Talk about economics, or we’ll be back to the party of the 8%

I was delighted by Tim Farron’s performance at Spring Conference this year; his eloquence and passionate words show a good leader moulding into a great one. Yet, there is one thing that Tim’s speech missed: a distinct view upon the economy. The need for a Liberal Democrat policy on the economy is clear, with Tim himself saying in the speech ‘Britain needs a progressive party… a plan for an economy that makes the most of the opportunities in front of us’.

To put it short the Liberal Democrats need a clear economic policy so that when we get back into government (whether that’s in 2020 or 40 years away) that our voters know what they voted for. To my mind, we must focus upon investment. That investment starts with taking money creation away from high street banks and making it a government-influenced mechanism, as I called for in a previous article. Only then can we invest in our economy without extending the web of debt Britons and Britain find themselves in.

We should be investing in jobs; through government-financed infrastructure building, similar to that in Canada, to provide not only work to those without it, but also better transport infrastructure, faster internet, stronger public services, cleaner energy and more houses for those in need of it. By doing this we can address some of the issues that fed into the vote for Brexit; a lack of jobs, underfunded and overcrowded public services, a spiralling cost of living and just a general sense that no one is listening. That is how we carry out the will of the people; by seeing what the Brexit vote actually were a vote against; chronic underinvestment in our people and our economy.

When it comes to investing in people, we should not necessarily be opposed to considering introducing a universal basic income or universal inheritance. Without further research, however, I’m hesitant to say if I believe it is a policy we should be backing. But that is what a Liberal Democrat economic policy should be built upon, an ethos of consideration of all policies, no matter whether they fit traditional party policy or not.

To fund such a public investment programme we must look to change our taxation system. It has been Liberal Democrat policy for some time to introduce a Land Value Tax; now is the time to shout loudly about the need for this; to help to address escalating housing prices and cut down on corporate tax dodging. Our desire to introduce a NHS tax is welcome too; it could provide the extra funding needed to invest in the technology the NHS desperately needs. Finally, we must begin to think about not just taxing income, but taxing assets. How this would work I do not know now, but it seems grossly unfair that someone with no assets but a new job earning £80,000 p.a. can have the same take-home income as someone with assets worth near a million yet earning £80,000 p.a.

The current agreed economic policy of the Liberal Democrats (found in the 2016 conference report here) is a solid base to build upon, but it needs to be voiced clearer and go further in parts. Expressing our preference for a reformed taxation system backing an investment economy would be a clear Liberal Democrat economic view, which is necessary in this climate. We must be different, we must be frank on our economic policy; if not we’ll be back to being the party of the 8%.

(Originally published here on Liberal Democrat Voice)

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