Britain is deeply divided. The harsh economic realities of Brexit are beginning to be known. Years of austerity have weakened the public sector. Personal debt levels are out of control, while the financial sector appears to have failed to learn the lessons of the 2008 crisis. Even workers at McDonald's are going on strike. There is growing inequality across the country.Read more
What follows is a pamphlet I wrote in March this year in support of the Progressive Alliance campaign. It was originally published by Compass (the cross-party think tank that runs the Progressive Alliance), who are very happy for the Social Liberal Forum to republish it. It formed one of a series of papers from people in different political parties, about why their fellow party members should back the Progressive Alliance (PA).
The aim was to galvanise support from those who already backed — or were curious about — the PA concept, as part of wider efforts at the next general election. We were quickly overtaken by events when the snap general election was called in early April. Despite not having sufficient time to do much of the necessary groundwork, the PA still managed to play an active part in the election, and helped to prove the concept.
Universal basic income (UBI) is often presented as a way of supporting an increase in the fraction of population not in full time employment. Here, I wish to outline an alternative vision based upon using UBI to simplify the tax and benefit system and enhance work incentives. Rather than funding an increase in the number of people without jobs, my proposed system is designed to produce higher levels of employment. By replacing many existing benefits with a UBI, families will no longer need to worry about their benefits being withdrawn as they start earning more, giving them stronger incentives to work, and pulling thousands out of the poverty trap created by the existing benefits system. Furthermore, while the poorest will obtain the largest direct benefit from the proposed system, its wider benefits will be shared by people of all incomes due to reduced economic distortions.Read more
Conventional wisdom tells us if we don't know our history we're doomed to repeat it. But in politics the risk of fighting yesterday's battles means we should treat historical lessons with caution - and remember that the “will of the people” can change quickly.Read more
First delivered at the Social Liberal Forum Conference on 15 July 2017
Dani Rodrik, one of my favourite economists – a Turk teaching at Harvard – wrote some five years ago that we may be discovering that democracy is not compatible with unconditional globalization; and that if we have to choose, we must prefer democracy and open society to globalization. I take that as my text, and will explore its implications for Liberals, who believe in open societies and international cooperation but also in individual freedom within settled communities. I have a second text, which is President Macron’s declaration that France must support a market economy, but not a market society’ – which is a good phrase for us to adopt in Britain, when Corbynistas are close to rejecting the market as such and the Conservative right sees the market as governing social provision.Read more
Having had something of a break over the General Election period, the SLF is back with its nose to the grindstone, publishing new content to stir the interests of liberals – in particular social liberals – everywhere.Read more
Having spent months out campaigning, first for the County Council elections, and then the general election, I took a break afterwards by examining the election results! It is clear the Liberal Democrats made good progress in terms of seats: a 50% increase from 8 to 12 MPs compared to 2015; and, agonisingly, fewer than 500 votes away from doubling our seats to 16. (1) This was achieved, however, against a slightly lower vote share of 7.4%, compared to the already-low point of 7.9% in 2015, and an accompanying further decline in our vote in many seats.Read more
OK, not every part of the Labour manifesto was Social Liberalism, that’s true, but it’s worth pointing out that while Corbyn may talk the talk of Socialism the Labour manifesto didn’t walk the walk.Read more
The 2017 general election has delivered one of the biggest upsets in modern British electoral history. Far from winning a landslide majority, Theresa May just narrowly failed to get any majority at all. Now the Conservative Party is in hock to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Britain is now being governed by a right wing regressive alliance.
One of the lesser-known stories of this campaign was the impetus to try and create a progressive alliance between the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and other smaller progressive parties. First Past The Post is a broken electoral system and yet the major progressive parties keep playing by its rules. Both Labour and the Lib Dems historically have been obsessed with standing as many candidates as possible even though this could help to split the progressive vote and get the Conservatives elected.Read more
Talk of progressive alliances is all around us. The fear of five years of right-wing Tory rule with the prospect of a hard Brexit, regressive environmental policies and growing inequality, and all the serious social and economic consequences that will bring has been the stimulus for the initiatives.
As the SLF statement asserts:
“We believe agreements should be based on common aims. In our view, these must include a cast-iron pledge that progressive candidates will vote to keep Britain in the single market and support the introduction of a proportional voting system for Westminster election.”
For some time I have been pondering; what else do we bring to the party? Speaking at the SLF fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Conference Lisa Nandy, the impressive Labour MP, acknowledged our policy contribution in civil liberties and constitutional matters, people often do when they are trying to be nice to us, but I would argue that there are some other key areas where we have much to offer.Read more