Wednesday, 6 May 2015
We really need the Liberal Democrats
A recent Guardian leader cited a claim made by Keynes in 1926 that: "The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty."
Such clarity is a far cry from the silly squabbling and petty bribery of this election campaign.
On Economic Efficiency: Thanks to an astonishingly successful PR campaign the media have accepted the Tories' bizarre claim to economic competence. In fact they have failed on both their stated main objectives (to retain our AAA rating and eliminate the internal deficit within the one parliament), and the economy has certainly not been "rebalanced." In addition the external deficit (balance of payments) is a at a record high, productivity is alarmingly low, the much vaunted increase in employment is largely achieved through involuntary self-employment along with low paid, insecure, unskilled work, and the modest recovery after years of "flat lining" is already running out of steam. They can only be regarded as successful if their real aim is to roll back the welfare state (which I suspect it is.)
By contrast Labour's record in government, though by no means perfect (the inexplicable obsession with PFIs, for example) is almost a model of rectitude. (See previous post for more details)
Sadly the Liberal Democrats in government have, at least in public, betrayed our Keynesian heritage and gone along with the popular obsession with reducing the government deficit. I suspect, however, there has been internal pressure for "pump priming" stimulation and the change of course and increased public investment in 2012 is the result of Liberal Democrat pressure.
On Social Justice: Clearly the Conservative approach has been and will continue to be to demonise and punish the less fortunate in our society. Even Labour are beginning to get cold feet on his issue. A Liberal Democrat party true to our roots (Beverage) would have been more vocal in trying to protect the social security safety-net but at least we have been less savage than the Tories.
On Individual Liberty: In this I would include human and civil rights rights and in these areas the Liberal Democrats win hands down. It is very easy to dismiss human rights as a fad because most people who are comfortably off and secure in their status and circumstances can easily dismiss the need for them, because they don't feel personally vulnerable.
But it is at the margins that human and civil rights become important. Neither Labour nor Conservatives have good records nor, it appears, good instincts. Labour notoriously and infamously tried to extend the period of possible detention without charge to 42 days (the original habeas corpus was 24 hours). The Tories would withdraw from the European Convention on Human rights, not wanting our own vulnerable to be subject to its protection. To our credit the Liberal Democrats have stuck firmly to our principles, in spite of the derision this engenders with the red tops and Daily Mail.
So we Liberal Democrats get some marks on Keynes's first two issues and most marks on the third. I confidently expect our party will do much better tomorrow than the opinion polls predict. I certainly hope so. It is clear that to ensure a more civilised and decent society we need to retain and win as many seats as possible with the highest possible total vote.