What Jo Grimond wrote…

Jo Grimond, the former Liberal Party leader who famously promised to lead the party towards the sound of gunfire, wrote the following back in 1979 – yet it echoes many contemporary themes:

“Looking around London it is uglier, dirtier, more expensively and more incompetently run than it was ten years ago. Many of the people in the Underground railway look like refugees from a prison camp. The standard of life may be statistically rising but it is difficult to discern greater well-being in either the homes or faces of most people. A certain mulish worry seems a prevalent expression. Yet their avowed inability, in spite of the vast armoury of tools now at their disposal, to conduct affairs economically or competently does not prevent our governors from essaying constant interference in our lives when it suits them. Whilst sane and simple change particularly if it decreases the size of bureaucracy and the waste of resources is vetoed as administratively impossible unwanted upheavals in local government and the tax system are inflicted upon us.”

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  • Jo Grimond wanted to see progressive politics but opposed the dead hand of the state – I think he would see much to commend the coalition government’s approach. The Party needs to press for the radical changes that are within our grasp. Tuition fees was always going to be messy – try and fix someone else’s mess (thank you Labour) without the money… Change the House of Lords, reduce the tax burden on the people at the bottom end and give them better chances; release them from dependency on the state.

    Well we’re certainly hearing the gunfire – time to return it with some of our own!

  • Good post but the “dirtier” comment is out of date, paticularly in London which is sparkling compared to the 1970s. The only real exception I have noticed is the return of spitting – yuk.

  • Steve Simmons 12th Dec '10 - 12:55pm

    Comparing the bureaucracy and the waste of resources in the 1970s with today simply isn’t valid given the constant public sector reforms of the last three decades.

    “Tuition fees was always going to be messy – try and fix someone else’s mess (thank you Labour) without the money”

    The tuition fee system being introduced does not save a penny compared to the Lib Dem policy of paying for HE using progressive taxation. To blame the changes being made to tuition fees, which are fiscally regressive, on the fiscal deficit is a big fat lie. They are being introduced purely for ideological reasons because the tories want rich graduates and non-graduates to contribute less to the funding of HE. For you to portray such policies as reducing the tax burden on the people at the bottom is shameful.

  • Maybe the historical city sparkles but there’s a thick ring of grime around the suburbs between the city and the green belt. Not that that’s particularly relevant.

  • Steve Bradley 12th Dec '10 - 2:33pm

    I’d argue that there is little genreal correlation between then and now with regards the quote in reference to London.

    Without a shadow of a doubt, my ward and where I live has improved over the last decade in important areas like crime. That is demonstrably the case.

    London is not worse off now than it was 10yrs ago in my view. The big question is, wil it be once the cuts start to bite ?

  • I’m very sorry if I fail (not being a Lib Dem you understand) to see the point of this.

  • There are very few, if any, similarities between London 1979 and London 2010. The same can be said of Britain as a whole. The living standards of all are almost unrecognisable with those of 1979. The role of public services, are a great deal different than what they were in 1979. I find it impossible to see anything in the quote, that can be seen as contemporary.

    Now if you want to state that a Liberal icon would fully endorse today’s LibDems, then fair enough. But is the shoe horning really necessary?

  • Nick (not Clegg) 12th Dec '10 - 3:55pm

    I first joined the Liberal Party in 1962 when Jo was leader.

    He was the best leader the party has had in my life-time. Clegg is the worst.

    in 1962 the party had five or six MPs. I wonder if we shall have as many after the next election.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Dec '10 - 3:56pm

    It is clear that rich graduates will pay considerably more than they do now, over the full length of their contribution to their tuition fees. This is behind some of the hostility to the proposals from better-off quarters (though obviously not most of it which comes form people who seem to think, falsely, that they will stop them going to university).

    Tony Greaves

  • Steve Simmons 12th Dec '10 - 5:20pm

    @Andrew Tennant

    1. The new system is regressive for at least the top 3 and possibly top 4 income deciles (that’s of ), meaning that high earning graduates contribute a smaller proportion of their income over 30 years to the funding of HE than middle income graduates. It is therefore regressive according to the standard definition and in contradiction to Lib Dem policy aims.

    2. Currently the average graduate earns 100k more than a non-graduate during the course of their lifetime. As at least 25% of this will go straight back to the government in taxes then graduates already cover the costs of their tuition through taxation on their higher incomes (when taken together with the fees already paid by graduates). Therefore non-graduates do not subsidise graduates, despite the constant lies being peddled by the government.

    3. Non graduates on low incomes receive more in public services than they pay for in taxes. They are therefore subsidised by graduates (and high-earning non-graduates), rather than the other way round. High earning non-graduates subsidise graduates if HE is funded through general taxation. If the burden of tuition funding is shifted to graduates (by an 80% reduction in the teaching budget from general taxation) then it clearly benefits high-earning non-graduates. By changing the burden of HE tuition funding from general taxation (income tax that is fiscally progressive) to tuition fees (fiscally regressive) it very much favours high earners.

    Points 1 & 3 demonstrate that the system being introduced is deliberately designed to ease the tax burden on high earners. That is explicitly why the tories decided not to introduce a graduate tax – because they were concerned that a small minority of high earning graduates would elect to study abroad and pay less in tuition fees than the cumulative graduate tax burden over their lifetime, or study in this Country and leave. It shows that they are less concerned that under the new system it is middle income earners (the majority of graduates) that will be hit the hardest (as a proportion of their income – the definition of progressivity/regressivity) and will elect to study abroad to avoid the fees (e.g. US public universities, etc) or read for a degree in this Country and emigrate (nurses, teachers, etc, leaving after their training to avoid the punitive tax rate). The interests of high earners are clearly at the heart of the changes being made to tuition fees.

    Who would have thought the tories would have been behind such moves? Clearly not the lambs in the Lib Dems queuing up for the slaughter house.

  • Steve Simmons 12th Dec '10 - 5:21pm

    erratum – “(that’s of ),” shouldn’t be there

  • I see the fees argument continues, however, I think Seth Thevoz sums things up perfectly:


  • @ Nick (not Clegg)

    The best leader had 5 or 6 seats so was able to actually do what?

    The worst leader (by your reckoning) is actually able to do something. Admittedley not what you’d like , but still something.

    Sadly you can’t have your cake and eat it

  • Patrick Smith 12th Dec '10 - 6:52pm

    I think that an absolute cap at £6K was probably regrettably, by and large, fair, as the new amount that most Universties will charge their student intake from 2012 in new `Tuition Fees’.

    I was not in favour of the higher rate raise in `Tuition Fees’ to max allowable ,in exceptional circumstances,£9K per year ,as I believed that this was disproportionate in the current climate.Bankers are being treated leniently with 20% cash bonuses but 80% paid in deferred shares after 3 years. Why?

    Labour introduced the former `Tuition Fees’ cap set at £3,239 in 2006, and had they been in Government again than they would undoubtedly have been forced to raise `Tution Fees’ despite their piranha sniping at the `Coalition Government decision..

    In the `The Imporantance of Education’ white paper there is stated policy intent to aim for fairness in funding in post 16 FE Education programmes and it remains important to see that all FE Colleges are the recipients of this for Vocational Training for all 16-19 year olds and in Apprentice sponsorship.

    Labour are no alternative and are in fact are light years away from presenting a case for a new Labour Britain.

    I would applaud Sir John Major`s generous tribute today to the Lib Dems. for acting in the `Nation Interest’ and forming a `Coalition Agreement’ and in time Nick Clegg will win the better day for doing so.

  • @Tony Greaves
    “This is behind some of the hostility to the proposals from better-off quarters (though obviously not most of it which comes form people who seem to think, falsely, that they will stop them going to university).”

    I can’t believe that so many people just don’t understand the anger. It is at being lied to, it is for seeking votes saying one thing then doing the opposite, it’s about trust more than policy.

  • PS. It would have helped to know what policies Jo Grimond actually proposed in his day so we can make our own judgement about whether he would have approved of the coalition programme. Maybe some of his ideas could provide future inspiration.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 12th Dec '10 - 8:17pm

    @ Andy,

    The best leader, from a very low base, built support and won respect for his party.

    The worst leader, having inherited a much higher base (not of his building), is doing the opposite. in the process, he is destroying that which many of us have worked for decades to build.

    “Actually doing something” What, exactly? Enlisting the LibDems as a human shield for a right wing Tory government whose policies will prove no less damaging thn those of the last one

    i desire neither to have nor to eat such a poisonous cake.

  • Basically, anyone who isn’t in total denial about the need for any government cuts at all is liable to be denounced as a right winger and a neo-Thatcherite.

    @ Steve Way
    This anger is real, alright, but it does not mean that we could have delivered on the promise. It was a stupid one to make, I agree. But where was the money going to come from to fund it? Answer me that.

    If you promise your family a brand shiny new house and then discover there isn’t any money in the bank to pay for it, do you carry on regardless of the consequences? If the money were there and the Lib Dems had a majority, free higher education would be delivered. But there is no money and the Lib Dems are in a tiny minority. Hysterical shrieking about betrayal will not change these two essential facts and will not bring free higher education any nearer. Nor, I would add, would voting Labour instead. Despite their hypocritical posturings, they too would be doing exactly the same thing now as well.

    Basically people wanted the Lib Dems to wave a wand and make the whole money problem go away. Well, sorry, but it can’t be done.

  • @robert c

    But Robert, by using the words hysterical shrieking I’m very much afraid that you dont get it either… there were many many well thought out positions on these blogs which tore holes in the tution fee proposals… I didn’t think many of them were hysterical shrieking – what I found interesting in the main was how few counter arguments were put up that were even half defences of the changes. From both a pragmatic, economic and dare I say it Liberal point of view the whole thing has been a disaster – and I dont believe just saying lets move on and everything will be forgotten soon is going to wash.

    Next up – control orders and nuclear…. once again into the Lions Den.

  • Vince,

    You sound like a bit of a troll.

    No other party has ever had to compromise or do a u-turn? Really?

    Did anyone truly prepare for the realities of a coalition? Labour / Tories were going to increase fees – note Millibands reluctance to say he’d rescind them! However to still get 64% of a manifesto through with less than 20% of the seats of a government sounds like a pretty decent achievement. More than any other LD leader had done for a while!

    For every social liberal that thinks this marks the death knell of the Libdems, think you will be surprised. The neo-liberal model is very attractive to moderate tories, and suspect that the Libdems will win the Oldham by-election (vote Libdem to keep Labour out!)

    If you though an LD vote was a Labour vote with a conscience then sorry. It’s not. It was a vote to make a difference.

    That all said and done the fees thing was a bit of a cock up wasn’t it?

  • @Robert C
    I accept that Lib Dems could not deliver on the promise of free university education. If you’d read any of my previous posts on this i have been consistant in that. I do not believe compromise is wrong as part of coalition, nor do I expect a minority partner to be able to deliver more than a minority of their manifesto.

    But tuition fees is different. It was not a manifesto policy but a personal pledge made to the electorate by individual candidates. It should have been a red line in the coalition agreement allowing all who signed the pledge to honour it. Remember the election campaign centred on trust and integrity, “No more broken priomises” ring a bell ?

    But there is one more major point about the manner of coalition. The Lib Dems, in their negotiations with Labour demanded a faster deficit reduction despite having campaigned against this. Not achieving your policies in a coalition is expected, demanding the opposite policy within days of the polls closing is deceitful.

    And no I’m not a Labour troll, I actually believe the coalition was the only sensible option. For any form of plural politics to work, parties must negotiate fromt he position they laid out to the electorate. Otherwise voters will not be able to make an informed choice and tribalism will be enhanced instead of reduced.

  • I’m assuming that Grimond’s words are in reference to the reorganisation of London government in the late 1960s, and what he saw as its negative impact on Greater London. In retrospect, his words seem foolish – the abolition of the GLC lead to incredible decline and depravation in London, and by the mid-1990s the mulish worry had been replaced by utter despair and the prison camp refugees travelling on the Tube were nothing compared to the death camp refugees sleeping on the streets. The restoration of London-wide government at the end of the 1990s has lead to rapid and impressive improvements in most aspects of life in London over the past ten years.

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