We need to focus on things which tangibly improve lives

Terraced housingAre we barking up the wrong tree?

I have wondered for a while if we are focussing on the wrong things, particularly where the EU is concerned. For the record, I want to remain in the EU. I see it as a flawed institution, run by the same cadre of neoliberal capitalists as those who run this country and most of the other countries in Europe. It has, however, two things going for it. The first is the possibility of deeper co-operation across national boundaries. The second is that it has woven into it a thick texture of human rights which the neoliberals, despite their best efforts, have been unable to unwind – it was after all woven in before they came along.

But when I look at this country’s biggest problems, the EU is neither the problem nor the solution. The media cacophony remains completely confusing as to why people voted to leave. The people who voted leave are equally confusing, and there are massive attempts to shut down debate by taking offence if suggestions are made that, for instance, cutting immigration will not solve any problems other than the fragility of some people’s sense of national identity. Taking back control does not take back control, but meely hands it to different members of the neoliberal elite. We still need to identify and solve the problems which have caused such disaffection with the political process.

Advocating staying in the EU is the same as advocating different voting systems. There is no point in either if nothing changes. For a very large majority of those who voted to leave, the key problem is disillusionment. Their experience is that, whatever changes at the top, their circumstances do not change. That experience has, if anything, been reinforced in recent years as the elite gets richer and working lives become more precarious. They do not perceive the benefits of staying in the EU; if anything they have been seduced into blaming some of the features of the EU – free movement of people, for instance – as being the cause of their ills.

So, while the flag at the top of our pole still needs to fly – to remain engaged with the EU (and also to think in terms of fairer voting systems), this means nothing to many people if we do not have detailed and credible policies for improving the material conditions of their lives, and make it clear that we prioritise these over what voters see as more flighty, less relevant issues.

So we should focus on housing (100% on the Farronometer there) – making housing available and affordable. This goes whether it is for renters or owners, and we should encourage more use of different forms of tenure – co-ownership and so on.

We should focus on public services, particular in terms of adjusting financing when population movement causes pressure. This goes with localism, a great LibDem virtue, but again, localism goes nowhere in the public mind without tangible outcomes.

We should focus on regional policy, particularly those regions that voted heavily in favour of Brexit. Not directly because of that, but because that vote was nurtured in a sense of loss for destroyed prospects that have never been recovered. The focus of any policy decision should be the benefit to the region: if, say, someone proposes a new rail link between London and South Wales, the key question should be what is the benefit to South Wales.

We should focus on employment and benefit policies which are fit for the reality of the precarious working lives of too many people nowadays. Universal Credit is a good idea, being implemented in a hopeless fashion. The idea can be salvaged while removing the vindictiveness at the heart of current Department of Work and Pensions culture.

Political ideas work best with tangible benefits. We’ve been great at the ideas; we need to found them solidly in tangible outcomes.

* Rob Parsons is a Lib Dem member in Lewes. He blogs at http://acomfortableplace.blogspot.co.uk

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65 Comments

  • Great article Rob. Thank you. I was thinking of writing something similar. I wrote an article last year saying the ‘Fightback’ needs to be for the many not just the few. I think we should drop the ‘Fightback’ rhetoric now by the way. It actually emphasises that we are so far behind!

    If we serious about getting anywhere as a party we must focus on the things that matter most to most people:

    – health and social care (the latter collapsing);
    – a fair taxation system; high taxes for those that can afford it
    – housing of a good quality that is really affordable especially in major cities;
    – environmental protection – safeguarding local green spaces (many parks are now falling into decay) and policies on air pollution; and of course building a greener economy;
    – bringing back some form of rural transport policy (with subsidies if necessary) and affordable rail fares (£100 from Bath to London on a Monday morning – really overpriced!)
    – a sound manufacturing and regional policy in the wake of Brexit (yes I voted Remain too, but when you look at some communities in the North you can see why they voted Brexit with boarded up shops fronts and low levels of economic activity)
    – Ensuring students get value for money for tuition fees (why should some students pay £9,000 a year for 6 hours tuition a week – it’s inequitable)
    – an all out assault on knife crime especially in London- too many young people are losing their lives in violent attacks
    – Protecting local libraries

    I could go on. We owe it to the majority to be a voice for them. To be honest, otherwise, what’s the point.

    Final thought: let’s stop the rhetoric from the Party criticising Jeremy Corbyn and saying this that and the other is a shambles, shameful etc. Let’s get our own house in order first and stop relying on criticism of others as the way forwards.

  • David Evershed 1st Oct '16 - 11:48am

    Not sure if neoliberalism is being used in a derogatory way in this article.

    However, free market capitalism is the foundation of Liberal thinking, see Gladstone.

    Any liberal supporting web site can expect to see articles in support of neoliberalism. This will be disappointing to any socialists temporarily aligned with the Lib Dems. Lib Dems are not Labour Lite.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Oct '16 - 11:54am

    I largely agree. I think staying in the EU is only a priority for a small number of people and I don’t believe the economy is going to crash if we leave.

    As I’ve said several times, I was looking for jobs in France recently and I’m not even strongly pro EU. Work permits aren’t going to disappear. They might even be a better system.

    Even if migration is halted, the UK is not a hell hole that means the ability to leave is a top voter concern.

  • I pretty much agree with this article.

  • Christopher Haigh 1st Oct '16 - 12:09pm

    Top article Rob and spot on with your comment Judy.

  • David Butcher 1st Oct '16 - 12:11pm

    An excellent and thoughtful article which rightly draws attention to domestic concerns that ordinary folk have day by day. If Rob added equal access to high quality education to his list I think his comments are pretty much spot on!

  • Ah thanks Christopher. Comment much appreciated!

  • Rob Parsons 1st Oct '16 - 12:19pm

    David

    I am not using “neoliberal” in a derogatory way, but descriptively, to denote something that I dislike intensely. Liberalism and neoliberalism are entirely different things. I am all for liberal trading arrangements, but by that I mean trading arrangements which benefit the citizens of the world. Neoliberalism is predicated on benefitting corporations and the elite at everyone else’s expense. Free market capitalism is fine, but it does not have to pursue the neoliberal form which is being thrust at us today as if it were the only option.

  • Sue Sutherland 1st Oct '16 - 12:20pm

    I agree too but we have a problem which is that we have to find the money to pay for the kind of society we want. Economic policies have favoured relatively low tax systems with the poor and vulnerable paying the price for nearly 40 years and this has been accepted and backed up with evidence from economic theorists. I’m not sure that neo Keynesianism will overturn those mantras. Austerity has accentuated the impact of these policies and people have lost hope. I agree the EU has been blamed for many of the consequences. The economic working group must find legitimate theories and evidence for the success of a different type of economy if we are to be taken seriously when we propose the solutions in this article.

  • “So we should focus on housing (100% on the Farronometer there) – making housing available and affordable.”

    But we should also focus on communities (as you have pointed out with your next utterance) as building houses without building schools or transport links only increases the pressure on normal lives; the thing that many blame unlimited immigration for. Likewise, communities without green spaces make for ugly spaces.

    “if, say, someone proposes a new rail link between London and South Wales, the key question should be what is the benefit to South Wales.”

    Golly, someone mentioning outside of England? How rare indeed for a UK party to try that.

  • paul barker 1st Oct '16 - 12:58pm

    I am not sure what you are arguing against, we do campaign on “Bread & Butter” stuff all the time, see the Witney campaign as a prime example.
    By the same logic we campaign on things that will make peoples lives worse or end them. Brexit is the main thing coming up that will damage or end lives. At the most extreme, 4 people have been murdered by Brexit fans so far, 3 of them immigrants killed by mobs in the street. They would have got more publicity if they had been dogs rather than Czechs & Poles. How much worse could it get, once The Economy is hit ?

  • Robin Grayson 1st Oct '16 - 1:31pm

    Good debate.
    One of the issues that we should focus on is air pollution, which is causing the early deaths of 40,000 people a year, and causing misery and suffering to hundreds of thousands due to air-pollution related morbidity. NO2 from diesel exhaust is a killer. So I think we should campaign openly and noisily for prosecution of Volkswagen who deliberately cheated customers in ”Dieselgate”. Prosecution can be at LOCAL level by every Trading Standards Officer. Then there is the shameful behaviour of the Conservative Government in failing to ensure the government funds councils to quickly get rid of Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) for NO2 etc, and are in breach of EU rules and had orders against them in the EU Supreme Court and in the High Court here in the UK. At LOCAL level, we need to take on the Tories defiance of the law and culpable negligence regarding health, by campaigning via the AQMA in our LOCAL areas. Please check the map: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/aqma/maps

  • Excellent article Rob, and thank you for taking the time to write it.

    Without doubt, BREXIT is a big issue, and it’s something we need to respond to urgently or we risk missing our opportunity to shape what happens next. However, we need to remember that the EU is a tool, and while at its best it could be a very effective tool for progressive politics, the British public rejected it for a reason. Or rather, it was rejected for all kinds of reasons, many of which aren’t strictly related to the EU. There’s a great deal we can learn from what people are saying, instead of wasting energy telling people they’ve shot themselves in the foot, or that the Leave Campaign was full of lies.

    For example, many individuals claim they voted leave because they feel their community has been abandoned by those in power. As far as they can tell, they’d voted in successive general elections, and nothing much changed for them, and if they live in safe seats, their vote makes no difference. IMO, there are two key messages here. The ‘easy’ one for us is that these are people who will be open to domestic electoral reform, which we’ve pushed for years. Convincing people that the Lib Dems are the party that can help their community’s voice be heard will be more complex, but we’ve always been supportive of devolving powers and local decision-making, which coupled with a clear message on the advantages of electoral reform making every vote count leads to a strong argument for how we can make improvements.

    I also agree there must be some tangible benefits. The EU, and much of what happens at Westminster is very distant and nebulous. They are very easy targets for blame, and I see so many echoes of the campaign for Scottish Independence in the one to leave the EU. Instead of blaming Westminster for all of Scotland’s woes, leave campaigners could do the same of Brussels. A lot of people in the industrial heartlands of England and Wales voted leave, but their equivalents in Scotland were more likely to remain, because it was Westminster/London/England, not Brussels who have been cultivated as the culprits over recent years.

  • “”4 people have been murdered by Brexit fans so far, 3 of them immigrants killed by mobs in the street.”

    Unfortunately groups of young thugs attacking people up and down this, or many other countries, is not that unusual and never has been. The reason could be because the victims were foreigners, British from a different area of the country, had the wrong colour skin, wearing the wrong football shirt, or a simple argument. I voted remain, but to say this is “Brexit fans” murdering people is just so wrong.

  • My comment above was for paul barker.

  • Phil Beesley 1st Oct '16 - 5:19pm

    As a social liberal (a grouping which defies a pure definition), I get upset when people talk about neoliberals. Where is neoliberalism defined and who proclaims themself to be one in UK political culture? I don’t think that neoliberalism exists in contemporary UK political culture.

    Neoliberal is an abusive term. It’s used to abuse somebody you don’t like — when you don’t have valid criticism of opinions.

    Criticise arguments and undermine assumptions on their fundamental bases — and restrict use of terms such as neoliberal for arguments about Hayek or Friedman.

  • Steve Trevethan 1st Oct '16 - 5:40pm

    A most interesting article! Thank you.
    So much is the economy! Austerity has not and will not lead to financial and economic robustness because it obstructs drive, initiative investment and employment.
    We might consider an improved money system.
    Currently the bulk of new money is created when banks make loans. In order to create new money for a growing economy households and businesses must go deeper into debt. [from “Monetary Reform-A Better Monetary System for Iceland” [2015 – available on the Internet]
    Do have a look at “Super Imperialism-The Origin and Fundamentals of US World Dominance” by M. Hudson for detail of the problems caused by R Nixon’s “off gold” decision of 1971.

  • Barry Snelson 1st Oct '16 - 5:48pm

    Rob,
    I don’t want to to be thought a member of the “We’re the Neoliberals! Everybody hates us, but we don’t care!” gang. Definitely not, no, but you went through all 500 words without sparing a syllable, never mind, a whole word on the subject of wealth creation.
    Judy called for “sound manufacturing” which is a little thin but it’s at least a nod in the right direction and she was the only one.
    The people are quite realistic, really, and we need a bit more than Santa Claus policies to be taken seriously.

  • David Allen 1st Oct '16 - 7:23pm

    I’m afraid this is another let-‘s-dodge-the-immigration-issue-and-talk-about-something-else-instead article.

    Look at where this has got Labour. They keep saying “it’s not immigration, it’s austerity”, or “it’s not about geting the numbers down, it’s about restoring the Migration Impact Fund to help high-immigration areas”. To which the public (see last week’s Question Time) overwhelmingly say “You’re just not listening to us!”

    Until we tackle the elephant in the room, a lot of people just won’t want to hear us talk about anything else.

  • Rob Parsons 1st Oct '16 - 7:24pm

    Phil

    It doesn’t really work to say neoliberal is an abusive term. I’m not using it abusively. I am using it in the sense you suggest. I define neoliberal as those who follow in the Hayek and Friedman tradition of being determined to roll back the power of the state. H & F were about more than this, but this is what neoliberalism has become. Because of globalisation, corporations benefit far more from diminution of the state’s power than ordinary people. The elites who own the corporations have noticed this and are content. They have aso been very successful in gettinge verybody else to go along with the idea that this is the only possible way the world can be. It is not, and it is our job to point out that this is so.

  • Rob Parsons 1st Oct '16 - 7:30pm

    Barry

    There is a lot of stuff I didn’t mention, not just wealth creation. As you noted, I have only 500 words – LDV like their contributors to be concise 🙂 I don’t think we have much of a problem with wealth creation, though it could undoubtedly be done differently. More greenly, for instance – it is clear that there is a lot of money to be made in sustainable power generation that would stay in this country and not go to the Frencch and the Chinese. My points are mainly about the distribution of wealth. We still live in one of the richest economies in the world; the elite has convinced us that they wll somehow stop producing wealth in they and their corporations are taxed a little more. I don’t believe that.

  • Rob Parsons 1st Oct '16 - 7:39pm

    Paul

    We do campaign as you say on bread and butter stuff, but I think we have often been drawn in to extolling the EU for its internationalism, co-operative ehtos etc, when that clearly does not resonate in the lives of many of our fellow citizens. We can quite rightly say that the EU makes us richer, but I remember one anecdote from the referendum campaign that encapsulated the problem for me. I don’t remember who told it now – anyone else, if you know, tell me. This was a chap who went round the country, campaigning to stay in. He presented information about how GDP was likely to suffer from leaving. At a meeting in somewhere like Hartlepool, someone shouted, “That’s your GDP, that’s not our GDP”. That summarises the issue in a nutshell – an indefinable but large proportion of our population who do not believe that our political and economic system works for them in any way at all. One of the reasons for that is that in many cases they don’t. My proposals are designed to get the economy working for everyone again, not just for the elite and the comfortable classes. And for us to be able to say so.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Oct '16 - 9:53pm

    Hi, Paul, that’s a really useful article. On telling people what we can offer, do check out the Social Security Policy passed at Brighton. For instance it seeks more support for children of families on benefits by suggesting introducing a Second Earner’s Work Allowance and increasing the child element of Universal Credit by £5 a week for the first child. It seeks the scrapping of the Work Capability Assessment and replacing it with locally administered assessment which takes into account the employment market. The ‘bedroom tax’ should go, of course, as should fixed-penalty sanctions, bringing in instead flexible guidelines with safeguards ‘so no-one can fall below a minimum income’. Extra costs should be met partly by removing winter-fuel allowance and free TV licences from richer pensioners.
    I am spreading the word on this particular policy as much as I can.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Oct '16 - 11:25pm

    Rob talks sense here, I agree on the need to broaden , and while I agree once you get into the definition of neoliberalism, totally ,with Rob, rather than with David , in the exchange above , I do think the use of the phrase hackneyed to say the least , as with, free market and capitalist as put downs. They are all used in an exagerated and , to many , unclear way at times, though not to us here who are Liberals.

    I suggest calling a spade a spade and saying , right wing , or corporatist , or elitist , all of which apply to the state capitalism of the EU as much as the rampant nature of corporations or monopoly dominated big powerful players in the market.

    The problem with the phrase free market , is , as a put down by others who favour state run industry ,often , also, it goes against small businesses who , if markets were more free and free trade , too, would be beneficiaries.

    We need to more often link the words free and fair trade , and free and fair markets.There is in this ,thinking ,which can gain popularity, combining the freedom we support , in general, with the safeguarding of workers rights and conditions , which is part of the freedom , and rule of law , level playing fields , equal opportunity ,that is Liberalism, not laissez-fairism or protectionism, not conservatism or socialism.

    We are a social and economic Liberal party , they are utterly compatible, and we should be making it more obvious by neither using the language of the left or right but of Liberals, social and economic!

  • @Robin Grayson
    Hi Robin, you raise some interesting points there. I’m wondering if you have seen an article on Spiegel Online about this issue? (http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/volkswagen-how-officials-ignored-years-of-emissions-evidence-a-1108325.html).
    According to their article, all EU States must have known about the VW issues by no later than 2010 (you may recall who actually held the Environment brief between 2010 – 2015).
    It also reports that it was up to member states to define sanctions for violations, but none of the member states have actually done this, meaning VW will not suffer any financial penalties at an EU level.
    If the article is true, it may be hard to prosecute VW on air pollution grounds, after all the Gov knew about it and condoned it with it’s silence.

  • @Rob Parsons

    An interesting article, but may I pick you up on something:
    ” if, say, someone proposes a new rail link between London and South Wales, the key question should be what is the benefit to South Wales.”
    Now I realise that it was probably a top of the head statement framed under pressure or wordcount, but unfair as it may be, I would ask:
    1. Why isn’t London included in that key question? Why would London want yet another link to South Wales?

    2. It’s fine to talk about the benefits to a region, but what about adverse effects elsewhere. In your example, wouldn’t it be better to have a high speed link to mid or North Wales, providing incentives to companies to locate there and stopping the exodus to an area that is already crowded (meaning less pressure on resources in S Wales and potentially a better quality of life).

  • Barry Snelson 2nd Oct '16 - 7:24am

    Rob,
    Thank you for the reply but without a plausible funding model it is indistinguishable, for the electorate, to a Corbyn/McDonnell offering.

  • @ David Evershed – Gladstone was a supporter of free trade – that is no the same as ‘Free market capitalism’. Neoliberalism is not about ‘free market capitalism’ either, as free market capitalism is an intellectual fantasy used to conceal the reality of entrenched inequality of wealth and power. In any case. Gladstone died a long time ago and has very little to offer the 2016, not least Liberalism, which is a progressive and evolving philosophy – we don’t hark on about Gladstone views about women’s rights, homosexuality and universal suffrage none of which are appropriate in 2016.

  • Simon McGrath 2nd Oct '16 - 7:43am

    Leaving aside the nonsense about ‘neo-liberalsim’ I was struck by this : “We should focus on regional policy, particularly those regions that voted heavily in favour of Brexit”
    So we should tax the rest of us in areas which voted Remain to rescue the Brexiters from the results of their own folly ?

  • Stephen Hesketh 2nd Oct '16 - 7:44am

    @Robin Grayson 1st Oct ’16 – 1:31pm
    Hi Robin, are you the Robin G who used to lecture in geology?

  • Of course, the EU does tangibly improve peoples lives and some of the suggested alternative campaigns – affordable housing are minority interests.

    “For a very large majority of those who voted to leave, the key problem is disillusionment” I don’t think this is true at all, for a majority, they were doing very well and the message was keep your hands off my stash. Vast number of people voted leave, yet no one thinks 52% of the UK is in deprivation. in contrast , the younger voters were more pro-EU yet they are the people suffering most in housing terms and might be expected to blame immigration.

  • Kelly-Marie Blundell 2nd Oct '16 - 7:53am

    Thanks Rob for a great article.
    I’m keen to campaign on the EU but I think we have to be cautious about the tangible outcomes this will bring.
    At the moment the majority of our campaigns are focused on ‘saving’ EU elements, rather than what retaining an EU relationship would mean for the majority of people. For example less people will be interested in protecting Erasmus than making sure they can continue jaunts to European holiday destinations without additional visa costs.
    And disillusionment, am sure we can write reels on this. But how do you tackle what is probably a quintisentially cynical element of British nature?!

  • Stephen Hesketh 2nd Oct '16 - 8:17am

    Good article and analysis Rob.
    I also particularly liked your post of of 1st Oct ’16 – 7:30pm

    “I don’t think we have much of a problem with wealth creation, though it could undoubtedly be done differently. More greenly, for instance – it is clear that there is a lot of money to be made in sustainable power generation that would stay in this country and not go to the French and the Chinese. My points are mainly about the distribution of wealth. We still live in one of the richest economies in the world; the elite has convinced us that they wll somehow stop producing wealth if they and their corporations are taxed a little more. I don’t believe that.”

    Spot on Rob.

    If one has any doubts regarding the growing in equalities in our society, on only has to look at how younger people are once again unable to save sufficient deposit to enable them get on the property ladder.

    Tim and the party could do far worse than looking at how we might make our taxation system simple, fair, transparent and crucially properly enforced.

    On the question of ‘free trade’, the Liberal Democratic take on free trade must surely be that to be properly free, it must also be fair and sustainable.

  • Stephen Hesketh 2nd Oct '16 - 9:26am

    Kelly-Marie Blundell 2nd Oct ’16 – 7:53am
    Hi Kelly-Marie, re “But how do you tackle what is probably a quintisentially cynical element of British nature?!”
    One has to question the source and cause of our (growing?) cynicism and wonder if it is also linked to the general rightward drift in British politics … and the Brexit vote. Perhaps not entirely unconnected with another ‘free’ area of our national life – our billionaire-owned free press?

  • Barry Snelson 2nd Oct '16 - 9:41am

    Rob,
    “I don’t think we have much of a problem with wealth creation, though it could undoubtedly be done differently. More greenly, for instance – it is clear that there is a lot of money to be made in sustainable power generation that would stay in this country and not go to the French and the Chinese. My points are mainly about the distribution of wealth. We still live in one of the richest economies in the world; the elite has convinced us that they wll somehow stop producing wealth if they and their corporations are taxed a little more. I don’t believe that.”

    A good word here is “little”. I couldn’t argue with “little”. What were thinking of? 0.001% ?, 1% ?, 10% ?, 99% ?
    We all want a more equitable society and a better life for all but the process has to be plausible.
    As to “lot of money to be made in sustainable power generation”, do you know much about windmill design? Tricky topic – aerodynamics, materials science, stress and bending calcs, HV electricals etc are only the tip of the iceberg.
    If you aren’t, personally, very strong in these areas, you’ll have to persuade someone to put their know how to your service. Why will they do that for you?
    You say this will “stay in this country”. The solar panels on my roof were made in Korea, the inverter is Chinese, the installers are German. Could you elaborate, please, on how you intend to encourage British enterpreneurs to push into this market while simultaneously imposing a “little” tax increase on people and corporations?

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Oct '16 - 10:02am

    chris_sh Point 1) the reason I phrased it like that is that the thinking already tends to be about London. London’s interests always weigh heavy in the balance. this is about redressing the balance.

    Point 2) is a good one. A regional policy would have to take knock on effects into account. The result would undoubtedly be complex policy, which our policy makers seem to shy away from at the moment.

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Oct '16 - 10:04am

    Barry 7.24 am I agree, but that wasn’t the focus of this article. We have had a sensible and transparent approach to funding over the last three or four elections, and I am assuming we will maintain that.

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Oct '16 - 10:08am

    Simon no, it’s not about rescuing the Brexiters. It is an acknowledgement that a lot of people voted Brexit because they recognised that the policy making process is disengaged from them. A government is supposed to govern on behalf of all its people. If you think in regional terms, since Thatcher government policy has mostly been driven by the interests of London and the south east. if you think in broader terms, policy has mostly been driven by the interests of rich people. We need to redress that balance – and, yes, we should tax the people and the corporations who can afford it, in order to provide wealth making opportunities for those who cannot.

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Oct '16 - 10:11am

    Caracatus 7.49 I think we’re both right to a degree. There is a certain amount of dog in the manger, and I have no truck with that. But there are also large numbers of people for whom our current politics does not work. Many of them are concentrated in the od industrial areas and they have reason to feel aggrieved.

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Oct '16 - 10:16am

    Kell-Marie I think it’s partly balance and partly presentation. As soon as you mention the EU, most people go into their fixed mindset, whether that is pro or anti. I’m suggesting that instead of saying that, we should say, for instance “we want to make the economic balance between the regions of the UK fairer. That involves redirecting economic policy, transport policy, oranising taxes so that corporations are attracted to the regions, and also using EU regional funds” – something along those lines. We need to make sure that people hear the message that we want to do something for them, and tack on to it the fact that the EU is a part of the solution.

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Oct '16 - 10:22am

    Barry 9.41 well, as I have said, the focus of this article was not income generation which is a topic in its own right. But just to pick up on one of your points, you have illustrated that the solar power industry is a globalised one, just like every other industry. No doubt profits will be made elsewhere – but not the massive profits taht will be made elsewhere by Hinkley, not just in the capital costs, but in the revneue stream that it will generate over its entire lifetime.

    I’m not going to get drawn into a debate about the word “little”. No doubt I would tax rich people and corporations more than they want to be taxed. That is not a reason to be shy of it.

  • Dean Crofts 2nd Oct '16 - 10:28am

    Excellent article Rob , exactly on the button if we get local issues sorted a national government that sorts national problems then the EU will fit in with international issues, this is what we should be promoting, this should be our strategy☺

  • David Garlick 2nd Oct '16 - 10:56am

    I have been saying for while that we need great policy to match the mood music and I pretty much agree with this article if that is where we get to.
    A grown up debate here. How unusual.

  • Barry Snelson 2nd Oct '16 - 10:56am

    Rob,
    Thank you for your considered replies and I am not trying to be mischievious. I appreciate your focus is wealth re-distribution and that has to be a factor of all party’s offerings, especially this one. It’s just that it’s the trivialy easy bit. Everyone wants to be Robin Hood or Santa Claus and very few want to face the task of filling Santa’s sack in the first place.

    I also appreciate that you do not want to be drawn ino a debate on how “little” your proposed personal and corporate tax increases will be, but drawn you must be. Presenting the nation and global business with a bill with no numbers on it is just asking to be sidelined and ignored.

    BTW Hinkley Point is not a power station – it is a national humiliation.

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Oct '16 - 11:05am

    Barry 10.56 “I also appreciate that you do not want to be drawn ino a debate on how “little” your proposed personal and corporate tax increases will be, but drawn you must be.”

    I agree – just not in this article. In a way this is what I was trying to get at in writing the article. There is no point in raising taxes unless we now what we are raising taxes for. Once we have decided that, then, yes, let’s debate in detail and forensically how that can most effectively be done. But we have to start with what we want to do befoer we figure out how much of it we can pay for.

    “BTW Hinkley Point is not a power station – it is a national humiliation.”

    Love it 🙂

  • Rob Parsons and Judy Abel……The reason why, apart from 1997 and 2015, I have always voted Lib(Dem)….

    If only there were more of you in the party…

  • Charles Rothwell 2nd Oct '16 - 11:34am

    A poll mentioned in the “Observer” this morning (Sunday 2 October) puts the party on 5% (!) (2.8% lower than the votes won in the disastrous May 2015 General Election). I voted for Tim and support every word he says (as in his great speech in Brighton), but it is I am afraid the plain truth that we are just a complete irrelevance to millions of people in the UK and that the tangible results of the “Fightback” are so far ONLY to be found in local/local by-election contests (and with the vast bulk of this good news being concentrated in areas which overwhelmingly vote Tory). Something fairly radical has got to happen within the coming year at the latest or the extinction the Liberal Party very nearly experienced in 1955 (when, admittedly it fell even below 5% (to 2.7%) will hardly be avoidable, I fear.

  • David Evershed 2nd Oct '16 - 11:48am

    Caracatus says “Gladstone died a long time ago and has very little to offer the 2016, not least Liberalism, which is a progressive and evolving philosophy”

    Should we therefore update the term Liberalism to Neoliberalism for the 21st century? 🙂

  • Rob, yet again I agree with you – especially the bit about people having a fixed mind-set when it comes to the EU. Far better to discuss the issues, and then, if appropriate, tag on where the EU might fit in.

    Regarding the term ‘neoliberal’, I have to agree with those who think it’s now toxic. It’s tempting to get all pedantic and insist that people are using it all wrong, and I’d argue that most people using it have no idea what it means, except that it’s an insult that sounds clever.

    Anyone who advocates for neoliberal policies in the strict definition, would do well to find a better, more meaningful way of explaining what you mean by it, and why it’s good for society, and not just the greedy bankers etc.

  • Mark Blackburn 2nd Oct '16 - 12:28pm

    Thank fightback for the likes of Rob Parsons. Bang on the money in the original article and with every response, all done with lashings of humour and patience.

  • Gwynfor Tyley 2nd Oct '16 - 1:41pm

    Spot on article: We need to be saying that leaving the EU isn’t going to sort your problems but here are the policies that will. Then whether we leave the EU or (the slim chance) not then we will may be seen as the ones with the consistent policies.

    Provided of course that we can actually get those policies out to the wider electorate and get them to pay attention.

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Oct '16 - 1:59pm

    Mark – thank you.

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Oct '16 - 2:03pm

    Charles, we’ve been here before many times. Opinion polls between elections usually underestimate our election performance. 2015 was different because, being in government, we got plenty of press coverage and – arguably – we didn’t play our public relations hand in coalition nearly as well as the Tories did. Council seats build organisation, funding and momentum. We won’t get back to having several dozen MPs for a while, but we have a cause worth fighting. The Tories are still Tories – they don’t care about people nearly as much as they care about money. Labour – its right wing is as Tory as the Tories; its left wing, well,…. We believe in freedom and justice, the words in the preamble to our constitution, and nobody else is fighting for those things. I dont care how many times I lose, I will continue to fight that battle.

  • Simon Freeman 2nd Oct '16 - 4:02pm

    Rob/Charles
    The 5% opinion poll is difficult to understand. You’ve gained me and a few other people I know since the General Election. We do tend to be centre-leftish social democrats who wanted to stay in the EU but don’t rate Corbyn. Such people are probably the natural target for the Liberal Democrats I think. I keep thinking maybe I should invest £12 and take out membership. does it really matter if we are Liberals/Social liberals or social democrats. To thrive any party needs a broad co-alition of supporters and labour’s problems all come from the fact that theirs has broken down-3 or 4 ways I’d suggest.

    By- election results suggest you/we are doing better. It seems to me it’s largely a case of people forgetting the Lib Dems are there until there’s something to remind them. I saw Nick Clegg speak at Sheffield’s Off the Shelf and was very impressed. Somehow the party needs an amplifier or megaphone to get it’s vies across and with just 8 MPs it’s hard. Very few mentions in the Guardian even when conference was on, although a few more in the “i”. And the BBC always seem to go Tory/Labour/SNP when they look for people’s views. The public seem to like clear and simple messages and unlike political wonks like us don’t get off on wordy manifestos. Maybe something like a 5 or 6 point pledge card would be a good idea?

  • paul barker 2nd Oct '16 - 6:32pm

    The last estimate I saw for our Polling average was 8.6% but that was more than a month ago. Our normal range over the last 3 years has been between 5% & 11% so getting 5% in one Poll is perfectly normal.
    The question remains – why is our recovery on the ground having no effect on our Polling ?
    What we have to remember is that most voters dont think about Party Politics except around General Elections. The Referendum got voters excited but wasnt seen as a Party issue. The opinions about The Libdems that most voters have are the same ones they had in May 2015, we are seen as dead or irrelevant. That will probably only change if they see us doing very well in a real Election, Witney maybe or next Mays Locals.

  • Simon Banks 2nd Oct '16 - 6:36pm

    I agree with a lot of this and think Rob has set us a very fair challenge. But peace, for example, tangibly improves lives; war tangibly worsens them by terminating them. The EU has been a force for peace. Voting systems do make a big difference to communities at the bottom of the heap. Places like Sunderland and Blaenau Gwent are ignored, their problems given lower priority, because everybody knows who’ll be elected to Parliament and in most cases who’ll run the council. PR would give them equal importance to Colchester and Peterborough, South Glamorgan and Chester. The challenge for us, if our policies are right, is to put our arguments in ways the average resident of Hartlepool or Merthyr can understand. Genuine community politics helps.

  • Things that tangibly improve lives are one crucial level of politics. But ideas and beliefs matter as well. Just look at the Brexiters: they spent 25 years offering absolutely nothing that would tangibly improve anybody’s life, and yet they are transforming the country.

  • Rob Parsons 3rd Oct '16 - 3:20pm

    RBH, you’re quit right, but I think we do do the ideas and beliefs thing quite well. I can’t think of a better statement of dieas and beliefs than our curent preamble. What I am trying to get at here is that those fine words make no difference to many people’s perceptions,a nd we need to make it clear with the practical outcomes of our fine words are going to be.

    “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.”

  • Rob Parsons 3rd Oct '16 - 6:51pm

    David Allen

    I missed your post on immigration amid all the others. You’re quite right, it’s a vital issue. I chose not to include it in my original piece because of trying to keep it as short as possible, and it is in a different category from the others. The focus of my piece was the people in this country who we should be helping and who we should be getting our message across to. There are other messages on which they and we are going to disagree, immigration being the most powerful of them. My own view is that we should stand by our principles and continue to tell the truth, that immigration benefits this country and is in fact a necessary component of a healthy economy. We will undoubtedly be frequently drowned out by ignorance, racism and selfishness, driven by those aprts of the elite that need to keep us divided. So be it.

    In the piece I included one idea which should be a more positive policy towards the issues brought up by immigration. Some people undoubtedly suffer because of strain on services in particular places at particular times – GP appointments, school places and so on. Government should be quicker off the mark to increase budgets for local authorities so affected – generally decision making in this sort of sphere is sclerotic. Liberal Democrat localsim should seek to improve that.

  • “Government should be quicker off the mark to increase budgets for local authorities so affected”

    Words,… words,… meaningless words. These are just pointless words, not policies, unless you have detail.? So,.. you’ll increase [L.A.], budgets from where,(?)… what pot of money do you speak of.?
    Real policy is specific, not hand waving *we must build more houses*, *create more trained GP’s*, *provide more school places*,.. wordy meaningless, mother and apple pie, nonsense.
    How about this for a real specific policy to balance regional UK finance.?
    Scrap the Barnett formula, creating a more equal balance of per capita public spending for all UK citizens.?

  • Rob Parsons 4th Oct '16 - 11:58am

    J Dunn, of course there should be specifics, any policy needs specifics. But you have to start with the idea before you get into specifics. I’m giving the ideas – there will be others who are much better on the specifics than I am.

  • @expats – Thanks v. much!

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