What is the Liberal Democrat offer to working class voters?

A line I heard in a public house recently summed up for me the problem with the present incarnation of the Labour Party. A long-standing Labour supporter from Leigh in the north of England said to me “the problem is Labour is now more Hampstead than Hull”.

Data revealed as part of a recent opinion poll conducted for the Evening Standard, bears out my ersthwhile friend’s pithy analysis.

It showed that in London, the party pof Corbyn has more support among the higher earners of the ABC1 demographic than it does among the C2DE group of working class voters.

The shame for the Liberal Democrats is that we are also more popular among ABC1 voters than the workers, of the three biggest parties in London, it is the Conservatives, by a statistically significant margin of 7%, that have more support among the workers than the rich.

As Liberal Democrats, we style ourselves as a progressive party, so why do working people hate us so much?

Could it be that we are very good at solving the little problems that afflict neighbourhoods, the potholes and the dog fouling.

But while such concerns are important, they are luxury items, people who can easily pay their bills can worry about the potholes, people who can’t have more to concern them.

This is evidenced by the fact that the poorest borough in London, Barking and Dagenham, has not got a single Liberal Democrat candidate running in the coming elections, while we may win control of some of the mostly leafy boroughs in the southwest of the city.

I live in East London, there was drive by shooting at the top of my road recently, and a stabbing in the shopping centre. The eighteen minute walk from my home to the station involves me walking past two murder scenes, I don’t care about the potholes, I care about not being killed in crossfire, what have the Liberal Democrats got to offer me?

Brexit will be bad for everyone, and so will impact workers, but that’s not enough to attract workers to our cause. Len McLuskey, the union leader who is sufficiently powerful to threaten Labour MPs, supports Brexit, as a result so does Jeremy Corbyn. It doesn’t seem to have done either of those champions of the workers any harm.

Apart from Brexit, our 2017 election manifesto contained a promise to increase income tax for low earners, whereas the Conservatives and Labour promised a cut.

So the question I have for the party as my membership comes up for renewal is, what is your offer to the working class from which I come?

* David Thorpe was the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for East Ham in the 2015 General Election

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141 Comments

  • “Data revealed as part of a recent opinion poll conducted for the Evening Standard, bears out my ersthwhile friend’s pithy analysis.”

    No it doesn’t. Do you have a comparison of the % of Labour support in Hampstead vs in Hull?

    Or is your friend just using “Hull” as a synonym for “London working class”? Because that would be a bit odd.

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 1:58pm

    he was using hampstead as an allegroy for chmpagne socialism..not at all about support from voters,, momore the direction of leadership..

  • @david thorpe Labour has always been a coalition of working class people and metropolitan upper-middle class people, there’s nothing new about that. Calling them ‘champagne socialists’ didn’t work for the Tories before, and it won’t work now.

    But I think saying “the party of Hampstead not Hull” as a shorthand for “the party of effete metropolitans not honest working class people” is an appallingly London-centric way of saying something that’s actually quite Trumpian.

    I’m a former Lib Dem, now Labour party member. I still take part in this site because I could be tempted back to the Lib Dems sometime in the future, and because the slightly authoritarian bent of the Labour party sometimes makes me uneasy.

    You won’t like this, but here it is. I grew up on a council estate, though I now live somewhere more like Hampstead. According to my old friends who now vote Labour and some UKIP, the Lib Dems had their shot in 2010, and they blew it.

  • Geoffrey Payne 30th Apr '18 - 2:30pm

    This article has so many holes in it it is hard to know where to start. A raise in income tax applies to everyone who pays tax not just those on low incomes. Because of the Lib Dem policy to raise tax thresholds those on low incomes are less likely to get a tax increase. Let’s remember that raising income tax was a means to better fund the NHS which benefits those on low incomes who cannot afford to go private.
    The only reason why Lib Dems campaign on potholes is because that is the kind of issue working class people raise on the doorstep when we canvass them. If it is not raised we don’t mention it. You might not care but other people might. I AM also in central London and our low income working class candidate for mayor Pauline Pearce mentions knife crime all the time and she is winning support for it. If you think it is important then why don’t you campaign on it?
    It is certainly true that Labour is becoming more middle class and the Tories more working class, mainly over issues around Brexit and immigration. Although even today most Labour seats including Hull are working class and most Tory seats are middle class. There are individual exceptions but on the whole this is the case.
    Working class voters stopped voting Lib Dem during the Coalition notwithstanding the tax cuts we implemented that benefited them. We need to dig deeper to understand public perceptions on tax and spend policies. Generally speaking it would appear that working class people do not vote for tax cuts.
    I think the party should appeal to working class people. The attitude that many pro EU supporters have calling Brexit supporters stupid shows we have a long way to go.

  • “Could it be that we are very good at solving the little problems that afflict neighbourhoods, the potholes and the dog fouling.

    But while such concerns are important, they are luxury items, people who can easily pay their bills can worry about the potholes, people who can’t have more to concern them. ”

    My experience is the opposite, actually. If I’m struggling for money then potholes really depress me, and make me feel like I’m living in a sh*thole. And if my crappy old car gets damaged on one, then I might not be able to afford the repair.

    If you’re rich you don’t care about potholes, because you probably don’t even notice them in your 4×4.

  • The Lib Dems can’t appeal to those at the bottom because they are wedded to a hyperglobalist economic model that assumes a higher level of unemployment than necessary for it to satisfy the tory paymasters. Do any Liberal democrats actually work in a factory, warehouse, contact centre or shop? The discussions I have had with Liberal Democrats is that they have no understanding of this.

    Here’s what I would do:

    1. Just scrap open borders policies and go for a 2% national unemployment rate. Ally this to reform of the Job Centre Plus giving aspirational unemployed people a chance with fast turnaround times. How about a half a billion for local councils to cut their own unemployment rates using colleges, training companies and the like. Give local councils their own targets. Use local people to help.

    2. Allied to this give companies the chance to train up people with special contracts and 121 mentoring. The quid pro quo would be the government paying the national minimum wage and the NI contributions. With the mentoring it will be about why the company CAN’T employ the person rather than them using the system.

    3. Get rid of zero hours contracts unless people demand it. Create a gold standard terms and conditions for all employees.

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 2:56pm

    people who say the coaliution killed us woth workersS? er..the tories have more working class voters than us and were in the coalition and oursue markwet economics.

    we have never had much support among workers, look at the setas we won even in 2005, we are a party of the leafy suburbs, the only manchester mp we have ever had john leech is the first to admit he was the mp for the poshest bit of manchetser. the only seat in liverpool we ever got close to winning was in a leafy part, birmingham same. jo swinso’s patche the same, the edinburgh seat the same.

    in london we had the mp for bermondsey and thats the only one where the poor were a majority of the votes. this is not a coalition centric issue, the party has never been that popular among those voters.

    gefoff payne, you in hackney, where we dont win elections, so perhaps, er, we dont known what woeking class voters want there-if we did-they would vote for us? pauline is of course a champion, the thing is, she has been prominent in the party for a long time, where are the other names, you have authentic working class voice?

    the fact the tax cut is for everyone is irrelavant, the only thing you offered workers at the last election was to make them poorer, the mps you have now are in some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in britian, oxford west, twickenhzm, kingston, eastbourne, edinburgh west.

    john littler, you dont want accountants involved with companies?> gkn’s exisitrng management gave none of the garauntees about the future of jobs, and are selling more of the comapny off than melrose would have, another triumph for state intervention!

    john littler, i dont know who aaron ran=d is? there is a philospoher called ayn rand-who is female? and believe me neiother osborner, vcameron, nor any lib dem has any time for her, her views are libretarian, lib dems and tories intervene in the economy morning noon and night.

  • I suspect the reason why the Tories do better amongst working class voters than LD is because, people know what they are voting for with the Tories.

    With the Tories, you know that they are not on the side of the unemployed, Disabled or low paid, you may well fall into this category and evaluate that they are still worth voting for other policy areas that you agree with,

    Whereas with the Liberal Democrats, they portrayed themselves as the party of the Disabled, unemployed and low paid before the 2010 Election. You had Danny Alexander who was the Liberal Democrats shadow work and pensions secretary prior to the coalition appearing on TV shows for disabled people promising to hold the government to account on ESA and disability benefits etc. Then within a couple of months of being in Government, doing a complete U-Turn, defending cuts to welfare, alarm clock britain, sanctions, Bedroom Tax, workfare, etc. etc.

    There is nothing worse in the eyes of the electorate as portraying yourself to be something so as to attract votes, then betraying that trust within a matter of months.

    It will take at least a decade to win back the trust and support of those voters who feel they were duped.

    People know what they are going to get with the Tories and to some extent labour. This is not the case with the Liberal Democrats anymore, they thought they were buying into something in 2010 and then found out pretty soon the labels had been mixed up

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 4:04pm

    matt-i may not agree with all of your comments but yours is certainly the best reply on the thread.

    i woyl elaborate and say, if one lives in a neighbourhood that has shootings on street corners, then the tories are the party for you, they are tough on crime, the lib dems are weak on everything, including crime.
    the lib dems seem only to know what they want on fantastically niche areas such as electoral reform.

  • Good discussion this, and the question in the headline is certainly worth asking. At the same time, there’s a lot of generalising going on, which I don’t think is helpful. You can’t characterise entire constituencies as ‘leafy’ (and therefore posh). I can assure you that both Edinburgh West and East Dunbartonshire, for example, have their share of ‘rough’ housing estate areas, and I’m sure it’s true of other seats. Westmorland & Lonsdale also has working class voters.
    However, there’s no doubt that we are better at winning Tory-ish seats than Labour-ish ones. That has always been the case. A lot of it has to do with the leaders and MPs we have: they tend to be posh middle class types (there are exceptions) and voters see that as the image of the party. I disagree that working class people don’t care about potholes. In my experience community politics, done properly, works equally well in building support in all types of areas. Working class people (and I’m from that background myself) like to be listened to, and they care about their community. The issue might be potholes, or it might be crime or a new community centre. Listen to people, fix their problems and then tell them what you’ve done. It’s hard work, but it will get results.
    In terms of policy issues, I’d say housing housing housing. but we should also tell people that Brexit is going to hit them in the pocket and make their community/country poorer – and that we are the anti-brexit party.

  • ………….. A long-standing Labour supporter from Leigh in the north of England said to me “the problem is Labour is now more Hampstead than Hull”……

    Really? Hull, East, West and North all have Labour MPs with hefty majorities..Hull South though has an ‘independent’ called Humber. Perhaps it was Hull South your friend was referring to?
    As for Hamstead… MP (Labour) a safe seat with almost 60% of votes.

    So shouldn’t the remark be BOTH Hamstead and Hull?

    BTW… Your friend in Leigh…MP is Jo Platt (Labour) one of their safest seats with 53% of the vote 26,000 plus..we got less than 1000 (2%)

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 4:17pm

    he wasnt saying labour get more support in hamstead than in hull, but that the priorities of hthe party are more hampstead than hull.

    btw here is the former labour mp for leigh, and current labour mayor andy burnham saying labour is more hampstead than hull!

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/10/andy-burnham-warns-remain-is-failing-to-reach-labour-heartland

    my friend obviously got the line from him, or indeed perhaps the other way around

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 4:25pm

    the responses show why the liberals are failing…

    i say im worried about crime, you say something about beneofts (patronisng as most working class people work)

    i say tories are beating you, you say, problem is we are not left wing enough, but its tories beating you…and they are more right wing..

    ypu are telling people what they should think, people are voting for others, and you are not changing….

    the lib dems are dying…

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Apr '18 - 4:31pm

    It doesn’t matter if our party leaders are middle-class. Middle-class people may have more independence of mind than those closely identifying with the interests of either the workers or the upper classes. What does matter, in my opinion, is that the excellent policy plans for economic development such as those outlined by John Littler and James above, and the strategies to help the poor and reduce inequality set out frequently in these columns by the likes of Michael BG and Joe Bourke, be adopted and promoted by the party.

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 4:48pm

    ah i see katherine, so working class people are too stupid to be considered.

    joe bourke is excellent and original as a policy thinker.

    unfortunately lib dems are not, spouting the same lefty crap every week and getting less popular.

  • I agree with much of this article David. It’s true of politics in general, but in particular as a party, we seem to have long struggled to appear in touch with ordinary people and the issues that actually affect them.

    It’s understandable in many respects that we appeal predominately to the well educated middle class, but clearly, even now, we’re not so much.

    Too often our MPs themselves either have absolutely nothing to say on certain issues or just look at a bit uncomfortable when they do – because I don’t think they really get it. Probably not something helped by so many of our staffers when we had a lot being privately educated and/or having little to no experience of anything outside of politics as well. I’m sure they all had the best of intentions and had a lot of good experience, but even our own benefits committee (the one chaired by Jenny willott) a couple of years back, had a good proportion of the people on it coming from a privately educated background.

    As an aside, we’re currently focusing lots on improving diversity within the party and our candidates. Yet we appear to be doing so without any real recognition that the lack of diversity is primarily because of class reasons rather than any active discrimination.

  • @ David Thorpe

    Please can you remind me what tax cuts the Labour Party promised in 2017? I can’t see any in their costing document.

    I don’t think we have given up on increasing the Income Tax Personal Allowance to £12,500 and in 2017 we promised “as resources allow, to raise the employee national insurance threshold to the Income Tax threshold” page 39 of our manifesto. We also had £3.665 billion to restore some of the cuts to Universal Credit while Labour had only £2 billion.

    This is not the time not to renew your membership. The bad years of the coalition are over and you stood for election in 2015 to defend the undefendable. Now is the time to get involved and move us back to our Social Liberal roots.

    Labour promised full employment and a National Living Wage of £10 per hour. We need to match this.

    In our 2017 manifesto we promised £300 million for “police forces to reverse the increase in violent crime, boost community confidence” page 72. I remember in the past us promising a particular number of extra police officers. It is possible we could make a similar promise today if you get involved.

    @ James

    I like our ambition for full employment and giving power to local authorities to reduce the number of unemployed in their area. I hope you are a member.

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 5:01pm

    we already have full emnployment. that line is just another line in labnour lies.

    why match labour, if i can get the same from labour or lib dem why vote lib dem?

    i would never vote labour but if lib dems are only offering a thinner crapoper version of laboour, then i might as well.

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 5:03pm

    labour are not the party of aspiration, i may have grown up on a council estate, but cdreamed of more, labour are uyseless for people like me, tories are not..i earn a bunch quite well now, but aspire to achieve more..

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 5:05pm

    as for the tough years of the coaltion, the bguy in coaltion who implemented your least popular policy is now party leaferm=, hardly a sign of a break with the past is it??

    im not sure we are kess popualr now than 2015..we got 8 per cent then, are on about 7.2 per cent now..

  • By the way , that poll put our support at 10% among the ABC1 classes, and 5% among the C2DE group, so which party has the “problem”?

  • William Fowler 30th Apr '18 - 6:32pm

    The Conservatives are quite clever at appealing to the working class who want to do well. Lots of people in social housing are annoyed at intrusive do-gooders and social workers trying to run their lives, think they view LibDems in the same light. You only have to look to the USA to see how a billionaire managed to convince the working class that the political elite do nothing for them even when left-leaning. One way you can attack Labour is by portraying them as the benefits party whilst the LibDems want to give more people personal freedom. Increasing taxes on companies and decreasing taxes on people emphasizes the point.

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '18 - 6:39pm

    david. the result of east ham in 2015 reflects the fact that i did the job the party asked of me, which was to be a paper candidate.

    many others were given the same job and put their egos first. i did not. they should be criticised not me.

    my result was better than the one my sucessor as candidate got it 2017, whe there was no coaltion.

    william fowler ecellebnt post, liberals patronise working classes by talking about beneifts, many workersa resent the neighbour they have who has chosen to be on beneofits, dont be on the side of the neighbour.

  • There is no such critter as the collective working-classes. These things are always about income rather than vague ideas of identity. People just want better wages, more security and so on. It really doesn’t go much deeper than that and it really doesn’t matter if they’re a teacher or work in a supermarket or are too ill to work. The problem is that political types tend to believe in ideologies and voters by and large don’t. It’s about money, not identity.

  • @ David Thorpe What you tells me is even more depressing. It sounds like the party is a camel without a hump in the desert.

    @ William Fowler I take it that you don’t class yourself as a ‘do gooder’ ?

  • Reginald Langman 30th Apr '18 - 8:36pm

    There are some constituencies where the combined vote of Labour and LibDems exceeds that of a sitting Conservative MP. The only real way to unseat the MP would be for a candidate to represent both Opposition Parties. I realise this could be difficult but the future without electoral reform inevitably will be Tory dominated.
    The next General Election may give us an opportunity by making it a one policy election based on Brexit or no Brexit. However, unless some cooperation between Labour and LibDems at the polling booths occurs the future lies with Tory Governments.

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '18 - 8:37pm

    The working classes, as anyone who comes from that background will know, are generally quite patriotic and the Tories are also quite clever at using that. So the question is of how to appeal to that instinct without going over the top and ending up on the far right. George Orwell described this in his essay The Lion and the Unicorn.

    “England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality”, he said. I don’t believe much has changed since he wrote that some 77 years ago. In this sense, leftish/liberal intellectualism is somewhat at odds with the view of the public. Orwell identifies in the left a common dislike of patriotism and Britishness, and an over-readiness to conflate the former concept with nationalism and racism. Maybe that’s why the UK ‘progressive left’ is so much in love with the EU?

    The irony is that, when it comes to economics, the supposedly lesser educated public have it right and Liberal/Social Democratic left of centrists have it all wrong. The Nation State still has all the power that it ever had and ever needs. The idea we need to ‘pool our sovereignty’ to be able to stand up to the multinationals is just plain wrong. Little Iceland (pop 300k) showed what is possible after the GFC.

    https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745337326/reclaiming-the-state/

  • Chris Wilson 30th Apr '18 - 9:09pm

    There is a lot of needless hostility here. First and foremost LibDem policy can appeal to the working classes if we deliver it properly. But this issue with our delivery exists for every voter, regardless of perceived class, who isn’t as intellectually interested in politics and policy as us. My experience of the culture of the party is that it is full of people who are looking for a genuine and fair answer that is the best thing for all members of our society. It is an inquisitive, honest and intellectual party. That does not help us appeal to the vast majority who don’t share this attitude. However I believe we get the right answers, which are necessarily complex ones, for everyone. We need in basic terms to explain why Brexit will raise food prices, endanger the NHS and compromise business and jobs. We need to explain we cant help those on benefits, or fix housing problems if we have Brexit. We need to say that we will build more social housing, ban foreigners with no connection to the country from buying houses and make rental contracts more secure. We need to explain how this country is overly centralised and this means an inequality of opportunity for those outside the South East. And how we will change that. And say it simply. There is no reason why liberal values cant appeal to everyone because they work for everyone!

  • @ Chris Wilson
    “We need in basic terms to explain why Brexit will raise food prices, endanger the NHS”
    “We need to explain we cant help those on benefits, or fix housing problems if we have Brexit”

    Hi Chris, I would be interested to hear how you would explain those things

  • Minimum wage policies are found to be very good at increasing wages for both the lowest earners and middle earners. For this we should listen to what the economists have to say and aim to set the minimum wage at 60-70% of median UK income, preferably have it done region-by-region (which leads onto my next point…).

    I’m massively in favour of decentralisation. There’s a lot of contempt for London because of how everything’s focused there so I’d be happy to create a proper federal UK, giving Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland their own parliaments, and setting up regional parliaments for England. Just look at the United States – their federal structure’s created powerhouses in various different states. California, a state with 20 million fewer people than the UK, has about the same GDP as us. New York’s an economic beast and Texas is attracting massive investments. Why? Because of how decentralised the United States is. We should definitely try to achieve that same level of decentralisation.

    Continued…

  • Radical liberal policies exist and I’m not sure why but the membership of the party doesn’t want to pursue these policies. Maybe because we fear backlash and are scared of losing what little support we now have? All I know is that if we continue to fear the electorate then we’ll stay on single digit / low double digit polling. The electorate’s crying for something new and the Tories have no answers, we seemingly have no answers and Labour want to go back to the 70s to get their answers.

  • David Hopps 30th Apr '18 - 9:27pm

    Good question

  • Mark Blackburn 30th Apr '18 - 9:43pm

    How far have we sunk? Is it now admissible on Lib Dem Voice to describe the social liberal policies enshrined in our party after the teachings of the likes of Keynes and Beveridge as ‘lefty crap’? One thing which is missing from all this is the role of the press – if you have millions of tabloids and even broadsheets telling everyone that Europe and immigration are to blame for all our ills then a lot of people are going to believe it, especially if they don’t have access to other avenues of information. And that’s where Tories, Kippers and Brexiters profit, and why Labour are sitting on the fence. The Tories even more so now they’ve taken on the mantle of UKIP. And for the record, having spent nearly 40 years in London, many of my educated left-leaning friends there support Labour again after disillusionment with our record in coalition but are not enthusiastic about Corbyn, preferring the likes of Keir Starmer and Yvette Cooper, one of whom could easily be the next Labour leader.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Apr '18 - 9:52pm

    Chris Wilson, that is an excellent answer, about how our policies can and should benefit everyone. David Thorpe, in my comment this afternoon of course I didn’t suggest the working classes were stupid, or the upper classes either, but proposed as Chris has just done that we should consolidate useful policies for all. My mention of possible middle-class leadership came from a memory of studying Soviet political history at Uni, when I realised that though the masses did rise up against capitalism as expected, they followed middle-class leaders like Lenin.

    In later life I came to see how much people’s views are affected by their socio-economic background and current circumstances, so that unionised factory workers were disposed to vote Labour, just as people brought up to wealth and privilege are inclined to support the Tories. Our party does not have that huge core vote, but we do have the advantage of being able to offer policies which will benefit most people. Rank inequality is detrimental to our society as a whole.

  • Chris Wilson 30th Apr '18 - 10:23pm

    How to make the messages in basic terms? Say “Your local hospital used to employ xx nurses from the EU. Brexit has caused xx to leave. They cant easily be replaced. We need freedom of movement to staff the NHS so we need to stay in Europe.”. Or even more simply “leaving the EU means less nurses for the NHS”. Another example: “Brexit means less trade and less tax so your hospital will have less funds” or “no free trade with the EU means higher food prices”. Yes some will have entrenched positions and wont believe us but plus ca change. These sorts of messages can make people listen better than complex, nuanced ones as we have at present.

  • Peter Watson 30th Apr '18 - 10:45pm

    @Chris Wilson “leaving the EU means less nurses for the NHS”
    A risk with that line is that it is tantamount to saying “being in the EU means we don’t train enough nurses”! Indeed, any argument that Brexit and restricted immigration means there will be too few of any type of skilled worker or professional leaves the party open to accusations of wanting to import cheap labour instead of training and developing British workers. Simple messages can be twisted by opponents just as easily as more nuanced ones!

  • @Chris Wilson
    Thank you for your response.
    Can I take up a couple of your points please.
    You said
    “Your local hospital used to employ xx nurses from the EU. Brexit has caused xx to leave”
    Actually, our NHS is more reliant on staff from the Row than it is with the EU. There are more Filpino Nurses whose numbers equate to that of 24 EU states combined.
    Where is your evidence that Brexit has caused “x” amount to leave?
    isn’t it possible that many EU nurses are returning to their home countries as their health services have started to recruit again after the country was in recession and many were affected by redundancy and has nothing to do with Brexit at all.

    “ We need freedom of movement to staff the NHS so we need to stay in Europe.” We do not need to be a member of the EU to have freedom of movement for medical professionals, we can have an policy of “International freedom of movement” for medical professionals if we so wish. The NHS is not going to collapse because of Brexit. The UK will always be able to tap into a world pool of medical professionals

    “no free trade with the EU means higher food prices”” Not true, all the evidence points to food costs coming down, at present the EU forces us to accept high tarrifs and quotas for foods outside the EU due to the EU’s protectionist policies, this all adds cost to the consumer in the UK, once we are free to strike our own trade agreements with the ROW, and do not have quotas imposed on us by the EU, food costs will come down.

    You did not explain how you cant fix housing problems or help those on welfare if Brexit goes ahead. I am intrigued especially with what welfare has to do with Brexit

  • Chris Wilson 30th Apr '18 - 11:28pm

    Well if we want to pay more money to those on benefits or in need of benefits, or even maintain how much we are paying, we need to keep our tax yield. This will undoubtedly fall after Brexit. 3962 nurses and midwives left the NHS last year, with only 800 joining from the EEA. A friend who works in the NHS also told me that this was a real concern. As for your point re non EU nurses from abroad, yes there are many but that doesnt mean we can afford to lose EU nurses now. Theu cant be instantly replaced. We do depend on EU nationals in many areas of our economy. You always risk people saying things that are nonsense such as the EU stops people training as nurses from Britain. There is an easy answer to that. The poor wages and training numbers offered by the UK government prevents British people from becoming nurses. No-one can wave a magic wand and now make more people nurses instantly. The point of simple slogans/messages is to make people take notice and engage who otherwise see the LibDems as irrelevant. The more sophisticated arguments come after they have engaged. I am not talking of those with entrenched views but those who are unsure or floating voters, or who think the EU vote wont effect them.

  • @Chris Wilson

    ““The point of simple slogans/messages is to make people take notice and engage who otherwise see the LibDems as irrelevant. “.
    The Importance of the slogan / message should surely be that it is “truthful and accurate”
    Lets take your first comment “Well if we want to pay more money to those on benefits or in need of benefits, or even maintain how much we are paying, we need to keep our tax yield. This will undoubtedly fall after Brexit”
    Staying in the EU, is not going to see welfare payments rise, In fact, I had this conversation on here with Arnold Kiel the other week, who claimed that if we stopped Brexit, every household could be £4,200 better off and welfare payments could rise by £1000 a year for every recipient. Obviously that is nonsense, no Government has ever increased welfare by more than a few measly pence a week, and that’s if they have not been frozen for years on end. People criticise the bus that said Brexit will deliver 350 Million a week for the NHS, how is promising thousands of pounds to welfare receipiants if we stop brexit any different??? It’s nonsense.
    In truth, we have no idea what the tax yield is going to be after Brexit, We are not going to become poorer, in order to lose something you have to first obtain it. It is the case that the UK will still Grow over the following years, it “may” grow at a slightly less pace if we had not left the EU. It could of course also grow at a faster pace outside the confines of the EU and depending on the trade deals it makes with the ROW. But one thing is for certain, the UK will continue to grow. So to use welfare payments as part of the argument just does not cut it as far as I am concerned, its part of the scaremongering tactics that were rejected last time.
    And Liberal Democrats had their time in Government BEFORE brexit, what did they do for welfare recipients then? apart from freezes to benefits, workfare, sanctions, bedroom Tax etc etc, the party does not exactly have good form when it comes to welfare, so to hold it as a carrot now during Brexit, seems slightly hypocritical to me now

  • @Chris Wilson

    “As for your point re non EU nurses from abroad, yes there are many but that doesnt mean we can afford to lose EU nurses now. Theu cant be instantly replaced”
    There is no need for us to lose them, as I said, we have an option open to us to have a policy of “international freedom of movement for medical professionals” if we so wish. EU members with medical qualifications will still be highly sort after and able to get skilled visas and get settled status in the UK very easily. Whilst countries like Portugal are paying dismissal minimum wages and Nurses are earning less than half the amount of a nurse in the UK, I am sure the UK will not have any troubles continuing to attract EU nationals.
    Then there is also the argument, as someone else put it, The UK needs to start putting more resources into training UK citizens, we cannot and shouldn’t continue on with solving all our issues by relying on cheaper migrant labour and we need to train our own skilled workforce,

  • The party can easily represent the working class who want to get on and take what globalisation offers. It cannot represent protectionists who cling to militant luddism who favour Corbynite Labour, such as unionised railway workers, steel workers, prison officers or London cabbies, nor the white van protectionists who hate immigration and who are the classic Kippers and now most likely blue collar Tories.

  • Gods, this thread is a depressing read (and am not even addressing Brexit bores). The party that is meant to champion individual liberty, freedom from ignorance and poverty & c. talking on and on about ‘the masses’ ‘the working classes’ and ‘ordinary people’.

    There are and should be just two recognisable groups in our country, the privileged born to wealth, and everyone else – after all, the so called middle classes work too! The privileged usually tend to do whatever they can to maintain their privileges.

    Unpick that, and the party might start to redeem itself, but am sorry to say that – unfair as it is – the public hasn’t forgiven the fees fiasco, which was an inept as it could be since it attached head on the segment of society that had supported the party previously.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st May '18 - 1:07am

    David Thorpe is too intelligent and to much a Liberal Democrat to let this go.

    Do not leave the party when you are necessarily a significant contributor. I feel like it regularly. I was years in the Labour party. That is a different grouping in recent years.

    The answer David and friends who rarely listen to or engage with me when saying it, is we as a party need to be …mainstream.

    On immigration, on drugs, on prostitutes, on….yes…crime, on wicked criminals …

    People are in the centre left and centre right or they are extreme.

    We can be far more ope minded than others on issues

    But we need to care about the good people and not the wrongdoers first or last

    We need to be moderates on things we are radical on and radical in that we are mainstream and electable and …not Tories or Labour

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st May '18 - 1:09am

    …and we need to stop obsessing about identity whether about gender or Europeanism and be for people, British people, British residents, and all the world too…afterwards!

  • @ David Thorpe
    “ah i see katherine, so working class people are too stupid to be considered.
    unfortunately lib dems are not, spouting the same lefty crap every week and getting less popular.”

    Katharine did not say or imply that working class people were too stupid to be considered.

    Do you identify as an Economic Liberal? I thought you identified as a Social Liberal.

    I assume you have not heard of NAIRU the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment, which means governments should not reduce the number of unemployed too low (i.e. the levels we had in the 1950; 60’s and early 70’s) because a pool of unemployed people are needed to ensure wages do not increase too fast and so cause inflation.

    Full employment creates a better society with less poverty and a reduction in economic inequalities and everyone is better off. Perhaps that isn’t what you want. You just want to be better off yourself and the devil take the hindmost. Also if there was full employment the neighbour wouldn’t be unemployed. It is only since about 1979 that there has been a problem with long term unemployment, caused by the governments supporting NAIRU rather than full employment.

    @ James

    I didn’t try to discover how many people on the mending the safety net working group had been privately educated. I thought its failure was due to its terms of reference.

  • Arnold Kiel 1st May '18 - 7:18am

    “Work”, meaning physical work (in the absence of a better definition of working class) did provide social status and a decent standard of living at some point when applied to making things. It had its heyday until the 60s, when Britain was still competitive, and the unions had some sway. Then EU membership and the UK’s bridgehead-status brought some renaissance, but at a much smaller scale. Today, most physical work makes nothing, just moves things around. This kind of work always provided less status and a lower standard of living, and benefitted as a surrounding complement of the disappearing richer making kind of work. AI will automate most of the making (and also moving) work, and Brexit will accelerate the process, thereby preventing the coming human-free factories from being located in the UK. This will also affect academics’ work opportunities.

    The Torys and Labour offer these people their second best alternatives to work: identity politics, transfer payments, and state-employment, in different mixes.

    Both ignore the best option: continue to be a maker within the EU. It will eventually not protect work, but Britain’s place on the industrial map, the value added, and the tax receipts needed to provide status and living standards to a post-work society.

    This is the coming reality, probably not a vote-winner today, but a sound position to take.

  • What I’ve noticed about people who talk about “the working classes” as a political block is that they tend use the concept as a proxy for their own agenda and to attack ideas they don’t like. The working classes believe this, the working classes believe that, Hampstead is out of touch with the working classes and so on. But in reality you will meet liberal postman and right wing lecturers and vice versa. Plus terms like middle class and working class are so stretched as to be useless anyway. As far as I can tell the middle classes can include everyone from privately educated newspaper editor on a salary to a comprehensive educated person working in a call centre. Whilst “working class” can include a plumber earning more than a teacher and the extremely poor. On top of which there is self definition which can include people in any income bracket talking about their roots?
    To me the real problem is that politicians tend to think people are electing leaders and voters actually just want elected representatives.

  • William Fowler 1st May '18 - 7:49am

    A pro EU party talking about the benefits of full employment, seems to be in contradiction to free movement where the draw of higher wages will always win out. Massive hike in the minimum wage, sounds lovely but guess what happens then? Companies just speed up their automation (at the lowest level, about half the staff disappeared from the local Poundland when the minimum wage was bounced up and young EU employees stopped turning up, replaced by self checkout tills (actually faster BTW)). Labour’s solution is a massive expansion of the State, lots of people running around checking on each other and being annoying/intrusive whilst not doing anything actually useful.

    Lots of contradictions in LibDem policies… still think universal income at a low level (rather than trying to imitate the national average wage) could be sold as a way of giving people new found freedom from the State rather than making them supplicants who have to go cap in hand to beg for their benefits, which would have immense appeal to the working class IMO.

  • david thorpe 30th Apr ’18 – 5:03pm…….labour are not the party of aspiration, i may have grown up on a council estate, but cdreamed of more, labour are uyseless for people like me, tories are not..i earn a bunch quite well now, but aspire to achieve more……

    One of the most depressing posts I’ve read on LDV….You talk of a ‘council estate’ as if it were a disease; those council estates gave many on low incomes good homes at reasonable rents; your Tories destroyed that security.
    You ‘dreamed of more’; so did many others. You seem to believe that choice, not circumstances, is the reason that everyone isn’t ‘earning a bunch quite well’.

    Labour may be useless to you but, from your attitude, you are useless to Labour.; you appear to have no social conscience, compassion or empathy. In short, I’m only surprised that you aren’t in this Tory cabinet; or, perhaps, you are?

  • Peter Watson 1st May '18 - 8:42am

    Neither David Thorpe’s article (and below the line comments) nor many of the ad hominem responses put the party in a good light, but there is an important point here.
    The most recent Ipsos-Mori poll (https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2018-04/pm-april-2018-tables.pdf) suggests that support for Lib Dems tails off significantly from social classes AB to DE, and more than half of Lib Dem voters have degrees. This polarisation is notably worse than other parties.
    A study of party membership (discussed here https://www.libdemvoice.org/who-we-are-56278.html) suggests that the stereotypical Lib Dem is a white, middle-aged, middle-class, male graduate from the south of England who is far more likely to be a member of the National Trust than a trade union. (Apart from living in the north west, this describes me!)
    Elsewhere in a thread about diversity in the Lib Dems I am probably guilty of misusing the word “posh” to describe this stereotype, though I’m not sure what would be a better term.
    Despite the best intentions of Lib Dems, the party does not look like the wider population. Not being representative does not mean it cannot represent other social groups but it does pose a challenge for the party, and recent history (especially the EU referendum) suggests the party is failing to communicate and connect with them.

  • Martin Walker 1st May '18 - 9:00am

    It’s a good and really important question and absolutely fundamental to our existence.

    I would challenge two points you raise, though. First, while you are correct to say that our manifesto included an increase in income tax, our manifesto in 2017 was objectively assessed as being the most progressive – for example because unlike Labour we were pledging to reverse cuts to tax credits and benefits. We also had good policies on making Universal Credit fairer (for example in allowing two people in a household to work). As nobody seemed to notice this outside of our own bubble, there are some important lessons to learn as to why this was missed.

    Secondly, this is the second article on LDV I’ve read this morning which is contrasting our reputation for getting potholes sorted with our unclear position on bigger picture issues. I take the point, but if this is the case, the problem is with our lack of clear, compelling national messages, not with the local Lib Dems who are getting potholes fixed.

  • chris moore 1st May '18 - 9:01am

    Thanks, David, for raising this important issue.

    Forgive me for starting with the blindingly obvious:

    1. At the moment we have very little working class support; but then we have very little support at all.

    2. Until 2010, we did have significant levels of working class (C2,D, E) support. But then we had high levels of overall support.

    3. At any point we’ve always tended to have more middle-class (A,B C!) th
    an working class support.

    4. However, in local politics in the nineties and noughties, we gained control of numerous urban coucils in the north, propelled by very significant working-class support. In Sheffield for example, our inital progess came from local activism on neglected council estates.

    5. In the south-west we sded to atttract a lot of working class support too.. (Labour was very weak in the south-west.) Much has been alienated by our stance on Europe.

  • Peter Martin 1st May '18 - 9:03am

    “What is the Liberal Democrat offer to working class voters?”

    I know I’ve said this before but why not guarantee anyone who want a job for the public purpose just that on a living wage and decent conditions? It will be a wage and with conditions that everyone else will have to at least match to keep their own workforce. It would spell the end of of worker exploitation in the form of such devices ZHCs. ZHCs wouldn’t have to be banned. They could still be offered if that’s waht people really wanted.

    If anyone doubts the economics of this it could be trialled on a small scale in an area of high unemployment. The cost and benefits could then be properly assessed.

    William Fowler raises the issue of ‘free movement’. It isn’t realistic to try to solve the EU’s underemployment and unemployment as well as our own. We can’t, unfortunately, offer jobs to all Greek and Spanish youngsters. So if we do have ‘free movement’ after Brexit it has to be with countries which have low levels of unemployment or offer a similar JG scheme to their workers.

  • Peter Martin 1st May '18 - 9:23am

    @Arnold Kiel,

    Work doesn’t have to be physical. The old Clause IV of the Labour Party recognised this over a hundred years ago with the phrase:

    “to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof…”

    We may have robots but society still functions on human labour. If you catch a train or a bus it will most likely have a human driver. If you eat in a restaurant the food will be cooked by people and delivered to your table by a waiter. If you go into hospital your surgeons and doctors will be human.

    From the perspective of any government their duty is to maximise the productive resources which are available in the economy. It’s not to “balance the books”. The Government is a currency issuer. It can never get back more money than it has created in the first place. That’s just a crazy way to look at the world.

    If we have more robots and more automation then we can have longer holidays if there’s less need for human labour. That’s the sensible way to look at it. It won’t happen under laissez-faire capitalism though. The tendency will be, as now, both in the EU, the UK and the USA to have a larger pool of unemployed to hold back the wages of those who are still working!

    The challenge for any progressive party is to come up with a solution which benefits society as a whole and not just a tiny ultra wealthy minority.

  • Peter Martin 1st May '18 - 10:20am

    If you’re looking for ideas its always worth taking a look at what others are saying

    1.National job guarantee
    2. Universal lifelong education and retraining
    3. Universal access to early education and childhood learning
    4. Guaranteed basic income
    5. Guaranteed housing
    6. A household energy guarantee
    7. A public banking system

    https://www.getup.org.au/media/releases/2018/04/getup-launches-bold-vision-for-the-economy/

  • Neil Sandison 1st May '18 - 12:13pm

    William Fowler has got it about right most working people are not, nor would they want to have anything to do with comrade Corbyns class politics .but they do want a fair shout which is why they voted against the conservatives and used Labour for their protest vote.
    They have voted for us before and in numbers during the SDP/Liberal Alliance .We need to recapture the optimism of those campaigns that had progressive policys and a leadership which addressed the concerns of working people like employment ,education fair taxation and defending the country from aggressors.

  • Sue Sutherland 1st May '18 - 12:13pm

    I’m very glad you asked this question David because it’s vital that the party comes up with a solution if it’s going to survive. You yourself can be part of the solution by supporting other working class members to get their voices heard. At the moment too many working people aren’t earning enough to make ends meet and some of these are doing jobs that we might think of as middle class like nurses. Until we have a plan to sort this out we don’t deserve the title of Liberals.
    People who don’t have enough money to eat properly or heat their homes will fall ill more easily and need a better NHS with more resources. Their children need an education for the new economy that’s just around the corner not schooling that’s returning to Victorian times. Their elderly relatives need decent care. As you describe they need a police force that works with them and protects them. We need to come up with new ideas about financing these services urgently.
    I’ve been a member of this party since 1986 and quite often I want to scream and shout about what the party is doing or not doing. People like me need you to stay in the party and fight for what you know is right. Even if the party is unable to succeed nationally for some time it can influence other parties policies and make a better life for people. Labour and the Tories are unlikely to do that in their present state.

  • Jonathan Hunt 1st May '18 - 12:55pm

    While many comments range far and wide, one essential point is that we have little to say about the changed and still rapidly changing nature of jobs. It is more than a dozen years since we last had a policy panel to discuss employment (I was member).

    With or without me, it is high time we had another. There are so many issues to understand, analyse and produce radical policies to address. Not least, the growth of the so-called Gig economy and the coming robot revolution leading, so some experts predict, the loss of some 15 million jobs.

    I have done my share of pothole and pavement protests as a practical part of the philosophy of community politics. But these everyday issues are pushed into darkest shade by the need to address a nation on the dole. And how will we raise the dosh to pay for it?

  • William Fowler 1st May '18 - 1:05pm

    I come from a working class background, had free uni (means tested then), grew up during Punk Rock and Thatcherism (unique combination of not worrying if you had the talent to do anything and an atmosphere that you could, should, improve yourself). I was a natural Conservative voter and thought people like Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot were a joke (as did many others) and can’t even remember who the led the Liberals. You have to grow up during the dreadful Callaghan/Wilson/Heath years to really appreciate the effect of Mrs Thatcher on the country (unless you were a minor or newsprint guy when it was a much darker world).

    I know she is reviled by lots of people on here (who have been probably brain-washed at an early age by left-leaning teachers) but she broke through to the working class in a way not done since by the Conservatives. The Conservatives weak point is that they are seen as aiding big business to rip people off right, left and centre (one reason they lost my vote) so moving tax from people to companies seems about right to me… and you define that by getting rid of council tax and employee national insurance, both of which have a much deeper effect on the working class (note the word working rather than benefits class) than others… and shout it very loud!

  • @ William Fowler ” I was a natural Conservative voter”……. and I guess you still are, William. Your comment “brainwashed by a left wing teacher” gives the game away. It comes naturally doesn’t it.

    From family experience I agree with expats. Both my granddads were manual ‘working class’ leaving school at twelve. They were bright intelligent well read men – a pleasure to be in their company. One was a Durham miner (his dad died of miners lung aged 28). The other was a weaver in a noisy Yorkshire mill. Both suffered hardship, both were exploited by greedy employers, they lost children – no NHS, couldn’t afford doctors’ fees. Granny died at forty for the same reason when Dad was twelve.

    Today, my sister and I have Masters degrees – as do my children. My wife (her dad, an engine driver) has a doctorate. I have five healthy grandchildren and my life was saved by a transplant seven years ago……. How and Why ? – because of the health, education and welfare reforms introduced by the post war Attlee Government which created opportunities my grandparents and parents never had.

    Over the last thirty years the Tories, especially Margaret Thatcher (more recently with Lib Dem help) have tried to dismantle those ladders and safeguards. I fear for the future of coming generations.

    Pete Postlethwaite says it better than I can. And the party wondered why the Brexit vote went the way it did in the places that it did ?

    Brassed Off – Danny Boy’s speech – YouTube
    Video for brassed off danny’s speech▶ 3:04

  • Peter Martin 1st May '18 - 2:07pm

    @ Jonathan Hunt

    You ask “And how will we raise the dosh to pay for it?”

    You’ll never get anywhere unless you can work out an answer to this question. Once you have, you won’t have to worry about the robots coming to steal ” some 15 million jobs”.

    Try this. Imagine you’re an 18th century colonialist sent out to establish a colony in Africa. Your task is to get the local people to do your bidding. You want them to work on farms and in your colonial offices etc. So what do you do? You can’t command everyone at gunpoint. You simply create some currency and demand they pay taxes denominated in that currency. You impose a ‘hut tax’ or a ‘boat tax’ or a ‘cattle tax’. Anything you can think of. Then if people don’t pay you can send in your army to burn down huts or confiscate boats and cattle.

    They’ll want to pay. And you want them to work so you give the a job! Problem solved. You’re in charge of the currency so you know very well that you’ll never get back more than you’ve created in the first place. You’ll always be in deficit. But if the local people start getting a bit uppity, and want schools, hospitals, higher wages etc, you’ll tell them that there’s no such thing as a “magic money tree” and that you can only spend what you’ve collected and taxes.

    And they’ll believe you, right? Or maybe they wouldn’t be so stupid?

  • david thorpe 1st May '18 - 2:42pm

    Peter, we have full employment now, and a national minimum wage. public ownership of the banks is illegal under the human rights act lib dems seek to defend.

  • david thorpe 1st May '18 - 2:43pm

    Jonathan Hunt,

    I agree about the nature of jobs. The Bnak of England revised up the level of employment it considers full employment in response to this..

  • OnceALibDem 1st May '18 - 3:01pm

    This is the flip side of a core vote strategy. That the LIb Dems can’t appeal to everyone.

    In 2010 the LIb Dems included an MP fol Solihull (25,000 tory majority in 1992) and Burnley (17,000 Labour majority in 1997). It doesn’t suggest something that is sustainable.

    Of the 2010 seats I think only Redcar, Burnley and Bermondsey were ‘classic’ working class seats. Most seats gained from Labour were seats the Tories had held in 83 or even later (up to 92 for some).

    That said I suspect the LDs will do quite well in some Labour fiefdom inner London councils like Lambeth and Islington with a combination of Brexit opponents building on historic (pre 2010) party strength.

  • A Social Liberal 1st May '18 - 3:06pm

    How can Lib Dems hope to represent working class people when so few of those who represent us, in parliament, the Lords or even in councils, are actually working class. You are worried about women and BEME not having adequate representation and provide what you think is an answer. Where are the working class only shortlists, where are the bus drivers or shop assistants or factory workers in the House of Lords.

    The people of the UK are fairly open minded, they WILL vote for policies which do not directly affect them – BUT they need to be able to point to representatives and say, “they understand our problems, they will tell it like it is to our councillors/peers/MPs.

    Our leadership is willfully blind in this area.

  • In 2016 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimated that, minus rent, a single person needed £850 per month to lead an ‘acceptable’ standard of life..Considering that, even in the East Midlands average rent for a one bedroom flat is around £500pm, a income after tax should be £1350…That was in 2016

    From 1st April minimum wage gives £1200pm…A shortfall of £150pm might not seem a lot for anyone ‘earning a bunch quite well’ but it is for them….That is if you are guaranteed a 40 hour week and not on an ’employer’s whim’ contract..

    The sense of ‘be thankful for what you’ve got’ from those who have more than they need makes me wonder what their ‘liberal values’ actually are?

  • I missed the increase from £7.50 to £7.83 but as the JRF figures are from 2016 I feel I’ve erred on the side of being generous to this government.

  • Jonathan Hunt 1st May '18 - 3:35pm

    Hi Peter Martin: Not sure if you are old enough to remember That Was the Week that Was on black’n’white TV. It emptied pubs on Saturday nights faster than fire alarms when I was a teenager. But you have learned the value of its “You are Doing a Grand Job” satire.

    These days 18th century Africa colonialists run exploitative, corrupt Maxist dictatorships extracting taxes citizens can’t afford. But will the robot revolution pass them by? Or will the masters arm robots with Russian rifles?

  • Peter Martin 1st May '18 - 3:35pm

    @ David Thorpe,

    If we genuinely had full employment there would have been a vote to Leave the EU! I’d make several points:

    1) The unemployment figures ( officially approx 1.44 million) don’t show full employment, but neither are they reliable. They have been massaged down over the last few decades.

    2) Underemployment isn’t included. If you have 1hr on a ZHC you aren’t counted. If you are too young or too old or have a partner who’s working you aren’t counted.

    3) Unemployment in a ‘free movement’ zone, ie the EU, can’t be defined by one particular locality. So even if, say, a town like Cambridge or Reading has what could be defined as ‘full employment’, there is still a pool of unemployed workers for employers to hire. Not just from Middlesbrough but from Malaga too.

  • Peter Martin 1st May '18 - 3:44pm

    @ Jonathan Hunt,

    I think you’ve perhaps missed the point. To spell it out: The UK or US or Aussie Govt are the colonialists in my analogy. This is sometimes an argument which appeals to far right libertarian types.

    Not the Irish or French Govt or any euro using EU Govt. They’ve given up their monetary sovereignty.

  • @ William Fowler

    While I disagree strongly with your first paragraph of your 7.49am post today I agree that a Basic Universal Income would give people more freedom. On the question of how much it should be I don’t expect us to agree and I wouldn’t scrap means tested benefits unless the Basic Universal Income was higher than the amount a person could get if on ESA in the support group.

    Like you my formative years were during punk rock, which was earlier than Thatcherism. The reason Thatcher won in 1979 was the winter of discontent. If Callaghan had gone in the autumn of 1978 he may well have won. The Conservatives in 1979 promised to provide jobs for the million unemployed instead they increased unemployment to 3.25 million in 1984.

    The Heath/Wilson/Callaghan years only seemed dreadful compared to the great times of the 1960’s, but they were not as dreadful as the Thatcher years. Night after night the news reported factory closures and people being made redundant.

    @ David Thorpe

    When you first posted that we had full employment I explained that we don’t. Do you just ignore comments you don’t like or do you have reasons for not being able to engage with economic arguments?

  • The Lib Dem problem is that there are not enough people voting from any background. I’m also far from convince that attributing a kind of hive mind to people based on income is going to win votes. The working classes are not aliens with weird customs and particular beliefs that need to be interpreted in cod-anthropological terms for people in other income brackets. Imagine how ridiculous it would sound if people on these threads were saying things like “the middle classes are this or that and mostly believe the other and I can prove it because I talked to a bloke in a pub who agrees with me and anyway my parents were middle class and so I know me spuds”. What you actually need is policies that improve people’s lot and political representatives who stick to electoral pledges, whether it becomes expedient to try to ditch them or not. It’s about income and trust every time. No one wants to struggle to pay their bills and no-one likes feeling mislead.

  • @ Michael BG would Lord Sugar, the Duke of Westminster and Theresa May et al qualify for the same minimum income as the typical recipient of help from a food bank, Michael?

  • As this very site demonstrates, if what we have to say to the average person consists almost entirely of decimal places and other equally exciting statistics about leaving the EU presented in a fairly patronising way, and several articles a week about non-binary genders as if its the most pressing issue in the history of the world – then its little wonder that we’re such an irrelevance.

  • @ David Raw
    “would Lord Sugar, the Duke of Westminster and Theresa May et al qualify for the same minimum income as the typical recipient of help from a food bank”

    I assume you mean Basic Universal Income. The answer is yes and no. It should be like the Income Tax Personal Allowance which everyone gets but those earning above £100,000 start to pay a special rate of tax so at (currently) £123,700 all of their Income Tax Personal Allowance has gone and their tax rate returns to normal.

  • William Fowler 2nd May '18 - 8:20am

    To make UBI affordable the personal tax allowance would disappear, as would relief on pension contributions and myriad other complexities in the tax system so they would get UBI (as they do the state pension) but end up paying lots more actual tax.

  • @ Michael BG “the answer is yes and no”

    Sorry Michael, but that ought to go into the lexicon of great Liberal speeches.

    Try selling it to the electorate.

  • Philip Knowles 2nd May '18 - 8:41am

    In 2013 when I was standing in the North Yorkshire County Council elections a voter came up to me and said, “You used to be the party of the thinking working man but you’ve left us behind”.
    I think that was partly because of the coalition but also because we have become a party of high minded thinkers. We think that ‘doing the right thing’ is so obvious that we don’t explain it and aren’t passionate advocates for what we believe in. We present a logical case and then leave people to work it out for themselves.
    We need to be proud for what we stand for and not apologetic. We need to get back the passion for what we believe in and take it to the voters. Most importantly we need to echo Peter Finch (and now Bryan Cranston) in Network and say, ‘I’m as mad as Hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’

  • Peter Martin 2nd May '18 - 8:47am

    I don’t think there is any such person called Aaron Rand who is well known for promoting the idea of ‘free market economics’.

    There was an Ayn Rand but she died in 1982.

  • Peter Martin 2nd May '18 - 8:53am

    @ John Littler,

    “The answer is an active Industrial strategy with whole of life training available, expanded modern apprenticeships, export promotions, the northern powerhouse, investment in high tech including a national broadband utility service, robotics and returning work moved to Asia boosting productivity and wage levels.”

    We’ve all heard this sort of stuff many many times.

    But it not going to work any better in the future than it has in the past unless we either:

    1) Hold down the exchange rate so that exports always exceed imports.

    or

    2) Let the exchange rate float and stop worrying about the twin deficits (budget and trade) that will inevitably result.

  • Martin Land 2nd May '18 - 8:53am

    @ James. Precisely.

  • Philip Knowles 2nd May '18 - 9:38am

    @Peter Martin
    @John Littler
    The industrial strategy is right but we spend too much time thinking and not enough selling the ideas. What is the benefit to the working man? How can we express it in terms that means that they will vote for us?
    They will have fallen asleep before the end of the first sentence.
    Donald Trump won because of ‘America First’ what’s our equivalent.

  • @ Philip Knowles “what is the benefit to the working man?”

    …… And the working woman, Philip ?

  • There is a lot to talk about in the article, and the many interesting responses, but my tuppence is that we need to decide:

    Do we want a manifesto with policies that will benefit the country as a whole, including those who identify as working class?

    or

    Do we want a manifesto with policies that will get the support of the tabloids and Len McLuskey, and therefore be much easier to sell to those who identify as working class?

    IMO, those two things are not the same at all. I’d prefer we stick with the former, but we have to acknowledge that we’ll be fighting against certain groups who only pretend to look out for the workers.

  • Fiona,
    Newspapers are dying out. They sell less and less every year. Their influence is largely on politicians, rather than voters and they are mostly written by the educated middle classes. The idea that people who happen to be in lower income brackets think what the tabloids tell them is essentially the product of left leaning newspapers are arguing with right leaning newspapers mingling with the belief that those on lower incomes are like impressionable children. It is basically the liberal version of blaming everything on the BBC or Hampstead elites. What both sides ignore is that it is perfectly possible to be so called right-wing on some issues and so called left-wing on others. People generally speaking are not ideologically wedded to the minutiae of party politics. Put it this way, do liberals become liberals because the Guardian tells them what to think or are they attracted to the Guardian because they’re liberal? Most of the writers of all the newspapers are from the same sorts of background which suggest that the idea that education will make you innately liberal or progressive is also a little suspect.

  • Neil Sandison 2nd May '18 - 11:29am

    William Fowler .Yes many of us remember Micheal Foot and other Labour leaders of that era but it didnt turn us into tories .We felt there was a need to move away from the typical class based politics even then . Progressive politics where you aim to look for an ongoing improvement in the human condition whilst retaining basic rights and responsibilities is not the preserve of conservatism but has deeper roots within the liberal tradition social justice does not belong to labour but was promoted by social liberals like Lloyd George and Beverage .

  • Fiona 2nd May ’18 – 10:34am…………….Do we want a manifesto with policies that will get the support of the tabloids and Len MccLuskey………………..

    Tabloids (plural)? There is one newspaper that could be said, in any way, to be sympathetic to Labour. The rest, including the Guardian, are anything but even handed in that respect…
    I used to buy the Guardian but it’s headline writers now seem to be recruited from the Sun/Mail style of nonsense. For instance, in today’s supposedly neutral report on Labour in the Swindon local election, the headline is a direct quote from the Conservative council leader….
    I tend to agree with Glenn’s assertion that the influence of the newspaper is waning. After all, in last year’s GE, constant newspaper attacks on Corbyn led media commentators to believe, as one, that he’d lose 150+ seats; how did that pan out?

  • Innocent Bystander 2nd May '18 - 11:51am

    @Peter Martin
    “The answer is an active Industrial strategy with whole of life training available, expanded modern apprenticeships, export promotions, the northern powerhouse, investment in high tech including a national broadband utility service, robotics and returning work moved to Asia boosting productivity and wage levels.”

    We’ve all heard this sort of stuff many many times.

    Although I disagree with Peter on many things he is quite correct here. There have been umpteen attempts at this. I remember Wilson’s White Heat of the Technological Revolution.
    I go as far back as the Manpower Services Commission, then there were the TECs, the Business Links, the LEPs, the Innovation Initiative, The Enterprise Initiative, Regional Selective Assistance and many more besides.
    And still our manufacturing base has dwindled.
    It was not Thatchers fault either. The closures were happening fast in the Callaghan years.
    An interventionist industrial strategy is easy to dream of but to warm over the old “we need to invest in and support ….blah….blah…. the latest buzzwords….blah…blah” will just be another failure to add to the pile.

  • Expats.
    I still occasionally read the Guardian. But these days I find the star writers and editorials pretty unbearable. If I’m on the train, I’ll buy the I mainly because I like the crossword and Sudoku. Mostly I look news stories up online.

  • @ William Fowler

    I agree UBI would replace the Income Tax Personal Allowance and most likely the National Insurance threshold if set high enough so that those earning less than £46,356 are no worse off. I am sorry if you got the impression from what I had written this was not the case.

    @ David Raw
    “Try selling it to the electorate”

    To the electorate we could say – yes everyone receives UBI no matter what their income but those earning more than £46,356 would pay more in National Insurance and those earning more than £100,000 would as today (with regard to the Personal Allowance) pay extra income tax to recover it as their income rises.

    @ Philip Knowles

    I think having a policy of full employment and a National Living Wage of £10 an hour is the starting position. We can also have a policy to provide free training available during the whole of a person’s working life, and policies to encourage R and D and investment in UK based companies.

  • Arnold Kiel 3rd May '18 - 7:25am

    John Littler,

    Germany is indeed enjoying a moment in the sun, threatened, though by the coming obsolescence of some core technologies/assets: internal combustion engines, machining production, car brand premiums, etc. None of this was achieved by any kind of Government-induced “industrial strategy”, and its replication in the UK is not within the powers of even the most competent Government (and your current one could not be further from competently advancing the UK’s economic wellbeing).

    The only “political” element in Germany’s industrial success is some consensus (also with the unions) that a healthy and competitive company should be firstly kept that way, and not primarily milked, sold, re-leveraged, securitised, etc. It is much more of a cultural heritage than a political project. German capital and management, btw. would quite happily continue to make Minis, Bentleys, RRs, and Airbus-wings on this island, if your Government cared to maintain the prerequisites for that.

    Another example: silicon valley. It could not be further from Washington in practically every dimension. It is also a telling example of the benefits of immigration, overstaying, sometimes failed, students, to be precise. Again, something the UK could not be more opposed to.

  • Glenn 2nd May ’18 – 12:17pm….Expats…………I still occasionally read the Guardian. But these days I find the star writers and editorials pretty unbearable. If I’m on the train, I’ll buy the I mainly because I like the crossword and Sudoku. Mostly I look news stories up online………

    I stick to books. However, for many years I’ve taken ‘Private Eye’ (every year now my Christmas present from my son is a year’s subscription) and it is amazing how often a ‘snippet’ on page X is a media headline a few weeks/months later…
    On-line is, also, my preferred choice for news and, as an aside, I don’t bother with BBC news which I find ‘shallow’ (even Today and PM are shadows of their former glory)…

    A few days ago the most important, at least to my mind, news were..

    1)… Theresa May’s personal blocking of requests to allow more overseas doctors to come to Britain to fill staff shortages in the NHS.
    2)…The government being forced to concede on public ownership registers for overseas territories..
    3)…Yet another government defeat in the HoL with Liam Fox accusing “unelected peers of trying to block the UK from leaving the European Union.”
    4) The EU and Eire’s warnings that time was running out on the ‘border issue and the DUP refusal to accept any option at all…

    None of these items were covered in the 6pm BBC ‘flagship’ news…

  • Peter Martin 3rd May '18 - 8:32am

    @John Littler,

    Maybe your “caps lock” key has got stuck?

    These points aren’t just matters of my opinion. They are economic fact. Economics 101 even.

    1) A lower currency makes the users of that currency less able to afford imports. Manufacturers in that currency zone will find it less advantageous to sell in their home market than to export.

    2) ALL countries which run high current account trade surpluses are currency manipulators. They probably deny they are but look closely and you can what they are up to. They use terms like “managed flotation”. They are, as they see it, doing what is necessary to keep their export industry competitive.

    3) Germany is not a model for anyone to copy. All countries cannot run a 8% surplus. It’s not even economics 101 to point this out. It is just simple arithmetic. Germany’s surplus is pffenig for pffenig, penny for penny, eurocent for eurocent, someone else’s deficit.

    4) ALL developed countries that genuinely let their currencies float (Australia, USA, Canada, the UK, NZ) run current account trade deficits most of the time. Those deficits translate into Govt budget deficits too. If money is leaving the economy to pay for imports it has to be replenished from somewhere to keep it going.

  • Expats,
    I got rid of my TV a while back and quite honestly it’s amazing how little I miss it. What strikes me about TV news coverage is how much of it is consists of presenters talking to newspaper journalist about how various stories might be interpreted or what they think a public figure of some sort might be thinking about something or other and whatnot. Also 24 hour coverage is painfully repetitive. Plus these days all most journalist seem to do is look things up online and I can do that myself!

  • @ Arnold Kiel “Germany is indeed enjoying a place in the sun”.

    I’m afraid the use of that phrase is a tad unfortunate for those of us with a sense of Wilhilmine history, Arnold. I didn’t know you were a fan of Bernard von Bulow. I suppose there’s more than one way of skinning a cat.

  • Peter Martin 3rd May '18 - 11:12am

    @David Raw @ Arnold Kiel,

    I don’t know about “a place in the sun” but Germany is a currency manipulator intent on manipulating the euro to its own advantage. Germany is not a responsible international citizen. German mercantilism simply sucks out euros from the economies of its trading partners leaving them needing to borrow them back to keep their economies afloat. The German conservative right, and I’d include the SPD in that, then berate their partners for their fiscal profligacy.

    It may be to the benefit of a tiny wealthy minority in Germany but mercantilism isn’t benefitting everyone. It doesn’t, when you think about it rationally, make any sense to continually swap a higher value of goods for a lower value and take IOUs to make up the difference.

    If anyone disagrees and would like to swap their nice new valuable car for my very old not so valuable car I’d be happy to accommodate their wishes. I’ll just write out some 30 year bonds to make the accounts balance and we’ll all be happy!

    They’ll be running a surplus and I’ll have a much nicer car to drive!

  • William Fowler 3rd May '18 - 12:13pm

    Going round in circles here, I think, all a bit vague and not going to grab the minds of the working class or anyone else. A simple thing to grasp is moving some of tax burden from individuals to companies (Conservative won’t touch it and Labour needs that money plus another load from individuals) whilst coupled with fiscal toughness as evinced by Sir Vince and bearing in mind the precarious, third world level of overall debt racked up by successive governments.

  • @Peter Martin re: “but Germany is a currency manipulator intent on manipulating the euro to its own advantage. Germany is not a responsible international citizen. …”
    This where we have to ask, just what is the UK going to do about this matter, post-Brexit?
    Whilst we were in the EU we had a voice and could help, in fact, putting to one side the reasons for joining the EEC, if you look at David Cameron’s deal, it was a big step down the path to re-addressing the balance of power in the EU and thus the extent to which Germany could hold sway over its local trading partners.

    I get the distinct impression that post-Brexit the UK will be able to grumble, but do sweet FA, to actually make a difference.

  • Peter Martin 3rd May '18 - 2:01pm

    @ Roland,

    We’d possibly have been able do something about German mercantilism if we’d gone the whole way and signed up to the euro plus Schengen etc. I wouldn’t have wanted to bet the ranch on that though. Which is what we’d have had to do to be able to survive when using the same currency as Germany. Fortunately we learned our lesson on Black Wednesday.

    As it was, with a floating currency, we didn’t have to do anything about it. Still less will we have to do anything if we’re completely out. We can tell the EU what they can do with their so-called Stability and Growth Pact. Except that is to keep generating 30 year gilts to pay for German imports. If they want to keep sending us cars and they’re happy to take our pieces of paper or entries on a digital spreadsheet then we just let them get on with it. The only problem with that is that, technically, we’re generating debt. It doesn’t really matter until Germany decides to become a net importer and start spending it.

    But not everyone sees it the way it should be seen. There’s been a general panic about debts and deficits which has led to austerity economics. We need to learn better.

  • Arnold Kiel 3rd May '18 - 2:09pm

    Indeed, William, the answer to the working-class is simple in theory, but hard in practice: a job with a world-leading company (wherever they are). Unless they despise mercantilism so much that they prefer poverty (for themselves, I hope, not just the others), like Peter Martin.

  • Peter Martin – Germany has one vote in the ECB, just like every other member state. It is very difficult to see how anyone could “manipulate” something when they have one vote out of circa 20.

  • One point to remember is that, as a party, the LibDems’ policies should appeal to:
    I) people who actually vote LD, and,
    II) people who MIGHT vote LD.

    There is limited value in having policies that appeal to people who will never vote LD (as they are committed voters for other parties). Trying to “out-Labour” Labour or “out-Conservative” the Conservatives is not going to work and indeed may result in a loss of LD voters who would see the party as having abandoned its message. Hence the goals has to be to appeal to the moderate voters of both parties who dislike their current hard-line directions.

  • Peter Martin 3rd May '18 - 2:59pm

    @ Paul R,

    It’s not about votes in the ECB. It’s about economic muscle. Its about writing the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact and ignoring them when it suits (like Germany has on budget deficits and on its trade surplus). The EU Commission has in place a set of rules that require nations to restrict external surpluses to not exceed 6 per cent of GDP. Germany repeatedly fails to abide by those rules, yet lectures the rest of its Eurozone partners about their failures to meet the targets, crazy as they are. The unwillingness of the European Commission to enforce their own rules in relation to Germany is one of the telling failures of the whole Eurozone experiment.

    Paul Krugman is always worth a read:

    https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/germany-the-euro-and-currency-manipulation/

  • Peter Martin – Well, buy a nice car, until UK manufacturing companies go bust one by one and workers are laid off and lose their source of income. Service jobs tend to be very low-paid or very high-paid, so only a few will be able to buy nice cars. Why should we play fair with our neighbours at the expense of our business and workers when they don’t play fair with us? Why should we be “responsible” at our own expense when others are not? This reminds of the Second London Naval treaty when only the UK tried to complied with 14 inch Battleship guns at its own expense (meanwhile Japan was building Yamato).
    Mind you, there is a big positive causal relationship between export and manufacturing productivity (this has been proven by countless literature).

    Arnold Kiel – Germany does have significant government support. You know the KfW bank, which is ten times more powerful than the British Business Bank is, it provides financial support to its Mittelstand system. In Germany, local government also often hold shares in companies. German success lies in business-union cooperation, then we already have a similar idea but we can never promote them effectively. And also, Germany had a superior technical education both at uni-level and at apprentice-level.
    Even in America, lot’s of today’s technology originated from government and defense research, and then spilled over to the private sector.
    Oh, and postwar Japan and the four Asian tigers are even better examples of government-led industrial strategy.

    “The only “political” element in Germany’s industrial success is some consensus (also with the unions) that a healthy and competitive company should be firstly kept that way, and not primarily milked, sold, re-leveraged, securitised, etc” – stronger competition and anti-trust laws, together with tougher foreign takeover laws would help a lot to address this.

    EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY IN THE WORLD HAS TOUGHER FOREIGN TAKEOVER LAWS THAN THE UK. THE IDEA OF FOREIGN STATE-OWNED FIRMS CONTROLLING UK ELECTRICITY MARKET IS UTTERLY STUPID, AND WE CAN USE THIS FACT TO ENRAGE THE WORKING CLASS AGAINST THE TORIES IF THEY ARE REALLY PATRIOTIC.

  • Dear David Thorpe – The issue of crime is due to Tory (and unfortunately Coalition) police cuts. Solution: increase funding and size of our police. But I agree that we should delay drug decriminalization.

    But the idea of “lefty crap” is utter bollock. Mind you, these lefty craps once saved US democracy.

    Forget Brexit, it had become similar to the Gold vs Free Silver during the late 1890s in the US. We need new directions.

    John Litter – I totally agree with you. Let’s abandon the whole Anglo-Saxon “laissez faire” model and move to social market model.

    Innocent Bystander – I have to disagree with you. All successful nations relied on a comprehensive industrial strategy to grow: Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, 1945-1973 France (do you even know that in 1945 France’s GDP was only 60% of the UK, but by 1973 it fully closed that gap), and even America (no joke, America never had laissez-faire until the Roaring Twenties, their policies were based on Alexander Hamilton’s idea of high-tariff, national bank and internal improvements). The UK during the 18th and early 19th century did have similar strategy and high tariffs, and well, most were enacted by our ancestors Whigs (like the Calico Acts or Navigation Act).

    Suddenly, I think we should get some ideas from Reagan. He preached tax cuts and small government, but in fact it was “tax cuts and spend”. Now, we should talk about reversing welfare cuts and boost spending on housing, R&D, education, healthcare and police without mentioning any kinds of tax hikes except for top tax rate, corporate tax and capital gain tax, plus stop talking about balancing the book (may still include it in some part of the written manifesto). Other kinds of tax increases, let the voters read the manifesto themselves (don’t worry, most of them will never read in detail).

  • Innocent Bystander 3rd May '18 - 4:23pm

    @Thomas
    Industrial strategies may well have worked, to some extent, in other jurisdictions, but my observation was that they have never worked here although they have been tried innumerable times by both parties.
    It would be more productive if those who call for an industrial strategy, for the UK I mean, spent a little time reflecting on why they haven’t worked here before repeating history (yet again) but expecting a different result.
    I could offer my experience but there are many reasons. Our polarised, FPTP is one. a venal and incompetent Civil Service is another, the power of special interest lobby groups just one more rounded off by corruption (all of which is ‘quasi-legal and you never see).
    Private Eye reveals a bit but only the tip of the iceberg. Before your strategy would work a whole lot of parasites (thousands of them) would have to be kicked out of their nests.
    Until you recognise that this is an essential step one, your strategy will just be the usual honeypot for the few and disappointment for everyone else.

  • Peter Martin – the majority of voters never think like you, they normally believe export is good, trade surplus is good, foreign control of national assets is bad. A comprehensive export-oriented industrial strategy plus tougher foreign takeover laws will perfectly play into this ignorance (by letting them believe that they are right) and will directly attack the Tories (for example, let’s rhetorically blast May for ARM takeover). Of course only an idiot would talk about devaluing the pound in an election manifesto.

    In other words, what we need is the original 1928 Yellow Book plus export promotion/subsidies plus import substitution plus national bank plus foreign takeover restrictions plus anti-trust law (should be used against foreign state-owned energy firms) plus STEM education and training plus R&D spending boost plus investment in new manufacturing technology (it would be none other than computerization and automation, but these two words should not be mentioned explicitly). I mean, we aim to invest in automation and computerization but our message would be “invest in new manufacturing technology” and none of the words “automation” or “computerization” should be found in the manifesto.

    Geoffrey Payne – another route: talk about NHS and welfare spending boost, but keep silent about income tax hike (it can be mentioned in a footnote in the manifesto, but let the voters read to find it, and believe me the working class would not bother to read in detail). Instead, bragging about corporate tax and capital gain tax.
    But, for the working class, the biggest problem is “JOBS”. To flank Labour, let’s talk like “we will create jobs instead of let them live off the dole”. Also, must tackle zero hour contracts.

    Oh, Trump also demonstrated that promising to raise economic growth to above 3% was also effective.

  • Innocent Bystander 3rd May '18 - 5:30pm

    The LibDems will never take power in the life time of anyone alive today, including Prince Louis of Cambridge, so it’s all academic really but here is a short primer of what will happen.
    The new LibDem minister will call in his senior Civil Servants and repeat all those high tech, high fashion buzzwords. They will smile obsequiously and reappear with some glossy brochures explaining how the ministers new Co-operative Renewal Assistance Programme will be delivered. This will impress the minister, but then the mandarins have done this scores of times. The minister will loudly boast of progress. Meanwhile they will be quietly discussing with the ‘deliverers and implementers’ how these hundreds of millions will be spent. The rest should be easy to guess even by those who aren’t cynical.
    Why do you think virtually all procurements, new software installations in fact, virtually everything is mired in vast overspend, delay and complete failure?
    There is a malignant growth at the heart of our system that will need the surgeon’s knife first. All that “we must invest in AI, robots and whatever else is new and shiny” is just manna from heaven for what are called ‘intermediaries’.

  • Innocent Bystander 3rd May '18 - 7:35pm

    David,
    ‘Tis a great pity. It contains the cleverest and most moral members of all the parties but it seems to have no way of unifying that intellectual and humanitarian capability into one irresistible force for which the nation yearns.
    I was briefly a member, my dear son and his lovely wife are members and I read these columns torn between hope and despair. I can’t help thinking “For the love of Christ can’t you stop the intellectual point scoring, concede value in each faction’s views and lay out an agenda which will answer the people’s problems.”
    Many “outsiders” offer opinions but most, even the constructive and well meant are usually picked on until they fall silent and go away.

  • OnceALibDem 3rd May '18 - 9:42pm

    Innocent Bystander “The LibDems will never take power in the life time of anyone alive today,”

    This is a silly claim. The oldest person in the UK is IIRC 112. Which means they were alive in 1906 since when politics have changed just a smidge.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th May '18 - 12:59am

    Great discussion of needed industrial strategy here, let’s get it into party policy. But as to the original theme, worrying about how to satisfy the working man and woman is a middle-class obsession and not in my view constructive. We’re for the whole working population. I’ve noticed that the plumbers I’ve called in to fix my house plumbing over the years earn much more than I ever did, and their children went on to University and good jobs. My current plumber sends his daughter to a private school where my own god-daughter is a teacher. I’m happy if we have an increasingly middle-class society, but I do want our party to have the better policies eloquently discussed above to serve everyone.

  • Innocent Bystander – The key is to tell business to do what you want them to do a.k.a to invest in manufacturing technology while the government only provide support and guidance (not government doing them themselves like Labour used to). Subsidize R&D in private sector rather than doing them themselves, because applied technology is what we fall behind currently. In the end, it is the private sector that must invest in themselves, but they are reluctant to do so and the government never really compel them and support them.

    One key thing that both Labour and Tories forgot is to discipline these firms, to make sure than they actually use our money to do so, and to monitor their efficiency/business performance. The South Korean and Japanese used export performance as one of the measure to discipline business. This have a point, since firms must actually improve themselves instead of relying on favouritism to compete internationally. If they fail to comply with our criteria, let’s just cut off support (both financial and technical) ruthlessly (instead of doing what Labour did like propping up British Leyland). Keep subsidizing mid- and high-performers. Mid-performers are expected to continue to exists as SMEs, while high-performers are expected to become global giants (and thus would get more government assistance than mid-performing group). This is similar to how venture capital works, you invest in 100 firms, support/subsidize them and discipline them EQUALLY, but then gradually weed out losing ones. In the end, 90% of them die out but the surviving ventures becoming Google, Microsoft, Facebook… That was how Samsung and Posco become what they are now.

    Tories? Sorry, they are for City bankers and big business only.

  • Katharine Pindar – yeah, there are many kinds of high-skilled working class. But they generally do not earn much at apprentice level. Low-skilled workers also do not earn much. However, all of them are concerned about rising crimes, and the “tough on crime” Tories are attractive. We are very fortunate that the Tories still does not use stuffs similar to “Willie Horton ad” to attack the left, because such things would be disastrous for the Libdems who are soft on crime.

    Another issue, but not so important in the UK. The Tories are the Conservatives and thus also represents family values (which are important to the working class).

    Libdem policy guys should read “How Asia Works: Success and. Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region” by Joe Studwell. Read the book and you will understand why British industrial strategy failed in the past. Labour basically chose the wrong approach: picking winners and focusing on “nationalization”. The financial sector also matters very much, which is why “City banker” Tories cannot be trusted.

  • Peter Martin 4th May '18 - 7:51am

    @ Thomas,

    “…..the majority of voters never think like you, they normally believe export is good, trade surplus is good, foreign control of national assets is bad.”

    I’d agree on the foreign control. It all depends on what LibDems want to do. If you want to pander to an incorrect understanding of how things work at election time, spouting a lot of BS at election time, you’ll have to explain why nothing is improving afterwards and lose credibility.

    Simply put, most voters, whether or not they are working class, want:
    1) A healthy economy. ( Full employment, low inflation etc)
    2) Low levels of public and private debt.
    3) A high pound.

    The snag is that they can only choose 2 out of these 3. So if you want to be honest you can explain it to the voters or you can carry on as previously and never get anywhere.

    @ Katharine,

    Interesting observation on your plumber. So the assumption is that the working classes are those who get their hands dirty? Also interesting on how it’s ‘they’ and ‘them’ with nearly all commentators rather than ‘we’ and ‘us’.

    Anyone who’s in a normal job, in paid employment, selling their labour only to an employer, is by definition working class. IMO

  • Arnold Kiel 4th May '18 - 8:22am

    The possibility and effectiveness of a UK industrial strategy is currently a second-order question. The immediate task is to stay on Europe’s industrial map, delineated by the EU single market. Failing that, the “working class” will be lost forever as self-sufficient economic subjects and participants in liberal discourse.

  • Arnold – stay in single market is the best thing we want, but we must have plan B for worst-case scenario.

    Peter Martin – A healthy economy of full employment and low inflation, of course. To achieve this, the only way is to have our productivity and aggregate supply flying ahead. We must modernize production methods as well as plant, machinery and equipment. The difference between these and infrastructures is that they are direct means of production. So, our goal must be modernize the means of production. Do you know what were the engines of growth during the Second Industrial Revolution and in postwar East Asia? They were inventions, technological progress and modernization.

    Low level of public and private debt, PLUS A BETTER TRADE BALANCE. We need better trade balance to solve our debt problem, so we should push for export. More importantly, in manufacturing, export has been consistently found to have a positive impact on productivity.

    A lower pound is desirable if our long-term aim is to reduce dependency on foreign components and equipment in manufacturing. For example, when developing renewable energy, we should also aim to build up a home renewable energy equipment manufacturing industry to supply it.

  • Arnold Kiel 4th May '18 - 11:01am

    Thomas,

    there is no industrial plan B. Since decades, UK manufacturing is on foreign life-support. Brexit means terminal deindustrialization, and with it the end of well-paid jobs for non-academics.

  • Peter Hirst 4th May '18 - 12:17pm

    I don’t think an offer of a rise in income tax will appeal to the just about managing. They are concerned about the amount in their pocket after expenses such as the utilities and the cost of essentials such as alcohol and cigarettes. I would have thought a basic income would appeal to them as giving some certainty. Also, being more generous with the taxing of second and third jobs; some work very hard to make ends meet.

  • @Peter Martin
    “We’d possibly have been able do something about German mercantilism if we’d gone the whole way and signed up to the euro plus Schengen etc.”

    “The unwillingness of the European Commission to enforce their own rules in relation to Germany is one of the telling failures of the whole Eurozone experiment.”

    Interesting, this touches on something I’ve noticed with some arguments put by some Brexit supporters, namely: they blame the EU for not doing things that for it to do, would really require a greater level of unification than we currently have, which raises the question: if the UK had fully signed up to the EU superstate, would many Brexit supporters be happy?…

  • Peter Martin 4th May '18 - 2:10pm

    @ Roland,

    Obviously they wouldn’t be happy. But to function properly, economically and with a single currency, requires the EU to become the European Superstate you mention. If there was enough support for that in the EU generally I could be persuaded to support the idea myself. But there isn’t. The ref debate in the UK was very much about what the UK could get out of it. The French and the Germans are no different from us in that respect. I just don’t believe there are enough genuine ‘Europeans’ to make the EU work except if democracy is abandoned to the EU commission.

    If we do have an EU govt we’ll most likely get ethnic voting. German parties, French parties Greek parties etc. German voters will begrudge every eurocent of their taxes which aren’t spent in Germany. Ethnic voting doesn’t work well anywhere in the world. In doesn’t work in Northern Ireland for example. It doesn’t work in Africa if voting is along tribal lines. It won’t be any different in the EU.

  • Geoffrey Payne 4th May '18 - 3:42pm

    Looks like the working classes in Hull are now voting Lib Dem.

  • Arnold Kiel – but the Tories, not us, will determine the outcome. You have to prepare for a scenario where they give in to a hard Brexit. Reenter the EU after that will take years, if not a decade or more.

  • Neil Sandison 5th May '18 - 10:44am

    working people are now increasingly trapped in generation rent .high rents stop your ability to save and limit your housing choice so getting back to some genuinely affordable homes has to be a key issue with a real option of renting now and purchasing when you really can afford it .Money from sales to be re-invested in new homes to rent Tories not living up to one for one replacement and of course we know overall affordable housing stock has been massively depleted over last 30 years .We have to be the awkward squad that asks those difficult questions and cut through the flannel of house completions that are too expensive for those on average earnings to acquire .Developers much more interested in building for the second home market for those who have equity from the first home they purchased which is why you are seeing more 4,5 and 6 bedroom homes with a double garage and less 2 and 3 bedroom with a car port for example.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th May '18 - 10:21pm

    John Littler: we need your ideas to update party policy, John. Can you craft a motion for the next party Conference in September, and meantime urge Vince to support them? And Neil, please challenge the party to campaign about the housing issue now. We need your voices to be heard beyond LDV. Personally, I have to work on a text for an introductory leaflet, to help convince the good people of West Cumbria that the party’s ideas need pursuing – for the start of the 2019 local election campaign.

  • Daniel Walker 6th May '18 - 7:15am
  • Neil Sandison 6th May '18 - 10:33am

    Daniel Walker Policy is wonderful but would it not be great if we told more people about it ! Which is why we must challenge the tories on housing growth for the benefit of developers and not for the benefit of communities .The larger the dwelling the more land it consumes the less councils will hit their housing targets the more young families find it difficult to find a home the more the building industry demands more land and accuses council of not meeting the targets in their local plans ,the more we prop up the private rented sector with extortionate rents .This is both ineffective in housing provision and not a sustainable housing or environmental policy.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th May '18 - 9:36pm

    Daniel, many thanks for those links, which show excellent policies. We do need to tell people about them, as Neil says. But an obvious problem is to distill them into manageable publicity chunks for campaigning purposes! Again with housing we need to publicise our aims, but also make them distinctive from the other parties’ new-found concerns.

  • Simon Banks 24th Jun '18 - 9:23am

    Our failure to attract working-class votes is much greater in working-class London than in, say, Hull or Sunderland. In areas which are relatively prosperous and middle-class, but still have working-class voters, we do pretty well in attracting those voters if we have a strong presence: this is part of a familiar effect which means, say, a manual worker in Surrey has always been more likely to vote Tory than one in Salford and a middle-class resident in the Welsh valleys has always been more likely to vote Labour than one in Dorset.

    We do have things to offer working-class voters elsewhere. Of course, a strong local campaign on local issues may well attract them in local elections; but nationally, our approach is scattergun. We need to pick two or three key issues attractive to working-class voters from out of the bag of policies we already have and keep stressing them.

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