Vince focuses on housing as he visits his old Council ward

Vince Cable is up in Scotland this weekend. He’s speaking at East Dunbartonshire Lib Dems’ dinner tonight. It’s the local party’s first dinner since Jo Swinson was re-elected as MP last June.

He took a nostalgic trip to his old Council ward in Glasgow Maryhill first. He was a Labour councillor back in the 70s. When he was a councillor he and colleagues got tenements refurbished and saved a community from dispersal.

He said:

Nobody should be without a place to call home.

We are facing a dramatic wealth gap that is not getting any smaller. It is a major driver of the disadvantages faced by younger people, who are currently struggling to get a foot on the housing ladder.

Conservative policies on inheritance tax and capital gains tax have only widened this inequality of wealth between generations.

What’s more, here in Scotland, and indeed across rest of the UK, the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets. Under such circumstances it is a national scandal that thousands of homes across the country are sitting empty.

These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working.

Liberal Democrats are proposing innovative solutions to bring empty homes back into use.

More powers for councils to bring homes up to standard must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.

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  • John Roffey 25th Feb '18 - 7:02am

    Vince is right to highlight the plight of the homeless. It is difficult to decide which of the many heartless policies introduced under Osborne’s austerity measures that has caused the most misery – but homelessness must be a contender because, whether it be sleeping on the streets or in temporary accommodation, the lives of those without a permanent home are effectively  ‘turned off’ whilst in this state – and each day becomes a continuous battle for survival. How many are going to freeze to death next week because of the ‘Beast from the East’?

    However, it is not the struggles of the homeless or others impacted by the austerity measures that are of greatest concern – it is that they have obviously been introduced with the primary purpose of making the richest richer and the vast majority poorer – and in this respect they have been extraordinarily successful.

    There has been a great interest recently in Churchill – through films and TV series. Perhaps it is the contrast between Churchill’s and Osborne’s approach to a national crisis that strikes a chord. It was true that public expenditure needed to be cut, but the threat faced by the nation from Hitler was far greater in WW2 as was the suffering of the people needed to overcome this threat. However, what was made clear by Churchill – was that everyone needed to work together in common purpose – if the threat posed by the Nazis was to be overcome.

    This is in contrast to Osborne who used the financial crisis as a means to provide opportunities for the richest to make huge profits at the expense of the vast majority – without any apparent concern for the suffering of those affected.

    Perhaps it is this aspect of the Tory’s administration that should be challenged by the Party – that greed is not good – if it makes others lives intolerable. If economies in public spending are needed – they should be applied as fairly as possible and with the greatest of compassion for those hardest hit.

  • @ John Roffey “It is difficult to decide which of the many heartless policies introduced under Osborne’s austerity measures that has caused the most misery”.

    I’m sorry, John, but you seem to have a selective memory. Didn’t the said Osborne have a certain David Laws and Danny Alexander as First Secretary to the Treasury for five years during his tenure ? It’s no good using the old school playground excuse of “It wasn’t me, Miss. It was a big boy wot dun it”.

    Until this is acknowledged the party will continue to stay in the doldrums. That is the other true legacy of 2010-2015.

  • @ David Raw “It’s no good using the old school playground excuse of “It wasn’t me, Miss. It was a big boy wot dun it”.

    You are right of course David – but I suppose my ‘selected memory’ is due to the fact that I left the Party during this period because of these policies and that Osborne continued with them after the Tories won the 2015 election. This reinforced the view that I hold – and I suspect by many others – that the group directing the coalition Cameron/Osborne & Clegg/Laws/ Alexander were greatly dominated by the Tory representation.

    Others closer to the actual events will know if this was indeed the case – but if it is true – then the electorate should not hold the episode too much against the Party. This expectation is aided by the fact that none of those L/D key players remain as MPs.

    Also, I think it fair to point out, that Cameron/Osborne did have available to them the advice of experienced government ex ministers from the Thatcher and Major administrations – individuals who were experienced and fully aware of how government worked.

  • @ John Roffey “the contrast between Churchill’s and Osborne’s approach”! – “Churchill believed “everyone needed to work together in the common purpose”.

    Sorry again, John, but when Stanley Baldwin appointed Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924. Churchill’s first decision was to restore the Gold Standard to pre-war parity of $4.86 to the pound in his April 1925 Budget.

    This delighted the Conservative Party – but Keynes warned it would damage British export industries such as coal. The impact came in 1926 when the Mine Owners Association reduced coal miners wages and lengthened their shift hours. There was a short General Strike – but the miners stayed out for nine months.

    Churchill refused the Labour and Miners leaders access to pot their case on the BBC – and armed police and some troops were sent into the colliery areas. In those nine months my grandparents tried to feed five children on five shillings (25p) per week in Hetton-le-Hole and two of my Mum’s little brothers died of pneumonia. There was no NHS or state benefits. Churchill remained Chancellor until 1929 when the Tories lost office.

    I hope you understand that whilst I too am very critical of Osborne I cannot accept your opinion that Churchill believed “everyone needed to work together in the common purpose”. He was a ruthless man trampling on anyone who got in his way.

  • @ David Raw “… I too am very critical of Osborne I cannot accept your opinion that Churchill believed “everyone needed to work together in the common purpose”. He was a ruthless man trampling on anyone who got in his way.”

    David – I think it is difficult for those of us who ‘live and breathe politics’ to recognise that the majority of the electorate do not. Their opinions [and their voting] is influenced far more by current events – and not by a detailed analysis of political history.

    It does seem that Churchill’s speeches in Darkest Hour captured some mood in the country – as it is reported that these were often applauded in cinemas when the film was first released. It seems pretty certain that Churchill was seen primarily as a war leader – as the results of the 1945 GE demonstrated. It was as a war leader that my “everyone needed to work together in common purpose” related.

    I do not think we should under-estimate the extent to which dark forces are presently in the ascendence with Osborne’s austerity measures barely changed by Hammond along with Trump in the White House. The Tories and Labour are locked in an intense battle – but with neither leader being capable of rising above Brexit and some other key issues. In these circumstances, it seems to me that the Lib/Dems could provide a much needed ray of hope if the Party can look forward to the 2022 election – when the Brexit debate is settled and the UK almost certainly is out of the EU.

    I also believe that the Party’s role in introducing the austerity measures is now largely forgotten by the voters. It is said that a week is a long time in politics – as far as I can see – anything that happened prior to the EU Referendum and the subsequent Brexit debate is now simply eons ago.

  • paul holmes 25th Feb '18 - 1:04pm

    @John Roffey. What evidence do you base your last paragraph on John? Our flat lining at circa 7.5% over the last 7-8 years does not seem to support your case.

    How often do you go canvassing? Certainly voters are more willing to give us a hearing now, especially at a Local level. But the Coalition years are far from ‘largely forgotten’.

    I do agree with you about ‘…a few years time, when Brexit no longer dominates…’ but even then we may need the experience of a couple of years of the reality of a Corbyn Government before the Coalition effect really ceases to be such a negative deadweight.

  • Sue Sutherland 25th Feb '18 - 1:07pm

    I welcome Vince’s statement that no one should be without a place to call home and would like our party to adopt two rights, the right to a home and the right to food. Until everyone has these basic rights I don’t think we can claim to live in a civilised society and the civil rights that we as a party have always fought for are mostly unavailable to the hungry and homeless.

  • @ John Roffey I’m afraid the deaths of my (then five and six year old) Uncle George and Uncle Tom had nothing to do with “a detailed analysis of political history”, and I can assure you that when Dad climbed into his aircraft in 1944 the last thing on his mind was anything that Churchill might have said. But then, as Churchill film makers might say, that’s show business for you.

    Nor do I find much comfort to hear that the benighted (not quite in the latter case) Clegg/Alexander and Laws took advice from “experienced Thatcher Ministers”.

    Today, Lib Dems will not get a hearing until they have something relevant to say beyond Brexit and gender issues. At the moment they have nothing much to say – but plenty to answer for.

    Limited success post post 1992 was due tohard work and being seen as the radical alternative to the Tories in some parts of the country. It was sacrificed when seen to be Tories’ cats paws. Paul Holmes’ comments are correct.

  • John Roffey 25th Feb '18 - 2:30pm

    @ Paul Holmes “What evidence do you base your last paragraph …’.

    I did not renew my membership with the Party in 2012 or 2013 – I left to join the Green Party for a while – so I have no evidence based on canvassing on the doorstep for the Party. My judgement is more based on discussions outside of the Party in more recent times. Although the fact that the Party is now so small and has seemed to concentrate almost entirely on staying in the EU – when the majority do not see this as a realistic proposition [hard or soft Brexit is the real choice] – cannot help the Party’s fortunes.

    VC was right to try to attract Remainer MPs from the two main parties to defect – but I suspect that the fate of the Gang of Four has deterred any career minded politician [most] from following that route. I presume that VC has now abandoned that strategy and is now focussing on issues that do interest the voters – in this case homelessness.

    I would suggest that the Party will continue to flat line if it does not change its image through focussing on issues that interest the voters and offer policies that seem realistic given these dark times – but most importantly ones that offer real hope.

  • John Roffey 25th Feb '18 - 2:37pm

    @ David Raw: I think you will agree – from my last post – that we have come to the same conclusion – if by different routes.

  • Katerina Porter 25th Feb '18 - 4:54pm

    I think we need to come out clearly that in coalition we supported extreme austerity and that austerity has failed. We are still heavily in debt and Alistair Darling was doing better before the 2010 election. It was ideological more than anything else – reduce the state. It has terribly damaged our social structures in a way that is damaging to our present and so dangerous for our peoples future. You close Youth Centres and there is nowhere for the young to go except street corners with all that that has produced. Someone dealing with knife crime the other day said “they are bored”. We were complicit. We should back building Social Housing without the right to buy. We were complicit in restructuring the NHS to accept a market approach at the cost of over 3 billion involving greatly increasing administration which before markets creeping in in a little way was 3/4% and with this last change I have seen figures quoted of 14% and 30%. It would cost a lot to put it back but would reduce future expense. Local Authorities are cut when they are given more and more to do. You cut the Foreign Office, always a small department, by 30% and now again by half. You are much more likely to need the army, very reduced too, when you have nobody to negotiate. However you can produce a billion for the DUC and a great deal to bail out Stagecoach and Virgin trains and have expensive failures with outsourcing when the bids are too low to produce profit. One can go on and on. Somehow one has to put across the idea that paying taxes is worth it.
    The Dutch for instance pay heavy taxes but accept it because they get so much in return.
    Marginal rate of tax with Mrs Thatcher was 80% and took a long time to come down to 40. One has to find a way………. But I think we should be bold about it.

  • Katerina Porter 25th Feb '18 - 5:02pm

    PS Talk about “taking back control” has to take into account that most of our train routes belong to German, French and Chinese state companies. That does not matter too much I suppose when we are part of the EU.

  • @ Katerina Porter Well said, Katerina.

    The Liberal Party/Liberal Democrats always placed great emphasis on the principle of the freedom of the individual. What is sometimes forgotten is the importance of the State/Local Government/Public Services in the empowerment of individuals to enable them to enjoy that freedom.

  • Katerina Porter 25th Feb '18 - 9:29pm

    David – do agree with you that the freedom of the individual depends on a public framework that gives him a base.

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