What should we do about Labour?

We need to talk about our relations with the Labour Party. Are they essentially still the centralised, top-down, union-led anti-capitalist party of the past, or are they sufficiently on our wavelength now for us to work with them against the baleful effects of austerity? Should we minimise opposition to them in strong Labour constituencies and regard them as likely future Coalition partners?

Perhaps in this country now equality as an ideal should trump freedom, and in practice the need to fight gross inequality and strive for social justice may demand our party working with Labour for similar ends.

Yet if the price is accepting Socialism, Liberal Democrats can’t go there. As well as having a different economic approach, we have a different outlook. We want an open, outward-looking, tolerant society where individuals count, not one focussed on class divisions and workers versus bosses. So Liberal Democrats welcome the EU as a co-operative enterprise while Labour leaders are suspicious of it as a capitalist club. Labour’s approach to Brexit is closer to the Government’s than to ours, so how could we be allies?

However, look at the demands Labour made of the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, in the lead up to his autumn Budget. They were:

  1. Pause and fix Universal Credit.
  2. Provide new funding to lift the public sector pay cap.
  3. Spend on infrastructure to boost the economy and create good jobs.
  4. Have properly-funded public services including health, education and local government.
  5. Launch a large-scale public housebuilding programme.

What’s not to like in that, considering how much it fits with our own proposals?

But the Labour General Election manifesto last June had been very different from ours. Its radical demands such as ending student tuition fees and nationalising water and energy companies and the rail services had an instant appeal that brought voters flocking in. Acute analysis indeed showed major flaws. Their package would have meant an economic cut in welfare for the poor, saving funds which would be directed to services for the middle classes. While our own manifesto sought reversal of £9 billion-worth of the 2015 and earlier welfare cuts, Labour allocated only £4 billion to this. We were much more oriented towards the poorest, in a well-costed progressive manifesto. Thoughtful voters may have grasped that; unfortunately it is unlikely to have been widely understood. 

In any case, progressive programme or not, with just twelve MPs we are too little heard to make a present impact. It surely then makes sense to seek allies and create campaigning coalitions, as our parliamentarians have done now for health and social care. Locally, for us to lead issue-based campaigns would help fulfil our aim of aiding people to take control of their own lives. We are committed to building strong local communities and maintaining local services, enhancing our own power by developing theirs as we always have done.

Labour has not had traditionally the same commitment to individual autonomy and local community. Yet now the youthful forces of Momentum are mobilising in their constituencies to contact and offer help to local people. If they are backed by the Labour centre focussing on spending to create jobs, good Liberal Democrat policies such as those on housing, education and welfare will scarcely be heard.

We ourselves can see that the Labour rose is sick. This is a party where two conferences go on simultaneously, where centrists and Socialists cohabit uneasily, and where in their heartlands silent but vicious struggles suddenly erupt. The party’s appeal to the young is ill-founded, their message to Remainers deceptive, and their nationalisation proposals extreme. This is a party with pretensions to government but with an uncertain future.

So it is a party for us to campaign with for a programme of national renewal but not to lose identity to or to trust. We need urgently to develop further meantime our own strong platform of radical policies which will gain publicity, to bring back the disillusioned and inspire the young once again.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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  • Steve Trevethan 9th Feb '18 - 10:38am

    Thank you for a most important piece!

  • Yes, looking at this weeks awful local by election performance one wonders what next, is it us not the others we need to worry about.

  • Katharine “if the price is accepting socialism lib dems can’t go there” Depends how one defines socialism – as is illustrated by the examples you give, Katharine. Carillion, capita, BHS G4S etc aren’t exactly beacons of enlightened socially responsible capitalism.

  • John Marriott 9th Feb '18 - 11:32am

    You have to admire Katharine Pindar’s tenacity and loyalty to Liberalism (whatever that is today). Those of us who are less tribal, and possibly more cynical, having glimpsed the Promised Land between 2010 and 2015 and then seen it snatched away (why this happened would require more space than a post would allow), could possibly point to the fact that, whether Labour is truly socialist or even a single party any more (a bit like the Tory party actually), it’s still scoring near to 40% in opinion polls. Should we blame the political illiteracy of the electorate?

    I dealt with Labour as a councillor for 30 years. What you get generally are people who view ‘the Liberals’ as flip floppers, who will do anything for a vote – people you can’t really take seriously. I have to say that I usually found it easier to deal with Tories, most of whom had precious little ideology, just an inability to think outside the box, which is something that ‘Liberals’, in fairness, are often very good at.

    Let’s be honest. The governance of this country, certainly as far as England is concerned, both nationally and locally is in a dreadful mess. Who knows where we are really going with Brexit? We moan about the NHS but expect other people’s taxes to finance it. We complain about rises in Council Tax but nobody is prepared to say that this form of levy is no longer fit for purpose (was it ever?). We are unhappy about ‘all those foreigners’ taking our jobs and never ask ourselves why our indigenous population is not prepared to take them on (and it’s not always about pay levels). Do you get the idea?

    So, IF the twelve Lib Dems (that’s 12 MPs out of 650) can ‘do a deal’ with the Chuka Umunna’s of this world (why not add the likes of Anna Soubry as well?) good luck to them. Is it time for a new Limehouse Declaration? Perhaps. It looks to many of us at the moment a bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. It’s no good the great british public just blaming the politicians. After all, it put them there in the first place. Take a look at Luke 6:41.

  • I speak for the bulk of the population when I say I would sooner trust G4S, Capita, Virgin, A4e, Atos and Serco, the CBI and IOD or for that matter the EU Commission, IMF than the BMA, RMT, ASLEF, POA, Police Federation, FBU, RCN, NAPO, and NUT.

    Left wing economics is of equal danger to the country as right wing social conservatism. Just as the voters backing Brexit, immigration control and the likes of Gove are voting against their own interests, the voters backing nationalisation, scrapping free trade and higher wages or anti offshoring are voting against their own interests.

  • paul barker 9th Feb '18 - 11:56am

    Can I suggest that everyone reading this this pops over to Labour List, their equivalent of LDV. Dont just read (OK skim) some articles, read the comment threads, they will give you some idea of what The New Labour are like.
    Working with Labour is fine as long as we expect them to stab us in the back at some point, thats how they treat each other, they wont treat us any better.

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Feb '18 - 12:01pm

    I’d disgaree with Stimpson about who between the arch-capitalists or the trade unionists should be trusted more. There are some well-meaning people among trade unionists – I’ve even attended the occasional fringe meeting at a LibDem conference at which someone from the trade union movement has been guest speaker e.g. Frances O’Grady the current TUC general secretary.

    But I agree with you about not trusting those trades union which are inextricably tied up with the Labour Party.

    And what is the Labour Party at present? There is a huge gulf between many of its MPs and a grassroots organisation increasingly controlled by Momentum – morphed out of Militant Tendency. I see no common ground between the LibDems and the Momentum-run Labour grassroots.

  • Stimpson 9th Feb ’18 – 11:50am…………..I speak for the bulk of the population when I say I would sooner trust G4S, Capita, Virgin, A4e, Atos and Serco, the CBI and IOD or for that matter the EU Commission, IMF than the BMA, RMT, ASLEF, POA, Police Federation, FBU, RCN, NAPO, and NUT…………..

    Really? I note Carillion is missing from your list; I wonder why?

    Perhaps, in that case, you can explain why, in Yougov only banks, airlines and internet providers should remain ‘private’…Correct me if I’m wrong but, If memory serves, you were in favour of a private police force and armed services…

  • Perhaps, in that case, you can explain why, in Yougov only banks, airlines and internet providers should remain ‘private’…Correct me if I’m wrong but, If memory serves, you were in favour of a private police force and armed services…

    Populism. The same way that voters want more immigration control and other nonsense right wing policies, they also want more nonsense leftist economic policies. These are not informed positions.

    And yes I would support privatisation of the police and armed forces. The Police Federation is behaving like a Marxist behemoth, the police are also riddled with masonry and institutional racism and Spanish practices. G4S would not tolerate any of the above and the customer would be put first, not the leftist economics and rightist hand em and flog them nonsense from police.

    Similarly the armed forces are ripe for privatisation. Pomp and ceremony has no place in the modern age and it simply looks like North Korean / Russian military parading. The idea of a Queen’s force with its inbuilt inefficiency in a modern commercial world is embarassing at best and dangerous at worst. A corporate mindset needs to be fostered, not a jingoistic or nativist one.

  • Stimpson 9th Feb ’18 – 12:24pm………….Populism. The same way that voters want more immigration control and other nonsense right wing policies, they also want more nonsense leftist economic policies. These are not informed positions.

    And yes I would support privatisation of the police and armed forces. The Police Federation is behaving like a Marxist behemoth, the police are also riddled with masonry and institutional racism and Spanish practices. G4S would not tolerate any of the above and the customer would be put first, not the leftist economics and rightist hand em and flog them nonsense from police.
    Similarly the armed forces are ripe for privatisation. Pomp and ceremony has no place in the modern age and it simply looks like North Korean / Russian military parading. The idea of a Queen’s force with its inbuilt inefficiency in a modern commercial world is embarassing at best and dangerous at worst. A corporate mindset needs to be fostered, not a jingoistic or nativist one………….

    Ah, populism.. But didn’t you state that you spoke “for the bulk of the population”?

    As for your last two paragraphs….I’ll leave them to stand as your, not my, vision for the future…

  • Supporting our corporate partners and supranational instituions is not populism. It is adult Realpolitik. Populism is the reverse – simplistic solutions put out by demagogues like Farage, Corbyn, Trump, Sanders, Sturgeon, Lucas, Gove or whoever which whip up the anger of largely uninformed working class and lower middle class voters and give them “elites” to blame for their own inadequacies or prejudicies – whether it is multinational corporations, bankers, immigrants, the EU, outsourcing companies, Nick Clegg, George Osborne, “Blairites”, the civil service, Wales or George Soros.

    As for privatisation of the police and armed forces, it is inevitable, regardless of whether you welcome it as I do, or spite it.

  • It’s a shame Katharine ‘s excellent post has been way laid. It’s a serious matter and should have serious consideration if we are not to suffer many more years of rule by the present damaging bunch.
    Unfortunately the Clegg coalition legacy has damaged the lib dems’ reputation and credibility with the public and with the Labour party. Any more results like the 0.8% in Staffordshire yesterday leads one to the conclusion why would anybody want to talk to the Lib Dems.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Feb '18 - 1:35pm

    Unlike most here, I was a Labour party member and voter, for many years, from barely fourteen, through twenties and into thirties. I was fed up with party politics and had not been involved a while, when I joined the Liberal Democrats impressed especially with Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell on the Iraq war.

    The Labour party was and is a massive and interesting mixture.

    David Raw says he was a Liberal in the earlier years due to Labour seeming too right wing and authoritarian. He says to many young Liberal then their stance was anarcho syndicalism with a bit of Trotskyism. In other words he did not understand Labour or Liberalism, most would say then he was wrong on both. That is not to condemn him, the reverse, it is to show, as David often says, parties are mixed in their membership.

    I was to the social democratic right of Benn, to the liberal left of Blair. I am more social democratic than Corbyn, more liberal than Mcdonnel.

    I in the US would be a Democratic party politician at some level now had I, which I considered, moved there when I married my American origin wife. Why ? No other game in town for a social democrat or Liberal.

    Here, confusion, and the result, extremes of right and far left battle for the agenda or media coverage.

    I, as with friends and colleagues here, have no problem with public ownership of utilities or railways, I rather like that. Two thirds of policy in the Labour party do not worry me at all.

    I dislike divisive and mean debate in any party.

    If Momentum are young idealists in friendly chatter , fine, that was me at fourteen with the other four active members of Putney Labour party young socialists with Peter Hain, thirty two and our candidate , first person, to buy me a drink , coke, in a pub!

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Feb '18 - 2:09pm

    Thanks, David. Yes, I hope this debate doesn’t get side-tracked too much. I think our strength, a reason why we should be sought out to work with, is in our commitment to empowering people in their local communities, serving them and helping them to better their local conditions. We work with and for them, and are appreciated, as Rebecca Hanson our very active town and county counsellor here in Cockermouth is. But we need to take up issues, nationally and locally, and run campaigns. There should be co-ordination between our MPs and party spokespeople and local action. So, when our excellent MPs introduce bills to remove the Vagrancy Act and help the homeless, Lib Dems locally look to helping them in their own areas, supporting charities and churches and promoting new ideas.

    We can be more effective than Labour I think in the issues of the NHS and social care, and in education policy, from pre-school provision to apprenticeships. We have perhaps stronger policies on sustainability and environmental issues (thanks by the by to the multi-tasking Ed Davey!), and on regional development. And we need to be adopting as policy some of the strong economic lines such as extending council tax bands and moving to site value rating for businesses that have been much discussed on this site.

  • Roger Billins 9th Feb '18 - 2:41pm

    I suspect that there is very little we can do to change the current poll ratings. Since the 2015 and 2017 disasters we are seen as largely irrelevant by the news media and electorate. Our fortunes depend on what happens on Brexit. There will be a defining moment when either (a) by some miracle everybody will sign up to a beneficial deal (b) the majority of Labour M.P’s and a lot of Tories will smell the coffee and say enough is enough or (c) there will be a falling off the cliff disaster.
    I think (b) is the most likely, but I am an optimist which is why I support Spurs and have been a member of this party and its predecessor since 1974.
    If b and c do happen we have to be ready and in good shape to form the core of a new radical liberal movement. if its (a) then it all depends on whether JC can win an election.

    The proposed strategy is something i would recognise from 1974-worthy but ignoring how things have moved on. May i suggest all Lib dems read Macron’s excellent ” Revolution” which suggests the end of Industrial revolution capitalism and a new form of capitalism and society. Such a manifeso might engage people a bit more than 1p on income tax to pay for the NHS !

  • Katharine, I agree with your aspirations and I do so wish I could agree with your conclusions. Unfortunately as a cabinet member for Social work and more recently as Chair of a food bank I have witnessed the effects of the policies introduced with Liberal Democrat support between 2010-15 which has exacerbated poverty and inequality. It is frankly a disastrous legacy not only directly on those it has affected but on popular support for the party – and on any prospect of the Labour Party wishing to cooperate. Frankly I see no remedy until Dr Cable makes a Mea Culpa statement. Unfortunately these things stick in the public mind and it gives me no joy to say it.

  • Peter Watson 9th Feb '18 - 3:06pm

    @Martin “Item by item, little of Labour’s agenda should be particularly contentious.”
    I think this is a very important point that Lib Dems have lost sight of since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. By attacking the man so vigorously and so personally, it makes it unclear where Lib Dems stand every time he takes a position or raises an issue with which Lib Dems might reasonably agree.

  • Sue Sutherland 9th Feb '18 - 3:13pm

    The Coalition was a disaster for our party. I don’t think it was a disaster for the country but sadly the country doesn’t seem to recognise the good work we did when in power. The Tories were out to get us and they did. Then the Sheffield Momentum activists decided to gun for Nick Clegg and he was defeated. When both the major parties want to kill us off, how can we think of working closely with them?
    This doesn’t mean we can’t have beneficial joint working at local level but we should always beware the knife in the back.
    At the moment we have extremists in the two main parties calling the tune and we could, if we worked very hard, provide moderates with an alternative political philosophy they might find attractive. I think I’d rather put that hard work into making our party a better one and into forming policies that will offer genuine hope to our battered, vulnerable nation.
    If there is a split in the Labour Party the number of moderate MPs is going to vastly outnumber our own. I find it unlikely that they will be making overtures towards us except on an issue by issue basis.

  • Neil Sandison 9th Feb '18 - 3:29pm

    What should we do about Labour ? Nothing the closer they edge to power the more they will water down or fudge hard line policies down and the hard left will return to their traditional homes demoralised and feeling cheated by Corbyn and his inner circle .
    The interesting thing that is happening is how isolated one nation conservatives are becoming and Rees Moggs European Research Group the Brexit/WTO militant tendency of the Conservative Party drives out moderates from their ranks leaving May and Hammond it now has enough supporters to trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister and could force another general election with guess who at its helm.

  • Sue Sutherland 9th Feb ’18 – 3:13pm………………The Coalition was a disaster for our party. I don’t think it was a disaster for the country but sadly the country doesn’t seem to recognise the good work we did when in power. The Tories were out to get us and they did. Then the Sheffield Momentum activists decided to gun for Nick Clegg and he was defeated. When both the major parties want to kill us off, how can we think of working closely with them?………….

    So it’s the electorate’s fault for not appreciating just how good we really are? sad, then, that it is this same electorate that we need to elect us at any level!
    The Tories didn’t need to ‘get us’ our own support for anti-liberal policies did that and, as for Clegg, after 2015 he was a ‘dead man walking…

  • Jayne mansfield 9th Feb '18 - 3:42pm

    @ Sue Sutherland,
    It would not be in Labour’s best interest to ‘kill off’ the Liberal Democrats.

    If the Labour party is to gain a greater number of seats than the Conservative Party, at the next election, it is important that the Liberal Democrats regain the parliamentary seats that they have lost to the Tories. These are seats that Labour has little or no chance of winning.

    My one desire is to see off this appalling government and its underpinning ideology. If the Liberal Democrats had come up with some of the ideas and policies of Labour, I, and others of my acquaintance, might still be a supporters of the party.

  • Very interesting article and comments.

    I think they first thing is to consider where we are and learn the lessons of history.

    Much of Corbyn’s manifesto would not have been out of place in Thatcher’s government. Then university tuition was free and the railways were nationalised. We start therefore of having had Governments since 1979 that if you were looking at them from 1979 would ALL have been considered right of centre.

    I think broadly we are in a similar position to ’92. We have the same number of (English) seats and a comparable (if slightly lower) opinion poll rating, a (somewhat) resurgent Labour party and a beleaguered Conservative Government with a small majority split on Europe .

    In the run-up to 97, we abandoned “equidistance” and moved closer to Labour, campaigning for a better NHS and education. Essentially the seats which we are best poised to win and are likely to pick up first are the seats we gained in 1997. These seats also have a large remain vote. But essentially in 97 in these seats we put together a “coalition” of Lib Dem voters, Labour tactical voters and soft Conservatives.

    Increasingly Lib Dems want to vote Lib Dem especially on Europe but also the environment, other things and that they align with our values – we are though back in the “chicken and egg” situation of them thinking we can’t win. We can win in these seats. Likewise we can attract many “soft” Tories – especially again on issues such as Europe. Labour voters are best off voting tactically for us in these seats.

    There are several areas where I think in particular we differ from Labour then as now .
    1. Europe. They continue as they have been since the 70s as the “in, out, shake it all about” party.
    2. Fairer taxation. Things such as Land Value Tax, a mansion tax, local income tax rather than a council tax, a generous personal allowance (or UBI). We are not afraid to say that better health funding has to be paid by all. I think we are more wary than Labour on taxing the rich and companies (very) highly.
    3. Anti-authoritarian. Labour has a strong tendency to be authoritarian – I hope that we are not.
    4. The environment. We perhaps need to move on and forward in this area.

    Of course, it is possible to learn completely the wrong lessons from history!

  • John Marriott 9th Feb '18 - 4:49pm

    No, Katharine, “extending Council Tax bands” is not the answer to the crisis in Local Government funding. You need a root and branch reform. The Council Tax was a sticking plaster hurriedly applied by the Major Government following the disaster of the Poll Tax. The fact that it has survived since then, using housing price data from that time, certainly as far as England is concerned, just shows how little thought National Government has given to the subject. It’s time to dust off the Lyons Report on Local Government, which, Gordon Brown’s government kicked into the long grass. Or don’t we want Local Government in ten years’ time?

    Whatever ‘levy’ you come up with has got to be based on an individual’s ability to pay, which brings us inevitably to Local Income Tax. Is it time to grasp the nettle?

  • Red Liberal 9th Feb '18 - 5:01pm

    I think we have to separate “socialism” from “social democracy”.

    Labour is a social-democratic party, and as an ideology, social democracy dovetails quite neatly into the social liberalism of the LibDems in significant. (I’d argue that one of the reasons why t there aren’t many significant social-liberal parties across Europe is that it would be difficult to differentiate themselves in many ways from modernised social-democratic parties.)

    However, Corbyn and McDonnell aren’t social democrats, they are state socialists, and McDonnell a self-declared Marxist. So there’s a problem. With moderate social democrats in charge of Labour, there could be strong common ground between LibDems and Labour, but not when the latter is headed by nationalisers who always put the state before individualism at all cost.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Feb '18 - 5:19pm

    Roger Billins. Brexit is our calling-card, Roger, a reason why we are NOT seen as irrelevant by the public, as more and more realise that we are right in wanting to remain, and to hold another referendum. We have to make the most of this this year, for instance by constantly pointing out the wrong Labour stance, both its ambiguity which gave false hope to Remainers in the GE, and Corbyn’s continuing to follow May in declaring against staying in the Customs Union.

    But we are not dependant on that, we have the May elections where we can remind the public of the value of our commitment to our communities and care for individuals. David, it is exactly in your good work in your community, both as past cabinet member for social work and present food-bank trustee, that you have shown that the Liberal Democrats are worthwhile still, despite the faults of the Coalition; and there are many other Lib Dem counsellors and ex-counsellors who share your proud record.

    Sue and Jayne, I agree with Sue’s wishing us to work harder at continuing to develop the policies our nation needs than in considering our philosophy, how far we may be leaning towards socialism. Our Manifesto was a snapshot of our progressive policies, Jayne, and I have no doubt we can develop and showcase enough of them gradually to convince much of the nation that we are worth a punt again.

  • nvelope2003 9th Feb '18 - 5:58pm

    A study of elections seems to indicate that there are about 15% of the voters who will vote for whatever party is flavour of the month. In the 1970s and 1980s and from 2001 until 2015 this was the Liberals/ Democrats. In 2015 it was UKIP and now it is the Corbyn Labour Party judging by recent results. There is only a 7% core Liberal Democrat vote.

    When Labour collaborated with the Liberals before 1914 they did not get very far but after 1918 when they set out a distinctive Socialist agenda and rejected any collaboration with other parties they became the alternative principal party as did Socialist parties in Western Europe. Social Democracy seems to be in decline because it has started to co-operate with the Conservative parties but Socialism remains at about the level it has always gained. You have to stick to your beliefs and not engage in coalitions if you want the party to get anywhere, no matter how difficult that may be.

  • Laurence Cox 9th Feb '18 - 6:01pm

    @Red Liberal

    I think that you have to distinguish social democracy from democratic socialism. With the exception of aberrations like Iraq, social democracy was pretty much what the Blair governments did: introducing the minimum wage, reducing poverty (particularly pensioner poverty), increasing spending on public services. His problem was that he could not carry the more tribal members of his party with him, so we never got Roy Jenkins’ AV+ to replace FPTP. In one sense, Blair’s landslide victory in 1997 proved to be a curse; had he achieved only a small majority he could have sold the need for a deal with the Lib Dems under Ashdown to his party (although I don’t think that Ashdown could ever have sold a merger of the parties to the Lib Dems).

    Corbyn is a democratic socialist, that is he wants to bring in socialism through democratic, as opposed to revolutionary, means. Whether McDonnell is a revoluionary socialist is open to question; I don’t think that you can assume that solely on the basis of his remarks about Esther McVey.

    By definition, socialism, ‘a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole’ is state socialism.

  • Peter Martin 9th Feb '18 - 7:17pm

    @ Katharine,

    “So Liberal Democrats welcome the EU as a co-operative enterprise while Labour leaders are suspicious of it as a capitalist club. ”

    “A capitalist club”? Well probably it is. But, given the nature of western society it is always going to be that. That’s not really the issue except for those few on the ultra left. Just how well is it working and what will it have to become to survive? This was the real question for many of us who are slightly to the left of the Lib Dems. We have argued that the EU isn’t just a continuity of the old EEC. It’s quite different. The EEC worked well enough, and there was no good reason to have moved away from that successful model. It allowed for free trade and even freedom of movement. There was no common currency and there was no real need for a European Parliament. Canada and the USA get by well enough with separate democratic systems. If that had continued, there would have been a natural UK majority in favour of it. The EU wasn’t disliked by 52% of the population because it is a capitalist club, but, largely, because it is failed and unstable capitalist club – metamorphing into something we don’t much like .

    “A co-operative enterprise”? It would be good if it was. That is what it does need to become to survive. Co-operation isn’t the setting of rules by the stronger EU countries and imposing them by coercion on the weaker ones. Co-operation has to mean that a large proportion of all EU taxes, to the extent of at least 20% of GDP, have to be put into a common pot and distributed according to where they need to be spent. It will mean that the richer countries pay in proportionately more and take out proportionately less. You might want to ask Arnold Kiel what he thinks of that. His reaction will be fairly typical of Conservative German opinion. They’ll never accept that and that is why there isn’t much hope for the EU.

  • Stimpson
    It’s the way tell em’.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Feb '18 - 10:40pm

    Interesting questions are being raised here about social democracy and varieties of socialism. Red Liberal writes of the ‘strong common ground’ between Labour and us when moderate social democrats are in charge there, as opposed to the socialist leadership of today. I tend to think that the present leadership may actually be better for us to undertake issue- based campaigns with (if they are capable of that flexibility), because we do have many aims in common, but we don’t want any idea of a merger arising. What about a future coalition? as nvelope says, coalitions are dangerous: we have found out that for ourselves, and the Social Democrats of Germany have learnt the same to their cost, though they look set to re-engage with danger.

    John Marriott, it would be good if you could write something about the need for ‘root and branch reform’ of local government, and perhaps Local Income Tax. With all your years of experience as a counsellor and your knowledge, it should be worth reading, and might then be taken up by the party, perhaps with a new working group to consider it? Meantime, though, I wish we could propose some alleviation of the extra burden for poor households this extra rise in council tax will bring.

  • Libdems need to be able to present a clear and distinctive alternative to both laissez-faire and welfare-state capitalism, based on wide dispersal of capital with the political capacity to block the very rich and corporate elites from dominating the economy and relevant public policies.
    The basis of this vision is comprised in the concept of a property-owning democracy as put forward by James Meade in his 1965 Efficiency, Equality and the Ownership of Property.

    John Rawls developed these ideas in Justice as Fairness: A Restatement: in which he makes the case for a form of society that he describes as a property-owning democracy, in which strong policies of wealth redistribution guarantee a broad distribution of wealth across society.
    “Property-owning democracy avoid unacceptable levels of inequality, not by the redistribution of income to those with less at the end of each period, so to speak, but rather by ensuring the widespread ownership of assets and human capital (that is, education and trained skills) at the beginning of each period, all this against a background of fair equality of opportunity. The intent is not simply to assist those who lose out through accident or misfortune (although that must be done), but rather to put all citizens in a position to manage their own affairs on a footing of a suitable degree of social and economic equality.

    O’Neill and Williamson comment “concentration of capital and the emergence of finance as a driving sector of capitalism has generated not only instability and crisis; it also has led to extraordinary political power for private financial interests, with banking interests taking a leading role in shaping not only policies immediately affecting that sector but economic (and thereby social) policy in general….
    Ed Milliband leaned towards this view of pre-distribution being the means by which income and wealth inequalities could be addressed. With his departure and the return of the Labour party to a failed socialist model, it is incumbent on Liberal Democrats to pick-up the torch.

    A property owning democracy is not Mrs. Thatcher’s right to buy. It is a society in which our policies really do empower people to take charge of their own affairs with adequate resources to do so and limited reliance on the state beyond the provision of essential public goods and services.

  • As a Lib Dem I want as many Lib Dem MPs as possible at each election on the way to a Lib Dem majority-in-coalition government. I am prepared to work with liberals if other party for specific aims e.g. stopping Brexit, introducing electoral reform, mitigating climate change, bringing about a more feminist politics in the UK. I’m also very happy for our party to work with others in Parliament to do that, including being coalition partners to enable a minority party to govern jointly with us.

    What I do not want is a Labour majority government or a Conservative majority government. And no one advocating any kind of Progressive Alliance (which is what this article is skirting around but forex not name) has yet to have an answer to three questions.
    – Firstly, “How does a Progressive Alliance stop a Labour majority unless they stand down from the majority of GB seats?”
    – Secondly, “Given their abject failure to introduce the recommendations of the Jenkins Report when in government and their failures over the AV referendum, Lords Reform etc. during the Coalition, how can a majority Labour government be trusted to deliver anything on Electoral Reform (which would be the most obvious benefit to the party of such a deal)?”
    – Thirdly “Will making a deal with Labour mean they ditch their leadership’s position of enabling a hard Brexit in favour of fighting to Remain, via a referendum on the deal and a Parliamentary vote (which would be the most obvious benefit to the country of such a deal)?”

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Feb '18 - 9:23am

    Peter, you raise interesting questions, thank you. I am not in favour of an overt Progressive Alliance. But the question of deals does arise, I suppose, with Labour’s need to win another 55 seats to form a majority. I would hope that the apparent wish of a majority of Labour voters, members and MPs, if genuine, will this year bear on the Labour leadership to come down in favour of remaining in the EU, without need for a deal with us. But in considering the next General Election, I suppose a commitment to Electoral Reform might be an expectation from us to them in return for less Lib Dem work in the seats they need to win. Whether they could make such a pledge, and whether Lib Dems in the particular constituencies could accept diverting their work to our target seats, must remain uncertain at present.

    Moreover in any pre-GE planning the position of the Scots Nats in relation to Labour, and how their and our own electoral efforts in Scotland might effect the electoral equation would obviously be of significance.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Feb '18 - 9:44am

    Joe B. It is very good that you have raised now the question of what modifications of capitalism our party should be promoting. You ask for ‘a clear and distinctive alternative based on a wide dispersal of capital’, but do not go on to explain what policies this would involve us adopting, and whether we are already backing any of them. Moreover, in the context of this thread, should we be looking towards co-operative capitalism and industrial partnerships, and pursuing whatever ‘pre-distribution’ as favoured by Ed Milliband may mean? I should welcome more enlightenment on this.

  • Nonconformistradical 10th Feb '18 - 10:10am

    @Katherine Pindar
    “I suppose a commitment to Electoral Reform might be an expectation from us to them in return for less Lib Dem work in the seats they need to win. Whether they could make such a pledge, and whether Lib Dems in the particular constituencies could accept diverting their work to our target seats, must remain uncertain at present.”

    I see no chance of any such pledge on electoral reform – much less any dependable commitment – from Labour with Momentum increasingly running the party.

  • John Marriott 10th Feb '18 - 10:14am

    To answer your question, Katharine, I actually sent a piece to the editorial team yesterday. I’ve no idea what happened to it. As someone who actually tried to do my bit as a councillor it truly amazes me how little interest most of the contributors have in actually doing something practical to put things right. Is it because, when you confront a problem on the ground, you sometimes have to swallow your pride in order to make progress – a bit like Clegg and co had to do between 2010 and 2015? Better to stay pure, hey? If LDV doesn’t fancy what I have written I can let you have it if you contact me ([email protected]).

  • With respect, that is the wrong question, Katharine. Our democracy needs a credible third Party that invites support across the whole country. Two party politics is a disaster with polarisation and competition for specific sectors and interests. We can again wield power beyond our votes if we stick to our values and build our core support. Both the other two parties are corrupt, divided and put party before country. Of course, improving our electoral system will make it easier for us to fulfill our destiny.

  • Nonconformistradical 10th Feb '18 - 10:19am

    “Libdems need to be able to present a clear and distinctive alternative to both laissez-faire and welfare-state capitalism, based on wide dispersal of capital with the political capacity to block the very rich and corporate elites from dominating the economy and relevant public policies…….”

    I agree – suggest you start putting it in plain English for comunication to the large numbers of voters who we need to convince that it’s the right way to go but who are highly unlikley to have read the works to which you refer – which I have added to my (long) book shopping list.

  • Martin Walker 10th Feb '18 - 10:20am

    An interesting piece and an important question, though I think you have largely answered it yourself. The Labour Party is one political party in name only. The reality is that the Labour Party has been taken over by a leadership (not just the Leader) who hold on to a regressive, irrelevant, 1980s, little England Bennite view of the world. They have neither the interest in working with us (or even the rest of their own Party) nor the policies which I could support. Saying ‘we love the NHS’ or ‘we need more houses’ or ‘the many not the few’ are meaningless soundbites. Progressive and moderate voices in the Labour Party have been defeated, silenced, and now largely focus on single issues out of fear of deselection by the mob.

    The tragedy for us is that at a time when so many people are looking for an alternative, our brand has been so tainted that people have latched onto the Labour Party as a vehicle to provide hope. If anything, we need to work hard / harder to expose the Labour Party for what they are – at local, regional and national level.

    Having said that, I don’t doubt for a moment that there are huge numbers of people within the Labour Party who I would happily campaign with on key issues such as Brexit or electoral reform. I’m all for that – but let’s not kid ourselves that going easy on the Labour Party as a whole would yield any reward for us at all.

  • Peter Martin 10th Feb '18 - 10:26am


    It’s interesting you raise the point of socialism and social democracy. Is there any real difference? If we think our lives are better and freer now that the royal mail, the railways, gas and electricity supplies are all privatised, does that make us social democrats? Or if we preferred things as they were when they were nationalised does that make us socialists?

    If we want a little bit less inequality are we liberal or social democrats, but it we want much less inequality does that mean we’ve crossed the line? We’ve gone too far and are therefore socialists? If we are in favour of austerity economics (balanced budgets etc) are we grown up and responsible and in the centre ground of politics? Similarly with the EU? But if we argue for more progressive Keynesian economics are we therefore socialist? If we argue that the EU is oppressive and undemocratic does that mean we must be either on the ultra left or ultra right?

    It’s all just a matter of semantics IMO!

    European social democracy isn’t on the skids just because of unwise choices of coalition partners. The French socialists (who are really social democrats too!), the Greek PASOK, the Spanish PSOE etc have managed to lose huge levels of support because they have lost the trust of their working class base. Or ordinary people in LIbDem parlance. They’ve managed to do that without forming coalitions. Is there a single EU country, apart from the UK, where a left party is anywhere near power?

    UK Lib Dems have a similar problem. You’ve lost all your MPs in the west country. You may pick up support in the more affluent regions of the country but you’ll struggle elsewhere, at least while Brexit is still such a big issue politically.

    I don’t think a progressive alliance is possible at the moment, but at least we should continue to talk amicably to each other.

  • Social democracy is very different to socialism. A social democrat would regulate a public service in favour of the customer and taxpayer but not nationalise it or regulate it in favour of the staff.

    The idea for example that a nationalised railway filled with staff in the RMT, Unite, TSSA and ASLEF and oodles of police, PCSOs around, with trains built in Britain and no offshore IT or call centres, no agency staff nor private security with all staff in house all with free first class travel, free car parking and final salary pensions, favours front line railway workers, back office staff, manufacturing staff and police officers, not the customer or taxpayer.

  • What a strange world you inhabit, Stimpson; a world where customers and taxpayers are not workers and where capitalists are altruistic benefactors concerned only with the customer and taxpayer….
    The real world is rather different; a world where private owners are only concerned with profit; a world where staff and salaries a cut to the bone; a world where the taxpayer has to make up the shortfall in salaries, etc., etc.

  • Peter Martin 10th Feb '18 - 11:23am

    It’s always worth looking up these terms in the Oxford English dictionary:

    Social Democracy: A socialist system of government achieved by democratic means.


    I’m happy with that definition but I suspect others may not be!

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Feb '18 - 11:36am

    Peter Hirst, you seem to assume that in writing this piece I was meaning that we must commit ourselves to close alliance with Labour. But no, I was simply trying to explore what our relations to them in their ascendancy should cover, and I remain as much as you a strong supporter of our third independent national party (pause for suitable defiant/ironic song – I must get out my Liberator Songbook!). But, Martin Walker, they do have policies we can support, as witness their five requests to the Chancellor at the time of the last Budget, which I listed, though consistency is not to be expected from so riven a party.

    I hope the economists among us can suggest what our economic and industrial strategies should be, particularly I suppose in relation to privatisation vs. nationalisation, in further articles for LDV and policy developments for our party.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Feb ’18 – 11:36amBut…. they do have policies we can support, as witness their five requests to the Chancellor at the time of the last Budget, which I listed, though consistency is not to be expected from so riven a party….

    Katharine, why not just, “they do have policies we can support, as witness their five requests to the Chancellor at the time of the last Budget, which I listed”?
    What was the need for the, “though consistency is not to be expected from so riven a party….” bit?

    Regarding Labour not working with LibDems; Compulsive sly digs, even when you agree wholeheartedly with their stance, might well be a reason!

  • Sue Sutherland 10th Feb '18 - 1:46pm

    Jayne, I wish other members of the Labour Party had your sense. Instead during the last election the message was ‘the only way to get rid of the Tories is to vote Labour’ which as you say isn’t the case.

  • Sue Sutherland 10th Feb '18 - 1:55pm

    Expats I don’t blame the electorate at all. We did do some good things but we also caused great harm when we supported the more right wing policies. I’m disabled so the mistreatment of disabled people was very distressing to me. Of course, it has got far worse now. I expect I expressed my self badly but the tuition fees decision made me realise that we were behaving just like any other party and the happy way we became part of the establishment distressed me even more. We forgot to be Liberal and be distrustful of power especially when you wield it yourself. I hope we have learned that lesson.

  • Sue Sutherland 10th Feb ’18 – 1:55pm…

    Thank you for your response…My daughter is registered disabled and the coalition made things a lot worse for her..After 2010 we kept helping out her money problems during her many problems with assessment, etc…Over the last couple of years her requests for help are fewer so she seems to have ‘weathered the storm’…
    I agree with your disenchantment with the way we behaved. the claim that “75% of coalition policies are LibDem” really made me realise that we had ‘sold out’…

  • Neil Sandison 10th Feb '18 - 2:43pm

    Peter Martin .Its a bit lazy just quoting from a dictionary without the historical context of how the social democrats moved away from the narrow confines of European Marxism ,Democratic socialism .That gap became wider here in GB when New Labour dropped clause 4 from its constitution . But i would be surprised to see some attempts to re-instate it . Social Democrats have always supported the mixed economy the question how much of it is left and how do we enpower communities to have a greater say without replacing a private sector monopoly with state monopoly .both of which history has proven not to have served us well.

  • Nonconformistradical 10th Feb '18 - 2:50pm

    @Katharine Pindar
    “Peter Hirst, you seem to assume that in writing this piece I was meaning that we must commit ourselves to close alliance with Labour. But no, I was simply trying to explore what our relations to them in their ascendancy should cover,…”

    Not much given John McDonnell’s agenda to put public services “irreversibly in the hands of workers” so they could “never again be taken away”.


    Yeah right!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Feb '18 - 4:10pm

    Katharine and chums

    Two points

    First Let us now be honest, the electoral system has not delivered for the third force in government. We as a party do well but not well enough. Even in the 80’s . And if we are back to then, the Liberal Sdp alliance got two per cent less than Labour and ten percent of the seats !

    Second the Labour party is as we speak also selecting superb people like Tracy Brabin, fellow performer and writer, a warm and impressive woman the party should promote and we should support, who is mp in the seat the wonderful , tragically lost, Jo Cox had.

    We need a realignment of the centre left as ever or a change in electoral system as ever either first , second.

    Social democracy and social liberalism are cousins. FDR, JFK. Both called themselves Liberals, I would say the former was a social democrat even more than the second who was a social liberal. In the USA as I say all the time, we would be in the same party and the farther left move would not happen, but a move to the social democratic , “democraticsocialism, “Sanders view might, he does not want to do anything most social liberals would disagree much on.

    We need big tent politics or we are content to stay on ten or ten to twenty seats.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Feb '18 - 6:52pm

    Nonconformistradical, you suggest that our relations to the Labour Party will be ‘not much’ in view of John McDonnell’s agenda to put services irrevocably in the hands of workers. But did you read on in the Guardian piece? – ‘ McDonnell announced the creation of a working group to look at how co-operatives can grow, expand and access capital, and to decide which sectors should be prioritised in the expansion of co-operative ownership.’ Is that not an area where we might be pleased to consider working with Labour? And I gather from Joe Bourke’s new thread that Land Value Capture is a matter of concern to all the parties, though hopefully we can lead the way on promoting it and perhaps commending reforming the 1961 Land Compensation Act as Civitas wishes.

    Expats, I am sorry to have offended you by referring to the inconsistency of Labour politics. No ‘sly dig’ was intended, I observe and expect inconsistencies from them because of the deep rifts in their party and the necessity they accept to conceal them. The most glaring inconsistency which greatly affects the country as well as ourselves is of course the stated position of Mr Corbyn in accepting leaving the EU customs union and internal market, while as far as we can tell most of his party believes we must remain in them.
    (May I say also that I greatly sympathise over the difficulties your daughter along with many others faced owing to the insensitive treatment of the needs of disabled people during the Coalition years and later, and hope things have indeed now settled down for her and people similarly given a distressingly hard time during those years.)

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Feb '18 - 7:04pm

    @ Lorenzo. Thank you for joining in here, Lorenzo, and of course you are right about how we are held back by the electoral system, but then we always were! You expect optimism from me, but I hope you may have been cheered this afternoon by listening to our esteemed leader in the recorded video link from the Launchpad event in Sheffield. What amazing results from Sunderland, among other hopeful signs! We should with our usual hard work be able to make progress in the May elections, and this new publicity initiative, I suppose created by My Liberal Britain, is very helpful. we shall also I am sure continue to work with progressive people from the other parties, as is already happening in Parliament.

  • Lets not forget many of the things that happened under Blair and Brown and Labour – such as:

    Upfront university tuition fees.
    The bedroom tax (for private renters)
    Bringing ATOS in to do assessments for disability benefits
    Leaving the country £100 billion a year in the red – dealing with which was going to hurt the more disadvantaged whoever was in power.

    Corbyn escapes criticism of this by signalling change from Brown/Blair years.

    On Labour, I think our position should be similar to that of pre-97 when we had a similar number of MPs and indeed Labour where massively ahead in the opinion polls. We agree with them on one of the big issues facing British politics which is better funding of the NHS and schools. But we disagree with them on Brexit and a referendum on Brexit. And we are own independent distinctive party.

    I hope that we will also support the abolition of tuition fees – particularly as it will signal change from the coalition years.

  • Peter Martin 10th Feb '18 - 8:37pm

    @ MIchael1

    “Leaving the country £100 billion a year in the red”

    You mean, presumably, that the Government’s deficit was too large. But it is self evident that the Govt’s deficit has to equal, to the penny, everyone else’s savings.

    So are you saying that everyone else was saving too much in the aftermath of the GFC? Are you saying that was a bad thing?

  • Peter Martin,

    if 1/tenth of 1% of the population is accumulating vast sums of capital while the majority of households, mpst SMEs and the public sector have to borrow this capital back to make ends meet; does the fact that the principles of double-entry bookkeeping dictate that there must be a credit for every debit, or a borrower for every saver. make it a good thing for society?

  • @Peter Martin

    I appreciate your comments in this and other posts. I may be mistaken but in a world economy Government borrowing can come from countries other than Britain. So the borrowing of Britain may be the savings of people, companies and governments of countries other than in Britain. Secondly the Government and therefore taxpayers have to pay for the borrowing through taxation. To a degree borrowing is deferred taxation or alternatively deferred spending cuts.

    As I have made clear in other comments I support some modest borrowing around say the £30 billion mark but that is 70% less than being run at the end of the Labour government. And just with individuals some borrowing makes sense if it means more income or less expenditure in the future. Hopefully a better educated workforce can earn more in the world economy. A better road may mean less time spent in a traffic jam and therefore greater productivity etc.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Feb '18 - 12:06am

    Joe B., may I remind you of your comment written in the small hours of this morning, beginning ‘libdems need to be able to present a clear and distinctive alternative to both laissez-faire and welfare-state capitalism’ . I presume we also need to present a clear and distinctive alternative to the state socialism offered by John McDonnell, though whether we could align ourselves with the social democratic preferences of Labour centrists, were they to be spelt out, I am not clear on. In fact, I am not at all clear what you think should be the broad outlines of our economic policy, other than in your commitment to LVT. If you are minded to write again in the small hours tonight, your thoughts on this would be appreciated. Should we be aiming ultimately for the taxation of wealth rather than income, for example? And might we be held back from developing such a policy, either for fear of being too closely identified with state socialism, or because of uncertainty in our own ranks? The objective of reducing gross inequality and poverty in this country is one which we surely honourably share with Labour, but I should like to be able to see further discussion of the desirable, and hopefully radical, Liberal Democrat ways ahead.

  • Katherine,

    Meade’s property-owning democracy looks to fundamentally change individuals’ economic power within markets. It would do this by significant redistribution of control over both human and non-human capital. Meade’s approach to predistribution involves a society where social justice was promoted not only by raising wages through substantial investment in education and training, but also by giving every citizen a capital stake. This stake should in my view, ideally consist of a plot of land on which housing can be constructed.
    Meade’s idea was later taken up and further developed by John Rawls. He argued that predistribution in a property-owning democracy was far superior to traditional forms of welfare-state redistribution.
    Predistribution of human capital, through education and training, fosters self-respect and economic agency, while predistribution of capital stakes gives people the kind of independence that comes with being less in thrall to the vagaries of the labour market. Those with a more secure economic position are free to refuse demeaning or badly paid jobs, and this in turn bids-up wages and reduces inequality (The argument that is often made around a Universal basic income).
    Meade and Rawls, conjure a vision not just of tinkering at the edges of current market outcomes, but of fundamentally changing the distribution of economic power in society. While both look to reduce the month-to-month taxation and redistribution of incomes, they nevertheless agree that real predistribution involves the aggressive taxation of wealth, through taxes on capital holdings and transfers, and especially on inheritance.
    Real, radical forms of predistribution do not so much allow governments to tax less in absolute terms; rather, they require a fundamental shift in the focus of taxation from income to wealth.
    It’s a project that promises a strategy to deliver abundantly on values of social justice, economic freedom, and equality of opportunity. But it’s a project that involves going head-to-head with entrenched interests, breaking up existing concentrations of wealth and economic power.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Feb '18 - 8:41am

    @Neil Sandison
    “That gap became wider here in GB when New Labour dropped clause 4 from its constitution . But i would be surprised to see some attempts to re-instate it .”

    With the rise of Momentum (offspring of Militant Tendancy) – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if attempts to reinstate it took place..

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Feb '18 - 9:12am

    @Katharine Pindar

    In a reply to a posting of mine you talk about John McDonnell looking at how co-operatives could grow and another to JoeB you refer to the “need to present a clear and distinctive alternative to the state socialism offered by John McDonnell”.

    Perhaps you need to clarify what you mean…?

    The Guardian article starts with “The shadow chancellor outlined an agenda to put public services “irreversibly in the hands of workers” so they could “never again be taken away”. ”

    Nuff said. And remember – Momentum/Militant Tendency is running the show.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Feb ’18 – 6:52pm………….Expats, I am sorry to have offended you by referring to the inconsistency of Labour politics. No ‘sly dig’ was intended, I observe and expect inconsistencies from them because of the deep rifts in their party and the necessity they accept to conceal them. The most glaring inconsistency which greatly affects the country as well as ourselves is of course the stated position of Mr Corbyn in accepting leaving the EU customs union and internal market, while as far as we can tell most of his party believes we must remain in them…………….

    (May I say also that I greatly sympathise over the difficulties your daughter along with many others faced owing to the insensitive treatment of the needs of disabled people during the Coalition years and later, and hope things have indeed now settled down for her and people similarly given a distressingly hard time during those years.)…………………….

    Katharine, I am not offended, just disappointed, at the usual knee jerk criticism of Labour (even if/when their policies are ours)….Labour has divisions on Brexit, but so do we (the 32% of our party supporting ‘Leave’ is hardly different from Labour’s 35%)…Corbyn’s stance on ‘honouring the vote to leave whilst waiting to see the final deal’ seems pragmatic; after all ‘changes in policy are hardly new in politics…

    Thank you for taking the time to wish my daughter well; it is much appreciated..


  • Katharine Pindar 11th Feb '18 - 3:51pm

    Joe B. Many thanks, Joe, for responding to my request for explanation on the radical ideas of Meade and Rawls. The idea of predistribution is an appealing one. I don’t actually see how giving people a plot of land on which to build a house would give them economic independence, but it might I suppose if – as you say has been suggested – it were combined with Universal Basic Income. ( I am interested to think that at least owning rather than renting a house gives a measure of independence, and is a Tory goal for people, while UBI is considered by Labour as well as us.) Including ‘human capital’ in the form of education and training is an excellent idea, and would back up Vince’s idea of a life-long learning account.

    I suppose that these radical ideas are more befitting us than the Socialists, since they are directed towards individual empowerment rather than workers’ rights, and do not look towards state control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Still, we must look for the present I suppose towards more equitable taxation, which both liberal democrats and social democrats can perhaps agree on.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Feb '18 - 4:26pm

    Nonconformistradical. I suspect the stronger state-Socialist ideas of John McDonnell will be watered down in preparation for the next General Election, since they are not the ideas of the majority in his party. The practical need not only to win another 55 seats but also to avoid finding de-selected Labour MPs cropping up as Independents and actually causing seats to be lost will probably lead to more moderate ideas being adopted for their next manifesto.

    Expats. Thank you, but that really wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction. I have never joined in denunciations of Jeremy Corbyn, but I have deplored the party’s fence-sitting on Brexit and its voting with the Government which is propelling us towards the danger of a hard Brexit, the more so now that the leader has committed himself. I also deplored the ambiguity of the offers made to students, and the over-simplification of the issue of tuition fees which after all were introduced by Labour, which factors along with the ambiguity over Brexit led to many young people who voted Remain choosing Labour at the GE. That harmed us a good deal, and altogether Corbyn’s leadership does not have an admirable record. And I must disagree with you over the divisions in our parties, because I believe that those of Labour are far deeper and more fundamental than those of our party, and that, were it not for them all being fixed on the possibility of gaining power, those divisions would probably break them apart.

  • Peter Martin 11th Feb '18 - 5:44pm

    @ Joe B @ Michael1,

    I’m not sure where your figure of 0.1% of the population comes from but if you think that too few people have too much wealth then that is a political problem which can be tackled through the democratic process by wealth and property taxes. To that extent I’m not totally unsympathetic to Joe’s call for a LVT if it is part of a wider tax reform.

    But it is generally a mistake to mix the issues of wealth distribution and the need to ‘find funds’ for public use. If the rich, and/or overseas holders of sterling, aren’t spending their cash piles the Government can safely spend them instead. If Government overdoes it then we’ll see the economy overheat with higher than desirable levels of inflation. If it underdoes it we’ll be in recession.

    The other mistake is to think that government borrowing is the same as when you and I might want to borrow. We might have to apply to a bank for a loan. The Government is in itself a bank – especially when the BoE is included as a part of government. So it always has funds coming in. It doesn’t need to ask anyone. If Germany, or anyone else, wants to run a trading surplus against the UK it has to buy Treasury bonds to recycle the extra pounds it accumulates. Otherwise the pound will sink and we won’t be able to afford to buy their stuff any longer.

    So we have the big net exporters where we want them! Or should want them. They keep selling us cheap stuff and then they have to recycle the money they make back to us so we can spend it on yet more…….

    What’s not to like about that?

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Feb ’18 – 4:26pm………………….And I must disagree with you over the divisions in our parties, because I believe that those of Labour are far deeper and more fundamental than those of our party………..

    Labour admit a difference within their ranks so a 65/35 split is understandable…A 68/32 split in a party, whose only policy seems to be reversing Brexit, seems rather more worrying

  • Katharine,

    pre-distribution applies the same principles as encapsulated in the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day….Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

    While there will always be a need for a safety net, we need to be able to work towards developing a civil society where all people have access to the resources they need to be able to look after themselves and their families, including housing, without undue reliance on a bureaucratic and over-centralised state.

    We already give people capital stakes through the right-to- buy program with £70,000 discounts to market value. The APPG on self-build http://buildforlife.org.uk/about.html has done some good work on promoting the development of lots that are appropriate in some parts of the country. There needs to be a mix of ways in which people can be given security of tenure in a property-owning democracy and these kind of initiatives may well be part of that overall mix. I have seen it used in California and it fills a niche in the market for those trying to get on the property ladder.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Feb '18 - 11:56pm

    Thanks, Joe. I do see the point of this principle, though I suppose the state remains bureaucratic and over-centralised, some might think, if the state has to encourage dispersal of capital by giving discounts on market value. The state also would have to deliberately provide any Citizens’ Basic Income, and decide greater taxation of wealth than of income. I think I lean rather towards community efforts, for instance village provision of some energy through anaerobic digesters, and co-operative businesses, housing associations, and secure rental provision. On the national front, it seems good if we can move towards taxing property owners, especially if they are buying for investment rather than for provision of homes. Anyway, much to be worked out; thank you for the ideas.

    @ David Raw – if you are still reading, David, high fives! Onward and upward, hopefully now!

  • @ Joe Bourke

    I don’t want to be given a piece of land by the government so I can try to get someone to build me a house on it. The idea that all the land is owned by the state and instead of buying the land and the house on it I only have to buy the house is a better idea. But it is not liberal. Liberalism does not reject the idea of private ownership of land or the idea that people can pass on their wealth when they die.

    I am very happy to tax economic wealth and have LVT on commercial land, but taxes paid by original people should be based on their ability to pay not how much their house is worth. I think we need to reform inheritance tax not abolish it as I think you support so it applies on most gifts and the 7 year rule is scraped, while keeping most of the exempted gifts up to £3,000 and even £5,000 for children when they get married.

    I reject the idea that education and training will automatically create a more economic equal society. I do support providing free education and training thought-out a person’s life until retirement.

    As you say Universal Basic Income can provide the “a more secure economic position (where people) are free to refuse demeaning or badly paid jobs, and this in turn bids-up wages and reduces inequality”. However full employment is the best method for reducing economic inequalities as history shows us.

    As liberals we should be able to rally round a call for equal opportunities linked to more economic freedom and less economic inequalities and the abolition of poverty. As liberals we should relish “going head-to-head with entrenched interests, breaking up existing concentrations of wealth and economic power”.

  • Peter Martin,

    “Otherwise the pound will sink and we won’t be able to afford to buy their stuff any longer.”

    This is the issue Peter. With a floating currency like Sterling the currency has to take the strain. While a lower purchasing power for Sterling may give a boost to exports, imports of all kind including the overseas supply chains that underpin the production of domestic goods for home consumption and export. If sterling is overvalued this might have a favourable outcome, but where purchasing power parity falls below international comparatives, this will lead to lower living standards just as internal devaluations do in fixed or pegged currency systems. In the end you cannot get around the imperative to maintain International competitiveness and productivity of the UK workforce.

  • Michael BG,

    under an LVT system Land would remain in private ownership but ground rents would be payable by landowners to the state in place of existing property taxes.
    The self-build idea promoted by Richard Bacon in Norfolk fits the needs of his constituency. Serviced plots with infrastructure and utilities can be constructed or commissioned by local authorities , while homeowners would continue to access the private mortgage market for house construction. Other forms of affordable housing provision like shared ownership of built properties may be more appropriate for larger towns and cities. Each local area will determine the most appropriate mix of housing tenure for its area. What is crucial is that there is an opportunity to all to acquire adequate housing at rents or prices they can afford based on their level of income.

  • Self build, free land, etc…..The ONLY answer is to allow/force councils to build council houses with NO right to buy….Private landlords are charging almost twice the rents of councils for the same type of properties (ex-council homes) and this extra is more often paid by the council/taxpayer….
    Thatcher started it; Blair continued it; we did nothing…The only one willing to tackle the problem is Jeremy Corbyn

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Feb '18 - 9:40am

    These are very helpful responses, Michael BG and Joe Bourke. I would also be glad if you would consider how the economic policies you favour might fit in with the Labour programme, whether in its present Socialist phase or in what we might expect it to continue with in a more realistic, social democratic way in approaching the next GE; and what we might wish to work with them on to promote at the present time.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Feb '18 - 9:55am

    Under Mrs Thatcher’s government it would have been legal for councils to build homes for people who would be unlikely to exercise the right to buy. Did any of them do that? If not, why not?

  • Peter Martin 12th Feb '18 - 12:01pm

    @ JoeB,

    “With a floating currency like Sterling the currency has to take the strain.”

    I’d prefer it if everyone, including the UK, kept their currencies at levels at which their trade naturally balanced. But if the general tendency of many, or most, countries is to keep their currencies at slightly lower than their natural levels, to keep their trade in the black, the genuinely floating currencies will always be slightly higher than they would otherwise be.

    So there isn’t any strain involved.

  • Barnaby 12th Feb ’18 – 11:06am……[email protected] expats…“Where on earth are you getting those ideas from………….

    A quote from the latest English Housing Survey, as printed in today’s Guardian…

    “The typical private tenant in England paid rent of £192 a week to their landlord in 2016-17, compared with £102 for tenants in the social and council house sector. In London, private rents average £309 a week compared with the £132 paid by council tenants.”

  • Arnold Kiel 12th Feb '18 - 5:09pm

    The LD-Labour-question is complex if you regard it a strategic one, which it isn’t. The situation is a purely tactical one for now. Firstly, you just need to wait for a situation in which your 12 votes matter; only Labour and the Conservatives can bring about such a situation, not the LibDems. If the situation arises, you vote with the most Tory/Brexit-damaging option on offer; if that succeeds, hell will brake loose, all bets are off, and all manifestos will become obsolete.

    Next comes a GE, and all depends on Labour’s Brexit stance; I bet they will end up campaigning on remaining, and the LibDems should be open for coalition with them to support that outcome. Then the above-discussed strategic questions take center stage, but in a totally incomparable context.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Feb '18 - 9:03pm

    Yes, but, Arnold, we need to be thinking out and agreeing an economic/industrial policy programme for our party right now, so that we can persuade voters that we do have much to offer beyond wanting to stay in the EU, and that that includes more than health, housing, education and environment policies. There are May elections, and there could be General Election in the autumn. So we also ought to urgently consider in what ways our economic and industrial policies might fit into a Labour majority government ‘s programme, and what our red lines might be, whether we went for a confidence-and-supply arrangement (which might be the more likely) or a full coalition.

    Footnote: I see, by the way, that Martin Schultz is resigning as SPD leader, having failed in that role even though his diminished party will be well placed in your coalition Government now to be influential, holding the finance ministry and other important posts. Less chance then for the United States of Europe ideal that he was publicised as promoting, to the horror of Brexiteers. (I’m not asking the question, however, this being a thread about our party’s relations with Labour!)

  • @ Arnold Kiel

    If we voted for the most hard Brexit on offer, if there is any justice in the world we would be wiped out at the next general election because we would have voted for something we don’t believe in.

    @ Katharine Pindar

    I don’t see Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party as Socialist as Michael Foot’s Labour Party in 1983. John McDonnell is correct it would be possible for the UK to take control of private companies such as water companies by exchanging their shares for government debt. The problem comes if the now government controlled companies do not provide the government with sufficient income to pay the interest to those ex-shareholders who now own government debt instead of shares.

    If we look at Labour’s spending changes as set out in their manifesto. There is very little for us not to support:
    More money for schools, FE education, childcare and early years;
    Restoring EMA’s;
    Scraping tuition fees (hopefully we will soon have that policy even if our funding of it might not be identical to Labour);
    More money for the NHS;
    More money for the Social Care;
    Restoring nurse bursaries;
    Extending Pension Credit;
    Ending the Public Sector pay cap;
    Abolition of employment tribunal fees;
    Scraping the bedroom tax;
    Reversing the ESA cuts.

    Things we might not wish to support:
    Abolishing all hospital car parking charges;
    Doubling paternity pay and leave;
    A real living wage of £10 per hour (we should be supporting a National Living Wage of 70% of average earning instead);
    Recruiting an extra 10,000 police officers.

    Then there are the things where we go further than Labour:
    Reversing the cuts to Universal Credit;
    Restoring Housing Benefit to 18-24 year-olds;
    Ending the Benefits Freeze and increasing them in line with inflation;
    Restoring Benefits for more than the first two children.

    However the most important new Labour policy we should accept is running the economy to achieve full employment and no longer being content with having unemployment at the NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment) level.

  • Arnold Kiel 13th Feb '18 - 6:36am

    Michael BG, you are right. “with the most Tory/Brexit-damaging option” I meant damaging to (not by) these two.

  • Given that Libdem support dropped from 24% in 2010 GE to single figures I suggest that those still supporting the Libdems are now more likely to prefer the tories to labour. Especially since Labour has been taken over by the hard left?

  • Arnold Kiel 13th Feb '18 - 1:58pm


    I find it rather easy: reversal of Tory tax-cuts (corporate, inheritance) ok. Abolishment of tuition fees ok (how could LibDems oppose this). Nationalization: case by case review. More money for NHS and housing: ok. Industial policy: waste of time. Nobody expects a full governing program from a small coalition-partner, just make sure you are Labour-compatible.

    The bigger and more decisive job comes first: end the Tory/DUP Government.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Feb '18 - 2:57pm

    @ Michael BG. Thank you, Michael, that is a comprehensive and so very helpful comparison of our economic policies with Labour’s, as set out in their Manifesto, and I agree as you do with the overall aim you mention in your final paragraph. It is interesting then to see russell’s comment, that supporters might actually prefer the Tories to Labour. If that were the case, your and my preferences (and I think Arnold’s) of the social liberal tendency would be running against the tide! And according to Mark Pack’s latest Newswire, there is still little understanding of Lib Dem policy anyway.

    Yet we don’t want to have our policies unknown, or thought completely opposed to Labour’s if this is not our party’s belief. The difficulty seems to lie in whether people believe that the Labour Party’s policy is truly Socialist, as promoted by John McDonnell (see Nonconformistradical’s affirmative in comments above), or whether it will be more social-democratic if they get to power. If the former, we will surely be going against the majority political opinion in this country as well as against our own true economic values in claiming any closeness to them. If the latter, as I think, working closely with them on fighting austerity, inequality and poverty will surely be right.

    It remains to be seen whether the Socialist mindset wins out in the Labour Party, as seems unlikely. As you write, Michael, nationalisation plans may not be unacceptable or unachievable, certainly as regards the water companies. But I am reminded about reading a Times analysis of City of London and top business opinion a few weeks ago, which concluded that there was grudging acceptance of McDonnell’s plans – SO LONG AS he isn’t empowered to go much further towards the Socialist ideals which he undoubtedly holds, but which are most probably not going to be fulfilled in Labour government practice.

  • Arnold, thank you for your clarification. I think you meant vote for the option which damages the Tories the most and is the softest of Brexits.

    @ Russell

    Of the top 18 seats where we were closest to winning, 13 are held by the Tories. Of the top 30, 22. I don’t think being more Tory is likely to appeal when they can vote for the real thing. We need to be Liberal and be an opposition party to the Tories as we were most of the time at least since the reign of William and Mary onwards.

    This is why it is important for us to state that after the next general election we will not keep the Conservatives in power, the same as our position in 1997.

    Katharine, John McDonnell stated on ‘Peston on Sunday’ that he didn’t want a return to the state capitalism type of socialism of the past. The question is not about which industries should be nationalised and which not, it is more about ensuring there is not a “Command economy” but that our mixed economy is maintained.

    The answer to Nonconformistradical is that he needs to understand the UK constitution; there is no way for one government to stop a future government reversing what it enacted.

    Our position on nationalisation of industries should be clear. We believe that monopolies should be nationalised if they can’t be broken up and a well regulated market put in their place which gives a good deal to consumers. I am sure the majority of British do not care if an industry is nationalised or not, what they care about is getting a good service.

    We are about improving people’s lives, giving them freedom and choices and ensuring they are not held back by anything. A vital part of this is having policies which reduce economic inequalities and remove people from poverty.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Feb '18 - 8:36pm

    The question which centre-rightists (or possible cuckoos in our Lib-Dem nest) might put in reply to your thorough and clear explanations above,, Michael, has not been forthcoming, so I will play Devil’s Advocate for a moment. If Liberal Democrats can see so much good in Labour policy as you suggest, and if John McDonnell is denying attachment to state Socialism (thank you, I did not see the Peston programme) and so alleviating fears, why should voters who flocked to Labour in the General Election turn, or possibly turn back, to our party now?

    The first answer must be because we are the only national party showing a clear and unequivocal commitment to remaining in the EU, and advocating the democratic outcome of a referendum on the negotiated deal. You can’t trust Labour on this, especially since Mr Corbyn has declared against staying in the Customs Union, whatever his members may think.

    But I also believe that we are truly a different party, and with more to offer the nation of good than Labour can, even if they settle for social democracy rather than state socialism. We offer an outlook, and values, that focus on individual well-being, freedom and community. We wish to share power, to help people have the chance to build worthwhile lives whoever and wherever they are, and we accept the essential state backing, along with strengthened local democracy and stronger devolution and local services. It is all spelled out better than I can put it in our published documents, is always being refreshed and developed appropriately, and now we need to proclaim it.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Feb '18 - 2:42pm

    Micheal BG with so many promises on the side of Labours big red bus they could put Boris to shame .We have at least explained how we would fund the NHS and Social Care . Social Liberals and Social Democrats are going to have to explain how we reverse the considerable damage the Tories have done since 2015 and what will be our top priorities in the first 5 years of a parliament.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Feb '18 - 4:33pm

    You are right, I believe, Neil Sandison, about the need now to prioritise policies. We should be doing this straight away both as a means of preparing for another five-year Parliament should the present one end abruptly, and also because our party’s flagship policy may have been overtaken in a year’s time. We should be grouping our many good policies as well as developing them, and particularly prioritising economic policies, because they are not much known by the public but are vital for our key aims. In defining and choosing, we should be able to differentiate our stance from that of the Labour Party, and I think we do need to do that in order to win or win back many voters who backed that party in the General Election.

    In that context, I was struck for the first time in reading on another thread the YouGov analysis of voting in that election by realising that the highest percentage of voters for us, 9%, were young people aged 18 to 24, including many full-time students. Thus it seems that young people as voters have not entirely been lost to Labour, and it should be worth bearing their particular needs in mind in setting our priorities. That would include their needs for decent housing and jobs, but the economic processes which would give them those ends are obviously key to helping them.

  • nvelope2003 15th Feb '18 - 9:25am

    Michael BG: You say that most British do not care if an industry is nationalised or not but since most of them cannot remember when we had nationalised industries how can they make any judgement on this. I can remember and they were not very user friendly. Frequent strikes and long delays etc. When was the last strike since Royal Mail was privatised ? There were frequent strikes in local offices and nationally before privatisation.The problem is that the British are not interested in anything and do not seem to understand anything about the economy or the state. How are we going to deal with this ?

  • @ Neil Sandison

    Lots of people say that Labour didn’t explain how they would finance their spending programme, but they are wrong. Labour like us produced a costing document for the last general election. It was the Conservatives who didn’t produce a costing programme. The Labour Party costing document sets out £48.6 billion of increased spending and £48.6 billion of increased revenue, which included under estimating the expected revenue from increasing Corporation Tax and Income Tax. Labour also produced a tax avoidance document setting out where their at least £6.5 billion from their anti-avoidance measures will come from. We had £2.5 billion from anti-avoidance measures in our costing document but didn’t set out where this money will come from. We need to stop attacking Labour over where they will get the money for their spending policies when they do state where they are getting the funds from. There would be more justification for attacking the Conservatives on this than Labour.

    I think we have implied where are priorities are – reversing lots of the Conservative and some of the Coalition benefit cuts, increasing spending on the NHS, social care and education. I hope we will add to this list reducing economic inequalities and removing everyone from relative poverty. We also need to ensure voters are aware we will end the Public Sector pay freeze and have a workable and affordable replacement for tuition fees.

  • @ nvelope2003

    Do you watch or listen to the BBC? If you do, do you think the programmes are worse than the alternatives? I don’t think the British people do. Are Londoners unhappy with Transport for London (TfL)? I am not aware of it. I don’t think the British public are unhappy with the Post Office (Wikipedia state about 300 offices are run by the state controlled company and are not franchises) which offers many services also provided by private businesses.

    I am not sure we should try to get the British people interested in nationalisation. I think they are correct to only concern themselves most of the time with the service which they receive.

    People don’t understand economics, this is true. This is why we could get away with saying the UK was like Greece in 2010. This is why politicians can claim wrongly that the government’s finances are like a households or persons finances. This is why the Coalition government could pursue the wrong economic policy from 2010 to 2013 and then claim that they hadn’t changed their economic policy in 2013. This is why politicians can state we need to balance the budget. Schools should provide Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. So the answer is to improve the economic element to include macroeconomics and Keynesian, Monetary and Modern Monetary Theory economics. I suppose it could be possible for the government to get the BBC to provide educational programmes on these economic theories as well (but I am not sure how successful they would be in educating the whole of the British public).

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Feb '18 - 9:51am

    Feisty answers, Michael! Thank you for your valued contribution. And as one of those baffled by the economic debate between you, Joe Bourke and Peter Martin on Joe’s thread, if anyone can recommend a beginners’ guide to economics, I should be glad to obtain and read it!

  • @ Katharine – if you’re a social Liberal – and I think you are – anything by Robert Skidelsky.
    A good historical intro is his “Politicians and the Slump” – and then his biography of Keynes.

  • Katharine,

    I would echo David Raws recommendation on reading Skidelsky. There is an interesting biographical interview in the FT https://www.ft.com/content/90dfc3f6-9361-11de-b146-00144feabdc0

    He says …” economists missed the danger signs ahead of the financial crisis. They were preoccupied with sophisticated mathematical models – a serious weakness, he says, in academic teaching of the discipline – and they were over-confident in self-regulation of the market. He blames this mindset on the revival of anti-Keynesianism in the 1970s when government intervention in the economy made way for supply-side theory of tax cuts and labour market deregulation.
    But Keynesians, too, were guilty of overreaching: they assumed the state was capable of fine-tuning demand to mitigate the effects of the economic cycle”
    Skidelsky is no statist but he says the crisis has exposed serious weaknesses in economic policy, from the Bank of England’s inflation targeting (“They did not have the tools”) to the Labour government’s belief in light-touch regulation.

    “Calculation..is overestimated as a guide to rational conduct.” Thus he is critical of Tony Blair (a tactician with an appetite for power) and admiring of the former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, as a man of principle.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Feb '18 - 6:02pm

    Thank you, gentlemen, for your recommendation of Skidelsky’s works, and your excerpt from the biographical interview (Joe). I’m not sure he would be basic enough for me, as my heart sinks on seeing terms like ‘supply side-economics’, but then I am reminded there are various economic theories on which economists naturally don’t agree, and so the country works under one or another at different times, and there is no certainly good scheme of things.

    Practically speaking, Joe, I know you have been rather busy on your thread, and you wrote an earlier interesting comment on this one, thank you, but you didn’t answer my request of February 12, 9.40 am, to say how you think the policies you favour our adopting would fit in with the Labour programme, whether in its full Socialist thinking or in the social-democratic phase to which electoral demands may eventually bring it; and on what you think we could campaign with them in the short term. I should still be interested in your answer, having had already stimulating replies from Michael BG as you will have seen. The question is of course relevant to the title of this article – and I thank everyone else meantime who has also contributed to this fascinating debate, which I have much appreciated.

  • Peter Martin 16th Feb '18 - 6:45pm

    @ Katharine,

    I agree with Skidelsky on most things which might not be a good recommendation on this blog. But if you find him a little too esoteric I’d perhaps start with someone like Stephanie Kelton.

    She’s a real star IMO!

  • Katherine,

    Political economy has developed over centuries from the Medieval Scholastics to Moral Philosophers like Adam Smith and social revolutionaries like Kark Mark to the modern industrial and technological age, where economists like Keynes, Hayek and Friedman have refined and developed our thinking.

    The Labour Party has a key role in presenting the socialist worldview of how society should be organised as does the Conservative party in focusing on the importance of free markets and private capital to a successful economy.

    Pragmatism is my favoured approach underpinned by freedom of the individual to pursue whatever path he or she may choose without undue interference from the state. I am neither in favour of or oppossed to nationalisation and would address each case on the grounds of efficiency. Mostly the same managers will be running the organisations. The principal difference is whether the capital comes from private investors or the taxpayer. Natural monopolies do not have the discipline of competition to ensure market pricing and must therefore be regulated for the benefit of all. This is the case with all natural resources whether water supply, energy or land.
    There will be overlap between policies developed by social liberals/social democrats in all three of the mainstrean parties. Liberal Democracy is not unique to Liberal Parties in the West. What we need to avoid is dogma and this is as prevalent among the hard left as the hard right.
    Marxian and Keynesian ecomocs is oftern cited by socialists, but we should remember that Keynes was closely involved in Liberal politics in the twenties and rejected the socialist creed.
    As Skildelsky often notes – politicians took from Keynes work what suited their ideology. Keynes advocated an expansionary fiscal policy when monetary measures were ineffective in a prolonged slump as they were in the great depression, not as Skildesky wrote as a fine-tuning mechanism to mitigate the effects of the economic cycle”
    Unemployment was a serious problem in the aftermath of the financial crisis but with the low levels we are experiencing today there are bigger economic fish to fry – low productivity growth, stagnant wages and increasing levels of wealth inequality. This is where our focus should. Leave Labour to keep singing the International we have the Land Song for Liberals.

  • Peter Martin 16th Feb '18 - 8:09pm

    “politicians took from Keynes work what suited their ideology “

    They certainly did. And if they couldn’t find it they’d often make it up or take their interpretations from others who’d interpreted Keynes work in what they considered to be an acceptable manner. Skidelsky is a politician too so why would he be an exception?

    “not as Skildesky wrote as a fine-tuning mechanism to mitigate the effects of the economic cycle”

    So where did Skidelsky get this from? I’m not saying it’s definitely wrong but we should have an original reference and not Skidelsky’s interpretation!

  • Peter Martin,

    I don’t know from where Skidesky sourced his conclusion, perhaps from multiple references. However, the IMF make a similiar point in their expanation of Keynesianism “Keynes argued that governments should solve problems in the short run rather than wait for market forces to fix things over the long run, because, as he wrote, “In the long run, we are all dead.” This does not mean that Keynesians advocate adjusting policies every few months to keep the economy at full employment. In fact, they believe that governments cannot know enough to fine-tune successfully.” This also matches with Skidelsky’s focus on the centrality of uncertainty to Keynesian theory.
    The IMF summary concludes “But the 2007–08 crisis also showed that Keynesian theory had to better include the role of the financial system. Keynesian economists are rectifying that omission by integrating the real and financial sectors of the economy.”
    This is a point that Joseph Stiglitz among others make – the credit system and its role in drinving the appreciation of land values need to be considered for a deeper understanding of the workings of the modern economy.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Feb '18 - 11:00pm

    Pragmatism, then, and individual freedom, to shape our Lib Dem economic outlook. It sounds a good starting point, Joe – thank you for coming back on this. And thanks for the great video, Peter; I finally understand your repeated comment about balance in the economy. That it’s fine for the Government to run a deficit, I had already understood from all three of you. And I want Michael BG’s addition to our already responsive policies, of aiming to reduce inequalities and raise everyone from relative poverty. Thank you all for the enlightenment! I feel good now about the future of our Liberal Democrat economic policies, that they will stand up well in competition with or partial consent to those of the Labour Party, and I look forward to their further development.

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