Welcome to my day: 30 July 2018 – stockpiling words for a future shortage?

It’s been a very pleasant weekend in mid-Suffolk, with a Branch garden party to attend in Needham Market, a fascinating lunch with a new friend talking about Brexit and wider geopolitics and an intriguing dinner party, but it’s now time to return to work, as the week begins anew. And what have we for you today, I hear you ask?

It hardly seems like two years since the last London Assembly elections, but it really is, and as a sign of how seriously the Regional Party are taking 2020, we today can announce the schedule for the selection of the Party’s candidates for both the Mayoralty and the London-wide top-up list. That’ll be coming up very shortly.

There’s been some controversy over the contracts for the construction of new support vessels for the Royal Navy this week, with questions asked about whether or not they might be built in Japan. Andy Briggs has some thoughts in a similar vein which, if you’re a free trader, should be obvious. If only people were consistent on this (looks to the Conservatives)…

The third part of Paul Reynolds’ four-piece series on how reform of the Party’s political and philosophical offering might emerge follows, and whilst it might not be ‘sexy’, my sense is that, in the search for something that defines the Party as radical and distinctive, what underpins such thought is critical to the success of such a mission.

Arnold Kiel is of the view that, with the Conservatives having made such an awful mess of the negotiations over Brexit, we may have avoided the worst. I’m not so confident, but his thoughts are interesting nonetheless. See what you think…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice. He was up late last night, but it was worth it…

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  • nigel hunter 30th Jul '18 - 10:13am

    There is no contest. The ships should be built in the UK.

  • Mark Valladares 30th Jul ’18 – 11:00am…..If you want to sell things to the rest of the world, it seems not unreasonable that they might want to sell things to you. And given that these are support vessels, there isn’t really the same security aspect as there might be for, say, a destroyer…….

    That is the government argument, i.e. “They are not warships in that they will not have fighting role” and that, they are Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships supporting the fleet.

    Well that is the theory, but RFAs have been tasked with fighting anti-piracy and disaster relief (roles previously taken by ‘warships) in recent years so the term ‘warship’ has become blurred and RFA’s may well take on further ‘front line’ duties; especially as our Type 45s are unable to operate in ‘warm’ water.

  • Peter Martin 30th Jul '18 - 1:00pm

    @ Mark Valladares,

    “If you want to sell things to the rest of the world, it seems not unreasonable that they might want to sell things to you.”

    Germany seems to do OK by ignoring this advice!

    Everyone should have a German type economy which involves selling to others much more than they buy from others. That way there is always more money flowing into the country than out of it and so there is never any need for much Govt borrowing at all. All debt problems are solved and we are all ‘living within our means’.

    How can anyone object to such a sensible idea?

  • Sue Sutherland 30th Jul '18 - 1:49pm

    Mark, if what we talk about as Free Trade is actually Managed Trade, why don’t we call it that? The term free trade seems to be used to obfuscate the debate between the laissez faire devotees in the party and those of us who are unhappy with the results that policy has had on our society over the last 40 years.
    If we as a party started talking about managed trade then the political question would be what elements need managing for maximum economic and social effect and the dichotomy would be meaningless.

  • Is there, I wonder, any correlation between the comfortable recently retired from well-paid public sector jobs, index-linked pension middle-class Boomers, and a propensity to support statist supply-side economics ?

    And is there, I wonder, any correlation between those who practised statist economics pre-2010 and the near defunct state of what’s left of the Liberal Democrat Party ?

    Labour have already cornered this particular market so frankly, a slightly paler pink version is a cul-de-sac to nowhere….. apart from being intrinsically and morally wrong.

  • @Peter Martin

    I think the problem is that we have accountancy on a country by country basis and focus too much on that. Overall the world can’t run a deficit with itself. Well actually it does! Which means one of two things. Either someone isn’t adding up correctly or someone is trading with aliens which is a little worrying!

    Take a situation. Say, Hampshire is good at producing strawberries and Dorset is good at producing raspberries. Hampshire residents get bored with just eating strawberries and decides to trade some of its strawberries for raspberries and vice versa. Now they may be at a different prices or different amounts might make a good fruit salad and so there is a trade imbalance. I don’t get too uptight about the trade imbalance. I don’t see why I should get upset if that it is France that is producing the raspberries rather than Dorset.

    Some products are more efficiently/cheaply/better produced in different countries. Bananas are relatively difficult to produce in this country. But if I want some bananas in my fruit salad then I will need to trade with other countries. Theoretically we all maximise our needs and wants most efficiently – our “utility” in economic jargon – if we all do what we are best/better at. This is not just between towns and cities and people in this country but across the world. The average citizen in this country is much better off than in China although we run a trade deficit with them. Better to trade rather than be metaphorically speaking “banana-less”.

    Now as you will no doubt point out this has to be financed. if Hampshire is making more from its strawberries than Dorset from its raspberries it has to invest in Dorset. But the point is that is that although one has an imbalance with another – they are both better off because they are enjoying their mixed fruit salads. Theoretically if we all trade with each other, we maximise our utility producing what we are best suited to.

    While Germany is a successful economy – as actually is the UK. America which has a huge current and accumulated trade deficit is actually more successful and massively more so than China – https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html

  • Peter Martin 30th Jul '18 - 8:16pm

    @ Mark Valladares,

    You ask (on the question of UK trade):

    “Or is that just more rhetoric without substance?”

    I’d hope you’d know me better than that by now. I’m a scientist. It’s second nature to be able reference my arguments.

    “The UK’s trading performance with the rest of the world has been better. Exports and imports were broadly in balance from 1999 to 2011 but since 2012 there has been a fivefold increase in the surplus from £8bn to £39bn.”

    I’d be aiming to buy more stuff from the ROW and have balanced trade or even a small deficit which we can afford to run. That’s not ‘buccaneering’. There’s no need for that. We should aim to be good trading partners.


  • Peter Martin 30th Jul '18 - 8:25pm

    @ Martin1

    I think you are describing Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage which I don’t have any major problems with.

    I agree, it’s not a good idea to try to grow bananas here! I have trouble enough growing anything in my garden!

  • @Mark – “I suspect that the term ‘free trade’ is preferred because it implies rather less of a role for government.”

    I suspect it is more a hand wave: I want to be able to buy/sell whatever I like, wherever I like, without having to worry about any pesky red tape – because I can not be bothered to do any research. I think Sue is right we perhaps should start to use a new term such as “managed”, because then we have to explain what it is, ie. the debate moves on to our ground. Using existing terms such as ‘Free’ and ‘Fair’ means accepting the baggage such terms now carry and constantly having to defend the different meaning, which only confuses people – give them a handle and they will readily associate it with the message we give them.

  • Peter Martin 30th Jul '18 - 9:53pm

    Laissez-faire generally means letting the economy do its own thing with little or no Govt regulation. The underlying belief being that economies are naturally self regulating. This isn’t quite the same as Free Trade.

    A Govt may well take the view that its own economy does need a high degree of regulation but this need not include the erection of tariff barriers. Instead a freely floating currency and sensible fiscal and monetary adjustments are all that is required.

  • nigel hunter 30th Jul '18 - 10:32pm

    I see no reason why we cannot build them here with our existing skills etc. as a show case for our shipbuilding industry. If they are of good quality and reasonable price NOT the cheapest they could be a showcase for the future. Yes, they will become workhorses for many causes, disasters,transport of goods in emergencies etc. As a country we must believe in what we can achieve and aim for it and sell ourselves to the World in or out of the EU.

  • Jane Ann Liston 30th Jul '18 - 11:35pm

    The Scottish Government commissioned a Clyde shipbuilder to construct the next 2 major CalMac ferries. The first was launched in November but since then has actually had bits removed, rather than added. Work on the second appears to have stopped, or at best is moving at a snail’s pace. The first vessel should have been entering service later this year but is now going to be several months late. Like many I was pleased when I first heard that the new ferries were to be Clyde-built, but now one can’t help comparing this construction with previous vessels which were built abroad and with much less delay. This could suggest that awarding the contract to a home yard wasn’t such a smart idea.

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