But What Have The Liberals Ever Done For Us?

I’ve had a migraine for the last couple of days, so NaBoWriFoNi might actually become NaBoWriFifteenOrSixteenDays, unless I can get a couple of ten thousand word days in (entirely possible – I have next week off work, though tomorrow is busy between the Yes stall and the new Doctor Who episode…). However, I can do angry political rants even when I’ve got a migraine (funny that).

I was planning to write this yesterday, and then I read this by Jennie, which says a lot of what I want to say.

What I do want to say is this:

I AM UTTERLY, ABSOLUTELY, SICK OF PEOPLE TELLING ME THE LIB DEMS ARE NOT MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN GOVERNMENT.

The story that seems to have taken hold is ‘evil Judas Nick Clegg betrayed his promise to the British people to support Labour (the Only Rightful Government) no matter what, and instead sold his party’s soul for the promise of a referendum, AND NO OTHER CONCESSIONS AT ALL, which he’s going to lose because I hate him hate him hate him!’

This is, simply, a lie.

You may dislike the current government – I do (though I am less unhappy with it than I have been with any government in my lifetime, except the first few months of the Blair government when I was giving them a chance). You may think that the party’s leadership has handled things ridiculously badly for the last few months. I do – and so do some of our MPs – though I’d point out that they handled things ludicrously *well* when it really mattered, in May. You may be angry about some of the concessions we’ve had to make – I am. I twice came close to tearing up my membership card (over the ridiculous fudges over control orders and child detention), and it’s still entirely possible that we’ll cross some red line over the next four years that causes me to do so. All of these are defensible positions.

But to say that the Lib Dems have got nothing in return… well… that’s true.

Apart from the AV referendum, the first chance of significant constitutional change in my lifetime.

Apart from fixed term parliaments, a demand of reformers since the Chartists

Apart from legalising civil partnerships in churches

Apart from stopping hundreds of thousands of the lowest-paid workers (3 million by the end of this Parliament) from having to pay income tax, paid for by tax rises on the rich

Apart from preventing gay people being extradited to countries where they face persecution or even death

Apart from reducing the amount of time someone can be held without trial from 28 days to 14

Apart from equal marriage for same sex couples (coming soon, that one)

Apart from removing the criminal records from men who had consensual sex with other men when that was illegal, allowing them to no longer be treated as sex offenders

Apart from the Universal Credit – which used to be party policy but was dropped for being a ridiculously utopian left-wing idea we could never actually get through, and is now being implemented by one of the most right-wing politicians in the country

Apart from restoring the earnings link for pensions which Thatcher got rid of

Apart from stopping the Tories from cutting Housing Benefit by 10% after a year

Apart from removing innocent people’s records from the database of criminals’ DNA

Apart from getting rid of the ludicrous ID Card scheme

Apart from ensuring we won’t replace Trident this Parliament

Apart from a proportionally-elected upper chamber (coming soon, but definitely coming)

Apart from bringing in a fairer student fees system than the one we did have *or* the one Labour were advocating *or* the NUS were calling for (yes, yes, it’s not as good as our policy. If you’d voted for us maybe we could have brought in our policy. As it is, we did the best we could and will *still* pay for it for decades to come).

Apart from stopping people from having to have a CRB check before they do any kind of work with children

Well, yeah, there’s nothing the Lib Dems have done in government…

Apart from raising Capital Gains tax so the rich are paying closer to the amount the poor pay in tax (still not as much, but a lot more than they were).

Apart from shared parental leave

Apart from protecting the NHS from Andrew Lansley

Apart from spending an extra £400 million on mental health services, reversing the trend which had seen Labour destroy two hospital beds a day, every day, during its entire thirteen years in government, for this most vulnerable group.

Apart from a right to recall MPs guilty of misconduct

Apart from a ban on fingerprinting schoolchildren without their parents’ permission

Apart from a referendum to increase the powers of the Welsh Assembly

Well, yeah, I guess there’s nothing else they’ve done, is there?

Apart from the pupil premium – extra money for the poorest schoolchildren

Apart from scrapping ContactPoint

Apart from stopping the Tories from selling off our forests

Apart from increasing funding for talking therapies so that where only 60% of the country can access them currently (still an improvement on last year) 100% will be able to by 2014

Apart from opening the Government Art Collection to the public

Apart from giving a week’s respite to people who have to care for sick relatives

Apart from a judicial inquiry into British complicity in torture

Apart from having drug recovery wings in prisons, and better mental health treatment for prisoners

Well, yeah, apart from all that stuff, the Lib Dems have *DEFINITELY* betrayed their voters by going into government with the rich right-wing plutocrats rather than the slightly-less-rich right-wing war criminals, and by agreeing to cuts to end the deficit rather than going with their own policy of ending the deficit through cuts, or the Labour policy of cutting things until the deficit has gone. I can see how that makes us evil.

Don’t get me wrong – I disagree with about half of what the current government is doing, maybe more. But given that Lib Dems only make up *one sixth* of government MPs, i don’t think they’re doing too badly, all things considered…

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35 Responses to But What Have The Liberals Ever Done For Us?

  1. patrickhadfield says:

    Thanks – you’ve provided a great list next time I have that aegument. Shame you weren’t in the pub last night…

    Opening up the art collection passed me by, though – where do I get my portion of it? ;)

  2. You may dislike the current government – I do (though I am less unhappy with it than I have been with any government in my lifetime)

    Really? I mean, it’s partly growing up, but I can only rarely recall times of being more angry at a UK govt., e.g. when we went into Iraq and, erm, well, in retrospect, the Miners’ strikes and basically everything Thatcher did ever.

    But I hardly blame the Liberal Democrats at all for this.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Yeah, so apart from the last government and the one before it, you’ve never been more angry with a government ;)

      I got boilingly furious at the Labour government very early on, with the introduction of tuition fees. And pretty much every month since then, on schedule, they’d announce something else to keep me hopping mad with them – indefinite detention in mental hospitals for ‘personality disorders’ that can’t be treated, removal of the right to speak to a duty lawyer when arrested, the war in Iraq, clandestine support of torture, removal of the 10p tax rate, back-door privatisation of much of the NHS, destruction of mental health services, ID cards… I could go on for days.

      The fact that I am less unhappy with this government does *not* imply endorsement of it. It simply means they’ve had less time so far to do evil than Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown did (Callaghan was OK, but as I was only a few months old when he went, I hadn’t formed much of an opinion on him either way).

      But equally, I couldn’t put together a list of *good* things that the last government did in thirteen years (or the one before in eighteen) as long as the list in this post of what this government’s done in one…

      • Dave Page says:

        I didn’t know half as much about politics then as I do now, but I remember being quite fond of the Major government. Because it was so weak, it was a lot more reasonable, in some ways. I seem remember Major at PMQs often putting his hands up and admitting to doing something wrong, which I can’t imagine any other PM of my lifetime doing…

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Oh, I hated the Major government. The big one I remember is the Criminal Justic Act, which at one and the same time outlawed raves and removed the right to silence. They also brought in some anti-union laws I was disgusted with at the time, privatised the railways in an extraordinarily slipshod manner, destroyed those bits of our mining industry that Thatcher hadn’t destroyed, and generally annoyed me immensely. In retrospect they don’t seem quite as bad as the surrounding governments though…

    • MatGB says:

      Andrew’s position there is roughly the same as mine, this is the least worse Govt in my lifetime.

      Taking into account circumstances (because although they scream otherwise, some level of cuts were going to happen, were inevitable, and had to happen), they’ve made fewer big mistakes,have been more prepared to backtrack, and have done a bunch of Good Things already.

      Blair’s first term was OK, but he abandoned political liberalism very quickly (he says his biggest mistake in Govt, bigger than anything else, was the Freedom of Information Act–WTF? That was one of the good things).

      Major’s Govt devolved into farce almost immediately afterhe got reelected, Thatcher was monstrous,Callaghan gave us the Winter and Wilson gave us the IMF bailout.

      The only thing this Govts doing that I dislike is some of the cuts, but they’re at a lower level than osborne was planning, and were inevitable regardless, anyone thinking otherwise is simply living on a different planet.

      So what specifically are you angry at? The stuff forced on them by Labours economic mismanagement, or somethign else specific?

  3. You could certainly quibble with some of this list. For example, reducing the level of internment was Tory policy too. You may be cynical about the Tories, and I certainly am, but we can’t say we know it wouldn’t have happened without the coalition. (And being locked up for two weeks without even being charged with anything is still too bloody long, it would have caused an outcry even a few years ago!)

    I’ll accept it is true that the Liberals haven’t always got the credit for things they’ve done. Reducing Housing Benefit by a tenth after you’d been on the dole a year (aka the Kicking A Man While He’s Down Act) was monstrous and indefensible and I’m glad to see the back of the idea.

    But seeing as the Liberals gave a nuclear button, which could bring down the Government any time they wanted, surely they could have done more to stem the flow of cuts than this. I think what’s happened is that they’ve become so tainted by association with the Tories they now can’t walk away, they have to turn it around somehow. Imagine being at this point in the polls and out of government. And of course Cameron knows that. Clegg has become a prisoner of the Tories. Also, Clegg gambled what he probably thought was his one shot (at least in a FPTP system) on the AV referendum, which it now looks like he’s going to lose.

    Of course you could argue the election results made this all inevitable, that Clegg had no other viable course of action. But that’s not the same as it being a good course of action.

    MatGB writes:
    ”The only thing this Govts doing that I dislike is some of the cuts, but they’re… inevitable regardless, anyone thinking otherwise is simply living on a different planet.”

    Greetings from another planet! Would you like to explain just why the Banks couldn’t be asked to fix the problems they created, and nurses and ambulance workers had to be cut instead? (if you’re not too busy sounding snide and derisory?)

    NB Callaghan didn’t create the Winter. Do you mean the Winter of Discontent?

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      One or two things on the list were Tory policy, too, yes. But they wouldn’t have happened under a Labour government, and were Lib Dem policy, so they’re still things we get out of the coalition. (And I agree that two weeks’ detention without charge is monstrous, but it’s *less* monstrous than what we did have, and a step back towards something like the rule of law).

      And unfortunately bringing down the government wouldn’t stop the cuts, since Labour (the only alternative at the moment) had an almost-identical plan.

      I’m in a weird position with regards to the cuts myself. I oppose them, I think they’re awful, but *at the same time* pretty much everyone I know who knows anything about economics keeps saying “there is no alternative”. Now to me, it seems intuitively obvious that there *is* an alternative – but I know nothing about economics myself, and I have a horrible feeling I’m missing something somewhere.

      (One of the things I plan to do over the next few years is learn as much as I can about economics so I have an idea of who’s actually right about stuff like this. Because if there *is* a workable alternative to cuts to frontline services, then that makes the current consensus among all three major parties that much more wrong).

      • “And unfortunately bringing down the government wouldn’t stop the cuts, since Labour (the only alternative at the moment) had an almost-identical plan.”

        True in itself. And, as we’ve both said before, there is something nauseating about Labour now opposing cuts they started themselves.

        But my point was that they could threaten to walk out. (I did say it was a nuclear option!) Formally speaking they have a fairly strong bargaining chip. I just don’t think it’s there in actuality.

        I went on the March For the Alternative and there were one or two others there. There may have even been the odd economist somewhere. But mostly I figure if people want to argue there’s no alternative they should argue that. “It’s just obvious” is what people say about Poles thieving or women not being able to read maps.

        • MatGB says:

          There is, of course, alternatives

          Not making any cuts at all means the deficit spirals and the interest payments eat up more and more of the Govt budget, requiring massive tax rises and/or cuts later to pay just the extra interest.

          You could increase taxes, but at a time of weak economic recovery that’s a fiscal contraction at the same level as the cuts would be, economists disagree, but most think the contraction would do more harm than the cuts.

          You could just cut, in which case it’s fire sale time.

          Or you can try to balance cuts and tax increases, which is what they’re trying to do–Capital Gains tax is increased, tax loopholes, especially in corporation tax, are being closed, VAT was increased, etc.Banks are being levied for a big chunk of money, money they wouldn’t be paying if it was increased corporation tax, as they can write off losses from when they all nearly went bust.

          Not cutting early risked financial instability. Cutting early risked the recovery. Both were massive gambles, and they had to make a decision. Most leading economists said cut early, including those that had been warking for ages that the Govt had been building up aproblem, even before theCrucnh started.

          To pay off thedefict by just economic growthwould require ten years of growth at 4% per annum. That would be beating most records, every year, for an entire decade. That, as an option, can be safely discounted.

          (Like Andrew, I’m learning economics to undertand this stuff, but I started half a decade ago so have a headstart)

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          To be fair to Mat, he has argued that in a number of other places. He’s also spent much of the last few days fielding comments of the “OMG TEH EVUL CONDEMS!” type in Jennie’s blog and elsewhere, and so probably sick of repeating the same stuff. His tone was a little grumpy though.

          Can I ask that both of you (and Botswana Beast if he rejoins the discussion) accept that the other is acting in reasonable faith and try to be polite (not singling you out here Gavin, just saying this as part of this reply)? I know you all, you’re all good people, and I’d prefer not to see any acrimonious disputes between friends of mine in this thread.

          As for the alternative… essentially, everyone I know who knows about this stuff (Mat, Millennium, others) and has explained their position, has argued fairly coherently to my inexpert eyes that other options won’t work, while I haven’t seen any equally well-thought-out explanations that they *would* work. At the same time, though, my gut feeling is that ‘tax the bankers’ (or something along those lines) *should* work – there’s a bunch of people over there with a huge pile of money, and the government needs a huge pile of money, and intuitively that seems like a problem with a simple solution.

          (This is why I don’t talk about economic stuff on here much, only social stuff, not that it’s easy to make a distinction between the two).

          • MatGB says:

            ‘tax the bankers’ (or something along those lines) *should* work – there’s a bunch of people over there with a huge pile of money, and the government needs a huge pile of money, and intuitively that seems like a problem with a simple solution.

            Simple answer to that one. Whose money is it the bankers have actually got? Whose money is it the investment bankers are gambling on the stock exchange (and/or guaging return potential on potential investment projects)?

            Ours.

            Simple. my bank account (OK, I’m horribly overdrawn as is Jennie, but…), my pension (I work at a school, it’s not huge, but it’s nice to know it’s there), insurance company money they take from premiums, etc.

            That and the actual money of real people, including, say, Councils, who get a lot of revenue up front from Council Tax and have to put it somewhere (hence the problem with Icelandic banks).

            Our economy requires the banks have money to invest, funding business startups, business expansion, mortgages, etc.

            The “Credit Crunch” was caused because the banks had been playing around with extra, non existent (well, technically sort of existing) money and then they all realised it was a pack of cards.

            Without the banks having money to invest (including profits to reinvest/pay staff), then the economic structure as we know it ceases to work, completely, and we can give up on the idea of economic growth for decades.

            In the early stages of the recession, it was inability to find finance, sometimes for veryshort term requirements, that caused economic issues–Forgemasters being a famous case in point, they wanted to buy some extra equipment and could then expand into a new market, the banks wouldn’t lend to them, the Govt stepped in.

            In some cases, firms needed to make cutbacks, as the order book had reduced, but needed to make staff redundant in order to do so, they’d be profitable after doing this, but couldn’t raise the short term cashto make redundancies, instead they went bust.

            Etc etc etc.

            Banks have lots of money. Investment bankers get bonuses based on how succesful they are at making succesful investments (also known as “funding growth”).

            I dislike this system, but changing requires wholesale, root and branch reform, that’ll take decades to work its way through the system.

            In the meantime, tax the banks too much, they can’t invest and lend, if they can’t invest or lend then no growth, no new jobs, etc.

            Note “invest and lend” would include stuff like “giving that nice young couple in Brighouse the moneythey need to buy a pub”, etc… ;-)

            • “Whose money is it the bankers have actually got?
              Ours.”

              Then I would like some say in what is done with it. No more risky ventures (particularly ones where the gambler is simply paid back if he loses), no more loans to despotic regimes.

              “Investment bankers get bonuses based on how succesful they are at making succesful investments.”

              Sorry, but simply not true for reason given above!

              I dislike this system, but changing requires wholesale, root and branch reform, that’ll take decades to work its way through the system.”

              I don’t see why this should be the case, But even if it is, all the more reason for starting now.

              Incidentally, some tax loopholes were closed but (in the midst of laying off nurses) Corporation Tax was actually reduced! Surely this is just jobs-for-the-boys stuff!

              • Incidentally, I don’t mean to add to anybody’s headache. I do dislike the “everybody knows” thing, and have a particular hair trigger for it in this context. But I’m not suggesting the cuts are anyone’s personal fault… well, I am, but I don’t think it’s anyone here.

    • MatGB says:

      Would you like to explain just why the Banks couldn’t be asked to fix the problems they created, and nurses and ambulance workers had to be cut instead?

      How exactly can the banks fix a Govt overspend that started in 2002 cuased by the Govt believing the bank/finance powered boom was going to go on forever?

      Seriously, I don’t know what you’re asking me to explain, ergo I can’t answer your question.

      If the Govt makes spending plans based on a boom that lasts forever, and then the boom turns to bust, those spending plans are no longer affordable. Simple.

      What would you have “the banks” do, take over the Government?

      (how’s that for snide and derisory? or is it a simple response to a question?)

      And of course I meant the Winter of Discontent, that’s what the capitalisation was for.

      • ”Seriously, I don’t know what you’re asking me to explain, ergo I can’t answer your question.”

        That’s the way it looks to me too.

        ” How exactly can the banks fix a Govt overspend..? What would you have “the banks” do, take over the Government?”

        The Government already had to take over the banks. Did you not hear about that? It was on the news and everything.

        Let’s try a few simple facts. The banking crisis was international and in fact started in the States. It was not caused by government overspend in the UK. Endlessly repeating this falsehood will not make it any more true.

        Booms and busts do not happen like the Seasons (with or without capitalisations), they happen for reasons. This one happened for a particularly clear-cut reason – degregulation. The banks had successfully lobbied to be regulated less and less, and what regulation there remained was more and more cosmetic. Even when they were caught in criminal acts, they would be let off with a promise not to do it again, or that act would simply find itself deregulated. This was done under the mantra that regulation impedes profit, and the justification for that was the boom.

        Finally the banks realised that they had lent out far more money than they could ever claw back. And they couldn’t try their usual trick of passing the parcel to another lender, because they’d all been at it.

        In short, deregulation caused the bust. Both the Tories and Labour are culpable, as is pretty much every government in the developed world. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not up to speed on LibDem policy, but I don’t remember them opposing deregulation at the time.

        Not to be calling for re-regulation now is not just saying poor people should be made to pay for rich people’s losses. It is effectively saying that all this is being set up to happen again.

        So my absolute minimum demand is that the Banks pay back what they borrowed, and that controls are put back in place to prevent a reoccurance. Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted is a better option than not shutting the stable door at all.

        • MatGB says:

          The banking crisis was international and in fact started in the States. It was not caused by government overspend in the UK. Endlessly repeating this falsehood will not make it any more true.

          I didn’t. Quote me where I did and I’ll rephrase.

          I said that the Govt overspend started before the crisis (2002ish) and the Govt spending plans assumed the boom was going to go on forever.

          Both of those are simple statements of established facts that are very very relevent.

          Because the economy contracted by 6% instead of growing by 4% as planned, the tax revenue the plans were predicated on disappeared and the deficit spiralled to massive levels. Also statement of simple, uncontroversial fact.

          Now, you say it “started in the States”. Yes, thisparticular spark came from the States, butsome economies were more exposed to it than others, sepcifically the UK and Ireland, which had massive property price bubbles stoked by specific acts of Government action, against previously stated Govt policy (in 1998, Brown stated he would keep house prices under control as it threatened long term stability, he then went back on this and allowed a boom in property prices that he could, and should, have stopeed, and was warned about,r epeatedly, by many, including Vince Cable and the retiring head of the Bank of England).

          Yousay deregulation was the specific cause, and state that this is proven.

          Yet banking is the most regulated sector in the global and UK economy, and the amountof regulations increased over the last decade.

          When the head of the (newly created by Gordon Brown) FSA gave a report to Parliament warning of the UK banks behaviours and asking for more powers, the Govt refused to grant them.

          But every single financial instrument that went on to cause the crisis was approved inadvance by the FSA.

          For a sector to be “unregulated” it would need to have new entrants able to compete easily, instead banking licences are almost impossible to acuire, and the only effective way to break in is to buy an existing small bank (small building societies are popular here).

          The ‘bust’ wasn’t caused by dergulation. It was caused by bad regulation, as everything the banks were doing was pre approved. Govts, globally, were warned. Brown, specifically, was warned repeatedly, and refused to act.

          You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not up to speed on LibDem policy, but I don’t remember them opposing deregulation at the time.

          They did. Cable was very strong on it–calling for better regulation. Clegg made a speech soon after he became leader about the need tor eform banking licences and the way the FSA works, etc.

          You have a partial understanding, and in some areas possibly better than mine, but in others much much weaker. Plus, some of it is a matter of interpretation and fact selection.

          The banks that were bailed out were largely bought in whole or part. Those banks are in a mess and restructuring. But both HSBC and Barclays, the other big players, did not need bailing out, did not take as many stupid risks.

          At some point, when they’re back in profit and not in a complete mess, whenthe economy recovers, they’ll be sold off and the debts will be repaid.

          In the meantime, they’re paying more in tax on their profits than they were.

          And the level of regulations have been stepped up, substantially, by global agreement.

          The banks were heavily regulated, but badly regulated. I’d rather effective regulation–not regulation that is warned by the auditors there’s a problem, but reassures the auditors that if a bank does go bust, it’ll get bailed out, allowing the auditors to OK the accounts (because, seriously, the govt saying something is solvent because they’ll bail it out if it goes bust is an interesting take on regulation but not one I approve of).

          Oh, to save a different thread–Corporation Tax headline rate was reduced at the same time as a large number of loopholes were closed, this actually raises the effective rate by simplifying the system and making tax avoidance harder.

          It’s from Lib Dem policy–lower headline rates improve inward investment rates, lots of loopholes make avoidance a big issue.

          So, I’ll restate my question as you still haven’t actually said what you want me to answer.

          How are the banks supposed to pay ongoing nurses salaries? And why concentrate on nurses salaries when the NHS budget is ring fenced to keep going up?

          Because the defict was caused by an ongoing Govt overspend that predates the crisis, the level of increase of govt spending was only sustainable pre crisis if growth was indefinitely sustained.

          As you say, the economic cycle is unpredictable, and that was profligate stupidity on teh part of Gordon Brown, now the problem needs solving.

          Are the solutions solutions I like? No.

          Have I seen any other option presented that actually works?

          No. Not one where the numbers actually add up, anyway.

          • ”I didn’t. Quote me where I did and I’ll rephrase.”,

            Well you said something which sounded similar to my ears! But in a reply you made to Andrew not a whole lot later you said different, so perhaps it was my misunderstanding. (For the record, I jump at the word “overspend” as it suggests there is an absolute amount involved. If I buy more Grant Morrison comics and Dr. Who DVDs than my wages, I am clearly overspending. But Government spending is always relative. The right like the word “overspend” as they have a pathological dislike of public spending and think it a panic button which conjours up images of getting overdrawn and stern letters from the bank. I don’t like it because that argument is spurious.)

            ”The ‘bust’ wasn’t caused by dergulation. It was caused by bad regulation, as everything the banks were doing was pre approved.”

            I don’t think these two have to contradict, and in fact would argue both were happening. Banks did lobby to have regulations swept aside. But there was also a far too cosy relationship with the regulators, where ex-regulators would go on to work for banks and so on. The regulators were not regulating, in anything beyond a formal sense, any more than the banks were saving money.

            ”They did. Cable was very strong on it–calling for better regulation. Clegg made a speech soon after he became leader about the need tor eform banking licences and the way the FSA works, etc.’

            I knew about Cable. I just wondered how much of a lone voice he was.

            ”Corporation Tax headline rate was reduced at the same time as a large number of loopholes were closed, this actually raises the effective rate by simplifying the system and making tax avoidance harder.”

            Sorry, but I don’t follow this. If a benefits claimant is caught working on the side, he doesn’t then have his benefits increased because he obviously needed the money to be working on the side in the first place. It’s the same thing, isn’t it?

            In short, couldn’t tax avoidance be attacked and Corporation Tax left where it was? (Assuming we don’t want it increased…) Where is the automatic rule that one must offset the other?

            ”And the level of regulations have been stepped up, substantially, by global agreement.”

            As you must know, Cameron has lobbied hard in those global summits against increased regulation. What changes there are seem inadequate to the point of being cosmetic. It will still be almost impossible to deposit your money in a solely savings bank and not a speculative one, for example. You mention Cable, but the Guardian reported that he actually wanted the regulations to go further than they have, but was reined in.

            ”And why concentrate on nurses salaries when the NHS budget is ring fenced to keep going up?”

            By a paltry amount which ignores rising need, and ignores the ‘reforms’ which will make the NHS a much more expensive business by making it a cash-cow for private enterprise. We were told “front-line services” would not be cut. Nurses and ambulance drivers in London are both being cut. If they’re not front-line services, I’d like to know what is.

            Cameron has said that he doesn’t intend public spending to evergo back up. The crisis is being used by the Tories as an excuse for wholesale dismantling of the public sector, despite the fact that it was caused by failings in the private sector! During this period of deregulation the wealth gap increased exponentially. The top 1% of income earners have doubled their share of the national income since these ‘reforms’ started in the Eighties. I don’t think they are short of cash. Yet it is average or low earners who are effectively paying more for less with these cuts.

            This is blatant class war. Which side you want to take in that class war is up to you, but I know mine.

            • MatGB says:

              I think we agree on more than we disagree TBH, and I’m no fan of Cameron, indeed, question his competence on a few specific issues as well (I can say “person X is competent but I disagree with them” just as I can also say “Simon Hughes is an incompetent embarassment even though I broadly agree with him).

              What he wants, long term, is up to him, at the next GE he’s got to defend that position as Govt spending for the next 4 years is agreed.

              And yes, overspend can be used badly, but I like specific terms, just because the right like a specific term with specifi meaning doesn’t mean I shouldn’t use it when it’s the correct term, and in this case it is, there was an overspend, they were deficit financing during a boom., very very Not The Done Thing (I’m broadly a Keynesian but think he needs updating lots).

              Cameron promised ring fenced NHS spending–I think that was a stupid promise, I’d rather have had more flexibility. But it’s his promise he’s keeping, not ours, we had some NHS cuts planned (mostly bureacracy, giving powers back to local authorities and scrapping PCT boards &c).

              . If a benefits claimant is caught working on the side, he doesn’t then have his benefits increased because he obviously needed the money to be working on the side in the first place. It’s the same thing, isn’t it?

              No. Specifically, I said Tax Avoidance. Tax Evasion would be, but avoidance is legal. I consider it immoral, and want to stop it, but it’s a legal obligation on a board of directors to maximise profits.

              LD policy is to close the loopholes. Tory policy is to cut headline rate. There’s strong evidence that cutting the rate increases inward investment, which, frankly, we need.

              I’m ambivalent about the cut, I don’t support it but don’t object. I’m very keen on closing the loopholes–if Parliament has granted a tax break, a firm is free to use it, I’d rather get rid of most of them.

              And yes, Cable did want stronger regulation, but it’s a coalition, we don’t get to make policy, nor do the Tories, it has to be compromise, always.

              And sometimes, in fact more often than not, they get more of their preferred policy.

              Blame the voters for that one ;-)

              Next time, if more people vote Lib Dem, we’ll have stronger regulation and a more sensible approach to Govt finance.

              (and my laptop battery is about to die, further replies will wait until tomorrow)

              • ”Specifically, I said Tax Avoidance. Tax Evasion would be, but avoidance is legal. I consider it immoral, and want to stop it, but it’s a legal obligation on a board of directors to maximise profits.”

                Sorry, but I still don’t think this makes any sense. Okay, imagine a benefit claimant found some loophole in the system which allowed him to work in some way and claim a benefit. Then imagine they then closed that loophole. What do you imagine would be said if they then agreed to raise his benefits to compensate him? How do you think the tabloids would present that one? Yet that is exactly what they are doing with the banks! At a time when the whole justification for the cuts is a dearth in the public coffers. It’s beyond absurdity, really.

                And of course the whole idea of a ‘benefits loophole’ or ‘dole regulation avoidance’ sounds absurd to our ears. Wouldn’t ever happen. Which shows to me just how biased towards one class our legal and regulatory system is.

                ”I’m broadly a Keynesian but think he needs updating lots.”

                To me Keynes was just the economic ‘half’ of the model that went with Fordist production, if you follow me. I’m not sure it fits the contemporary world. I’m broadly a Communist, though I think Marx needs updating lots. (Not just saying that for the gag, I do think he needs updating lots!)

                Not that you’ve said this, but I think people often tend to assume things like the NHS and the welfare state were created in some ill-conceived halcyon past where there was money for that sort of thing. In fact they were created immediately after the War, with whole sections of the country reduced to rubble and the Americans demanding a small fortune for the war they’d helped us win – in short, the very opposite of such a time.

                I think it was created then because there was the political will to do it. It was a time when the boss class didn’t dare not go along with it. Now they feel stronger they have been taking it away piecemeal anyway, and they see the crash as a perfect opportunity to do it in a more wholesale fashion. Faced with enough political opposition, they will back down again.

                • On the subject of Cameron I am now seriously starting to wonder whether he is a real person or just something knitted together from my biggest anti-Tory bugbears. (Check it out!)

                  • MatGB says:

                    Yup, there are times when, despite his liberal pretensions, his old school privilege just shines through. He’s a posh Whig that thinks he’s got the common touch, but sees nothing wrong in posh people perpetuating their privilege.

                    Clegg, despite his faults, wants to give everyone the chances he got, which is essentially why he’s not a Tory.

                • MatGB says:

                  Re the banks–from what you say later in the comment, you don’t believe in capitalist style investment, ergo it’s not going to persuade you, but ultimately the objective was to increase the overall tax take by increasing the amount of activity in the economy that was eligible to pay it.

                  There’s evidence that a lower headline rate increases activity and inward investment. The Tories think that’s the way to go, that’s their ‘growth strategy’, encourage private sector enterprise, including investment from overseas, etc.

                  It’s a political judgement.

                  Re the banks as a specific, as a result of the banking levy, they’re paying as much if not more than they would have without the headline copro tax cut, and crucially they’re paying that regardless of whether they’re due to pay corp tax (many of them won’t need to pay corp tax for a bit due to offset losses, they can’t duck the levy).

                  And no, while I know some people might assume that about the creation of the NHS, I know a fair bit more about it than most. I also know that at the point Attlee created it, the UK had been running a budget surplus for a few years, and continued to do so afterwards.

                  Besides which, no one, at all, has proposed removing the free-at-the-point-of-delivery part of the NHS, there are proposed reforms to change the backend structure (again), but there has never been a point where the politicos have got that right, the current structure is reasonably new and awful, it replaced an awful structure, the Tories want a different awful structure and the Lib Dems want a localised democratic management structure.

                  But no one is proposing scrapping it. Do some right wing loon Tories want to? Yes, but they’re further to my notional Right than you, as a marxist, are to my notional Left, and they’re not the ones making the decisions at Cabinet level.

  4. MatGB says:

    (FWIW, I am grumpy today, my headcold and couhg has combined with heyfever to give me a splitting headache, so sorry if that’s inadvertently coming across)

  5. Not sure if you have seen this website I put together, but your comments above was pretty much the point I was trying to make…

    http://www.whatthehellhavethelibdemsdone.com

  6. ”from what you say later in the comment, you don’t believe in capitalist style investment, ergo it’s not going to persuade you”

    Rather than our words crossing like ships in the night, I suspect we are just saying the same thing but from opposite perspectives. It’s like the old saw that to make the poor work harder you pay them less, but with the rich you pay them more. You’re saying that’s just how the system works. I’m saying, I know. I don’t think it changes the point that the rich have got exponentially more wealthy, so it seems a peculiar argument that there’s no money.

    (Incidentally, though, there’s a widespread Hard Left view is which is almost the opposite of mine – that the cuts are inevitable. I think that’s underpinned by the desire to swipe ‘reformist’ arguments from the table, so the only viable positions become David Cameron’s or a kind of absolutist anti-capitalism. I don’t think it comes from looking at the evidence.)

    ”at the point Attlee created it, the UK had been running a budget surplus for a few years, and continued to do so afterwards.”

    I have to be honest and admit that I don’t have the time right now to check this out. But it’s something I’ve never heard before. My guess would be that you’re talking about the years between ’46 and ’48. I doubt we were running a budget surplus during the Blitz. And/ or excluding the States’ not inconsiderable war bill.

    ”no one, at all, has proposed removing the free-at-the-point-of-delivery part of the NHS”

    Of course, no-one is proposing it, that would be political suicide! But that’s what successive Governments (Labour and Tory) have been doing, incrementally, with their dodgy “PFI initiatives” and euphemistic “market reforms.” The NUS is simultaneously being undermined by, and used as a money-making resource for, the private sector. Cheap and routine operations, the one’s that can effectively be run on a production line, are being cherry-picked, leaving the NHS with the difficult and costly cases. “GP-led consortia” give GPs huge budgets they have no training or previous experience in, in the hope they baulk at the sight of them and get in bed with a private company. (It’s ironic that the Government are simultaneously saying that GPS can wield these huge commissioning budgets, but can’t decide whether disabled people are capable of working or not – a role that up to now they’ve always had!) I note that few NHS workers or professional bddies share your confidence.

  7. MatGB says:

    FWIW, this is a Google PDF of an IFS report that shows we ran a suprlus from about 1946/47 through to 195 when Korea ate the money again, so the Govt was in surplus when the NHS was created. I’ve heard it a number of times, but mostly in more obscure economics blogs who don’t like Ed Balls or his posturing (essentially, if you want one person to blame for the international crisis, Balls is near top of the list, although I don’t think it can be blames on one person, or even one Govt, I do think the previous Govt was incompetent and fuelled it significantly, but…)

    Also, these days the same economists think productivity improvements are great and that paying everyone more is a good thing for the overall economy.

    But yeah, if you want capitalists and funds and corporations to invest, letting them take more of the porceeds is a good way to fuel that–worth noting it’s just corporation tax, the Tax Incidence on that falls almost entirely, medium term, on the employees with a smaller amount going to the shareholders and customers. Ergo cutting corporation tax is a good way to pay the workers more. Seriously, there’re studies and evidence and real hard data on it.

    Which is why i’m ambivalent about it, short term, the sharholders gain and you get more investment, medium term the employees gain through higher wages, and we get mor ejobs and similar. I’d scrap CorpTax and instead tax shareholder income post corporation profits and dividends, but it’s too complex, apparently.

    And yeah, I dislike the Govt health reforms, note they’ve been effectively scrapped (“new round of consultations”) as a result of Lib Dem and actually backbench Tory opposition–I wasn’t at the LD conference that voted them down, but Jennie was and i sent a proxy.

    And note I wasn’t arguing “there’s no money”, there’s still loads of it. The problem is that whenever you increase taxes, you take a lot of money out of the economy, thus cost jobs in different sectors, increasing taxes too much too quickly hurts the overall economy, and the opinion is it’d hurt overall growth more than the Govt cuts.

    Which, specifically, are cuts in projected spending, in actual cash terms the amount spent continues to rise, it’s just debt repayment is the biggest individual rise.

    Whether to cut more, less, faster, slower, or tax more, less, faster, slower are all political judgements, there are alternatives. But the Trades Unions promoting “The March For The Alternative” are seeming to say “no cuts, fund it all through growth”, which simply isn’t possible, the maths show that to be true. And there isn’t enough money in the economy for just tax rises to deal with it either, the sectors that rely on that money would crash just as badly, etc etc.

    Everything is a gamble, everything is a risk. On balance, we’re cutting more, slightly, than I think is ideal, and not raising enough through taxes than i think is ideal, but compared to the overall situation, my preference compared to Govt policy are rounding errors, Osborne didn’t get his way on the destroy the state permanantly schtick, which was a win regardless.

  8. MatGB says:

    (comment made and submitted, contained a link, not displaying, assuming spam filter caught it?)

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Untrapped now.
      BTW sorry for not taking part in the discussion, not much brain this week, but am finding it fascinatiing nonetheless.

  9. Thanks for the link, Mat. Afraid I really don’t have time to look through it now, but will try to once I get the chance.

    ” cutting corporation tax is a good way to pay the workers more.”

    I have worked myself in places which were highly profitable, which held wages static and laid off staff during upsurges in work voiume. Their attitude was “just work harder, and be grateful you weren’t one of the ones to go.” For increased profitablity to be passed on to workers there either needs to be a labour shortage (in general or in a specific type of work), or strong unions. Otherwise those increased profits just get trousered.

    Also you seem to be focusing on profits. I’d like to see corporations pay more tax (or, in some cases, any tax) but I’d also like to see more of a wealth tax.

    ” I dislike the Govt health reforms, note they’ve been effectively scrapped”

    I think “parked” is the official expression. My suspicion is that they’re simply waiting for the fuss to die down a bit, before they’re back to revving up to run us all over again. I hope you’re right and I’m wrong here.

    ” But the Trades Unions promoting “The March For The Alternative” are seeming to say “no cuts, fund it all through growth”

    Yeah, but they’re the ones who invited Miliband to speak at the rally. So… well, enough said. I think <a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/lucidfrenzy/5643877184/in/photostreamthis photo I took on the day may be more representative of the demonstrators.

    (Now let’s see if the spam fliter gets me…)

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