The Federal Policy Committee met again on 18th October 2017. This was a fairly heavy agenda this time and decisions were taken that will reach some distance into the future.
Association of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Peter Price presented a report on the work of ALDE. The organisation has a total of 59 member parties throughout the EU and members of the Liberal Democrats have traditionally played a significant role within it. It is governed by a Bureau, a Council and a Congress, the latter meeting annually. Motions and papers can be submitted and there are usually quite a lot of them, often on what are regarded as difficult subjects. Brexit has featured in the past. We have previously submitted motions on the treatment of LGBT+ people in Azerbaijan and on the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration (along the lines of our own motion at conference in Bournemouth).
Peter said that the aim of participation was to build contacts and mutual understanding. However, there have been problems in securing close Liberal Democrat involvement in the motions process owing to a long lead-in time for the submission of motions and a relatively short timescale within which to input and secure agreement with others thereafter. Peter recommended a greater involvement by the Federal Policy Committee officers.
Robert Woodthorpe-Brown also took the committee through some of the recent work of ALDE and stressed that our involvement will continue post-Brexit.
There were questions raised about whether there was general support for our Brexit stance and what was being done to help the position of BAME people across Europe.
Representative to Federal Conference Committee
Many of the various party committees are permitted to elect members to other committees to ensure that there are good communications between them.
The representative from Federal Policy Committee to Federal Conference Committee (FCC) had recently been elected to FCC in their own right following a resignation and therefore a new person had to be identified. There were two nominations, Alistair Calder McGregor and Sally Burnell. The committee held an election and Sally Burnell was elected.
Policy Development Issues
The committee considered in some detail its policy programme moving forward into 2018 and 2019.
There are a number of working groups presently in progress. They were to report to the 2017 conferences but the snap General Election caused them to be postponed. They are now to report to the 2018 conferences instead:
- Rural Communities
- Power to the People
- 21st Century Economy
- Britain in the World
- Community: Immigration & Identity
Some further policy work was commissioned:
- Manifesto Themes Paper: this will set out the party’s key policy positions and will be produced in an attractive design like the one from 2013. It will be debated in Autumn 2018.
- University Funding: David Howarth is presently putting this paper together and a draft will be ready by December 2013. There will therefore be a consultation session at conference in Spring 2018.
There remain several papers that have been agreed but which are yet to be timetabled. The committee agreed that they would be set up and report to the 2019 conferences. They are:
- Health and Social Care
- Climate Policy
- Race Equality
- Crime, Policing and Justice
The committee agreed to prioritise the one on Race Equality. That group will be set up immediately and it will report to conference in Spring 2019. There are four further areas that require work. They are:
- Housing: the committee decided to ask the relevant spokespeople in Parliament and Local Government to consider this issue and prepare a series of policy motions to deal with the most pressing matters. The last time the party had a housing policy paper was in 2012. This was stressed to be an urgent issue.
- Inequality: this is an important area of work but it is one that can integrated into others that have been agreed. For example, the taxation paper can deal with issues reducing inequality through taxation and it may be that we would want to update our policy on wealth taxation through a motion to conference. There would also be a section on inequality in the Manifesto Themes Paper for Autumn Conference 2018. The committee was clear that we needed to emphasise this area.
- Natural Environment: there will need to be a paper dealing with changes in Government policy that have taken place recently and with the impact of Brexit, which will be great. The relevant spokespeople will be invited to consider whether a motion to conference is required.
- Democracy at Work: two members of the Federal Policy Committee were invited to consider this question and consider what action is required and whether it should be in the form of a spokesperson’s paper, motion or anything else.
There were a large number of contributions from members of the committee over what should be prioritised. Several people said it was vital that we articulated our values in our policies and there was general agreement about that.
The Policy-Making Process and Support to Spokespeople
The committee also discussed the question of policy-making generally and, in particular, the support we can provide to spokespeople. A paper was circulated from Richard Kemp and Chris White identifying several areas in which the current system might be improved and suggesting that a number of policy teams be established around the main cabinet responsibilities. The Federal Policy Committee would be represented, as would be relevant spokespeople and others. This paper was welcomed by the committee.
There was a further paper from Your Liberal Britain suggesting that small policy teams be appointed to ensure that ideas from the membership in particular areas are fed through to spokespeople and their advisers. Those groups would be self-sustaining and would allow spokespeople to be supported by relevant experts. This paper was also welcomed and agreed.
It was stressed that it was important that all the different elements in relation to policy-making link up and communicate.
The committee went through the various votes taken by conference on the motions that it had submitted.
All of the motions submitted by the committee were passed by conference. There were a couple of amendments made to them and the committee was happy with most of those. There were two matters that the committee had resisted but which passed nonetheless. They were on Safe Building Standards in Homes (the amendment concerned the Fire Service) and Corporate Responsibility (that amendment concerned workers’ representation on company Boards).
The FPC amendment to the Brexit motion also passed.
At Conference in Bournemouth, there was a session in which members could feed back on the manifesto, what they liked about it and what they did not like so much. The session was well attended. The committee spent some time going through the various comments and the submissions on email and taking them on board.
There were a number of general themes that emerged from the session:
- Generally people liked the content of the manifesto,
- There was a desire for focus on small number of easily communicable policies which exemplified our values. People would have liked something like the front page top four/five priorities from earlier years,
- There was a dislike of pitching for opposition as opposed to power,
- Some would have preferred a stronger focus on economic policy
- There was a desire for specifically crafted offers to appeal to variousgroups, e.g. young people, families, BAME and generally more spelling out of the practical benefits of our policies,
- There were some complaints from candidates in particular that the manifesto launch came after a lot of hustings had already taken place and they could have done with earlier release of key policies/messages.
- On specific policy criticisms, there was some push back on the anti-Brexit focus of the manifesto and the legalisation of cannabis.
- Some thought we should have claimed more credit for coalition achievements.
There were a couple of comments from members of the committee. It was stressed that there needed to be improved links between policy-making and campaigning.
Party Strategy Update
Jeremy Hargreaves reported to the committee that the Federal Board was developing an overall party strategy. There has been concern in the past that there are many areas of the party that operate in silos and it is hoped that the development of a strategy will involve all stakeholders and get them to work together better.
A confidential paper was circulated setting out the way in which the strategy was taking shape. Members of the committee made a number of comments and suggestions about it. Those will be fed back to the Federal Board which will continue its work.
The final strategy will be taken to Spring Conference in 2018. A further draft will come back to Federal Policy Committee before that.
Your Liberal Britain Vision Statement
Your Liberal Britain is an organisation which seeks to promote greater involvement by members in policy-making. Recently, they have been involved in producing a new vision statement for the party which was consulted on at conference and which will be voted on later. You can see it here.
Jim Williams said that there will be some resources produced for Local Parties and Working Groups about how they can use it. It is also being taken to conference in the Spring.
Membership Engagement Update
Duncan Brack reported to the committee that work was underway to update and improve the policy pages of the party website. Some of the content is out of date.
There is also a guide being finalised to encourage Local Parties to discuss policy at their Annual General Meetings. That will be circulated shortly.
The committee is also planning to run a session on drafting a motion at a forthcoming Federal Conference.
The committee has also now appointed a full slate of representatives to the different bodies in the party, including Regions, Specified Associated Organisations and Associated Organisations. There was a discussion over what was to be expected from members in liaising with them. It was stressed that the FPC contacts need to get in touch with their Regions.
Equalities Impact Assessment Update
The committee has always run an audit of its policy papers and motions to ensure that any equalities impacts are known and can be addressed. A small group of people generally carried out those audits and reported back.
Belinda Brooks-Gordon updated the committee on how the process is to work moving forward. A number of people have been identified to help with the task. That includes members and non-members of the FPC. They will provide invaluable help to the committee and to chairs of Working Groups in the future. Belinda is also to arrange to meet the chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats.
* Geoff Payne represents the English Party on the Federal Policy Committee. He is also one of the Vice-Chairs of Federal Conference Committee. He chaired the Criminal Justice Working Group.
Ladbrokes has some new markets up on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations which look interesting but I’m not sure if any of them offer any value.
The options are above with 5/4 being offered on no deal being agreed before the Article 50 deadline 18 months on from now. Note the way the bookie is defining what a deal actually is.
The 4/1 on Britain still being a member of the EU at the end of 2019 and whether there will be a third Brexit referendum (the first was in 1975) before the end of 2019 both could come good but the odds are not long enough for me to be tempted.
There is a huge amount likely to happen in the coming months both in Brussels and at Westminster. The Government is going to struggle with its “Great” reform bill in both the Commons and the Lords and things could move in any direction.
At the moment we cannot say with any certainty who the next prime minister is going to be and whether indeed the Tories will still be in power at the due date.
I have been inspired by Paul Walter’s excellent series on this site for Black History Month. If you have as well, I encourage you to write a blog for Black History Month and send it in.
American by birth, I am guilty of unconscious bias which permeated through my upbringing. Many people don’t recognise the racism which lies beneath the surface in the way they relate to one other. Of course overt acts of racism make the news, but it is the little interactions and assumptions which bother me, as they are unconscious and difficult to shift.
My brother and family live just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. On a recent visit to see them, I made time to take my three daughters to the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthplace in Atlanta. Getting them to appreciate the issues of racial equality/inequality, and the enormous contribution Martin Luther King made, was, I considered, a duty.
Part of the National Historic Site complex is an excellent Visitor Centre, with films and first-rate displays, including the “Children of Courage” exhibit, telling the story of the children of the Civil Rights movement and challenging our youth today.
I was especially moved by the experience of sitting in Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was baptized, ordained at the age of 19, and then co-pastor with his father, Martin Luther King, Sr. Hearing MLK Jr.’s voice preach through the loudspeakers made history come alive, and transported us back to the 1960s in a powerful way. I went away troubled yet determined, what can I do to break down barriers and further equality?
The girls and I sat by the Eternal Flame, pictured above, and quietly reflected on the sacrifices many have made to further the causes of freedom. This is in the grounds of the King Center, established in 1968 by Dr King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
57 years ago today Martin Luther King was arrested during a sit-in demonstration at Rich’s department store in Atlanta. Almost a year later, on October 16, 1961, he met with President John F. Kennedy and urged him to issue a second Emancipation Proclamation to eliminate racial segregation. His repeated advocacy led to the U.S. Congress passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The legacy of Martin Luther King is immense. Without his leadership, self-sacrifice and determination, our world would be a different place. He and his wife are buried in front of the King Centre, on a marble island in the middle of beautiful, still, reflecting pool. The gravestone reads: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m Free at last.”
Attention, British readers: Empire Games just came out in small format paperback today, with a price cut from the big trade paperback. The ebook edition also got a whole bit cheaper: Kindle edition here.
(The US paperback/cheap ebook will be along a bit later, because Tor UK and Tor USA are actually different publishers with different schedules.)
I pretty much make it a matter of policy to ignore whatever Tom Worstall has to say.
Tom? It’s not even good publicity, is it?
So far, so good. It is indeed true that there need never be a shortage of money. But Worstall continues, saying:
The underlying error is that economics isn’t the study of money. Sure, monetary economics is interesting enough, but that’s not the core of the subject. Instead, we note that there are unlimited human desires but only scarce resources with which to sate them. Changing the amount of money in circulation doesn’t change the number of those wants, however, nor the resources we have with which to satisfy them. It only changes the counting we’re doing as we do so.
Before you throw your hands up in horror I should note that Worstall does reveal here his deep knowledge of, and unfaltering belief in, neoclassical economics. What he is saying is wholly orthodox economic teaching, taught day in and day out in universities across the world. It is quite literally the case that in general equilibrium based macro economic thinking, which dominates the thinking and teaching on this subject the world over, that money is effectively ignored. As too, incidentally, is taxation.
The study of an individual market is partial equilibrium, not general. Further, general equilibrium is microeconomics, not macro. Even, money is not ignored, it was there in Walras’ first model and has continued, in general, to be there since.
Failure to appreciate this permits Worstall to make some pretty wild, and glaringly false claims. For example he says this
Because it’s the resources which are scarce. Take health care, for example. There’s the labour needed to do it, the buildings to do it in, the implements with which we do it and so on. But at any point in time there’s only a given amount of each of those things. Increasing the money supply doesn’t increase the amount of any of them.
Of course, the economy is not a zero-sum game, it is always possible to train up or import more labour; we can build more hospitals, make more medical equipment. But more money doesn’t increase the resources from which we can do all of those things.
Three thoughts follow. First, there is the most extraordinary suggestion implicit in this that the availability of money demand within the economy does not change behaviour. Or to put it another way, that if more money is dedicated (whether by tax or not does not matter) to healthcare demand then there will be no reaction to this monetary stimulus in the real economy and nothing will happen as a result: no new health care will follow. What Worstall is saying here is that demand cannot apparently alter supply in the real world.
Well, no, I don’t. Instead I talk about total resources being, at any point in time, fixed, meaning that if we wish to divert more resources to health care hen w will, inevitably, have less of something else. We can indeed increase total resources over time. That’s not what he says I say at all.
Second, what he’s also saying is that if there is underemployment in an economy working at less than full capacity (both of which are true in the UK at present because we suffer massive disguised unemployment in the form of under-employment) then adding to the money supply cannot stimulate a greater supply of goods and services to the economy. This is glaringly obviously untrue. He also ignores the positive multiplier effects of such spending in that situation, although they are now widely documented.
I also don’t say that. What in fact I do say is:
It is possible to get all Kenyesian about this and say when in recession we can boost output of all things – and maybe there’s some truth to that. But that’s not what our simplistic money tree peeps are saying. Instead, they are insisting that because we can print more money then there’s no shortage of the resources we need to do whatever we want. Which is, of course, complete tosh.
When we’re at full employment, about where we are, when GDP is about at potential, roughly where we are, then the only method by which we can have more of something is by having less of something else. Or, of course, by increasing the efficiency through which we produce things from our scarce resources over time. Neither of these options is waved away, aided nor hindered by printing more money.
I don’t even claim this:
Which is a pretty big claim, because what he is actually suggesting is that using money as a mechanism to direct resources towards investment has no impact on outcomes in the real world, when that is very obviously untrue.
Instead, all I’m saying is that increasing the amount of money does not increase the amount of scarce resources.
In which case he needs to explain why he is so obsessed with preserving the right of money to hide in tax havens, and why he is so obsessed with preserving existing monetary wealth distributions, and why he is so opposed to progressive taxation that might redistribute this money that he says has no impact on the well being of those who own it.
I’m not, I’m not and I’m not.
Except that he hints at the answer to all these three questions in one telling paragraph where he says:
Money’s just the way we count who controls those resources, it’s not a measure of what we can put to work at all. Thus printing more money doesn’t alter the fact that we must still choose which activities we’re to devote what resources to, there is no get-out clause here.
But this is not true. Because if in the process of printing money we change who controls resources we really do change outcomes.
But that’s not my point Senior Lecturer, is it? Rather, that the scarce resources are still scarce whoever directs their use. Thus, use of more resources to do one thing means fewer to do some other.
So in fact what Worstall has written indicates three things. The first is the bankruptcy of conventional macroeconomic thinking to which he, and the greater part of the academic community, subscribe.
General equilibrium still isn’t macroeconomics.
Actually what’s true is we can’t do everything, but that changing the way we control money by letting government print more of it to achieve social goals can very fundamentally change our constrained reality.
Shrug. Sure. Who gets to spend the money will indeed change what it gets spent upon. And? That still doesn’t mean that doubling the number of pound coins increases the scarce resources we can devote to the health service.
As an example of failed reasoning Worstall takes some beating. Buy don;’t expect me to engage with him again: once a decade is enough when faced with folly of this level.
Wonder if he’d listen to someone he trusts as they explain his errors?
I then look at my phone, because grabbing that when I wake up in the middle of the night is absolutely a reflex (though the Pip sleeps much, much better these days!) . . . and it was me. The cell had someone dialed the landline. [*]
I post this story elsewhere, and literally seconds later, I get ( the punchline )
[*] On reflection, it wasn't that late, so I think I fell asleep with the phone still on in my hand and touched it enough to keep the screen awake, until eventually I randomly dialed home. I checked, I hadn't made any other outgoing calls, at least.
.....The asinine politically correct Libtards fail to take into account that Colston Hall was built almost 150 years after Colton’s death, and was actually named after its address, which is Colston Street. I for one, to be brutally frank am not into political correctness aka hypocrisy. To me it is a load of Balderdash! I digress…so..
.... I decided to make an enquiry to Bristol Cathedral and got a reply from their very politically correct Press Officer…Wendy Matthews (*)
....Mark [owner of a coffee shop in Bristol] please make the Colston Bun! It will be a best seller! You can call it Bristol Bun to be politically correct…wahahahah!
All quotes from "The Search For The Colston Bun" by The Travelling Gourmet
So yes, I'm slightly biased here because the game is made by someone I know, and is set in a fictionalised version of a town two train stops away, and my daughter voices one of the characters (look out for small child of indeterminate gender Little Bilge)... but this is the most fun I've had playing a game in ages. It doesn't try to screw you for more money, it doesn't make you do stupid repetitive daily tasks, it doesn't rely on ninja reaction times. It's happy to just make you laugh and warm your heart. In times like we are going through now, that's more valuable than diamonds.
Honestly, guys, you know I wouldn't bullshit you about anything involving money, I'm from Yorkshire.
Go buy Yorkshire Gubbins. You won't regret it.
Kent is known as the Garden of England and the Gateway to Europe.
As a County Councillor, you will rightly expect me to be proud of the place. It’s England largest county authority with 1.82m people. It has a significant economy (GDP about £37 billion in 2015). We have everything from Blue Flag beaches (where you can quite often find a Lib Dem peer swimming…) to UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Our history has been shaped by being only 17 miles by sea from continental Europe. Today it’s just 75 minutes by ferry or 35 minutes in the tunnel. So the connection with Europe is really important for us socially and economically.
About 11,000 lorries full of goods pass through Kent ports per day. That represents a lot of jobs. Jobs for the lorry drivers and ferry crews. Jobs for people who design and manufacture the imported and exported goods. Jobs for people who then use those goods to create further wealth.
When there are problems at the ports (such a strike in Calais) the whole of the county’s motorways grind to a halt, which is a big political issue in itself. Daily commutes that normally take an hour suddenly take 3 hours. Family life is hugely disrupted. It’s hell.
But, most of the time this freight that is so important to our economy passes through seamlessly. A lorry from the EU clears the port in two minutes. A lorry from outside the EU’s Customs Union takes 20 minutes.
In Kent, people are very concerned. If we leave the Customs Union and every lorry has to take 20 minutes coming through Dover (or a similar time going to over way) then we are going to have very serious problems. The Port of Dover has produced a video predicting 17 mile queues.
It is clear to Liberal Democrats that we should stay in the Single Market, and especially in the Customs Union. Numerous territories are in the Customs Union but not the EU, including our beloved Channel Islands for example. That may well be what Northern Ireland gets and 17 miles of water between us and the Continent do not make us less important than Northern Ireland, which is lucky enough to have a devolved government to speak up or it.
A majority of Kent residents voted to Leave the EU on 23 June 2016. But they were promised that trade would carry on before. This was said in the Leave leaflets through the doors. I took part in numerous local Remain/Leave debates where the Leave speakers said there was no question of trade being disrupted and there would be no customs barriers. Kent voted to Leave the EU on the basis trade would carry on as before. If we are outside the Customs Unions it can’t be the same.
Liberal Democrats are the second party on Kent County Council. As the Official Opposition, we have tabled a motion for all options to be considered. This will be debated in today’s session at County Hall. We will probably reach the motion some time in the afternoon.
I don’t know, writing the day before, which way the Conservatives will vote. But I know Liberal Democrats are on the side of the people.
You can read the motion here.
You can watch the debate here.
* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.
At Westminster, an Early Day Motion is a motion tabled by an MP, calling for a debate on a particular topic. The motions rarely get debated, but they draw other MPs’ attention to particular issues. EDMs are a sort of petition system, exclusive to members of the House of Commons.
I had always taken it as a given that EDMs were a useful tool in a campaigner’s kit. If one Member of Parliament is allied to your cause, they can table an Early Day Motion… which then gives supporters of the campaign a reason to write to their own MPs about the issue. By requesting that your elected representative signs the EDM, you are effectively asking “please put it on record that you support this issue”. This is useful.
During the course of the Libel Reform Campaign, we made much of the fact that 249 Members of Parliament had signed EDM 423, which was a lot. It was also significant that the motion had cross party support.
The disappointing fact that some EDMs do not attract cross party support is often a useful data point. For example, of the 36 people who have signed EDM 37, condemning the imprisonment of Raïf Badawi in Saudi Arabia, none are from the Conservative Party, who are currently in government. Since Badawi is in prison for the crime of setting up blog that discussed liberalism, it is odd that no Tory wishes to put their name to it. Perhaps they simply haven’t been asked… but perhaps the Conservative whips have asked them not to, for reasons of diplomacy. (This is infuriating to campaigners, but as I blogged previously, there may be good and honest reasons why this is so.)
It is possible, however, that if one seeks genuine change rather than posturing, EDMs are a distraction. While working on the Raïf Badawi case, I wrote to some MPs asking them to sign the EDM. I received this reply from one Member of Parliament:
I very rarely sign EDMs for the following reasons. First, they have absolutely no impact at Westminster.
Second, PR companies and the like suggest to their clients that they should pressure MPs to sign them when they know full well that they are political placebos with negligible impact but they can claim that their influence has made MPs sign EDMs.
Third, I am told they cost the taxpayer (each) about £300 a month and there are hundreds of them. I do not like that at all in view of my first two points.
One MP I could name signs almost every one, but I think that to be dreadful because he knows full well that they achieve nothing. But it gets that MP off the hook! Not one EDM has made it through to legislation in my time.
The EDM on libel reform disproves that last point, but the others are worth considering. The £300 figure is a factual claim which I will check. But if the EDM process is not particularly respected by MPs then it might not have the parliamentary influence that campaigners assume, and those ‘PR companies’ assert.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an American science advocacy group known for its stance against global warming, would like to inform us all of the dastardly behaviour of the fossil fuel companies.
The UCS’s recent paper links global climate changes to the product-related emissions of fossil fuel producers, focusing on the oil, gas and coal producers as well as cement manufacturers. The paper criticises those companies for their impact on climate change, such as the rise of sea levels and the increase in global temperatures.
The point of the paper is to assign responsibility – and thus the potential job of clearing it all up – to those who dug and pumped up those fuels.
The problem with this is that the basic contention is tosh. For whatever responsibility there is for emissions lies not with those who made the supply, but with those who demanded it. It’s you, me and our grandparents and our selfish desires for transport and warmth in winter to blame here.