 17th May '18 - 1:09pm

    @ David Evans

    One of the reasons people are not listening to us is that the party is not communicating effectively.
    Our web site is not brimming with ideas, much of it is patting ourselves on the back. Of little interest to non Lib Dems.

    Where are the daily Press Releases?

    Why are daily press releases not distributed to every local party and every owner of a My Councillor site.

    If you want to make yourself heard you have got to use every means at our disposal, and active local parties are one way forward.

    Will this party ever wake up, or will it stay Vince’s secret party.

  • Martin Land 17th May '18 - 1:26pm

    @ Oliver Craven. YL ideas were always rejected. They were when I joined in 1972. It was a badge of honour then and it is now. Wear it with pride knowing that in 10 years they will be party policy. In 20 years Labour will steal it and in 30 years it will be enacted. And in 40 years the Tories will be vigorously defending it as part of the established political order.

  • Oliver Craven 17th May '18 - 1:28pm


    Just seems odd to me to be preaching about policies for young people while simultaneously rejecting everything the party’s young people come up with

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th May '18 - 1:47pm

    Mick Taylor and David Beckett as often add to the sense of the two Katharinescatherines!!!!

    David Raw as ever has heart and yet the head should see what is so obvious, apology is week if too much, Clegg did apologise, enough already !

    What this party lacks is leadership untainted or revitalised.

    We should change the rules and have a salaried non mp leader , in the country, who people relate to…

  • If anyone one asks your position on Student Fees, you are going to get laughed at.

  • John Marriott 17th May '18 - 1:56pm

    I agree entirely with Mick Taylor. Politics is a messy business. If you want power you have got to be prepared to make tough decisions. How long can you spending obsessing about what Liberals are or might be?

    They say that, the older you get the more conservative you become. Perhaps Tony Benn was an exception: but look at people like Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips. The former started out as a Marxist and the latter as a columnist for The Guardian! I certainly reckon that my personal political journey, whilst not necessarily to the right, has made me realise that there are times when you should stick to your guns and times when you have to be prepared to compromise. I still don’t know why Lib Dem candidates thought it a great idea to sign that damned pledge back in 2010. Perhaps they thought that they would never be in a position to implement it, rather like Cameron promising that referendum in the 2015 General Election.

    It’s nice to have teenage councillors for example; but I have to ask whether their experience of life makes them the best people to be in charge. To court the young exclusively is not a policy I would support. After our being told that most under 30’s want to stay in the EU, their involvement, or lack of involvement, in the EU referendum vote, which many of us oldsters still view as probably the most important vote since WW2 and then their sudden discovery of Jeremy Corbyn, who has always been lukewarm on the EU, as some kind of political messiah a year later makes me wonder whether they have got their priorities right. As someone famously said; “Education, education, education!”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th May '18 - 2:09pm

    John Marriot, talks about things here from a very intelligent point of great insight, but misses the point also.

    It is older folk on here who defend Corbyn, it is younger who do not.

    The cult of the man has much going for it as a study in spin by not spinning, but a sudden infusion of, wait he isn’t so bad so must be what we are in desperate longing for, a solution.

    Those of us not young or old but in our younger middle years know Corbyn for what and who he is. A principled contrariest who is very irritating and not of great calibre but a supporter of wretched movements worldwide and in this country too.

    I find younger people as open to that as older, more so if not signed up to the cult.

    Say t to older Liberal men here and suddenly we are called Tories or playing the man etc

    Young people do not know what we do who knew these farther left folk years ago.

    Older should, but prefer to think support for Hamas and Castro and Venezuellan disasters is Liberal

  • Oliver Craven,

    there is actually a Young People’s Party. It is a very small grouping that seeks to influence policy development among the mainstream parties. You can find their manifesto here http://www.yppuk.org/p/manifesto.html

    The party’s flagship policy is to introduce taxes on land ownership and to lower income and (increase) corporation tax to 20% for all, scrapping taxes including stamp duty, inheritance and council taxes.

    The Party’s founder, Mark Wadswortth, says “Rents, in particular land rent, can only arise as a result of the efforts and activities of the whole of society. Therefore those rents belong to the whole of society and that is what governments should be collecting on behalf of society.”

    They advocate rolling most cash welfare payments (unemployment benefit, income support, incapacity benefit, statutory maternity pay, carers allowance etc) and the tax-free personal allowance into a Citizen’s Income scheme, that would act like a much higher personal allowance against income tax, for example.

    Every UK-resident British Citizens would be be entitled to a flat-rate, non-means tested and non-taxable weekly cash amount, which would first be deducted from each individual’s other tax liabilities. The entitlement is there whether somebody is out of work, working part-time or full-time, married or single, with or without children etc.

    They propose a weekly Citizen’s Income for adults 25 or over of about £75 per week , with lower amounts for children under 18; and an intermediate amount for adults aged 18 – 24; and a higher amount for pensioners (probably equal to the current government’s proposed Citizen’s Pension of £150 a week).

    Its more striking policies include legalising, regulating and taxing brothel ownership, fox hunting and drugs and changing prison sentences from time served to achievements made.

    Wadsworth said the party’s low membership is because “our target audience, the people paying far too much tax and far too much rent, at the bottom of the career ladder, simply do not have enough money or time or energy left to do much political stuff in the evenings and weekends”.

    Some of the ideas put forward are more than compatatible with Liberal Democrat values and the Libdems have the membership numbers to more effectively reach the younger target audience.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th May ’18 – 2:09pm……………………….It is older folk on here who defend Corbyn, it is younger who do not. I find younger people as open to that as older, more so if not signed up to the cult………………………..

    From reading the ‘never apologise’ posts on here It seems we learned nothing from the coalition years but, reading your post, proves that some of us have learned nothing since…

    In the 2017 GE over 60% of those under 30 voted for Corbyn and 55% of those between 30 and 40; the older the voter the more votes went to the Tories.
    After 2 years of ‘not apologising’ how did we do? Less than 10% across the whole age range..

  • Oliver Craven 17th May '18 - 3:40pm

    Joe, a lot of these and similar things are already Young Liberals policy!

    It just remains difficult to get these ideas past the Federal Committees!

  • David Evans 17th May '18 - 4:26pm

    @David Becket. It isn’t that we are not communicating effectively. It is that we are considered to be almost totally irrelevant. Just look at the local election results, across vast swathes of the country our candidates received a derisory number of votes, compared to the votes we received in the same areas pre 2010 in the same areas.

    In Manchester John Leach was a very successful MP. Now as a councillor, even with his reputation, and some phenomenally good election material (just look at it), he could only get a second Lib Dem elected in his ward (not all three) and none elsewhere in the city.

    Putting it simply – It just isn’t that easy when you are irrelevant.

  • Perhaps we should be looking for a middle way between an apology for everything we did while in government and just moving on. We need to state clearly that we don’t believe today what we said we believed after the 2010 general election. So on the economy that we wrong to think the UK was like Greece; we were wrong to think cutting the government deficit was the correct policy; we were wrong to think it is important to have a balanced budget. We can explain that we understand the economy better today than after the 2010 general election and we will never try to cut the government deficit when coming out of a recession. It should only be done once economic recovery has been stabilised. We can say we were wrong to support the benefit cuts of the coalition years and we will never cut benefits if in government again; we will always support them being increased in line with inflation. We recognise that the poor should never have to pay for an economic slump. Our policies now restore the cuts we wrongly supported in government. On student tuition fees we should state we were wrong to support an increase in tuition fees and we should have held out for a graduate tax. I think all of these will be difficult for Vince to do, but I think he should do them.

    I am not sure if students are prepared to become members and supporter in large numbers. However, Katharine makes an interesting point. We should reach out to those student leaders who want to campaign for a referendum on the deal. We should look at ways we can work together with them to achieve this.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th May '18 - 5:35pm

    Oliver, as a practical step forward, could you alert YL colleagues to this debate and get some comments from them? And could the YL leadership contact the student leaders named and featured in Sunday’s Observer? If Joe B’s splendid summary of some of our radical ideas also resonates with the YLs, why do you despair of getting things past the Federal Committees? Anything not yet fully party policy, let’s settle at Brighton in September.

    Thanks for other helpful contributions, Catherine, Lorenzo (though I don’t know about older folk on here defending Corbyn!) et al… John Marriott, it’s time for us older ones to engage with our young members, certainly, because their needs are great. Only think – Corbyn doesn’t support the EU internal Market, May doesn’t support the Customs Union, where can the young look now but to the Liberal Democrats to articulate what is right for the country this crucial summer?

  • Peter Watson 17th May '18 - 5:37pm

    I heard Kirsty Williams on the radio this morning discussing the approach in Wales which, instead of focusing on fees, addresses the cost of living for students by balancing loans and grants to level the playing field for rich and poor.
    I don’t know the details and have not thought it through (and am sure there are issues, not least around means-testing), but this sounds like an interesting way to move the debate forward, and evidence that Labour with help from the Lib Dems could make some progress here to the benefit of both parties outside Wales.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th May '18 - 5:40pm

    @Michael BG – great well-reasoned post, thanks, Michael.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th May '18 - 5:47pm

    @ Peter Watson. See my comment at 12.55 today, Peter – we already support maintenance grants for students, which could be so important in making their life affordable.

  • Oliver,

    getting the Young Liberals policy priorities pushed up the FPC agenda requires input to the various working groups that are running at any point in time and involvement with manifesto development.

    There are currently three separate pieces of work under way on aspects of tax policy: on business tax, on the prospects for land value tax, and on options for a wealth tax. Spokesperson’s papers should be published on all of these in the coming months and motions submitted to the Brighton conference, if sufficient progress has been made before the motions deadline in late June. The proposal for a wealth tax could form part of a wider set of proposals on issues of income and wealth inequality, and/or whether its revenue should be hypothecated to funding something like education and training.

    Inter-generational inequality in housing is a big issue and one that featured prominently in the local elections a couple of weeks back.
    The theme of an evidence session to be held next month by the APPG on land Value Capture chaired by Vince Cable is – Economic efficiency, fiscal stability and inter-generational equity of shifting tax from income to assets – property and land.
    If Liberal Youth would like to send an observer to the session you can contact me at [email protected]

    I would also encourage Liberal Youth to make a written submission to [email protected], See http://www.c4ej.com/appg for briefing papers.

  • Our policies need to appeal to young people. And then again we have to improve our visibility amongst the BME community. And we know that getting more women involved is important. And our solidarity with LGBT people is central and non negotiabe. Why don’t we just try to get together some sensible policies that will appeal to EVERYBODY. Intersectional politics is a dead end.

  • Andrew McCaig 17th May '18 - 7:45pm

    John Marriott
    I have to take issue on “the pledge”. Lib Dem candidates did not have to worry about “implementing” anything. The pledge was simply to vote against any change in the status quo on tuition fees, which was in the power of every one of them in all possible circumstances.

    Of course the reason they did it was to get votes and also to maintain a policy as close to the agreed position of the Party (abolishing tuition fees) as was possible in the likely scenario of not being a majority government.
    Keeping that pledge with voters, whether sensible or not, should have been an absolute condition of any coalition agreement. As we have seen, breaking an absolute promise with voters was something people including me were not prepared to accept. I believe the way you do politics has to come first, long before any policy, otherwise you will not get people’s trust on things like the EU.
    Clegg apologising for making the pledge, but not for breaking it, removed the last shred of respect I had for him.
    The Party desperately needs a new policy on University funding which does not include “fees”. A graduate tax would do the trick, along with an apology from Vince for breaking his pledge..

  • Nonconformistradical 17th May '18 - 8:00pm

    “A graduate tax would do the trick, along with an apology from Vince for breaking his pledge.”

    But in practice what we now have is a graduate tax in all but name – payable only above a certain income. Martin Lewis has been pointing this out for years e.g.

  • Oliver Craven 17th May '18 - 9:53pm

    @Katharine @Joe

    It is usually the FCC that is more of a stumbling block, picking very few of our motions despite a number being submitted each time.

  • John Marriott 17th May '18 - 10:14pm

    @Andrew McCaig
    I would recommend to you the comments on ‘student debt’ made by investment guru, Martin Lewis, on Question Time the other week. He clearly doesn’t view it as such and makes a very cogent argument for the present setup.

    ‘Nonconformistradical’ would appear to agree. Abolishing tuition fees would require a massive amount of tax payers’ money. Even Corbyn now appears to be having second thoughts. Time to move on?

  • Time for the Lib Dems to move on? Only if you are happy with Liberal Democracy continuing to be untrusted and irrelevant to most of the British people – as indeed Nick, Tim, Vince and many others who would rather do anything than admit they got it totally wrong, seem to think. Continuing and eventually terminal decline for the party and its values seems to be more palatable than accepting personal responsibility for so many.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th May '18 - 11:22pm

    Joe, thank you for informing us all of three separate pieces of work on taxation being undertaken in preparation for Brighton. If the forthcoming papers are well publicised and comments welcomed, that will be good, though it is a little disturbing that these ventures are not widely known. I myself only knew that there was an Economics working group due to produce a motion (delayed by last year’s General Election) ready for Brighton, and I am unaware of how the three proposals you mention will relate to that. Is the WG’s motion only one of the three?

    Furthermore, I am also concerned as to whether our housing policy, so potentially important for young people, is sufficiently developed as yet. Is it intended that reform of the 1961 Land Compensation Act will be proposed, so that public-sector bodies will in future be enabled to buy land at less than its prospective residential value? And will Council Tax reform be included, to end the anomaly of every house worth over £320,000 paying the same amount, by for instance introducing three more council tax bands?

    Although our systems offer much more participation by members in policy-making than the bigger parties can rival, more openness about ongoing work would help with the problem Oliver mentions, which has been a perennial one but perhaps is lessening. Your own openness on these important policy moves is appreciated.

  • Peter Watson 18th May '18 - 12:45am

    @Katharine Pindar “we already support maintenance grants for students, which could be so important in making their life affordable”
    A problem for the party is that having decided that large student loans are acceptable in principle, it weakens the argument against replacing grants with loans. Even the case that such loans mean that poorer students owe more is undermined by the oft-repeated statement that lower paid graduates will not repay it all anyway.

    There is not a simple fix but maybe treating the costs of maintenance and tuition separately offers a way forward that benefits students and the party. I’m not sure if this creates a hybrid or a mongrel though!

    For maintenance, providing an income to students which balances a loan and a grant seems okay in principle. There might be issues around determining entitlement to a grant. Perhaps the repayment of the maintenance loan could be on the better terms of the original scheme.

    For tuition fees, perhaps there is a way to replace the current ‘optional’ loan with something that ensures the cost is the same for all graduates (perhaps varied by duration, subject or institution) dependent upon income. The current system is not a graduate tax: the wealthiest students can pay less by avoiding the loans and the highest earning graduates can pay less by repaying early. Perhaps the contract between the student and the government (another reason why the scheme is not a graduate tax) could be modified to apply for a fixed time rather than the repayment of a fixed sum.

  • There is a helpful guide to the process of policymaking on Mark Pack’s blog https://www.libdemnewswire.com/liberal-democrat-policymaking/
    The corporation tax and business rates/site value rating review were the subject of consultations at the spring conference and may appear as motions or spokesperson reports at Autumn conference. For wider ranging policy development such as wealth tax or council tax reform these are normally preceded by consultation papers at conference before a motion is brought forward at a subsequent conference.
    Reform of the 1961 Land Compensation was considered by the APPG inquiry on land value capture earlier this week and expert evidence presented by Shelter among others. A cross-party report will be published later in the year and it is expected this will aid in informing development of party policy in the vital area of public housing provision.

  • Peter Watson 18th May '18 - 1:21am

    @Peter Watson “Perhaps the contract between the student and the government … could be modified”
    On re-reading that it looks like I’m suggesting changing an individual graduate’s existing contract but what I meant was having a different type of contract in a future scheme.

  • Alex Macfie 18th May '18 - 6:40am

    John Marriott “They say that, the older you get the more conservative you become. ”
    Not sure this is true anymore, and it was only ever true up to a point. If everyone, as they grew up, adopted the attitudes and values of their elders, then we’d still be executing gays, women would be “pregnant, barefoot and in then kitchen”, racism would be respectable … you get the idea. There would be no social progress. Some people become more conservative, but also ideas that were once considered radical (gay rights, feminism, racial equality) are now mainstream (as Mark Twain put it, “The radical invents the views; once he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.”)
    As for Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips, I don’t know if they went through a “centrist” phase on their journeys rightwards, but somehow I doubt it. Extremism, whether from the right or the left, is all very similar, and I suspect that what drives those two (and maybe others) is just an attraction to hard ideological politics.

  • Alex Macfie 18th May '18 - 6:53am

    David Evans: If the situation for the Lib Dems were really as dire as you suggest, then there is no way we would be winning in the areas where we actually fought to win. We could not have won those runaway victories in Kingston or Richmond/Twickenham (seeing off one of the most aggressive Labour campaigns in decades in this Con-Lib Dem battleground — they lost their only 2 seats in Kingston, and failed to win any in Richmond), nor made inroads in Haringey against Labour. I can tell you that we did not win by constantly apologising for the Coalition. Our preceived “irrelevance” has little to do with that, except that it means voters only ever get to hear what our opponents say about it, and we will not become relevant by agreeing with them and giving them more ammunition to use against us. It is because the media is in two-party mode and so ignores us; voters nationally rarely get to hear our message and the only way we can make any headway at all is by local campaigning. Thus, we are in a very difficult position, but your analysis and solution are simply wrong.

  • Peter Watson 18th May '18 - 8:02am

    @Nonconformistradical “But in practice what we now have is a graduate tax in all but name … Martin Lewis has been pointing this out for years
    @John Marriott “[Martin Lewis]He clearly doesn’t view it as [student debt] and makes a very cogent argument for the present setup.”
    I think that you are both slightly misrepresenting Martin Lewis’ position (and i probably will as well!). Lewis does not describe it as a “graduate tax in all but name”. On the link provided by Nonconformistradical, Lewis says “it is far closer to a graduate tax than a loan. I’d call it a graduate contribution system, and rework it to make that name fit”. And on Question Time he was not arguing for the present setup (he has previously described himself as “no fan” of the “massive changes [that] were announced to student finance for those starting in 2012 or beyond”). but was instead making a very cogent argument for calling it a graduate contribution and passionately emphasising that students should not be deterred from going to university by the apparent price tag and the misleading “debt” terminology.

    Obviously the Lib Dems have a unique problem here which is more to do with the politics (i.e. the party’s apparent volte face after giving the issue a high-profile while courting votes and attacking Labour and the Conservatives), so explaining technical details of any university funding mechanism to voters is not enough in and of itself and some form of “mea culpa” is probably still necessary (and not in the way that Nick Clegg “apologised”).

    The Conservatives introduced the loans system for student maintenance costs and Labour added a contribution towards tuition fees. The Coalition changed nothing about the principles, just the numbers. So maybe this suggests that, despite the political heat, there is some consensus at the heart of the debate which could provide the basis for progress.

  • russell simpson 18th May '18 - 9:24am

    Michael BG would have us apologise for cutting the deficit. How ridiculous! Public expenditure in 2010 was so out of control that it was approx 50% of GDP compared with the historic average of approx 40%. Labour went in to the 2010GE with spending commitments for 2010/12 similar to the Conservatives. Public spending increased in real terms during every year of the coalition. We can all think of particular cuts that shouldn’t have been done ( the so called “bedroom tax” – which according to Wiki was a policy announced by the Labour govt in 2008, which with hindsight, and probably at the time, was clearly more idealogically minded than money saving). The trick was to get the timing right and to differentiate between current/capital accounts. Given that the UK had the best growth in the G7 pre Brexit shows that (in my opinion) Osborne got it about right. I’m confident that history will be kind to the Coalition.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th May '18 - 9:37am

    A private law contract for graduates, under which they would pay the government a specified percentage of their income for a number of years, could be the replacement for the present student fees and debt situation which the party agrees, Peter Watson, having been proposed in the consultation in the spring. It has yet to be debated, so there could be a motion forthcoming. I suppose when the party does decide its policy, some acknowledgement of having gone along with the majority party decision in the Coalition contrary to our own party policy could be made. I agree with Alex Macfie’s comment that we are not making headway by constantly apologising for the Coalition.

    Joe Bourke, thank you for the further explanation. It will be good if the cross-party consideration of the 1961 Act eventually results in its reform. It seems, though, that Council Tax reform is not part of our party’s forthcoming proposals on aspects of tax policy, and surely it should be. Council tax is unfair and impacts heavily on the poorest;
    the rise last month will have caused further hardship, and though needed to pay for local services, it is in dire need of reform or replacement.

  • David Evans. As long as there are people like you constantly harking back to the evil coalition and demanding apologies, we will never move on. Labour and the Tories don’t apologise when they make mistakes, or at least not very often and not very vocally, they simply update their offer and put that to the electorate and, surprise surprise, after a period in opposition, they get re-elected.
    Our sister party D66 in Holland suffered greatly because of its first period in government as a junior partner. Did it creep away and apologise? No! It appraised what had gone wrong, found a new offer it could make to the electorate (it became the party of education) started winning again and has now gone back into government.
    Why should it be any different for Liberal Democrats? For goodness sake, stop whinging and let’s get open with developing the radical Liberal policies our country needs and get them out there for people to see.

  • russell simpson 18th May '18 - 10:14am

    @Catherine Jane Crosland. Totally agree with your comment. We will have to endure 5 years of Marxist socialism before the Libdems get to 20% in the polls. Labour may not be very honest (“we’ll see what we can do about student debt” was possibly the most blatant “lie” in the 2017 GE campaign) but it was/is successful. Clegg’s claim in 2015 to be the head in a Labour coalition or the heart in a Tory coalition was possibly arrogant, but true. Until we get rid of fptp (according to Vince Cable the one change he would make if he had a magic wand) we have to accept being a nuisance in opposition. The Tory govt can’t afford to publicly support a peoples vote on the Brexit deal so it’s important for the country that someone keeps the idea simmering in public opinion (already a majority!) The Libdems can take a lot of pride that they did what they did in 2010 for the good of the country (not party) compared with Tories decision to do EU ref for party (not country) purposes.

  • russell simpson 18th May '18 - 10:31am

    Maybe not the best thread for this comment but: living in Hackney where we lost the three Libdem councillors and seeing the Green/Libdem arrangement in Richmond working so well. Pity that wasn’t in operation in Hackney where Libdem\Green not going against each other could have got councillors for both parties? We can’t do much about Labour at the moment but surely we can combine with the Greens to mutual advantage

  • Mick Taylor 18th May ’18 – 10:08am……………….constantly harking back to the evil coalition and demanding apologies, we will never move on. Labour and the Tories don’t apologise when they make mistakes……………….

    The reason we are constantly harking back is that, as long as there are those who keep praising the coalition (in direct contrast to what the electorate tell us) we will never move on!
    As for ‘Labour and the Tories’, didn’t we promise a ‘different kind of politics’?

  • expats: the leadership’s approach to coalition was completely wrong. It should have been publicly conducted as a transactional, business arrangement (no rose-garden bromance for instance) with our leaders being upfront to our supporters about what we could achieve as the junior coalition partner with 1/6 of the seats of the bigger party. I prefer to be completely honest about what went wrong and where (as well as what we did well). But this does NOT mean I think the party should disavow our time in government, or that we should accept the narrative on the coalition that our opponents on the Left peddle. If we start accepting our opponents’ version of our role in coalition, then we might as well pack up and dissolve ourselves now.

  • Katherine,
    “It seems, though, that Council Tax reform is not part of our party’s forthcoming proposals on aspects of tax policy, and surely it should be. Council tax is unfair and impacts heavily on the poorest;
    the rise last month will have caused further hardship, and though needed to pay for local services, it is in dire need of reform or replacement.”
    This is still work in progress, but the lead could come from the Scottish Liberal Democrats, where devolution of local taxation and the longstanding effort to bring about land reform had pushed this up the agenda in Scotland.

  • Come on expats. Are you not capable of selective consideration, praising the things that went right and accepting that there were mistakes that should have been avoided. Your refrain that the coalition was evil and had no redeeming features has echoes of double speak. As I said before, looking backward never gets you anywhere. Just look at Brexiteers longing for a past that never really existed!
    Oh and by the way, during my canvassing in the recent local elections voters almost never mentioned the coalition. They were far more interested in what we were offering them now. Time to move on.

  • Alex Macfie, there are always local exceptions, even in the darkest days of the coalition there were occasional victories where the popular local doctor, just retired, and/or his wife who ran the post office or whatever, who were Liberal stalwarts of their community, coupled with strong local support, a good campaign issue and phenomenal effort pulled through.

    In the cases you mentioned
    – Richmond/Twickenham and Kingston, may I suggest popular local activist Vincent Cable, a very strong activist base and Brexit may have had an influence.
    – Haringey, there always has been a strong Lib Dem team there, but even after their superhuman efforts this time, their 12 seats is barely half what they had before.
    but if you just go over the boundaries the effect rapidly fades – Merton also made progress, but Sutton (where we have 2 MPs) lost 12 seats. Hounslow, Hillingdon and Wandworth have no Lib Dems. Hillingdon managed only 13 candidates out of a full set of 66!! 🙁

    You use a typical debating trick by taking my point to ridiculous extreme by saying “we did not win by *constantly* apologising for the Coalition.” The simple fact is we needed to do it once, properly, and we never have, and it has totally undermined us as a party in nearly 90% of the country, including much of London. All that your continuing unwillingness to face up to the consequences of coalition is that people become ever more entrenched in their views that Lib Dems are totally unapologetic for what happened in coalition and so have not changed. So why should they?

    The one thing that you say that I agree with is when you say “the only way we can make any headway at all is by local campaigning.” That is not the sign of any sort of recovery. It is a sign of an ex-national party.

    I’m afraid, quite simply, it is your analysis that is selective, shallow and wrong and the fact that we still refuse to own up to the consequences of coalition is the reason we are still going nowhere. And next March, when Brexit is almost certainly going to have finally happened – where do you suggest we go then?

  • Mick Taylor 18th May ’18 – 12:04pm…………Come on expats. Are you not capable of selective consideration……………………,
    Your ‘selective consideration’ is THE problem. Why not ask ask the electorate how we performed in the coalition?…Actually we already have, twice, and both times their response was clear.
    What is needed is to distance ourselves from those years/policies. Try giving your selection of ‘goodies’ to anyone who is politically aware; their answer is, ‘What about’ NHS reorganisation, tuition fees, bedroom tax, immigration, welfare cuts, secret courts, etc. Anyone who is not politically aware may merely answer “Not to be trusted”…

    I posted a comment on the voting intentions of a large group of young voters I met during the 2015 campaign…Some would vote Tory, more voted Labour but the overwhelming response to, “But, what about the LibDems”? was ‘Not to be trusted”…Sadly, little has changed.

  • Peter Watson 18th May '18 - 12:37pm

    @Peter Watson “something that ensures the cost is the same for all graduates (perhaps varied by duration, subject or institution) dependent upon income”
    Talking to myself like this is probably a sign of madness!
    On reflection I would strike out “varied by duration, subject or institution”. Perhaps it would be enough to base the cost solely on the ‘value’ of the degree insofar as that is represented by the graduate’s income.

  • Mick Taylor

    Why can’t we do like D66 – FPTP.

    Why can’t we do like Labour and the Conservatives – FPTP.

    You ask “Why should it be any different for Liberal Democrats?

    I can only assume you haven’t been a Lib Dem for very long, because anyone who has been around for a while knows it has always been hugely more difficult for the Lib Dems – money, vested interests and the abuse of entrenched inherited power area against us. Oh yes and FPTP.

    For goodness sake, stop pretending it will all go away if we simply believe, and let’s get on with reconnecting with where the electorate are rather than retreating into our comfort zone of endless internal discussions about policy, and pretending it is sufficient to be radical in our thoughts, when the country needs us to get back into positions of power and be radical in our actions.

    That is what our country needs and what people want to see.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th May '18 - 1:18pm

    I should like us to focus now if we can on our messages to young people, hopefully getting some feedback from the YLs and planning with them how to co-ordinate with the student activists who want a ‘People’s vote’ campaign. We are the only national party fully committed to our country’s future in Europe, and we should lead in this crucial summer when decisions will be made affecting all of us, but perhaps most of all our poorest citizens and young people facing an uncertain outlook.

  • David Evans,

    re: Hounslow we actually lost our 5 Libdem councillors in the 2010 elections with a 15.4% vote share (fall from 18.8% in 2006) i.e. before the coalition was formed The 60 councilors in the borough split 35 Labour and 25 conservative. The 2 Parliamentary seats in the borough were split 1 labour and 1 Conservative.
    In 2014 Labour cemented their hold with 49 seats to the Tories 11. The Libdem vote share fell to 7%. The 2015 FE saw labour regain both Parliamentary seats with a slim majority in the Brentford and Isleworth constituency.
    In the 2017 GE Labour won every ward in the borough substantially increasing their majority in both seats.
    The recent local elections saw Labour make further gains taking 51 of the 60 seats to the Conservatives 9. Our vote share increaed to just under 9% (or 10.5% adjusted for candidate numbers – we stood 47 across the borough).
    The coalition record was a significant factor in the 2014 locals and the 2015 GE. Less so in the 2017 GE and of minimal relevance in the recent local elections.
    The purpose of challenging for and acquiring power is to change things for the better. For Liberal Democrats, as a party committed to proportional representation, that will always require a willingness to work with other elected representatives whether at a local or national level.
    In a first past the post system limited local arrangements with the Green Party may be mutually beneficial for targetting at times but uktimately we need to be prepared to share power in councils with no overall control or in a hung parliament.
    Changing things for the better requires adopting a non-partisan mindset. Tribalism gets in the way of objectivity, undermines democracy and ultimately leads to voter apathy and distrust.
    The electoral reform society is running a campaign to introduce the Scottish system of proprtional voting for local elections in England and Wales https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaigns/local-democracy/. This is what we should be getting behind while accepting that this means cooperative working with the elected representatives of other parties.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th May '18 - 2:11pm

    I do think we should stick to the principle that education is a right, and therefore should be free. After all, as far as I know it is still party policy to abolish tuition fees, as the policy has never been changed by Conference

  • russell simpson 18th May '18 - 3:03pm

    @ Catherine Jane Crosland. To say that education should be free because it’s a right makes no sense to me. Clearly by “free” you mean funded by general taxation etc. If the Libdems adopted a policy now of scrapping tuition fees we might as well give up as that would make us look completley lacking in credibility. Wouldn’t ex students with a so called “debt” feel they had been unfairly treated? Reinstate a living allowance grant for poor kids and reduce interest to RPI. More kids from poor backgrounds are going to university in England than in Scotland.

  • OnceALibDem 18th May '18 - 3:34pm

    “I do think we should stick to the principle that education is a right, and therefore should be free.”

    Cool. Can I have my free PhD?

    The comments at several points above about ‘how we won where we campaigned’ need to answer the point about why the LIb Dems made net lossess in the north and in London excluding Richmond and Kingston. Otherwise this is just ‘where we work we win’ re-written for 2018. It’s substituting spin for analysis.

  • Expats
    More to the point Labour and the Tories do apologise when they make mistakes. They also tend to remove the politicians who made them and who have as a result have become an electoral liability.. The problem for the lib Dems in the coalition years, IMO, was that evidence of a vote collapse got so overwhelming fear and paralysis set in. The big mistakes were staying in the coalition to the bitter end and sticking to a leader who had become very unpopular. I remember endless arguments about this subject. Unfortunately, it’s spilt milk stuff now and the Lib Dems need to move on. Apologising for past mistake wouldn’t hurt , but it’s no magic bullet.

  • Innocent Bystander 18th May '18 - 4:40pm

    I realise this apologise/don’t apologise debate has been running for three years now and that opinions are firmly held but my view is that even if Nick Clegg was sacrificed by a High Priest and his still beating heart thrown into the fountains at Trafalgar Square it wouldn’t get higher than tenth on the news behind a “cat stuck up tree” story.
    What Megan has for breakfast would be of overwhelmingly more interest to the public than “libDems apologise for coalition” press release. I doubt if it would be printed. If it was it would be tiny, lost on some middle page and read by almost no one. Those who read it would ignore it or mutter some expletive. The notion that a formal apology would trigger a celebration of national forgiveness, rejoicing and an immediate 20% increase in support is possibly the most delusional concept that any political movement has clung to.
    Believe it or not, the vast majority couldn’t care less about the LibDem’s past.
    They care about their own futures.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th May '18 - 5:58pm

    Glenn, moving on for our party should include the dynamism of which we are capable and the honesty about past mistakes in economic and social policy during the Coalition years which we now show. It would be absurd, however, to claim any dynamism or honesty in the present disreputable government, or in the shifty Janus-facing main opposition. Sticking to our principles and values, we can be as much a shining light to today’s youngsters as we were when I was myself dazzled as a 17-year-old so many years ago. We are principled, pragmatic and policy-wise, and I am not ashamed to go out canvassing now for next year’s local elections, or to support the national campaign that I hope to see shaping up. With established MPs as youth-conscious as Tim Farron, and so environment-wise and dynamic as Ed Davey, not to mention our new phalanx of highly talented women MPs, we have many leaders also of whom we can be proud, and who should become known to the new young socially and economically liberal youth of our country.

  • Glenn 18th May ’18 – 4:19pm……………Expats, More to the point Labour and the Tories do apologise when they make mistakes. They also tend to remove the politicians who made them and who have as a result have become an electoral liability………………

    Really? Amber Rudd was dragged kicking and screaming from the Home Office (her first admission, over the police cuts, would have meant resignation when politicians had any shame)…She only left when the revelations threatened to implicate her predecessor…As for an apology???????

  • @ Peter Watson

    As Katharine Pindar points out in the consultation paper on tuition fees there was talk of a new contract which would specify an amount of extra tax a graduate would pay. I suggested it needed to be progressive with higher rates the more a graduate earns, that it start at the average earning rate not £21,000, that it be much lower than 9% and that it continue until retirement age.

    @ Russell Simpson

    I didn’t say we should apologise for reducing the deficit. I said, “we were wrong to think cutting the government deficit was the correct policy, we were wrong to think it is important to have a balanced budget”. If a government reduces the deficit it takes demand out of the economy. It is silly to do it when the economy is weak; which it was in 2010. I have no problem with the deficit being reduced because more people are in work and less benefits are being paid and more tax is being collected. I even have no problem with increasing taxes to control inflation. However, it was wrong to have a policy of reducing the deficit and so driving the economy almost into a double dip recession. During the 2010 general election we implied we understood this with our promise of an economic stimulus in the first year of government. History will say that the coalition made the same mistakes as the National Government in 1931.

    For me the problem is simple. Until we recognise what we did in government which was wrong, we will not be seen to have changed and the public will think we will do it again if we are ever in government again. Even when we look at our successes in government, not many have survived and those which have such as the pupil premium and increasing the Income Tax Personal Allowance are seen as Conservative policies because Conservatism (in the latter half of the 20th century) supported education as a way to get on and supports tax cuts.

  • John Marriott 18th May '18 - 9:05pm

    @Mick Taylor

    Hear hear! Spot on. Look IF the Lib Dems ever do make a breakthrough again on the national stage, the chances are that it will be as the junior partner in a (wait for it) COALITION!

    So, you purists had better make up your minds whether or not you want to stay permanently outside the tent.

  • David Evans 18th May '18 - 9:54pm

    JoeB – I know the electoral history of our party in Hounslow. What I don’t know is what point you were trying to make in your post replying to me other than apparently believing that coalition was of minimal relevance in the recent local elections.

    So what was the reason we won no seats yet again, when we regularly won a reasonable number up to 2010. Is the local party absolute pants? I doubt it. So what caused us to get less than 9% this time when we got so much more up to 2010?

    As for your final bit on working with others in coalition, I know – I’ve done it, and if you manage it well, it doesn’t destroy your party. But 2010 to 2015 did.

  • Expats
    The Tories did apologise and Amber Rudd was forced to resign. I didn’t say they had to be happy about it or that they weren’t reluctant. My main point was more that the coalition went on too long and it became a sort of rabbit in the headlights situation. To me that was the main mistake,

  • David Evans,

    in your comment above you note “Hounslow, Hillingdon and Wandsworth have no Lib Dems. Hillingdon managed only 13 candidates out of a full set of 66!!

    In Hounslow the decline in support began before 2010. We managed about a 13% vote share in the 2002 local elections. After the Iraq war that grew to 19% in 2006 but fell back to 15% in 2010 before the coalition was formed and the councillors were lost at that point. Membership declined marginally after 2010 but began to recover rapidly from 2015, tripling in the last three years in common with other local parties. In the recent local elections more candidates stood than at anytime since the formation of the libdems in the late eighties.
    Significant factors in a declining vote share since 2006 are the recovery of labour support from among the ethnic community as the fallout from Iraq faded and an increased non-labour left wing vote or protest for the Greens in parts of the borough.

  • Alex Macfie 19th May '18 - 4:48am

    David Laws also resigned after his scandal. I think there is a difference between a minister resigning and apologising over a specific mistake, and a party disowning its entire record in government. Did John Major and the Conservatives apologise after their electoral disaster in 1997? No they didn’t, they regrouped and moved on. It’s a similar thing for us now.
    I think Innocent Bystander is right: a fomal apology would have minimal impact on the voting public, who would mostly think “meh”. But it would be spun against us by our political opponents, who would take every opportunity to say “The Lib Dems are useless, they’ve even said so themselves.” People like David Evans seem incredibly naive, in imagining that politics is such a genteel, well-mannered arena that a formal apology would be taken in good faith and as intended by most participants. the reality is that it would not; it is more like a school playground and any sign of weakness is seized upon by opponents.

    And David Evans, we made net gains in the local elections 2 weeks ago. That’s a hell of a lot of retired local GPs whose spouses run the local post office. You have actually made my point for me, that where we have local activists on the ground and a strong campaign we can and do win. “Where we work we win” may be spin, but it has some truth to it, which it did not during the Coalition years. And if the Coalition is really as toxic for us as you see to think it is, then surely having Vince Cable, a Cabinet minister in the Coalition government, leading the campaign would have had a negative impact in Kingston and Richmond, and our campaign would have fallen flat and he would also not have won his Parliamentary seat back last year. You can’t have it both ways.

    Brexit is going to remain an issue for the next generation and longer, whatever happens next year. If it does indeed happen as planned, then the party will focus on campaigning to rejoin, and the political and economic fallout will be such that we could benefit from such a campaign. If Brexit is delayed, it gives more time to campaign for an exit from Brexit. If it is stopped, then the Brexiters will still be campaigning for Brexit.

  • Glenn 18th May ’18 – 10:19pm…………….Expats, The Tories did apologise and Amber Rudd was forced to resign. I didn’t say they had to be happy about it or that they weren’t reluctant. My main point was more that the coalition went on too long and it became a sort of rabbit in the headlights situation. To me that was the main mistake,………………………….

    Glenn, I do take your point. However, Amber Rudd’s resignation/apology was not worth the candle; there were so many caveats (illegal immigrants, etc.) that the apology was lost in the noise. The resignation was not over policy, or incompetence, but over the ‘get out’ of misleading parliament.
    As for the policy, apart from ‘tut-tutting’, we were unable to make any political points as, despite clear warnings about what WOULD happen, only three of our MPs voted against the 2014 bill.
    As for ‘rabbits in headlights’; rewards were given for faithful service. Nick was given the Tory vote to cling on in Sheffield and Danny got his knighthood.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th May '18 - 9:41am

    It’s a day for everyone to enjoy, so much free entertainment on TV and sunshine too. I’ll be lapping it up, both the wedding and the football, and sun in the garden in between! Grand! But I would like to say just one thing to the doom-merchants: if we give up on approaching youth, in despair at the mistakes/misdeeds of our ministers in the Coalition, we might as well give up on our party. I won;t do that. I’m proud to be a Liberal Democrat, and I will say so to anyone.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th May ’18 – 9:41am……………. But I would like to say just one thing to the doom-merchants: if we give up on approaching youth, in despair at the mistakes/misdeeds of our ministers in the Coalition, we might as well give up on our party………………………..

    The ‘doom merchants’ are the ones who were pointing out the ‘mistakes/misdeeds’ while they were happening. Those who were ‘proud to be a Liberal Democrat’ were telling us to “shut up” and “stop rocking the boat”…
    It seems nothing has changed.

  • Joe B – I’m sure the information you provide includes many interesting facts, but I can’t see any relevance to the original point I was making to Alex Macfie (which he/she hasn’t responded to) when you chose to respond – that point being although we did very well in Kingston and Richmond, as soon as you get outside that area, we had little or no real recovery at all.

    You provide lots of special reasons why Hounslow declined pre coalition, but nothing on why it still languishes on just over 8%, and absolutely nothing on why the effect in Richmond that Alex trumpeted so loud as a sign we weren’t in trouble nationally stopped immediately at the border.

  • Expats: Indeed. Those people Katharine chooses to describe as ‘doom merchants’ are in fact the ones who tried and tried to get the party to face up to its problems before they became entrenched. In contrast, those described as ‘proud to be a Liberal Democrat’ are usually the ones who sat back and just watched it happen, usually while describing those trying to save the party as ‘doom merchants’ for good measure.

  • Peter Martin 19th May '18 - 11:17am

    ” we must stay in the EU for the sake of young people ……everyone’s children, whose future is at stake. Our commitment was and must be for them.”

    All we’d be doing was tying them to an economic system which is fundamentally flawed and cannot last. Staying out of the euro won’t be enough to insulate us from the impending fall-out if it fails. Even leaving the EU won’t. But that’s the best we can manage. Advocating remaining in the EU is simply irresponsible, for anyone, unless they have an answer to the question of the fundamental imbalances in Target2.

    “Target2 has become a giant credit card for Eurozone members that import more than they export to other members. But note two key differences compared with a normal credit card: the interest rate charged is zero, and the loan never needs to be repaid. Italy and Spain owe €433bn and €374bn respectively, which they can never pay, and Germany is owed €871bn, which it will never recover. Target2 is also being used to facilitate capital flight, because residents in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece have lost confidence in their banking systems.”

    Apologies for the relatively right wing reference but Prof Blake is absolutely correct in his assessment.


  • I joined the party just after the merger when it was an asterisk in the opinion polls – meaning no measurable support whatsoever as I thought it needed some help! So if we think we have some problems today…

    But within ten years we had nearly 50 MPs – obviously my help made the vital difference!!!! Well may be not.

    (Actually although the asterisk story is Paddy Ashdown’s favourite story it is not actually true but it was low and lower than today)

    I think one thing from the past thirty years is undeniable – British politics is completely unpredictable and will be completely different from anything anyone here today thinks.

    As I have argued in other posts – we need not an apology but a strong signal that the party has changed from the coalition years. Parties do not recover until they make that strong signal after a difficult time in Government and it normally takes two general elections for them to concede that unfortunately.

    I would advocate abolition of tuition fees (and not faffing about with a graduate tax but paid for by general taxation and/or borrowing).

    We need strong bold policies to campaign with among the young as well as the old and the middle aged – they may be Marmite and not appeal to everyone but I would settle for 50% support – even if we hacked off the other 50%.

    I would advocate: Massive investment in education, Axing the council tax (replace with LIT), very generous implementation of the Dilnot Report on Social Care, bold environmental policies and Remain

    As Jo Grimmond said: Let’s march “towards the sound of gunfire.”

  • @Peter Martin
    Let’s see what happens in respect of Italy over the next six months.
    Guess we are going to find out what the EU and the Euro are really made of.

    @David Evans.
    I don’t suppose it matters who was right and who was wrong as long as the party gets it right in the future. Unfortunately I think any future ‘right’ plans will lack credibility until we resolve the electorates lack of trust and I’m still not convinced the party is even capable of getting ‘right plans’ in the future. Time will tell. This party needs to have good think about how it sees a Liberal society. Only then can it start to put a coherent range of policies in place to bring this about.
    I believe myself to be a Liberal Democrat in terms of the preamble to the constitution and values. I am not proud of this party in many ways at the moment and I will not be putting my personal integrity on the doorstep in defense of it.
    Good luck to everybody else and good luck to the people of this country who deserve better governance.

  • Nonconformistradical 19th May '18 - 12:08pm

    @Michael 1
    “we need not an apology but a strong signal that the party has changed from the coalition years.”

    I agree – harping the apology issue is playing to other parties’ agendas instead of concentrating on pushing our own agenda.

    “I would advocate abolition of tuition fees (and not faffing about with a graduate tax but paid for by general taxation and/or borrowing).”

    Well you’d better say how much extra tax (and what to tax) and/or borrowing and how you’re going to pay back the loans.

    Unless you want to go back to the days when only a small percentage of people had the chance to go to university with their tuition fees covered and a with maintenance grant (although I certainly recall there were students in those days who were in financial difficulties because their parents didn’t pay their assessed contribution to maintenance costs).

    Or say what other public services you are going to cut….

  • Peter Martin 19th May '18 - 12:29pm

    @ Nonconformist Radical,

    Well you’d better say how much extra tax (and what to tax) and/or borrowing and how you’re going to pay back the loans.

    There’s no need to for any proposed spending. Whether it be on student loans or anything else. It really depends on the state of the economy at the time. If it’s running too hot and inflation is an issue then extra taxes will be needed. If not they won’t be. It’s really quite simple.

    I know your spin doctors will likely advise against putting it quite like that, but if Katharine is right in saying “young people want dynamism and honesty” then that’s how you need to explain it.

  • Are there sufficient idealistic people, let alone young people to reward politicians who articulate such a vision? Fashions come and go and perhaps the next trend will be a more value driven, optimistic and moral society. Perhaps the love articulated during the royal wedding will spill over into society as a whole.

  • Alex Macfie 19th May '18 - 1:08pm

    The reason for our losses in Sutton is obvious — we were in control of the Council there before the election (and still are, despite the aggressive Tory and Labour campaigns there to dethrone us)! In Kingston and Richmond we were the opposition before the election, and it is always easier to win from that position than to defend your own record in control. Believe it or not, local issues do matter in local elections!

    Otherwise, quite obviously our success “stopped immediately at the border” because we stopped campaigning at the border! It is not ideal but in the party we are well aware that we cannot rely on national messaging because of the lack of sympathetic national media and plenty of national media that’s outright hostile to us (from both the left and the right), so locally targeted campaigning is the only way we can get our message across and achieve any electoral success under FPTP. Kingston, Richmond and Sutton aren’t the only places we’ve done well anyway. Outside London, we won south Cambridgeshire. We also won every single ward in Sheffield Hallam. I don’t know whether this is because Nick Clegg has left the stage (giving the lie to your idea that we have to have “big name” candidates to win), or buyer’s remorse over O’Mara, or maybe local issues. But whatever the reason it bodes well for our chances there at the next Parliamentary election. And in a system that rewards locally concentrated support, we can progress by expanding outwards from our current targets

    And I was one of the critics of the party’s Coalition strategy (not of the principle of going into coalition). However, there is a difference between (on the one hand) constructive criticism of the strategy / working out how to move on from it, and (on the other) constant whingeing about it and harking back to it and wallowing in self-pity. Yes we need to reconnect with the electorate but this will not be achieved by playing to the agenda of our opponents. As NCR says, we need to push our own agenda instead, which means looking to the future not the past. And it means discussing and agreeing on policy, so I do not understand why you criticise us for doing that.

  • @Nonconformistradical

    ““I would advocate abolition of tuition fees (and not faffing about with a graduate tax but paid for by general taxation and/or borrowing).”

    Well you’d better say how much extra tax (and what to tax) and/or borrowing and how you’re going to pay back the loans.”

    We are of course borrowing for tuition fees at the moment – albeit individually at extortionate interest rates – better to borrow at low interest rates collectively – indeed at the moment negative real interest rates.

    Maintenance loans would remain broadly as now.

    It was reported that it was estimated that only half of students loans would be recovered – so we are spending a lot on tuition fees at the moment.

    I would have for EVERY adult a £30k fund that they could draw on throughout their lifetime for education/training – not necessarily university.

    The borrowing of tuition fees might be about £10 billion (as I say being borrowing at the moment) from memory from General Election – additional adult training might be £5 billion – I would also borrow say £5 billion to double the pupil premium and a big increase in general schools budget. Both this forming – “a human infrastructure fund”.

    Borrowing £20 billion is about 1% of GDP – with nominal growth of 4% (inflation plus real GDP) it would mean the national debt going down as a percentage of GDP. It is also my contention that a more skilled, more educated workforce will mean higher GDP – making the borrowing ever more affordable – indeed more affordable than if we hadn’t borrow it.

    South Korea has a university participation rate of 68%. In the last 120 years school leaving age has risen from 10 to 18 – essentially we will have and need a 100% rate of education/training up to 21 – university, craft, engineering, technical etc. etc. in the next 20-30 years to compete internationally.

    There was a very positive report about the pupil premium from a national audit office – a watchdog not given to gushing reports about Government spending programmes.

    As we are beating ourselves up about the coalition in this thread, we should be particularly proud of the pupil premium. There will be many from disadvantaged backgrounds that will get to university because of the boost the premium has given them. But we need to prepare all those starting school this year to able to participate in post 18 education in 15 years time.

  • @ Alex Macfie
    “If it (Brexit) does indeed happen as planned, then the party will focus on campaigning to rejoin, and the political and economic fallout will be such that we could benefit from such a campaign.”

    I expect the party will have a policy of re-joining the EU after we leave. I would vote against us having such a policy unless it included most of our current opt outs for ever. I will not campaign to re-join and hope it does not become our major focus, turning us into an anti-UKIP type party. We will need to focus on using the increased freedom our government will have to ensure no one thinks the system doesn’t work for them and no one feels left behind.

    Michael 1 makes a point about how long it takes a political party to recovery from a major election defeat. For Labour 1979 to 1997 (4 lost general elections); for the Conservatives 1997 to 2010 (3 lost general elections). (Maybe we could include for Labour 1951 to 1964 [3 lost general elections]) If we need three bad general elections then 2022 will be the third one and we can get back to normal afterwards. However, I think this might be optimistic. We could look at our history and say 5 MPs in 1957 was our nadir. In 1970 we only had 6 MPs. It wasn’t until 1997 that we really made a break-through – 40 years from 1957 and 27 from 1970.

    Another way of looking at it is to recognise that Paddy moved the party to the left of Labour in the 1990s and we were successful. After 2005 the party moved to the right and we lost support. So we need to move back to the left and regain our support and make it clear we have disowned the right-wing policies we pursued in government.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th May '18 - 8:40pm

    Proud to be a Liberal Democrat? I take it that David Evans and expats aren’t. I was dismayed myself by the end of the Coalition years, and it was to help get us back to our principles that I became an activist again in May 2015. Michael 1 is right, ‘We need not an apology but a strong signal that the party has changed from the Coalition years.’ But the point is, we need to change BACK to what we were before the neo-liberal takeover in thinking and the wrong approach to the financial crisis. Plenty before that to be proud of, as I know: I actually heard Jo Grimond (not Grimmond!) speak at Conference, Michael 1.

    As you say, we need ‘strong bold policies to campaign with’ . Paying for students through general taxation is one option suggested in the Tuition Fees consultation paper, and I’m interested in your figures, but I wonder if borrowing to pay the fees, and to provide a very desirable £30k fund for every adult to have educational opportunities throughout life, and presumably also to give maintenance grants back to students, is feasible given our other spending priorities. I’ll leave Peter Martin and Michael BG to advise on that! You are right though that we should stress the benefits of our involvement in Coalition, particularly the Pupil Premium and free school meals for infants, and I have made that very point to a colleague writing up a leaflet to begin 2019 local election campaigning who was only mentioning our policies for the future.

  • Peter Martin 19th May '18 - 9:15pm

    @ Michael BG,

    “Another way of looking at it is to recognise that Paddy moved the party to the left of Labour in the 1990s and we were successful. After 2005 the party moved to the right and we lost support. So we need to move back to the left and regain our support and make it clear we have disowned the right-wing policies we pursued in government.”

    It isn’t so simple as that.

    I didn’t much like Tony Blair and New Labour, when they were at their height, and that’s when I voted for you. But the left isn’t the vacant space that it was. There isn’t likely to be another Iraq type fiasco which led many Labour supporters to look for an alternative. You can’t just expect the same thing to happen again if you did move to the left.

  • Katharine Pindar – You say “Proud to be a Liberal Democrat? I take it that David Evans and expats aren’t.” And I take it, very sadly, that you don’t know what you are talking about, or you wouldn’t say such things.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th May '18 - 12:29am

    @ David Raw. Yes, I remember them well myself, David – the joy of Eric Lubbock’s win, and helping campaign for Richard Wainwright (whose son the Guardian journalist I met at Keswick’s Words by the Water festival a couple of years back and spoke to him about Richard). And of course I was once Chair of the Young Liberals in Huddersfield. But as to David Evans, I suppose one can be a hard-working Lib Dem councillor (until standing down this time) but still not feel proud of the party nationally. My point was that unless we believe the party has much to offer youth, as I do myself and both Michaels appear to, it wouldn’t seem worth fighting for.

    I didn’t think of fellow members who criticised the Coalition ministers during their time in office as doom merchants, as David E. implies; no, it’s a pity they were not heard. But I was a bit sorry to see the criticisms appropriately aired on the other thread about Coalition mistakes immediately transferred to this one, where I had tried for a positive take on what we can offer idealistic young people who seem to have been misled by Corbyn’s appeal.

    As Peter Hirst wrote earlier, it would be good to see the idea of the need for love so powerfully articulated in the Royal Wedding spill over into society. Well, we Liberal Democrats are at best a party of compassion and caring, and I am immensely proud of our councillors as well as our MPs, in the service they always try to give. ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ – I have sung that lovely anthem recently, and did so quietly again in the Cockermouth church where I watched the wedding in congenial company: it was surely an inspiration to the humblest of Liberal activists.

  • David Steel in his lecture on Jo Grimond said “…my answer to the question would he have approved of the coalition is decidedly “yes”. How can I be so sure? Because I recall our 14 MP’s intense discussion round the table in committee room J in the Commons basement immediately after the February 1974 election – when Ted Heath had gone to the country early on a “who rules Britain” basis and the people had decided it should not be him.

    .. Jo intervened to say he was worried by the tone of some of the arguments – that although the conditions were not right (a Con-Lib coalition would still not have had a majority) we should not as a party rule out coalition in principle even with the Tories, especially as we advocated proportional representation.
    That is not to say that he would have approved of all that the coalition has done. He would certainly have opposed the about turn on student fees with its inevitable loss of trust in our party among the electorate, though I recall that in 1983 he and Laura both came to my defence of the Leader’s right to a veto over items in the manifesto, a gloriously undemocratic but useful proviso which we lost in the merger process, and which might have been used to save us that campaigning embarrassment at the last election. He would have been dubious about the AV referendum…Why do I say that? Because again his own words in 1964: “Some time we will have to change the electoral system, but not immediately, the most important thing to face is the economic situation”.

    He would also argue that we should concentrate on and promote Liberal principles and values. How do I know that? Because he made exactly that point publicly during the Lib-Lab pact. What had he in mind? First and foremost co-determination in industry. He was deeply interested in that, having studied Yugoslav cooperatives even within a communist system, and the Mondragon cooperative in the Basque region of Spain which he described as “socialism without the state”. He believed fully in co-ownership of shares and worker representatives on boards…”

    Another Liberal fundamental would be a land tax or site value rating to free up land hoarded for speculation and undeveloped, still as relevant today as it was in his.”

  • Andrew McCaig 20th May '18 - 8:36am

    John Marriott and noncoformisradical:
    1) Regardless of what some “experts” say, the current loans are certainly not a “graduate tax”. It is a loan because once you have repaid your particular costs, plus interest, you stop repaying it. The fact that it is collected through taxation does not alter that. A graduate tax would continue to be paid (subject to thresholds etc) while you keep paying tax, in some cases until death. Hence richer graduates would subsidise poorer graduates, reflecting the benefit they got from their education. The only difference from normal taxation (perhaps you think we are all repaying a “loan” made to us for schooling etc??) is that it would be restricted to a certain group through their tax code.
    2) Cost: well, all the upfront cost is currently paid by the government to universities anyway. That is why Corbyn could (and still does) promise to abolish fees, with no immediate consequence to the exchequer. Where Corbyn used weasel words was on graduate debt (notice: = repayment of graduate loans!). That would be very expensive to cancel. A graduate tax would replace the present system by one that is more progressive, but respects the view that people who did not benefit from university should not be covering all the costs of those who do. Some of those costs are still covered by general taxation (eg. for science, engineering and medical degrees), and that would continue. Sorting out graduate debt in all its complexity is a much trickier issue than the fees regime to solve. In 2010 I suggested a retrospective graduate tax, so that people like me who benefited greatly from free education would help out, since we were “all in it together” as I recall. That would potentially have actually helped the short-term deficit, where the fees did not. I would still do that for everyone in the free fees era, if given a magic wand to impose fair but unpopular policies!

  • Katharine Pindar 19th May ’18 – 8:40pm…………………..Proud to be a Liberal Democrat? I take it that David Evans and expats aren’t. I was dismayed myself by the end of the Coalition years, and it was to help get us back to our principles that I became an activist again in May 2015. Michael 1 is right, ‘We need not an apology but a strong signal that the party has changed from the Coalition years.’ But the point is, we need to change BACK to what we were before the neo-liberal takeover in thinking and the wrong approach to the financial crisis……………………….

    It sounds as if you, like David Raw,, David Evans, Glenn, myself and others, are proud of what we once were (but no longer are)…
    Considering those views, I find your ‘proud to be a LiDem’ rather strange; a political party is a set of ideals and values, not just a name. If the ideals/values are not yours then you belong to the ‘My country right or wrong’ mindset.
    That is is not an attitude I hold to.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    On the figures for the education policy I outlined.

    The cost of abolishing tuition fees was costed at £7.5 billion https://wonkhe.com/blogs/the-costs-of-labours-tuition-fee-pledge/
    Half (49%) of young people go on to university https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/sep/28/almost-half-of-all-young-people-in-england-go-on-to-higher-education
    So making as generous provision for the other half would ultimately cost £7.5 billion but would be less especially initially as some will not take up the offer and some later in life.
    The pupil premium costs £2.4 billion – so doubling it would cost a further £2.4 billion – it is not perfect or without criticism but the National Audit Office found had it had the potential to “bring about a significant improvement in outcomes for disadvantaged pupils” https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Funding-for-disadvantaged-pupils.pdf
    The current schools budget for ENGLAND (sorry I couldn’t immediately find the UK figure) is £39 billion so £1 billion would give a 2% above inflation figure. https://fullfact.org/education/spending-schools-england/

    So costing £15 billion to £20 billion – for context the total Government budget is £800 billion – day to day borrowing is heading towards 0.

    Vince Cable has called for a “lifelong learning account” – https://feweek.co.uk/2017/09/19/cable-backs-lifelong-learning-accounts-at-lib-dems-conference/ and established an independent commission on them https://www.fenews.co.uk/press-releases/16532-vince-cable-announces-major-commission-on-lifelong-learning. We need to embolden and strengthen him on this.

  • Innocent Bystander 20th May '18 - 10:38am

    “. But note two key differences compared with a normal credit card: the interest rate charged is zero, and the loan never needs to be repaid. ”

    But as all borrowers discover, eventually, = un-repaid lenders stop loaning.

  • If people think the Lib Dems fortunes can be restored by finding the right policy on Fees they really don’t understand the problem.

    The party had a perfectly good policy on fees in 2010. When it went in completely the other direction when in power why should people trust them with a new policy.

  • @ Expats

    I think it is possible to be proud to be a Liberal Democrat while not supporting what is done in its name. I was very unhappy with what we did in coalition and I wouldn’t canvass during the coalition years because I couldn’t defend what we were doing in government, but I could still be a candidate in the local elections, which publically declared I was a Liberal Democrat member.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th May '18 - 3:43pm

    The point about student fees, OnceALibDem, is surely that a practical solution has to be worked out nationally, and when it is seen to be a rational way forward the question of trust will be irrelevant. Thank you for all the useful links you have provided, Michael 1, on the costs of education policy present and potential, though I don’t quite see why we should assume double costs ‘for as generous provision for the other half’ – what provision? – or simply double the pupil premium. I do think we need to consider the cost of maintenance grants (not loans), and the possible cost of Lifelong Learning Accounts, which presumably can’t be worked out until Vince’s Commission reports.

    @ Andrew McCaig: I don’t myself think a separate graduate tax for all who take a degree, to be paid for throughout life, is at all a good idea. It would be off-putting to those contemplating a degree, take no account of degrees which don’t – like many of them – lead straight into a career, and be burdensome and divisive throughout life. No, I think the idea of private tax contracts (Consultation Paper 134, section 4.3.2) is the most attractive: ‘under which individuals agree to pay the government a specified percentage of their income for a specified number of years.’

    @ expats: of course a political party is a set of ideals and values, which I have tried to uphold since I was a teenager, and which as you infer are not much different for the Davids, you, or me. There is really no argument here, I believe. We are proud of our party for its ideals and values, but were dismayed (or sometimes appalled) to see a temporary falling-off by our Coalition ministers, both in honesty and in appropriate care and concern for the poorest and most disadvantaged of our society, though I don’t doubt they meant well and did achieve some very good things. Since then our party has resumed its progressive outlook, and can therefore – I contend – approach today’s young people with pride again, and with strong and constructive policies.. As David Raw and Joe B. record, we have a long-standing admirable history, from which we may now create new achievements for our people’s welfare and happiness.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    Every adult would get a £30k lifetime training fund – at the moment effectively essentially only half – university students – get this (3x£9,250 – well – £28k). It would ensure parity and equality with “sub” university courses and allow a boost in technical, engineering and craft skills which is sorely needed in this country. A uni student who did a degree in 2 years would have £9k to spend on additional training/education later.

    Allowing much more flexibility all round – people wouldn’t necessarily have to “grab” the offer of university education – but may be developing their skills alongside their business or career.

    As this is a universal provision i would propose paying for it by either general tax or my preference as it is an investment for future economic growth – borrowing.

    Some further thoughts:

    Of course academia is not necessarily for everyone. But firstly many degrees do have a strong practical focus – product design, art, drama, engineering etc. etc. Secondly many craft skills take as long to train for as academic degrees – and there will be an increasing demand both domestically and internationally for things like handmade furniture and artisan foods.

    It is never clear what courses will have the greatest economic pay off – arguably that prize might belong to the calligraphy course at Reed College in America.

    Learning as an adult has been shown to improve health and stave off dementia – reducing costs to the NHS. We should encourage people to learn new skills as an adult just for the joy of mastering them and having better leisure time.

    Vince Cable has talked about how adult education helped his mother overcome postnatal depression – saying ““She started going to these classes and learned about art and history and things she’d never studied before. It gave some focus to her life and perhaps it kind of stabilised her mentally and she started leading a normal life. The mental illness problems went away. She attributed it to the fact that she had had these educational opportunities later in life.” https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/10/vince-cable-adult-education-mental-illness-speech

  • OnceALibDem 20th May '18 - 5:10pm

    “The point about student fees, OnceALibDem, is surely that a practical solution has to be worked out nationally, and when it is seen to be a rational way forward the question of trust will be irrelevant. ”

    Sorry – you are genuine and thoughtful about this and other issues but if you believe that all that is needed is to find a rational way forward and then the question of trust will be irrelevant you really aren’t understanding the problem or the way a lot of politics works.

    Trust is incredibly hard to get back – look at how long it took the Tories to reverse the 97 defeat or Labour in 79.

    And probably for a while to come yet even talking about tuition fees will have a negative for the Lib Dems as it will reinforce the negative memories.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th May '18 - 9:00pm

    Ah, I see, Michael 1, you are putting the student fees in the context of the proposed lifetime learning account of perhaps £30,000 for every school-leaver to spend on education and training when they choose to use it. That does make sense, thank you. But there is still the question of the student’s living costs previously covered for the poorest by a maintenance grant, and I suppose if any student needs £10,000 to maintain him or herself while studying and not earning, then the possibility of a private tax contract to cover actual course fees may still be a needed extra option. Or perhaps students from households on benefits may be given extra help? The trouble with giving everybody the same amount is that students from well-off households may be subsidised by the ‘bank of Mum and Dad’, both as to living costs and rental accommodation, so that the desired end of fairness wouldn’t seem possible, sadly.

    OnceALibDem, we are not going to agree here. After a lifetime of communicating with fellow citizens through my career and my studies, I am not depending on rationality but experience. I just don’t believe that our fellow citizens are in general much bothered by our transgression; they don’t unfortunately expect too much from politicians, and see plenty of dishonesty in the current crop of government ministers and shiftiness in the main opposition without surprise. I would say most people who are not politically active view us these days as well-meaning folk who have had a part to play in government and could be useful again.

    Michael BG – a useful little snapshot of the attitude of a committed Lib Dem, thank you!

  • Sandra Hammett 21st May '18 - 11:46am

    Katharine Pindar, I believe that an apology would work to rebuild trust for the Lib Dems because demonstrating humility and learning from our experience is unique in politics. Not only that but it would be unthinkable for any other party because they have reputations for spin and dishonesty, while ours (at least before the coalition) is one of decency. By making an earnest account we can re-engage with the public and they can start to listen to us on other subjects.

  • @Katherine Pinder

    On maintenance, I am not too concerned – but some grants available for the poorest. With loans,remember no-one going to university pays UPFRONT maintenance costs and we have slashed the “debt” by abolishing fees with this. I think it is not that unreasonable to say that maintenance costs should be repaid by the individual over their lifetime and the role of the state is to facilitate that through loans.

    Secondly before maintenances grants I would spend on those that get a worse deal – those not (at least at the moment) going to university and actually this is the sector that we need to very quickly improve with countries like South Korea – TODAY sending nearly 70% of their young people to university.

    On the pupil premium and schools budget It has been a good start but 13 years from TODAY we need effectively EVERY 18 year-old ready and able to participate in high-level, high quality 18+ education. And there is still a big attainment gap between those from disadvantaged backgrounds and the better off.

    in the context of this thread we should be immensely proud that there are people who started their school career during the coalition that will get to university because of it and the Lib Dems.

    I also think we need policies that are big, bold, radical and perhaps most important will do the most to improve our country to be campaigning on. Putting the “brand” of the old coalition Liberal Democrats behind us and instituting the new Liberal Democrats building on our heritage which is all about support for education.

    This is such a policy.


    PS – The calligraphy course at Reed College I referred to was taken by Steve Jobs and he attributes it to the Apple Mac having proportional typefaces and it ultimately becoming successful particularly with desktop publishing – worth billions of dollars to Jobs, Apple and America – the power of higher education!

  • PS PS

    You mentioned, @Katherine Pinder, pointing out the good things the coalition did in your leaflets – one of the things that you could do is find out about the pupil premium in your area and also some human interest stories about how specifically it has helped local schools with very specific examples.

    Along with campaigning hard for more money for local schools – I appreciate that this is a district council election so probably not for a council that has responsibility for education but that is fairly irrelevant to campaigning on local issues. And you could say that if elected to the council Lib Dems will be getting the district to campaign for more money for local schools from the county and the county to introduce a local pupil premium as well central government.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st May '18 - 3:09pm

    Michael 1, small plea. can you please spell my names correctly? You are right, we need to campaign now on big and bold policies, for economics, education and the environment as well as health and social policy. Thinking specifically about students, I hope we can co-ordinate campaigning with the student activists this summer once their exams are done, and before they all disappear on much-anticipated holidays!

    Giving children from disadvantaged families a start was an excellent priority for our Coalition ministers, and continuing such aid from free school meals to maintenance grants is important. So of course is providing sufficient funding for all schools, and ensuring universities and colleges have the means to continue and expand. Our education policy is fit for purpose, and our educationalist members well involved.
    Thank you for your interesting contributions on the subject, Michael.

    But Sandra, I am afraid that in my opinion the question of an apology has been done to death between this and many other threads.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st May '18 - 9:57pm

    So Labour Youth and Labour Students are challenging Mr Corbyn to allow a conference vote on another Brexit Referendum, as reported in the Evening Standard. What more incentive do we need to contact the student leaders of the new cross-campus campaign for a ‘People’s Vote’ and insist that they should be working with the Liberal Democrats on this? Together, and with the other pro-Europe groups, we may achieve the momentum needed to swing so many people in favour of another vote that the demand becomes unstoppable, and the vacillating pusillanimous leaders of both government and opposition have to concede it before the year is out.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    Apologies for not spelling your name correctly – I know it is irritating and I normally cut and paste so that I don’t do it but didn’t in this case for which I apologise – and indeed what’s more getting BOTH names wrong – sorry!

    There is an interesting article by Denis Macshane (a former Labour Europe minister)

    and on the student campaign who refer to at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/may/12/one-million-students-call-vote-brexit-deal

    And it is definitely something ALL local parties should be campaigning on and reaching out to ALL young people in their constituency and also sixth-form colleges and FE colleges. As truth be told for most young people our position or that there even is a Lib Dem party will have passed them by. From memory at the 79 election while I was young though passionately interested in politics, it passed me by that there even was a Liberal party!

  • If I can post on borrowing for the education policy I outlined and answer some of the points raised.

    Firstly we are borrowing today for tuition fees – just individually at a extortionate interest rates – better to borrow collectively via the Government – currently at a NEGATIVE real rate – that’s right the banks are paying us.

    Secondly a lot of the negative effects of borrowing – higher interests rate, less borrowing and investment by the private sector that economists did worry about in the past don’t seem to be happening. There is a lot of money sloshing around for private sector investment – venture capital funds, high stock markets and there is low inflation and low interest rates. We are better off today with double the debt mountain than during the recession 10 years ago. I am not advocating hundreds upon hundreds of billions of borrowing – £20 billion (£12.5 billion “net”) is the rounding error on the Government budget.

    Thirdly we are borrowing for the future and a future growth – a sensible thing – individuals do it, private companies do it when they invest in equipment to make more to sell, Governments should do so too – invest in the “human infrastructure” to have a bigger economy.

    Fourthly there is a political concern – that people don’t vote for parties that advocate borrowing. I think that the electorate has moved on and embrace “prudent” borrowing and the politicians are lagging behind them.

    There is a worry expressed here about paying off the capital amount – in fact if you look at the figures Government NEVER pays off the capital amount – or a tiny, tiny amount – what happens is it reduces as we get richer due to GDP and inflation – if you are borrowing less than that. £20 billion is about 1% of GDP – GDP and inflation tend to grow by at least 4% per year.

    But lets be clear if we borrow more here will be more interest for the taxpayer to pay. But I believe that there will be more money around for the taxpayer to pay that interest because we will be more competitive internationally and have more pounds in our pockets to pay it. I don’t advocate borrowing for other day to day expenditure – benefits, health etc. as I think we have to pay our way on that.

  • OnceALibDem 22nd May '18 - 2:32pm

    There are political advantages to Lib Dems joining these campaigns (broadly about a second vote). But there needs to be some reality about things.

    If there is a campaign this summer, or a vote at Labour conference in the autumn what happens then. It would need a bill to pass Parliament. Either a bespoke bill or an amendment to some piece of legislation going through Parliament. The former can’t happen without government support, the later is next to impossible without that (this is very rare to happen).

    Even if there is government support it would be subject to huge guerilla tactics by the Brexiteers.

    It would need to be passed fairly early on in the autumn to allow time for the referendum to take place, and would run against the obstacle of not being able to have a final vote on the deal until the deal is agreed (and I wouldn’t bet buttons on that happening by the autumn).

    The window on a second referendum is rapidly closing.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd May '18 - 2:52pm

    The high of a 9% rating in the Opinion Polls at the time of the local elections has been swiftly followed by a dismaying 6% low. In my opinion we MUST have a national campaign as well as local campaigning NOW, to tell people that while the main parties dither and divide about the way forward on Brexit, we have been clear on it for all of the two years since the Referendum and remain clear now: yes, we need to be in the Customs Union and the EU Internal Market, and yes, we need the seal of approval from a ‘People’s Vote’, and the two big parties aren’t saying so.

    We need to point out to the student activists that what they are urging on the Labour leadership is what our party advocates and promotes. We need to tell the country that it doesn’t require Tony Blair to put the case on which we are so eloquent. I think now that these voices. new and old, have been raised we should be asserting our leadership of the variegated national Remain campaign before all else, immediately.

    Yes, we have other splendid policies. Yes, we should advocate national borrowing for educational development, and tax wealth and land ownership and inheritance to have the funds to pay for better services and help for the poorest. But at this moment, this summer, we need to make ourselves heard on the most urgent questions. I shall again be writing to Vince Cable and Nick Harvey to demand national focused campaigning with professional advertising back-up, and I hope many other members will do so too. We certainly can’t expect the raising of the Jeremy Thorpe story to enhance our national profile, however effective our former leader was 50 years ago! It’s up to all of us.

  • @Oncealibdem

    AIUI the Govt. has agreed to put the Brexit deal to a “meaningful vote” – that could easily have an amendment tabled that it goes to a “people’s vote”. If it wants Parliament can act very speedily!

  • @Katharine Pindar

    Obviously the most important thing we can all do is get down to Lewisham East (and I need to wean myself of LDV to do so!) – a good result there could obv. be worth many millions of pounds in national coverage and putting us right in the centre of the debate on Brexit – and we will get more knock-on coverage on TV in particular.

    We should also be making when we get back on June 15th to write to, email, etc. Remainers and the potential remainer demographics – and not just once but daily (well may be weekly!) to point out what we have done and get them voting for us – as well as potential members, helpers, donors.

    PS – Perhaps we could have a Remainer hovercraft tour during the summer :)???!!!

  • paul barker 22nd May '18 - 4:08pm

    @ Katherine Pindar
    & the 6% was quickly followed by another 9%
    Can I appeal to everyone to either ignore Polls or look at them all or follow a Polling Average.
    By my calculation, an average of the last 10 Polls gives us 8.4%, in line with results for the last Month or so & a definite improvement on the 9 Months before that.
    Its complicated, our performance in Local Byelections seems to have sagged while our Polling went up.

  • @ Michael 1

    I think your figures are incorrect. The £7.5 billion, if correct, is for a year group at university according to the link you provided. So a whole year group is double as you say £15 billion and three years in £45 billion. This would assume that everyone in that year group actually called on the money to fund their training or education. We should therefore assume that after three years the annual cost will be at least £24 billion and less than £45 billion and it is likely to increase as older people spend their fund. Over time even if the amount of the fund is not increased the amount spent will get closer to £45 billion and this is 5.6% of your £800 billion government expenditure. Of course you are correct only £22.5 billion is new spending, to which you wish to add £2.4 billion extra for the pupil premium making £24.9 billion, which is 3.1%. This is quite a bit more than your estimate of £12.5 billion.

    The idea that governments should only create a deficit for investment is a conservative idea, and one we should reject. If the economy has spare capacity to produce say £10 billion worth of goods and services and government spending is half of the GDP then it should be OK for the government to increase spending by £5 billion and the economy will grow by more than £5 billion.

    I agree with OnceALibDem
    “The window on a second referendum is rapidly closing”.

    In December 2017 (https://www.libdemvoice.org/poll-gives-remain-a-10-point-lead-over-leave-what-does-this-mean-56145.html) I suggested an act of Parliament could be passed for a referendum on Thursday 21st March after August 2018. I think it would be very tight if it wasn’t until 10th October that the bill was introduced into Parliament.

  • I may be wrong – I normally am! but I think that it works like this.

    UCAS says that there were 46550 new people placed in higher education in 2016 – we hand them £27k (3 years of £9k) for tuition fees for the WHOLE of their 3 year course NOT just one year’s cost – cost in for that year’s cohort for the whole 3 year course £12.5 billion – wonkhe.com says slightly less at £11.7 billion..

    wonkhe.com then explains how this is reduced by 27% to £7.5 billion – mainly because the Government doesn’t get all of its loan back. There is also a boost because it gets more of the maintenance loan back etc.

    So I THINK you are wrong in multiplying by 3.

    Every year the Government effectively hands over another £7.5 billion for 3 years of university tuition to that year’s cohort.

    Now obviously £27k (I rounded it up to £30k) to the other half will cost £11.7 billion rather than £7.5 billion – but there are savings on this – the 46550 includes some mature students (so it is less than double the number), people may not choose to take some or all of their fund until 20 or 30 years from now or not at all. There are many costs and savings that I can think of it but broadly £7.5 billion is not a bad cost figure.

    I also have a hope that it might encourage students to do 2 year degrees or may be online degrees which saves money and save on the maintenance costs. So the amount paid to university students MIGHT become less.

    So £15 billion is not a bad estimate for the whole policy – as you say £7.5 billion of which we are paying for and borrowing for already as individuals plus £3.5 billion for schools.

  • Peter Martin 22nd May '18 - 9:56pm

    Yes, we have other splendid policies. Yes, we should advocate national borrowing for educational development, and tax wealth and land ownership and inheritance to have the funds to pay for better services and help for the poorest.

    If you want a more equal society then tax wealth and landownersip. Nationalise it without compensation if that’s what you want to do. Because there’s really no difference between the two. If shares pay a 5% dividend, and/or land yields a 5% return on capital, and you apply a 5% tax, they and the land become worthless to everyone else apart from the Government, who can then buy it all up for just about nothing. It all sounds a bit too radical (Trotskyist even 🙂 ) for the Lib Dems. It’s never going to make it into the manifesto!

    But , even if it did, it wouldn’t make that much difference to the Govt’s ability to spend. That, as always, is constrained purely by the available resources in the economy and the inflationary impact of such spending.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd May '18 - 1:40am

    The urgency of the young for assurance on their future is not currently being reflected by Liberal Democrat dynamism. Worthy work is proceeding on proposals for taxation reform. which may result in motions for September Conference. Intricate discussions are taking place on the financing of a possible Graduate tax to replace Tuition Fees. There are co-operative proceedings in Parliament on progressive reforms, whether on Land Value Capture or health care, though apparently no proposals on co-operative capitalism to progress with.

    Meanwhile, the position of our Government on EU negotiations could be summed up as, give away as little as possible for as long as possible. The position of the Official Opposition could be summed up as, hope that the Government will fall apart before we have to admit the best ways forward could tear our party apart.

    Why aren’t we denouncing these parodies of patriotism, these feeble edifices of dead hopes, these self-serving so-called servants of the people’s will? It’s time we shouted out the truth. It’s time we asserted our right to lead against the disaster of Brexit, in the few short months of this year that are left to avert it. I call on our leaders to act NOW.

  • @ Michael 1

    Wonke do not seem to state that the amount is for the whole 3 years for the cohort. However, if we work out the figures ourselves, you are correct and their figure is likely to be for all 3 years. I couldn’t find your 46550 figure. However I found 463,700 UK students were accepted on higher education courses in 2015 (https://www.ucas.com/corporate/news-and-key-documents/news/record-numbers-students-accepted-uk-universities-and-colleges). If you multiply that by £30,000 we get £13,965,000,000.

    However, £7.5 billion is not a good figure because it does not include the amount which will not be paid back. It is only an “extra cost” not a true cost.

    So if we use £30,000 we can estimate it at £14 billion as the true expenditure over the 3 years. However, we are not going to count this because most of it isn’t new expenditure. Therefore we are only counting the £14 billion for those not going to university. We can agree that not all of this £14 billion will be spent straight away, but we have to assume that as time goes by it will get closer to this figure. When we add in £2.4 billion for schools we get £16.4 billion as the extra cost, all of which is unlikely to be needed in the first few years.

    This is still more than your initial estimate of £10 billion, but it much less than my earlier mistaken estimate.

    @ Peter Martin

    What you write sounds logical. However not all land gives the same return on investment. Also I don’t accept the premise that those who rent the land would not end up paying the land tax. So if you owned the land a factory was on and you rented it for £5,000 a year and the government put a tax of £5,000 on it you would try to recover all of that cost from your tenant. As all owners of land are doing this if your tenant could pass this cost on to their customers then you will get the extra money to pay the tax. The land tax also replaces business rates.

    I agree an alternative would be for the government to nationalise all the land and then charge rents for the land instead.

    No matter which system is used it will be the public as customers who will end up paying the tax. One of the main benefits of a land tax is that it forces landowners to use unused land to get the income from the land to pay the tax.

  • Peter Martin 23rd May '18 - 12:42pm

    @ MichaelBG,

    “No matter which system is used it will be the public as customers who will end up paying the tax”

    Yes I think this is right. The equitable way to tax both land and property is on the basis of its rental value. So, a property owner who lives in house with a a rental value of £1000 pcm would pay tax on that sum even though he wasn’t renting it out. His neighbour who was earning exactly the same amount as he was, but was renting a similar property for £1000 pcm would then end up paying exactly the same tax. If he then wished to buy that house he could offset the interest charges against his income tax but he’d still have to pay tax on the £1000 pcm he’d save in rent. Or there could be a sliding scale so that everyone would only have to pay income tax on say 50% of the rental value which would still provide an incentive for home ownership.

    Land could be taxed in a similar way. It would even up the playing field between those who owned land and property and those who didn’t.

    There’s not a chance of this ever happening BTW! Can you imagine any political party wanting to tax property owners in this way. It would be electoral suicide.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd May '18 - 2:34pm

    As I understand it, the proposals to tax land and property will be designed to tackle the problem of property being bought and land hoarded for investment purposes. The aim will be to stop the piling up of wealth at the expense of the mass of our people, who deserve to be able to buy or rent more reasonably-priced properties, and then pay tax appropriate to their income.

    As to working out how many billions we should expect the Government to pay out in future to fund education for over-18s, it is agreeable displacement activity but not to the purpose of this summer’s urgent political needs. Many threads end up including intensive economic discussions, which remind me of my own and probably many other members’ pleasant musings about how we might spend very limited pots of holiday money. Maybe most students don’t even have those. Let’s try and involve them in useful political activity this summer instead!

  • Katharine Pindar 24th May '18 - 8:10pm

    Postscript (on seeing this thread again, which had mysteriously disappeared this morning!) I am reminded that Tom Brake is our Brexit spokesperson, so I am writing to him about possible campaigning with these students who want a ‘People’s Vote’, and who forlornly look to J. Corbyn for support. They need us!

  • Peter Martin 24th May '18 - 11:24pm

    “They want another referendum, on the proposed deal with the EU.”

    If we vote to reject it then what? We leave with no deal?

    You can’t hand your notice in at work and then take it back if the company doesn’t offer you a good severance package. If your employers don’t want you to go why should they offer you anything? Even if they do why should they?

    Can you say that UK was ever an enthusiastic member of the EU? How many people, even in the Remain camp, in the UK would want to sign up for the euro and/or Schengen?

    Suppose we have another referendum and we vote to stay in after all. But can we vote to just turn the clock back? The EU27 will want to have a say on that too. Maybe the EU27 will let us stay but only on condition that we relinquish all our opt outs and the special deals we’ve negotiated over the years. What then? Do we have yet another referendum on the revised terms under which we’ll be allowed to crawl back?

  • @ Peter Martin

    While our position has not always been clear, it is that there should be a referendum on accepting the deal or staying in the EU. I have made the case that we should have got the other 27 to make changes to make staying in more acceptable to the British people. However, assuming we could cancel leaving the EU, there is no reason why we can’t keep all our opt outs because we haven’t left.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th May '18 - 4:58pm

    Peter, you make valid points, but Michael BG is right that we do not lose our opt-outs if we decide to stay in the EU after all, and it will be possible in that case to propose reforms that we think desirable. It has been clear from the start that EU leaders would prefer us to remain, and I believe we will be met halfway on the matter of desirable immigration control. There will be no expectation of us joining Schengen or the Euro, because that has been the UK’s firm position. one on which there is probably a sizeable majority in favour. I think the EU will be much more concerned about the attitude of the new Italian government than about ours, and will have to continue to grapple with the increasing authoritarianism and anti-immigrant positions of Hungary and Poland.

    It is up to Parliament to decide, in its agreed substantial vote this autumn, what will be the terms of our remaining in all the advantageous arrangements of the EU. The Government’s position is incoherent and the Opposition must finally decide on its position. It may be that the decision is after all to stay in the EEA, with access to the EU internal market. Since it also makes sense to stay in the Customs Union, as even Jeremy Corbyn has now accepted, there is actually no point in leaving. Even the European Court of Justice will be needed to settle disputes. It should not actually be difficult finally to win a majority of the population (including young people now newly old enough to vote!) to vote this time to remain, if a referendum is decided on by Parliament.

  • Little Jackie Paper 25th May '18 - 5:27pm

    Katharine Pindar – You see, this is a part of the problem. There seems to be this idea doing the rounds that the EEA IN/EU OUT position is some sort of unsatisfactory ‘fudge.’ It is actually a very well-established arrangement that has no small measure of public support in places that use it.

    A study for the Norwegian government put the number of EU laws they implement at 28%. They also retain an article 103 right of reservation that Norway invoked with respect to the Postal Services Directive (albeit a further Norwegian government did agree to the PSD). Constitutionally Norway can not accept a judgment from the ECJ. The EFTA court is a rather less sweeping thing.

    Norway is not in THE customs union but they are in A customs union. I know that this arrangement does involve some level of establishment-of-origin bureaucracy, notably on food, however the last time I was on the Norwegian border everything seemed to run smoothly (admittedly that was pre migrants/refugees).

    The Norwegians do pay for access to some EU programmes, but that ‘pay as you go’ arrangement doesn’t seem too troubling for them. Indeed there is a strong argument that Norway gets an excellent deal – http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=85515.

    There is, of course the knotty question of free movement. There are however differences between EEA and EU. The EEA arrangement does not have the concept of EU citizenship, so no activist ECJ. Also the EEA agreement allows more scope for restricting non-EU nationals. See http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/free-movement-of-persons-in-european.html.

    The Norway option will, of course not please everyone and I do not claim it as a panacea. But I would suggest that you take a closer look – there is much to praise about the Norway option. Indeed, with hindsight in 1992 I believe that there should have been a EZ and an EEA. That would have saved us all the nonsense that happened since.

    Indeed the cynic in me wonders whether REMAINers are reluctant take the Norway option seriously in case voters like what they see. Put it in front of me and I’ll vote for it.

  • Peter Martin 25th May '18 - 9:01pm

    @ LJP,

    “I believe that there should have been a EZ and an EEA”.

    I’d mainly go along with this. I’d include in the EZ countries who were aiming to be included too. This would be the ‘real EU’. I don’t agree with the idea of cherry picking the bits of the EU we like (like free trade) and rejecting the rest. We could have worked with other countries who don’t want to go the whole way and adopt the euro etc, and negotiated a better deal with the EU from a position of strength.

    It’s probably too late now though.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th May '18 - 9:49pm

    Sorry, LJP, and thank you for the references, but there is just no way that entering a Norway-type arrangement can give our country anything like the advantages of staying in the EU. Day by day it grows clearer. Economic warnings from the heads of HMRC and the Bank of England. Having to start again paying for a separate Galileo satellite system instead of remaining part of the EU development. Meaning to strive next year for a free trade agreement with NZ and Australia, when the EU is already opening its doors to negotiating one with them. (And replicating all the FTAs the EU already has.) It’s simply and starkly, nonsense to leave.

  • Little Jackie Paper 25th May '18 - 9:59pm

    Peter Martin – A young and dumb me walked around adamant that there was no need for a referendum on Maastricht. I’m embarrassed by how wrong I was. We don’t have anything even close to the convergence, political and economic, for EMU. What we have ended up with is the worst of all worlds – a set of Southern countries for whom ECB policy is a hopeless fit, a set of surplus countries for whom the rules don’t seem to apply and some countries treaty bound to join but not keen (one of which knocked it back in a referendum). Probably no member state has the institutions to run this properly. EU reform has necessarily meant EZ reform.

    We should have gone down the EEA route all those years ago and we should do so now.

  • Little Jackie Paper 25th May '18 - 10:11pm

    Katharine Pindar – ‘Economic warnings from the heads of HMRC and the Bank of England.’

    This is cart before horse. The economy went wrong well prior to the referendum. We can argue about why and who to blame but being in the EU demonstrably is no protection from economic problems.

    ‘Having to start again paying for a separate Galileo satellite system instead of remaining part of the EU development.’

    Norway is in Galileo. I think some of the hardware for Gailieo is in fact in Norway. I am not aware that the UK is planning to leave the European Space Agency (which is not an EU body).

    ‘Meaning to strive next year for a free trade agreement with NZ and Australia, when the EU is already opening its doors to negotiating one with them’

    EEA covers this I believe (happy to be corrected). Admittedly there is an issue there that the great bulk of Norway’s trade is with the EU where the UK likely would be better looking wider.

  • How much influence does the EU have in Norway overall?

    The government’s report today says that:

    “An independent study commissioned by the Norwegian Government in 2012 calculated that, in return for its access to the EU market, Norway has had to incorporate approximately three-quarters of all EU laws into its own domestic legislation”.

    This is a reference to the Outside and Inside report. It looked across the various ways that Norway cooperates with the EU—in the single market, energy, environment, science, etc.

    While emphasising that this isn’t an exact calculation, it concluded that Norway is roughly three quarters integrated into the EU compared to a typical EU member country.

    This is put differently in the introduction translated into English, which says that:

    “Norway has incorporated approximately three-quarters of all EU legislative acts into Norwegian legislation”.

    Other researchers have suggested this figure refers to analysis later in the report which said that around 70% of EU directives—one kind of law—also applied to Norway.

    The report said that the figure is around 28% if you include more types of law, not just directives.

    The Norwegian campaign against EU membership arrived at a figure of 9%.

    These calculations suffer from the same flaw as trying to work out how much of UK law comes from the EU. Some laws are very important, and some are insignificant.

    Leaving the numbers aside, the overall point the Outside and Inside report makes is that the EU has a great deal of influence over what Norway does.


    The problem you have Jackie is your version of Brexit makes us rule takers not makers. Now that may be fine for you and your own preferred version but don’t forget that’s only your version and the rest of the brave Brexiteers are very unlikely to agree, after all they all have their own versions. The sad thing is you where all warned that you didn’t get to pick the version of Brexit you wanted, you will get the version you will be given. So while it’s nice to see you putting forward your preferred option it won’t be the one we get, because you don’t get to choose, that will be a job for the Tories and the EU.

  • Arnold Kiel 26th May '18 - 8:53am

    Little Jackie Paper,

    “being in the EU demonstrably is no protection from economic problems”.

    This is exactly your (and many others’) fundamental thinking error, because you implicitly demand “full” protection, which is never and nowhere provided by supranational harmonisation. Neither in the UK nor in Italy or Greece. Being broadly competitive always remains a national task, but it is made much easier by expanding the scale of the market and the scope for specialisation.

    Having an industrial sector and being the eurozone’s premier banker provides a lot of protection, and is the indispensable basis for any aspiration to protect all Britons from economic disaster.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th May '18 - 9:04am

    Good to see Frankie weighing in again. The EEA option may not quite be in the land of faeries and unicorns which the rabid Brexiteers occupy, but it is just not good enough. We are surely in a situation now where Remainers should turn the tables and ask, even quite casually, ‘What on earth are the supposed advantages of leaving at all?’

  • On the Norway option

    Norway pay not only for being part of EU programmes but also towards the EU’s regional funds etc. for less well-off regions and countries. In fact they pay in pretty much the same as we do. https://fullfact.org/europe/norway-eu-payments/

    On the economy even though we are not yet out of the EU:

    Quite a large number of the effects are happening due to our proposed exit. The pound went down and inflation went up immediately after the referendum – leading to a decrease in real wages. Companies are now scaling back their investment on the basis we are not going to be in the EU and beginning to relocate and move jobs with the knock-on effects.

    I would be happier with the Norway option than out without it – but given we would have to pay as much and take the EU rules and regulations why not stay fully in?

    The options are:

    1. Out and out of the single market – much poorer comparatively – less money for the NHS, schools etc. (and probably on a practical level following virtually all EU regulations).
    2. Out and in the single market – poorer and paying in as much and taking EU regulations without any say.
    3. In – a strong say on EU regulations as a big country and richer – more money for the NHS, schools etc.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th May '18 - 9:53am

    Well, exactly. We should just stay in!

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