In previous blog-posts I have mentioned how the education policies central to the work of this Government make it the most Liberal Government in my lifetime but there is another way in which this Government is giving more than just a nod to Liberal principles, and that is in its economic policies.
Clause three of the preamble to the constitution of the Liberal Democrats makes for interesting reading as it sets out clearly the economic philosophy of the party, and for those of my regular readers who have never quite got past the bit about creating a fair free and open society, clause three bears repeating here.
“We will foster a strong and sustainable economy which encourages the necessary wealth creating processes, develops and uses the skills of the people and works to the benefit of all, with a just distribution of the rewards of success. We want to see democracy, participation and the co-operative principle in industry and commerce within a competitive environment in which the state allows the market to operate freely where possible but intervenes where necessary. We will promote scientific research and innovation and will harness technological change to human advantage.”
In every aspect of this Government’s economic policies we are seeing strong threads of clause three borne out, and finally we are beginging to see benefits that those threads are bringing to our nation.
A strong and sustainable economy requires that we use more sustainable energy and become less dependent on fossil fuels. This Government has overseen the building of more wind turbines and more photoelectric power generation than any in our history. The research it is funding into renewable energies is substantial and as a result we are beginning to become less dependent as a nation on fossil fuel. It will take time but the path to a greener economy has finally been set out.
This Government is also working towards ensuring that our corporation tax is low so that we attract business to Britain, and the action of suspending employer’s NI for low paid jobs is creating more jobs to go round. This government has seen the creation of over a Million new jobs in our economy, and the Liberal Democrats in Government have set at target of creating a million more. The more jobs there are the more we can lift people out of benefits enabling everyone to get on in life.
It is also important that the burden of tax is more fairly distributed, and thanks to the Liberal Democrats in this Government we have seen over 2 million people lifted out of paying income tax all together and 25 million people receiving a £700 cut in their income tax through raising the threshold (money Labour still want to claw back to give a tax break for the rich on luxury goods) whilst the richest will pay more income tax in every year of this Government than they did in any year of the last Labour government.
The big difference though between a Liberal Market economy and the alternatives offered by Labour and the Conservatives is the co-operative principle. Liberal Democrats believe that the means of production should be at least in part owned by the workers, and one of the great advances that we have seen under this government has been the substantial increase in the number of worker co-operatives in the UK. Even the Royal Mail privatisation is to have an element of worker co-operative ownership (not enough in my oppinion but it is definitely a step in the right direction).
As a Liberal Democrat I want to see the Government do much more in this direction, I want to see a ‘worker buyout’ being always the first option when a company goes into liquidation. If you look at the turn round in the Argentinian economy, it is exactly this principle that has driven it, and the Unions have been able to use their massive funds to help workers to make the buy-outs and own their own workplaces. That is a far better option that allowing the dead hand of state to take over, or allowing forign investors to asset strip the company of its machinery and its intellectual properties.
Most importantly, this Government has not shied away from investing in new research and development. The money that is being invested in the Graphine Research Centre in Manchester is a prime example of this. British money being invested in an invention made here in Manchester to ensure that British companies and industry are able to take advantage of possibly the greatest scientific advance since Rutherford (again in Manchester) split the atom, and the greatest industial advance since Whitworth (again in Manchester) introduced his standard gauge for the maufacture of machinery.
The difficulty in this country is that we only really have three recognised modes of business, the private company, the partnership and the sole trader. What is needed is a fourth mode, the co-operative business which actually encompasses everthing from the big worker co-ops, farms and banks, right down to the credit unions and the community associations. The vast majority buisness in this country that is not sole trader is conducted by co-operatives of one form or another.
The Liberal Democrats, in my oppinion, must make the full legal recogition of the co-operative model of business the centre-piece of our economic policy for the next general election.