Few pundits are prepared to call the outcome of the General Election, but another hung parliament is expected. While it looks likely that the current coalition government will limp on until May, Liberal Democrat campaigners should continue to hit the campaign trail in our nearest target seats, to emphasise our progressive achievements, and once finalised by the Federal Policy Committee, the social liberal parts of our manifesto. Norman Lamb’s radical work on mental health policy deserves special mention.
For Liberal Democrats, the General Election will undoubtedly be difficult. Over the past four and a half years, the Social Liberal Forum has consistently advised the Liberal Democrat leadership to differentiate themselves from their Tory coalition partners. We’ve also fought hard to protect the NHS from marketisation and the welfare budget from cuts; we’ve repeatedly called for Keynesian inspired infrastructure spending, the avoidance of another credit bubble and an increase in home building; and we were among the first in the Party to champion banking reform and a rebalancing of the economy. Though the SLF helped win many victories on the Conference floor, at times, the leadership has ignored Conference, instead closely aligning with Cameron and Osborne and avowedly seeking to redefine the Party as centrist.
While we must campaign hard for Lib Dem MPs and PPCs, many of us will also be looking to post-May to re-root the Party in its own distinct principles and values as a radical and progressive political force.
The Social Liberal Forum exists to reduce gaps in wealth and power. It was therefore with interest, if not despair, that many social liberals chose to read Thomas Piketty's 'Capital in the 21st Century' over the summer. His main thesis is that the rate of return on wealth will always be greater than the overall growth of the economy, meaning that the gap between the asset wealthy and the rest will widen exponentially.
Thus, a big issue over the next ten years will be the application of Piketty's analysis to the yawning and ever increasing gap between the rich and poor, which successive chancellors have chosen to preside over. Unless radically addressed, it will lead to economic stagnation and widespread social and political upheaval, and not just in the UK.
Of course, to longstanding Liberal Democrat advocates of wealth and asset taxes, Piketty's tome is just the latest in a long list of publications that caution against galloping inequalities and regressive taxation. Land value taxation, which the Liberal Party championed over many decades, is the only tax that does not distort economic activity because taxing land does not impact the supply of land. As Mark Twain famously quipped, "Buy land, they're not making it any more". Moving more of the tax burden onto land owners should once again form a central plank of the Party’s policy offering, alongside radical positions on civil liberties, electoral reform, the environment, welfare, poverty, housing and education. Whichever policy area matters most to you, the Party will need your ideas, knowledge and experience, as we enter a period of rebuilding after the General Election, so please do get involved.
What Can I Do To Help?
1. Login to our brand new website to take part in discussions; get in touch if you'd like to submit an article.
2. Volunteer – put your editing, coding, event organising, & other skills to use! Get in touch if you'd like to volunteer.
3. Help us grow – recruit your friends and colleagues to join the SLF. Membership is free and open to either Liberal Democrat members or those who aren’t a member of a political party.
Dates For Your Diary
1. Liberal Democrat conferences are in Liverpool and Bournemouth
2. SLF AGM – May 16th, venue outside of London tbc. We’ll work around a Special Conference if necessary.
3. SLF Conference – 4th July in London, registration will open shortly.
Growing inequality is the top most priority for social liberals and like-minded political activists: that’s the vital coalition.
Happy New Year,
PS: Thank you to the very many of you who donate to the SLF. We have very limited funds, and all donations are very gratefully received www.socialliberal.net/donate