William Wallace writes: Stopping Brexit isn’t enough – we have to help the left behind

Larry Elliott in the Guardian the other day declared that the Remainers don’t have any answers to the problems of the Left Behind in Britain.  He didn’t bother to claim that the Leavers had any answer either.  Their commitment to deregulation (with abolition of the Working Time Directive one of their first targets) will hit marginal workers in insecure jobs; their hopes of cutting public spending will increase the gap between rich and poor and starve education and health of resources.

But what do those of us who support Remain offer the Left Behind?  Remember that the highest votes for the Leave campaign came in England’s declining industrial towns, and in the county and seaside towns that have also lost out from economic and social transformation.  Middlesborough, Skegness, Canvey Island and Wisbech all returned over 80% of votes to leave.  It was easy for the Leave campaign to encourage them to blame the globalised ‘liberal elite’ for their woes; they have lost out from globalization, and feel patronised and neglected.  Some of their grievances are justified; others are not.  The selling off of social housing and the incursion of private landlords into what were once Council housing estates is not a consequence of European rules or of immigration.  But the loss of the stable employment that their parents and grandparents had IS a consequence of open frontiers and technological change, and successive governments of all parties have failed to invest enough – in education and training, in housing, in infrastructure, in supporting the growth of new local entrepreneurs – to spread the prosperity of the South-East and the metropolitan cities across the rest of the country.

Liberal Democrat peers tackled these issues in a working party over the past year, the report of which is attached here.  We have submitted a resolution for the Spring conference to take the debate within the party further.  Our analysis, and our proposals, cut across several policy areas.  Greater investment in education and training, from pre-school to further education, is central.  Long-term finance for local start-ups, of the sort that the British Business Bank was intended to provide but which also needs nurturing at regional and local level, is essential.  A revival of social housing is urgent.  Most difficult of all, we have to find a way of rebuilding political trust: a revival of local democracy within communities that feel abandoned by all parties and agencies of government, and that see politics as a game conducted by well-off and well-educated people in London.

If the process of leaving the EU breaks down through the incompetence and confusion of the current government, these communities will be among the most embittered – unless central and local government shift priorities to help them.  Their alienation from Britain’s metropolitan culture, their nostalgia for an imagined past, makes it easy for the populist right to refocus their anger on ‘the liberal elite’. Liberals with a social conscience can partly counter that by responding to their justified discontents.

Britain suffers from several deep divides today. There are the economic divides, between rich and poor, between the older and younger generations, and between London and the south-east and the rest of the country.  And there is the cultural divide between the educated ‘metropolitans’ and the children of the old working class.  Our conventional politics is in danger of being caught on the wrong side of the divide.  The Conservative Party is increasingly southern English, in its leadership, its funders and its elderly members.  Labour has attracted many enthusiastic young graduates, but doesn’t penetrate too far into the white working class.  Our party’s members, old and new, are more often professional than unskilled.  But Liberals who want to push back the tide of illiberalism that has swept across the USA and continental Europe as well as Britain have to engage with the currently unrepresented, to persuade them that nationalism or left-wing Marxism are not the only ways forward.

Stopping Brexit is not enough.  Nor is the (justified) claim that Brexit would leave this section of our national community worse off, that the Leavers’ plans for shrinking the state and slashing regulations offer – as in Trump’s America – a paradise for millionaires.  We have to persuade a cynical electorate that an active state, at local and national levels, is essential to rebuild a liberal society. Even Philip Hammond has declared that ‘the British public do not want to change their economic model’ from a European social market to a deregulated free market – no doubt to the fury of the Brexiteers.  Liberal Democrats have to find a way to link redistribution and rebuilding of local communities at home with the maintenance of a social liberal model shared with our neighbours.

* Lord Wallace of Saltaire is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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33 Comments

  • Yes agree with this but we know the problems. We need some constructive answers to these problems please so that we can disseminate them

  • Peter Martin 17th Jan '18 - 1:45pm

    He (Larry Elliot) didn’t bother to claim that the Leavers had any answer either.

    Maybe he was just speaking for himself?

    Leaving isn’t the total answer in itself. The problems of the “left behinds” are largely connected to unemployment, low paid work, lack of job security and underemployment. This is more a political problem than anything else. The economics of full employment is well known and has been for 90 years or so. Once we have full employment it is then simply a matter of setting a floor so that no-one is “left behind”.

    The usual question is “how are we going to afford that”?

    Keynes famously said:

    “Look after the unemployment, and the Budget will look after itself.”

    While many of his ideas, policy recommendations and views have slowly been phased out of popular discourse, countries continue to struggle over what may be considered as the core concern of Keynesian macroeconomics – involuntary unemployment and later underemployment.

    There’s really no need for any struggle. It’s all a lot easier once we ditch the ideas behind neoliberal economics.

  • The paper “how to help our left-behind communities and citizens” asks some questions here are some answers:

    Yes we need to be aggressive in attacking income inequalities and must have a plan to ensure no one in the UK has an income below 60% of the average 5 years after the next general election.

    We need to apologise for our part in austerity, and go further with reversing the cuts in welfare since 2010. We need to promise to increase taxation for the very rich to equalise income more. We need to have a national land value tax to provide money for the NHS and Social Care as well as giving district councils the power to raise their own local land value tax on non-residential land including land with planning permission for residential properties. We need to reform Council Tax to ensure that the tax paid is related to the value of the home and the more expensive homes no longer pay lower rates than the cheaper homes (plus of course restoring the National Council Tax Benefit scheme).

    Yes of course we need to distribute economic aid to the poorest regions and give financial assistance to companies to move to the poorer regions. We need to give district and unitary councils’ responsibility for their economic development and provide the money to raise the poorest areas of their council areas.

    We should provide education to meet the needs of the child not think just having more money for early years is a cure all. We need to provide a guaranteed job or training place to very person of working age who wants one, which is suitable to them. This to be managed by district and unitary councils.

    If we think councils are too distant from their voters then we should ensure that no district or unitary councillor has an electorate ratio of more than 2100 to 1 and no county councillor more than 6300 to 1.

    As 1.5 million new homes including 500,000 more social homes are not going to meet demand over a five year period then we need to revisit our targets and at least increase the number of social homes to 1 million.

  • Sue Sutherland 17th Jan '18 - 3:21pm

    I am so glad that this paper is coming to the Spring conference. I believe the first step towards making the changes we so desperately need is to decide that redistribution of wealth in the several ways mentioned is our top priority.
    We may also need to redefine the State and local authorities. I think community government is a phrase that expresses what we want local authorities to be like. National government could replace ‘the State’ which is a term representing the Tory and Labour view of the world, not ours, I believe. Government should be interactive whereas the State expresses a more dictatorial form of rule.

  • I think that endlessly trying to subdivide the population and using meaningless categories like like “the left behind” (oddly borrowed from evangelical Christianity and the language of The Rapture) goes nowhere. Instead have transport policies, policies about tuition fees, a defence policy, ways of tackling crime and so on. In other words present stuff with broad appeal in a way that is not accidentally patronizing or judgemental, by dropping the language of identity, focus groups and advertising-industry-style-demographic-targeting . After all if you believe yourself to be an individual rather than part of an amorphous blob defined by accidents of birth or income, then why should you believe anyone else is?

  • Anything by William Wallace is worth reading .Much of the critique here from activists in the field thrown back at policy groups boils down to “good analysis but what do we do next ?” . Policy groups are accused of being long on analysis- short on solutions. I pose the question whether as Liberals we should expect all the answers to come from the centre and may wait a long time if we do. The Co-op movement- community politics- council housing etc began in unfashionable areas like -Rochdale, Hebden Bridge and Liverpool. Big ideas can come from the grassroots as much as from the Olympian heights of the Federal Policy Committee. When they work- they spread- and get absorbed into the policy mainstream. What should we/can we do locally about inequality is a question worth asking even if some of the levers to address it are beyond local grasp ?

  • William Wallace, not for the first time, talks the sort of Liberal Democrats language I want to hear on a daily basis – and I believe that the country wants to hear if we are to recover lost ground. We need to espouse Lib Dem solutions to the very real issues that caused Brexit. If we do not provide them, and reconnect with an embittered electorate, and present liberal values as a solution, we will not succeed in working-class areas in the May local elections, merely shore up as many target seats as we can. I’m afraid I see no coherent, powerful message – a message that should be within our capabilities – and with every day that passes since the Brexit vote that is immensely disappointing.

  • Once again William’s ideas need to get into our mainstream thinking and campaigning – and as quickly as possible. Spring Conference may be just in time! Sorry I can’t be there since I have a tough defence of my council seat to keep me on the streets – in a ward where these issues are absolutely central – especially on our four former Council estates.

  • David Allen 18th Jan '18 - 1:14pm

    Quite a lot of this thread makes sense – but there is a problem.

    Here is a parody of how not to respond to the Leave vote / the “left behind”:

    “You poor dears. You are too ill-educated to understand what it is that is hitting you. It’s not the EU, or immigration, or benefit scroungers. Those are just scapegoats which mendacious right-wing politicians would like you to blame, so that you can go on to vote for them and vote for Brexit. They’re conning you. Take it from us.

    What you really need is red-blooded socialism / progressive social liberalism (delete according to taste). If we Labliberals ruled the world, we’d reverse austerity, reduce inequality, get our own clever middle-class people running the state better, and solve all your problems, we promise! And we’d be nice to benefit claimants, generous to immigrants, and keen to stay in the EU just the way it is now, because that’s what we believe. All you’ve got to do is agree with us and vote our way!”

    Now, I am not advocating a counsel of despair. I don’t think we should go easy on racism, or stop telling the truth about how ruinous Brexit is likely to be. But we do need to show that we genuinely listen. At the moment we are a very long way away from that.

    Here are some things we can do.

    Focus on the immigration question. Admit that if so many people think it’s a problem, then it’s a problem. Set up a commission to work through the economy sector by sector and analyse where we seem to “need” immigrants, why we think that is the case, and what we might do to get more British people off benefits and into jobs (NHS etc) thereby reducing “demand” for immigration.

    Talk about class. Immigration benefits the economy, yes, but the middle class get the gains while workers feel the pain. Do something about that – starting with redistributing money to high-immigration areas to help meet the strains on services.

    Stop saying how keen the middle classes are on freedom of movement. Start thinking why poorer people don’t like it. Look for compromise. Stop patronising Leavers. Stop encouraging them not to change their minds about Brexit!

  • Peter Hirst 18th Jan '18 - 2:20pm

    I think regional responsibility is the key to managing this issue. In a free market economy, sectors will suffer and it politicians’ responsibility to temper the blow. It is best done regionally as different areas will need different solutions and there is a stronger ownership of the issue. However, a distinct regional governance with sufficient autonomy, inclusiveness and resources that will allow it to work is nowhere visible except perhaps in London where there is already sufficient geographical and social mobility to perhaps not need it. Regional governance must include all parts of the country, not exclude some inconvenient areas such as those mentioned.

  • Andrew Melmoth 18th Jan '18 - 2:40pm

    – David Allen
    The problem with trying to fix this by “redistributing money to high-immigration areas” is that the vast bulk of Leave voters live in areas with low immigration.

  • David Allen 18th Jan '18 - 3:15pm

    Andrew – It’s more complicated than that. Rural Lincolnshire for example has high immigration which is much resented and much voted against. Yes, elsewhere there are some places where high racial diversity has become well accepted, and some places with low immigration and high fear of immigration.

    Your comment seems to imply that Leavers are just hopeless bigots and there is nothing one can do to win them around. I strongly disagree. Telling them that they are just stupid people who are afraid of what they don’t know is not going to win friends. Telling them that you care about what they think, and that you want to ameliorate the problems which they identify, is more likely to win some respect.

  • William Wallace 18th Jan '18 - 4:34pm

    Geoff: as you know, I’ve learned a lot about this by campaigning in your ward and others like it. What those who haven’t done so don’t understand is how hard cuts in funding for poorer local authorities have hit such estates – children’s social services, local policing – while cuts in benefits have knocked back vulnerable families, and cuts in schools budgets have limited what they can do. A head teacher told me last week that her school was now having to provide – in effect – family support and social help in addition to teaching because these services have disappeared in the community.

  • @ David Allen

    If there was full employment and everyone who wanted their own home had one I think it is likely that the British people would not have voted to leave the EU. However, providing a job and a home for everyone who wants one is Liberal in itself as it increases the liberty of the individual. I don’t understand how any liberal would not want the country to be managed so everyone who wants home and a job has one.

    As liberals we need to accept that economic migration is not a good thing. Making the poorer areas as rich as the richer ones is a more liberal solution. We need to accept that there should be a balance between the number of people leaving the UK and coming into the UK. We need to recognise that it is bad for a country for there to be a long-term imbalance no matter which way the imbalance is.

    We should recognise that there should be no need to import people into the UK, we should be able to manage society so we have enough people to do the jobs people need to do and the right encouragements for businesses to invest to increase productivity where this can be done to reduce the need to import people into the UK. The only demand we should have for people should be short-term while we put into place either the automation needed to reduce the labour needed or the training courses and the right incentives for people to move into the roles being done short-term by people moving to the UK.

  • Andrew Melmoth 18th Jan '18 - 5:48pm

    Yes, there are some areas with high immigration which voted leave but these are the exception rather than the rule. Leave voters are overwhelmingly more likely to come from areas with low immigration. The implication I draw from that is not that leave voters are stupid or bigots but simply that policy responses which target areas of high immigration will pass them by.

    The truth is a large number of people in modern Britain have a pervasive sense of being on the losing end of a deal the terms of which they never agreed. Leave had a simple, powerful message for those people. Remain had, and still has, no plausible strategy for winning them round. I don’t believe Brexit will be stopped. I simply don’t see opinion shifting in time. By this time next year we will be entering a decade of political and economic crises. The task of progressives will be to resist the hard right vision of low taxes, deregulation, vestigial public services and the effective end of the welfare state. It will be a losing battle.

  • David Allen 18th Jan '18 - 7:55pm

    Michael BG,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I have banged the drum for greater understanding of why many people oppose high net immigration. So you may very well think I am being a bit churlish when I now suggest that you may be overstating what can be done to reduce immigration. Well, sorry, but here goes anyway!

    In an Utopian world, Bangladesh would not be far poorer than the West, and we would have long ago acted to stop climate change and the risk of massive flooding in Bangladesh. But we don’t live in a Utopian world, and so there will be massive pressure to encourage economic migration.

    There will also be massive incentives within the UK. Those Bangladeshis who make it to the UK will tend to be smart and ambitious. The native Britons they displace onto benefits will be the weak and disabled. Employers will get cheaper, better labour by recruiting immigrants. The economy and the middle class benefit from this, while the unsuccessful working class suffer. The Right will just say they are lazy chavs who get what they deserve.

    Working to reduce the demand for net immigration, as I advocate we should do (ideally from inside the EU!), will therefore not be easy. At first sight, reducing the inflow of cheap and able workers onto the labour market will be economically detrimental. Native Britons from the jobcentre will tend to do a poorer job. However, getting people off benefits and into work does genuinely cut the benefit bill and improve people’s lives. Just don’t expect it to get migration down to “the tens of thousands”, or to win easy popularity.

  • I have concluded that there is a sizeable group of “left behinds” that cannot be won. Their skills, attitude, location, age, and mental state precludes many of them from succeeding economically on their own, and Britain does not have the resources to fund a satisfactory comfort-level (housing, healthcare, everyday spending, education, security, mental care…) for them. At the same time, no Brexit-fact reaches them.

    My analogy are about 35% firm Trump-supporters; evidently no argument will ever sway them (what else would one need to see?), and the same financial constraints apply to buying their support for civilty and rationality. Besides, many of those loyal Trump-fans are financially well off.

    The Brexit-madness is still not as clearly visible as the Trump-madness, so targeting the “left-behind” is not only practically extremely hard, it would produce extremely few and very expensive leave-remain conversions. There is no time to be wasted on such an inefficient strategy.

    As many of us agree that they would be best served by remaining, this goal must be pursued by targeting the 20% leavers with the lowest “conversion cost”, who are not the “left behinds”. I believe these are the people who voted leave without profound conviction and who are succeptible to the economic argument. It is still the best we have short-term.

    The best polling achievable for remaining is around 60%. We need to get there quick for this significant but not overwhelming swing to have an effect on the political debate.

    Once Brexit is averted, there is time and much more money to address the “left behinds”.

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Jan '18 - 11:40am

    Arnold Kiel 19th Jan ’18 – 10:45am

    Arnold, that’s by some way the most sensible and constructive comment I’ve seen from you yet! I’d dispute your remark about Britain’s lack of resources (we are, after all, pretty much as rich as we’ve ever been), but other than that I think you’re bang on.

  • Malcolm Todd,

    I am honoured, and also agree with you! I should have said that the rich in charge of both the UK and the US have no intention on wasting their wealth on the “left behinds”. In fact, the Tory-Brexit and Trump’s tax-“reform” aim at disenfranchising them further.

  • Jayne mansfield 19th Jan '18 - 12:04pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,
    I despair.

    You can make the economic arguments ’til the cows come home, but they will be countered by individuals like the he woman who responded with the words, ‘Your GDP is not my GDP’.

    If economic disaster were to be averted by staying in the EU, what are you as a political party offering the people of this country ? How would any benefits that have been saved by remaining, be utilised to ensure that this country becomes a fairer, more decent society? Something I would argue, even the vast majority of leavers long for.

    There are those who post on here, strangely from my generation, a generation that some of your members seem to be pinning your hopes on dying off to achieve your remain dreams , who have grasped the problems that currently afflict the Liberal Democrat party, but they seem to be whistling in the wind as far as the party is concerned.

    Mrs May and her negotiators may not have made progress since the referendum, but neither have the Liberal Democrats. Instead of wishful thinking that the polls show a significant change in those who would change from voting leave to remain, as opposed to those who are unhappy with the way negotiations are going, perhaps more effort should be made in persuading the electorate that the party has a vision for the future that is worth voting for,

    I would also caution against the view that all remainers agree with the Liberal Democrat notion of Democracy, and are prepared to overturn what they believe to be a democratic decision, even if they believe that the decision is the wrong one. I meet many of these individuals, and they do not take kindly to being called ‘weak’. They believe that the only course is to offer a better vision of what it would mean to remain in the EU, thus garnering a considerable majority wishing to remain, making the idea of another referendum on democratic grounds, unchallengeable.

  • @ Arnold Kiel 19th Jan ’18 – 10:45am “I have concluded that there is a sizeable group of “left behinds” that cannot be won. Their skills, attitude, location, age, and mental state precludes many of them from succeeding economically on their own”.

    And I’m afraid such patronising stuff is why the Lib Dems have got themselves into such a an ineffective blind alley nowadays. I voted remain, but I must say I recoil at such a lack of respect for my fellow citizens. It gives a whole new meaning to the term self appointed liberal elite.

  • Jayne mansfield 19th Jan '18 - 1:09pm

    @ David Raw,
    I think Arnold may be referring to individuals like Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson, Toby Young and those from privileged backgrounds, who are beneficiaries of the economic and educational advantages conferred by that ‘accident’ of birth, rather than the individuals from impoverished homes who suffer daily micro -aggressions, or outright contempt from their ‘betters’.

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Jan '18 - 2:41pm

    I think it we avoid getting caught up in the “left behinds” rhetoric (which I’ve no patience for either), Arnold is making a sensible point about how to campaign to reverse the Brexit decision: attempt to persuade those who are persuadable and worry about those who really don’t seem to be later. Why? Because there isn’t time before March next year to transform the lives of those who (we think) will most suffer from this decision and nothing to be gained from condescending to them. Instead, try to build a big head of steam for changing the decision by targetting those who are less committed (obviously, not be calling them “brave Brexiteers” and all the rest…); and deal later with the economic difficulties and deprivation that we think resulted in the vote going the way it did.
    I very much doubt Arnold and I shall agree on how to go about the latter part! But then, that’s politics.

  • @ William Wallace

    While it is good to see that you read the comments and have commented on a comment from somebody you know. I would like you to actually engage with all those who comment on your articles.

    @ David Allen

    I am not sure your argument regarding Bangladesh is correct. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s Bangladesh was a poor country but the net migration figures for the UK were negative. And in 1997 net migration was only 48,000. Therefore from 1975 to 1997 net migration into the UK was always under 100,000 (https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/statistics-net-migration-statistics).

    I agree with you that reducing the demand for foreign workers will not be easy, but if there is the political will it can be done. As you say it must be linked to encouraging UK employers to employ those people who are already here who are not working. When everyone who wants a job has one then we will be much closer to having a liberal society. It is possible that once we have full employment people will understand how giving economic assistance to poorer countries reduces the number of people from those countries who want to leave their country for economic reasons.

    @ Arnold Kiel

    We should not be finding solutions to increase the liberty and freedom of the “left-behind” because of Brexit. We should be doing it because we are liberals.

  • David Allen 19th Jan '18 - 3:48pm

    Arnold Kiel,

    You are arguing – I believe – that there are two kinds of Brexit voters, the unshakeable and the shakeable. I’m sure you are right. From time immemorial, we have recognised that one should identify those who oppose us as “firm” Tories or “soft” Tories, “firm” Labour or “soft” Labour. The same should apply to “firm” Leavers versus “soft” Leavers.

    However, if we want to move on from there and campaign in the way which best helps us win over the “soft” voters, we need to think a bit further! It really is not obvious what will work best. If we furiously denounce (say) the Tories as a bunch of incompetent rogues, how will our “soft” Tories react? Will it help them conclude that Toryism really is a dreadful philosophy which they can no longer in all conscience support? Or will they feel that those Liberals are a bit too strident, and that they should therefore stick with the Tories? I don’t believe that there is an obvious “right” answer to that question.

    Similarly with Brexit. Broadly there are three approaches one can take. We can argue about philosophy, the merits of international collaboration etc. We can argue about practicality (what our enemies deride as “Project Fear”). Or, as I argue above, we can show empathy, understanding and practical responses to the concerns of Leave voters. Which approach is best? Using all of the approaches together, I would suggest!

  • Jayne mansfield 19th Jan '18 - 5:46pm

    @ Malcolm Todd,
    The sensible point of setting about and persuading the persuadable is one that I made on here . In particular I wondered why so much time and effort was expended on trying to persuade Matt and Glenn who have clearly nailed their colours to the mast of Brexit and are clearly unshakeable.

    There are however, ways of making an argument that does not lead to those one disagrees with taking an even more entrenched position, and desisting from being patronising or insulting, is a good place to start.

    @ David Allen,
    May I suggest that your third recommendation comes first, because if it doesn’t I suggest one is wasting one’s breathe on the rest. Whilst you mention soft Tories, and of course it is that party that manifested the largest group of leave voters, there are also soft Labour supporters and there is a need for some of that Liberal Democrat empathy, understanding and practical responses to their concerns.

    I recognise that this plea to you yourself is misdirected.

  • Peter Martin 20th Jan '18 - 12:06pm

    There is a common perception that the Leave campaign is almost entirely driven by the right of the Tory party and elements even further to the right in UKIP. The high level of Labour Leave support in the Northern towns is attributed to an innate conservatism on the part of the the more reactionary minded sections of the working class.

    This analysis tends to ignore those like Dennis Skinner who open supported Leave. I can’t offer anything original on Jeremy Corbyn’s lukewarm support for the EU. He’s often been accused of lacking any real enthusiasm for the Remain cause. Many would say he’s just letting the Tories get on with the process of taking the UK out of the EU and if/when things go badly afterwards he’ll be able to win an election on the basis that it was all the Tories doing.

    I would say the left support for Brexit is often underestimated. Even if it isn’t, the numbers are so close, nationally, that it is enough to make a difference. But numbers aren’t everything. If influential people within the Labour party are closet Brexiteers, then we all need to understand where they are coming from. This is an interesting blog I found on a LSE website from a Harvard professor. So It is safe to say he doesn’t conform to the stereotypical Leaver who is lacking in intelligence and education.

    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/08/21/long-read-brexit-is-a-prize-within-reach-for-the-british-left/

  • Laurence Cox 20th Jan '18 - 1:57pm

    @Peter Martin

    Thanks for the blog link. What concerns me about this writer is his lack of regard for human rights. He says ‘It is often asked by opponents of the NHS, “if it’s so good, why don’t other countries copy it?” But in this respect it would be extremely difficult for other countries to copy it, since in most modern states expropriation of private property without compensation would be legally impossible without a far-reaching constitutional amendment which might be very hard to pass. In Britain in 1946, all that was needed was a single sentence in an Act of Parliament.’

    If he really believes that expropriation of private property without compensation is acceptable, then why stop with the NHS. He could equally well have argued that all privately-owned housing should be expropriated, so that everyone became a tenant of the State. There is no doubt that this would allow the State to deal with the housing shortage by forcing tenants underoccupying their housing into smaller units; but this is a profoundly illiberal attitude.

    If this is Corbyn’s hidden agenda, then we have far more to fear from a Labour Government after Brexit that I had thought.

  • Laurence Cox 20th Jan ’18 – 1:57pm……………………..There is no doubt that this would allow the State to deal with the housing shortage by forcing tenants under occupying their housing into smaller units; but this is a profoundly illiberal attitude………..

    Strange, then, that it was us ‘Liberals’ who voted for the bedroom tax…”What short memories you have, grandma”..

  • @ Peter Martin

    That is a very interesting article by Richard Tuck, which sets out why Socialists find the EU and its supra-national laws a problem. Of course it wouldn’t be such a problem if the EU repealed some of its laws sometimes.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jan '18 - 1:06pm

    @ Laurence Cox,

    I don’t think Richard Tuck, or anyone else in the Labour Party, is advocating expropriating private property without compensation. He used the example to illustrate what was possible then but which isn’t possible now. Hospitals were, de facto, publicly owned in the same way as schools and other public buildings before the coming of the NHS.

    When industries were Nationalised by the Attlee govt, compensation was duly paid. It didn’t actually cost the tax payer anything directly. If a railway share paid say 3% dividend it was swapped for Govt stock yielding 3%. So the Govt got the shares and the former shareholders got the stock. It wasn’t any big deal really in terms of wealth redistribution. It was just an asset swap.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Jan '18 - 1:26pm

    Coming late to this excellent article, and to the useful comments both on helping the disadvantaged in our country and in targeting the persuadable about staying in the EU, I would ask William to provide one further piece. Please let us see the motion you have submitted to Spring Conference, so that a) members unable to come to the conference can read and comment on it and b) there can be further discussion here and possible amendments thought about in advance of the conference. This would be a really useful function for LDV, applicable to other submitted motions we haven’t yet heard about if they are accepted by FCC. Meantime I have downloaded the paper, How to help our left-behind communities… and hope to read your motion here as well: thank you for both.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Jan '18 - 1:22am

    P.S., William. Argument raged in my local, tiny, Executive meeting last night, just as it does on this site, as to whether the message for members to put out to the voters this spring should concentrate on our opposition to Brexit, or on issues felt more relevant such as the demand for more money for the NHS. Our Chair decided we would ask the members who come to next month’s discussion meeting, the first of a series meant to animate more of them, for their views. But two of us are charged with drawing up an ‘agenda’ for that first meeting, to put out in the email to members, which won’t be easy. Everyone was pleased, however, to think that there could be a programme for discussion meetings of focusing on Conference motions. So please, William, yours would be most welcome!

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Raw 22nd May - 10:42am
    Suzanne Moore, reflecting on the wedding and sermon in today's Guardian, captures many of the contradictions and inequalities of modern Britain. If Liberal Democrats are...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 22nd May - 10:27am
    Ian Sanderson (RM3) 22nd May '18 - 9:49am. Switzerland also has a long history of referendums, partially affected by the Roman Catholic Church. Referendums around...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 22nd May - 10:10am
    Devolution in Scotland has produced the situation where the Scottish parliament has voted on the issue of what happens about powers returning from the EU...
  • User AvatarIan Sanderson (RM3) 22nd May - 9:59am
    First let me express my sympathy with Elizabeth for what she went through, and to others with comparable experiences. I was in Dublin last week,...
  • User AvatarIan Sanderson (RM3) 22nd May - 9:49am
    Switzerland has been mentioned (ironically with a total population close to my 5 million figure.) It has much less centralised structure than most countries. I...
  • User AvatarIan Sanderson (RM3) 22nd May - 9:42am
    To answer the question: Devolution- what is it good for? It can deliver more responsive and efficient government than trying to run 50 million people...