Friday, 17 January 2014
The Elliott Manifesto
Larry Elliott, the Guardian's economics editor, concluded his article on "Benefits Street and the real problems of breadline Britain" (Monday 13th January) with the following paragraph:
Here, then, are some alternative suggestions. An all-party consensus to tackle poverty rather than simply tactics for rewarding "hard-working families". Macro-economic policies geared to full employment. A higher minimum wage. Legislation to make it easier for trade unions to organise. A mass programme of house building. And, an industrial strategy to rebuild Britain's manufacturing base, including the nurturing and protection of sectors seen as crucial to future growth. Additionally, a full-blooded assault on the tax dodging activities of the feral rich, and tougher price curbs on oligopolies.
There's the basis here for the economics section of the Liberal Democrat manifesto to guide our hoped-for share in post 2015 government.
An all-party consensus to tackle poverty rather than simply tactics for rewarding "hard-working families."
Yes indeed: an end to the rhetoric of the 1% which divides the rest of us into the deserving and the undeserving, and a determination to create a social security system (not welfare) under which "no one shall be enslaved by poverty" and in which we really are "all in his together." We shall need to recognise that the many of us who "have" will need to pay more in taxes to make this a viable proposition. The resulting gain of a cohesive society will be well worth it.
Macro-economic policies geared to full employment.
Keynesian expansion, and about time too, starting with housing and the infrastructure. Vince Cable has achieved a little and can probably take much of the credit for the modest recovery of the economy in 2013. Let's build on that and abandon the pretence that Plan A is working
A higher minimum wage.
A not too gradual move to the living wage. The resultant savings in working tax credit will help to finance other aspects of the expansion programme.
Legislation to make it easier for trade unions to organise.
Liberal democrats would prefer to approach the achievement fairness for employees via employee participation rather than fuelling the "us versus them" atmosphere generated by organised labour versus capital, but the principle of increasing the share of national prosperity going to wages is one of ours.
A mass programme of house building.
So obvious. And on brown-field sites made usable and guaranteed by local authorities so as to take away the perceived advantages, from the point of view of builders' profitability , of green-field sites. And while we're about it remove the exemption from capital-gains tax of increments in the value of "principal private residences" so that houses became merely machines in which to live rather than cash cows. Oh, and a land tax to release the land banks held be builders in the hope of even more jam tomorrow.
An industrial strategy to rebuild Britain's manufacturing base, including the nurturing and protection of sectors seen as crucial to future growth.
Green energy, especially tidal power, but not forgetting service sectors such as higher education, the arts and tourism, and moving away from over reliance on armaments, big pharma and finance.
Full-blooded assault on the tax dodging activities of the feral rich.
Starbucks, Amazon, Google et al, and the property speculators in London and other hot-spots.
Tougher price curbs on oligopolies.
And taking many utilities back into public ownership, particularly the rail franchises as the private contracts expire.
Well there's plenty there for our manifesto compilers to get their teeth into. And, while I firmly believe we Liberal Democrats should fight the election on our own distinctive manifesto, I think it is important for our leading lights to be putting out feelers to other parties in preparation for the next rounds of coalition talks.